At Raft we believe in doing the right thing. And doing it yourself if necessary. We look out for people with the same ethic and, when we get a few moments, we ask them to share a few thoughts with us.
Valentina Karellas makes luxury knitwear — but with a real difference. Her business produces handmade, sustainable items using materials that would otherwise go to waste. We explore her story here...
Valentina Karellas grew up in a family where making clothes and mending them was a way of life. Her mother was a seamstress and Valentina says that in the ‘80s and ‘90s people cared about their clothes and getting things specially made or mended, something she feels that we have lost in recent years.
‘I used to help my mum with the patterns,’ Valentina says. ‘Slowly she taught me to sew, the sound of the sewing machine hummed away late at night; that left a subconscious urge to continue this work, but in my own way.’
Later, she grew interested in knitting and couldn’t believe the opportunities it provided to create your own fabrics and textures, each one unique. So it was no surprise that after studying knitwear design technology at the London College of Fashion and then a Masters in Womenswear in Florence, Valentina went on to work in the luxury knitwear sector, designing and knitting samples.
Designs that last
She has learnt much from working in Italy, China and London, including the Italians’ high expectations of quality and how to make pieces that would sell. But gradually Valentina began to realise that she saw something wrong with the ‘fashion food chain’ and fast fashion.
Valentina says ‘You see things, for example fabric production, quantity of items made, conditions of the workforce — something just kept boiling up inside me, that didn't quite sit well. This is what drove me to do my own brand, I wanted it to be completely transparent, made in London, making use of factory waste and of course fun to wear.’
Now Valentina has built up her own business (www.valentinakarellas.com) which produces everything from hats to jumpers to mittens and beyond — all based in North-West London and where every piece is one of a kind, made in a sustainable way. She uses surplus yarn from large factories that would otherwise have gone to waste.
What’s more, her pieces are made to order, so as to minimise waste in the process — and even the leftovers are used to make accessories. They’re designed to be trans-seasonal and made to last.
Greening the future
Valentina says she has big plans for the future. She wants to create a ‘we work’-style knitting factory in London, where she can train graduates to knit as well as have spaces for all types of creatives to work, show and sell their collections. And in the long term, she would like to go even further.
‘My more optimistic plan is to create a green space on the roof to keep sheep, to have the entire process from source to end product all in one building in London, this is more of a 10 year plan, but if we start talking about it now, maybe it can happen.’
At Raft, we believe in high quality, sustainable products. You can browse our range of beautiful furniture and accessories here.