Julia Starp counts on Cotton made in Africa


In recent years the issue of sustainability has grown into a social current. While “sustainable fashion” was merely a niche a few years ago, the existing and future fashion scene is unimaginable without trendy designs that address sustainability. With her new creations, successful young Hamburg designer Julia Starp demonstrates that exclusivity and sustainability are not incompatible and, in fact, round each other out perfectly. The 29-year-old has created the eight-piece spring/summer “ECOREPUBLIC by Julia Starp” collection exclusively for OTTO. In addition to organic cotton, the line also uses cotton produced with the support of the Cotton made in Africa initiative. The collection again demonstrates how sustainable fashion can win consumers over with style. In our interview the young Hamburg native, who founded her own label, “Julia Starp Modedesign,” in 2009, talks about the opportunities and challenges of “sustainable fashion”. 

Ms Starp, please complete this sentence: For me sustainable fashion means…

Fashion like any other– only with beautiful and exciting stories waiting to be told.

What originally inspired you to create sustainable fashion? 

The challenge of creating something new from limited possibilities is particularly exciting for me. Of course knowing where my raw materials come from is always at the back of my mind. When I graduated from the JAK Hamburg Fashion Design Academy in 2005, sustainable fashion right down to the raw materials was not really an issue yet. Still even as a student I was interested in developing and creating my materials myself. So I spent whole days and nights at the knitter and the loom to produce the right cloth for my creations. 

Do you see yourself as a model for young designers who want to create sustainable fashion?

No, I don’t really see myself as a model. But maybe my fashion offers inspiration for young designers who are looking to develop in this fashion arena as well. 

What are the specific challenges inherent in creating sustainable fashion? 

It is getting increasingly easier to make sustainable fashion; the hurdles are shrinking. Until recently though, one of the challenges was getting material made of sustainably cultivated cotton, which was much harder than it is today. There are now some firms who have specialised in this area and offer a great range of raw materials. In some specialty areas, like wadding and fillers, there is still more demand than can be met. 

In your view, has demand for and interest in sustainable fashion increased? Has marketing become easier?

Definitely! Marketing has gotten easier since the idea of sustainable fashion is familiar to most households. Customers understand what the term means and view it as a positive option. The interest in “green fashion” has also increased in my opinion. Still customers are not simply willing to buy into sustainability as an ideal alone; they also want to see themselves reflected in the design of their clothes. 

What is your assessment of the development of the fashion market?

The trend is becoming a matter of course. I assume that sustainability in fashion will soon be part of the mass market. Then we won’t have to talk about whether something is sustainable or not — at least that is my hope. 

Why did you decide to work with Cotton made in Africa for your newest collection?

Cotton made in Africa is an exciting initiative that gives smallholder farmers in Africa the opportunity to sell their products on the world market and supports them in sustainably cultivating the raw materials. The initiative creates an exciting backstory to the product — that of each individual farmer. This makes CmiA fashion special. CmiA cotton also surprised me in another positive way — the quality is excellent.

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