By Marjorie Espinal for the blog Not so Blonde of the magazine BLANK LYFESTYLE. April 2 2019
We spoke with Andrea Belén, designer and founder of Espacio, etérea and the Dress your Rights foundation, to learn about her work in positioning consumer conscious fashion in Costa Rica.
We sat down to talk on a Friday, in a coffee shop in Escazú, I did not know Andrea personally, but I did know about his conscious national design ideology, with a positive impact on all the people involved in the production process of the pieces he sells.
That afternoon I discovered that the owner of the stores where I bought 80% of my kimonos, is a warm woman, owner of an entrepreneurial spirit that has led her to reinvent herself several times in her life, a woman in the national fashion industry that everyone should know.
The birth of a brand
At age 25, Andrea decided to change her career, leaving International Relations to begin a creative process that would be called ethereal, and would become a pioneer brand of fair trade and the empowerment of women who use it.
How was the beginning of ethereal?
Since I founded etérea, I visualized products that communicate an aesthetic and a conscious lifestyle, in the beginning we use indigenous fabrics as a way to visualize and give value to our roots. It was a self-taught process, discover how it was designed, cut the clothes I had to understand how the patterns are made … I really got engaged, I started with $ 2000, ten designs of clothes, a shoe design and since then I live from this project. In the beginning, he went to fairs on weekends, sold $ 800 and with that he invested to produce again for the following week. The economic growth has been organic, parallel to the aesthetic and conceptual evolution of the brand, always with a pillar of consciousness and sustainability.
What does social sustainability mean in your company?
Since the beginning of my project, one of my priorities has been to provide my team with a platform for professional and personal growth, through training in emotional intelligence, conscious communication and other tools for personal growth. Our focus of attention and care goes proportionally in two directions, inward, that is to say ourselves as a team and outwards -our clients and what we transmit to them with our work.
In the last two years we have also included the environmental aspect, using recycled polyester fabrics in the bodysuits, we also use 100% natural cottons, with handmade dyes, among other techniques friendly to nature. Sustainability is a very broad concept and a vision that we are approaching as we grow and deepen throughout its spectrum.
What inspired you to develop a brand that has been a pioneer?
Ethereal was the result of a personal process of self-knowledge and expansion of my consciousness. I ventured into the world of fashion without knowing much about the industry, being inside I realized that it is the second that pollutes the world, the one that creates the greatest modern slavery, is the industry more “bombardeante” and aggressive at the psychological level throughout society. The fashion industry is what tells you how you have to look to “exist”, causing anxiety, and depression. However, the ability to influence fashion can also be used to positively impact our environment, society and our interior. Imagine a fashion that empowers us, that cares for the planet, that creates dignified jobs and growth for those involved.
How was the step of looking for other designers with the same values and an aesthetic similar to yours, so that they joined the Espacio store?
I had a need for community, being an entrepreneur can be a lonely road. In addition, I had the need to market my products beyond the fairs and that’s when I founded Espacio. We started with ten designers, the store was next to the gallery of Klaus Steinmetz, now we are in CC. Plaza del Río in San Rafael de Escazú; Sharing the commitment and vision of sustainability is essential in all our members, we are currently 45 designers.
Let’s talk about the Dress Your Rights Foundation …
Parallel to the development of ethereal and Space, one of my priority interests has been to deepen my studies of inner growth, for 12 years I have devoted many of my resources in learning and sharing these tools. I felt the need to unite my two worlds, fashion and personal well-being, that’s where Dress Your Rights was born.
The Dress Your Rights foundation is dedicated to creating a social impact on inner wellbeing and environmental awareness at the hands of fashion and design, using them as a tool for social transformation. I founded this NGO with Diana Trejos, a great partner of purpose, she works on Social Impact projects for 15 years, within the Board of Directors are Silvia Arias, Pamela Carazo, Georgianela Carpio and Fernando Arias; We work in committees in different areas: environment, social projects, internationalization, among others.
Returning to the topic of your formations, how are you channeling that vocation?
I’m doing it under my personal name, Andrea Belén, I’m starting a blog to promote a conscious lifestyle and I have different channels to do it, one is the deep transformation retreats involving body, mind and spirit. I offer an online program, called Infinite Self, is a space for growth and interior connection with a duration of 3 months, where I lead an online class every Monday, new methodologies and habits are implemented to create a transformation and an upgrade in the life of participants.
There is also the option of the one day workshop: Creating Beauty from Within, which is a perfect mini immersion and connection with our interior, next will be next Saturday, April 6.
What would be your advice for a person who loves fashion but who perhaps does not know very well how to start consuming it more consciously, what should we look for in labels and what is most important in production processes?
Everything starts with questioning and observing. Ask us who made our clothes, with what intention was made, with what materials was made. There is something very important and is that clothing, like any object, contains a frequency, each atom is 1% particle is matter and 99% is “empty” is energy, each tangible object is made of atoms, then that means that what we see and touch really is 1% of all the information and codes that that product has. If we really understand that and we know that that garment was manufactured, touched by a system and a series of people who are happy working or are being exploited, the garment is full of negative or positive energy and in the end we use it as our second skin, absorbing and being participants in the history and impact of each garment. It is indispensable that we have the understanding of this deep side of fashion, for our planet, for humanity and for ourselves.
In terms of materials, I invite you to look for durability so you do not have to discard and change clothes often, since one of the biggest problems in this industry is the amount of garbage produced in textiles. Looking for natural, organic, or recycled polyester materials are the most environmentally friendly options.
Every day we are more involved in this movement of consciousness, Costa Rica is a pioneer in the field of sustainability and now we also start to stand out as an international example of a new fashion, where we dress our rights, our values and our hope.