Collaboration as their ethos. That is the main objective of Awaytomars, the global brand founded by Brazilian natives Alfredo Orobio and Marilia Biasi. Here, we talk to Orobio about the online platform they’ve created where people from all around the world – they have over twenty thousand registered users so far –, no matter their background, can pitch in and co-design sustainable clothing made for a futuristic world. The innovative and forward-thinking business model rings true to their name, but also their designs are vibrant and bold, with iridescent touches, which also add to the otherworldly aspect fit to take us away to Mars.
First of all, could you briefly explain to our readers the concept of your brand: how does the co-creating platform work? And how did you come up with this business model in the first place?
Awaytomars was the result of my studies at university, where I spent almost a year mapping out how people share creative information on social media. I found out that a lot of people with great ideas for fashion products already shared it on specific groups. The most surprising results of my research were to see that not only were people sharing ideas, but also others were giving suggestions to improve the design. I realised that all this information got lost because of the lack of experience and opportunity in the industry. So, we had the idea of building a place where people could share ideas, give feedback to improve them, and make and sell the products in a single place. We founded Awaytomars last summer and, since then, we just reached the two thousand active users’ mark.
So, as you’ve mentioned, Awaytomars is only a few years old and you already boast over two thousand users. How did you get that many people to participate in the project? Also, how do you think the word spread so fast?
Actually, we have just reached the mark of twenty thousand registered designers in our platform. Our main objective as a brand is to make the design process accessible to all, allowing all people, no matter their background, to create. We strongly believe that this is the future for all the creative industries. We are moving from a centric-creative to a collective-creative. There are a lot of studies in other industries (like in science) that use ideas generated by the public to find solutions. We are doing the same.
We are mixing people from different backgrounds and cultures in a place where the main value is the power of ideas and the improvements we can achieve when we open the creation and development to all. There’s no one better than the users to say what works or not in terms of design. I think there is a need for it in our industry and there’s a demand for brands like ours in the market. That’s why I think the model grew so quick, organically.
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 7.jpg
As this is a collaborative effort, I wonder how you decide what the next collection’s theme will be? For example, the latest collection explored the idea of light reflecting and refracting off of surfaces, as well as the history of film. How did that come to be? Do you think of a general idea and then create a moodboard that is shared with the designers?
When someone uploads an idea to Awaytomars, it goes to a co-creation board where anyone can vote and give suggestions. We developed an algorithm on the platform that maps all the interactions of every single idea while the co-creation campaign is open. So we are able to see, after the co-creation period, the ideas with most interactions, and we choose the ones that we believe to have a more interesting appeal for the industry.
After this stage, we discuss with all the selected designers how we can use the feedback collected to improve the idea. The process is very transparent and is led by the users. Our creative process is still very organic and we’re learning with time. Normally, we propose a very broad theme, like light, freedom, space, or something unimaginable (like the one we just closed for our Fall/Winter 2020 collection). Then, the theme starts to grow inside the community and we try to collect inspiration from every single contact we have to start creating the collection. It is quite a long process but with very interesting outcomes.
As there isn’t exactly a defined aesthetic – unlike other brands that have one imposed by their creative director or history/heritage –, how does the community get to decide which designs are worthy to be shown in the next collection? How do you reach a consensus? Is it a one hundred per cent democratic decision?
The forward slash is our brand identity. It’s something that links all the pieces in the collection. It took us almost two years to realise how to differentiate the design of simple items like a t-shirt. Our debut collection back in 2015 was all about creating a white canvas that we could develop during the following seasons with the input from the community. Sometimes, it’s hard to see it on the catwalk or in campaigns, but the clothes are cut in an asymmetric way that looks dimetric in the body. I think this is one of our key design features that we want to immortalise in our next collections.
What about the campaigns? Do you work with outside art directors, photographers and stylists? Do the users have a say?
Collaboration is the ethos of our company. We want to bring as many people as possible to all the creative stages of the business. We have been working with Gleeson Paulino since we started the brand – he’s responsible for translating this futuristic and ‘out of this world’ feeling into our campaigns. Our community also has a say on the locations, looks, etc., but we want to make this process even more collaborative in the future.
“Our main objective as a brand is to make the design process accessible to all, allowing all people, no matter their background, to create. We strongly believe that this is the future for all the creative industries.”
Awaytomars has collaborated with other brands creating capsule collections, like Melissa Shoes or the cereal company Froot Loops. How do those come about? How do you decide which ones are right for the brand?
We started to be approached by several brands willing to experience the co-creation benefits on the product development phase. So we thought, why shouldn’t we try it? We have run a couple of collabs with other brands and the results are very interesting. We always try to choose brands that are committed to the environment and people, as one of our main objectives as a brand is to become more and more sustainable over the years.
I’ve read that you don’t feel that the fashion industry will survive sustainably unless they open up the supply chain, why do you think so?
Fashion hasn’t yet been impacted by technology to the extent that other industries have. Yes, we’ve seen an explosion of online multi-brands in the last ten years, but the whole concept is a replica of the offline model which doesn’t make sense anymore. There are a lot of costs involved in running a brick and mortar shop, but when you move that business online, you slash the outlay, so it doesn’t make sense that these online companies are working with traditional wholesale margins.
The traditional model is impractical for any new designers that can’t meet high minimum orders or haven’t developed reliable cash flow. It’s a model that is only beneficial for the wholesaler and for big brands that can work with small margins. We need to re-think the role of multi-brand shops in a society that can access shops freely online.
What we want to do with Awaytomars is to improve the roles of both the designer and the customer in the chain, offering them opportunities to purchase clothes at the same time as wholesalers with the same favourable conditions. On the other hand, I think technology will revolutionise how we manufacture clothes. We are still one hundred per cent dependent on humans to run production lines, and it will be a great social and human development if we could use machines to run the early and more intense stages of the production. Also, I think that we could use AI to identify macro and micro trends and be able to assimilate them quicker to our lines. This is a bit controversial, but it’s something I love so much that I could speak about it for hours!
How would you describe the kind of person that wears Awaytomars, personality-wise?
Firstly, I think it is someone who cares about quality and where the clothes come from, by whom and how it was produced. Secondly, it’s someone who wants to be noticed – our best-sellers are the items that we co-create with artists and illustrators, so they’re bold, iconic and unique pieces. Finally, it is someone who doesn’t want to just buy a piece of clothing, but a full story. When you buy one of our items, you are buying something that was co-created by a group of hugely diverse people – this makes the pieces extremely interesting and rich.
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 20.jpg
You’re based in London, the platform is international, and yet you show at Lisbon Fashion Week. Why is that?
We didn’t want to be located in a specific place. I think this is an old-school way that fashion brands used to show quality and know-how, but it doesn’t make sense anymore. We produce most of our clothes in Portugal, I’m Brazilian, we have team members from all over the globe, and our designers are also from different countries, so we’d like to be perceived as universal – if that’s a thing that’s even possible.
Where do you see Awaytomars in the next few years?
We want to expand our collaborations with other brands, I think there’s a lot of potential on working with bigger and more established ones. We also want to explore more the sustainability aspect of our industry, working more on upcycling techniques than reviewing the construction of the garments.
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 24.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 16.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 14.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 25.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 17.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 19.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 21.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 22.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 23.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 26.jpg
Awaytomars Metalmagazine 4.jpg