Anette Cantagallo - Director of Design and Sustainability
Could you please introduce yourself and what you do in your own words?
Firstly, it is a delight to join ASK SCANDINAVIA as the Director of Design and Sustainability and to start working with this exciting global team and product!
My journey began on a small island in Sweden, Gotland. I grew up in the countryside, where from an early age, my dreams and love of nature were cultivated. Then, during my late teenage years, I left the land of horses and organic vegetable gardens for the big city of Stockholm to pursue my curiosity for fashion and design. I was lucky to have had a couple of female teachers during high school and upper secondary school who supported my budding passion for design by giving me glossy magazines with dreamy ad and editorial campaigns that I never knew could have existed! I am also forever grateful to an understanding dean who connected me with a Gotland-native designer, Rodebjer, who had just started her own label in Stockholm. Rodebjer welcomed me to my first experience in fashion at just 17. From that day forward, I never stopped. From Stockholm I flew to London to obtain a Master’s Degree in Fashion and Technology. Upon finishing my degree, I got a post-graduation placement at Stella McCartney where I discovered that you can run a successful fashion business and create responsibly at the same time!
Ever since, I have practiced sustainability in my design approach. Most recently as Design Director at the NYC-based label VYAYAMA, I created the first non-toxic plant-based yoga apparel. Selfridges awarded a full window display of the innovative collection for 3 whole months! That was truly my pinch-me-in-the-arm moment professionally!
Now, I live in the sunshine of Los Angeles with my husband and two cats, enjoying diverse nature, locally grown organic fruits and vegetables and the wonderful laid-back but you-can-do-it attitude the city has!
How did you get into the design field?
Growing up in the countryside as a kid, we had a lot of freedom, but it came with tremendous responsibility. We went out riding horses on our own as 8-year-olds, if not even younger - you had to find solutions and create your own days. My “there are no limits to what you can do” drive and attitude comes from this experience. It also made me a designer who seeks purpose and reason behind creativity and never found excitement in extravagance. For me, it is a must that design is sustainable, functional, and that it empowers and inspires the wearer’s lifestyle.
What kinds of differences are there in working in the creative field in Los Angeles compared to the UK or Sweden, for example? Or are there any?
It very much depends on the customer the brand serves. In general, a European brand is more artistic and dives deeper into their design process for the meaning behind it, while it is more commercial and price-driven in the US. In my area of sustainability, the European customer has come much further when it comes to appreciating the values of sustainability compared to the US market so far, but that is changing.
Seeing as you work with sustainability, what do you think are the key elements brands and people need to keep in mind in terms of sustainability and consumerism?
Think about that only one per cent of clothing is recycled back into clothing today. Brands need to design for circularity - initiate take-back programs and use materials that are designed to be recycled back into textiles. As for consumers, starting to buy used clothing from resale shops, rent for occasions and be mindful to buy less but better products that last longer.
Something you would love to achieve on your career path?
Since I was about 14-15, I have always dreamt of being part of a loose collective of other talented people from a variety of fields. Collaborations with furniture designers, florists, skin care professionals etc. to create multi-dimensional outcomes for a product that serve a client’s practical needs but also beautifies their life while re-inventing the relevant product in an environmentally responsible manner.
If you had to empty the contents of your bag right now, what would be the most surprising thing you’d likely find?
Endless hand-written physical paper to-do lists! It is not the most environmentally responsible way of life, but I need to use my hands writing and re-prioritising my to-do lists a couple of times a day...
Do you find it easy or hard to combine creative work with a sustainable mindset?
To me, they come as a package. I agree with the notion that good design is sustainable design. It has truly added challenge to the process. You often need to innovate fabrics for the outcome you seek in order to hold true to your values you stand. That said, sustainable materials have become much more available in the past year, because the demand is at an all-time high due to the growing awareness of the environmental impact of the fashion industry..
And do you believe that an industry as big as the fashion industry has a chance of becoming sustainable?
I believe in offering better alternatives than what we currently have. This way, the industry can become more sustainable and start to lead and drive the conversations that need to be happening.
What kinds of expectations do you have for working with us at ASK in the future? In what direction would you like to see our brand go while working with us?
I would love to see international growth so that more people can have the chance to organize their lives in style; a never-ending sustainability effort; and that the company never loses the creative drive and energy it holds.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your career path so far?
Never stop asking questions, because there is always a way!