An interview with our founder; Zepha

Published at : 2020-04-06 10:55

A conversation between Last Layer founder, Zepha Jackson and LL stockist, The East Store, Byron Bay.

ES:  Can you tell us a bit about your past in fashion and manufacturing.

ZJ: It’s pretty left field that I ended up working in fashion. I was never that girl who read all the fashion magazines and drooled over designer stuff, it was quite the opposite. I dressed like a boy most of my life, just always in the dance studio. I was dancing professionally and travelling the world for that from a really young age then had a bit of a midlife crisis at 19 when I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. At that point I was pretty much open to any new experiences and just wanted to learn. Being a high school drop out, the usual classroom setting wasn’t for me and I just started picking up any sort of creative / out of comfort zone job I could fake my way into.

That lead me to working closely with a really talented designer, Maja Kotala that soon tee’d me with a small gig in Paris for Fashion Week in a showroom. I was so removed from that world that I was questioning so much of it; everything about the origins of the garments, reasoning behind high price points and why we cared more about the lighting in a showroom than the story of the piece. I was really intrigued but at a bit of an anti- fashion stand point. I went back to the Philippines for a couple more years, where I had previously spent a bit of time and started studying supply chains, fabrics and just experimenting and learning everything I could in every aspect of the industry while working on little projects of my own.

ES:  What was your mission with Last Layer and Not A Stitch Up.

ZJ: Last Layer was a project I was working on for a long time before it come to fruition.
I wanted a platform to allow me to work with talented artisans to create pieces that were simple, well made staples but also responsibly made with healthy supply chain line that I could show transparently. To help link that connection for people and product. Showing the roots and creators of our belongings helps to rethink before buying into unnecessary and disposable clutter. Offering special pieces that hold a story was a gap that I wanted to fill.

Not A Stitch Up was the by-product of creating Last Layer. Production, people and the processes behind Last Layer pieces are the most important for me. I was unhappy working with any other factories and wanted to be as hands on as possible to ensure no values were compromised.
Initially the idea was to just have the factory for our own production but it came apparent that a lot of people were wanting to start brands and do it in the right way but needed help. My staff are incredible and we are now able to work with a bunch of young designers, teaching them the in’s and out’s along the way and also with bigger, established brands that are recognising the importance of where their pieces are made.

So it’s really quite similar missions for both Last Layer and Not A Stitch Up – To bridge the gap between designers, supply chains, manufacturers and consumers to open up transparency and challenge the toxic way the fashion industry has always been.

ES.     What motivates you to do what you do and from such a young age? It seems like a life passion that you realised early.

ZJ: I don’t really feel like it was a life passion that was realised early on. I guess I’m still quite young but there’s been a big journey of little steps, hurdles and people along the way that has led me to be doing what I do. I’m definitely still in a stage of learning, struggling and growing, it’s not all smooth sailing, which is to be expected, and is a big motivator in itself.

The biggest motivation for me is definitely the people involved in my projects. My team means so much to me and are the most important part of what we do. Having so many staff members and their families relying on me is a huge responsibility and motivator. Working really hard to make ends meet and continuing to grow and evolve is no longer just for me but for them too.

ES. Tell us a bit about the manufacturing process. Who is involved and what fabrics/materials are used?

ZJ: Currently we have two Last Layer collections up that are produced differently.
One is our upcycled pieces that we create with a social enterprise in Sri Lanka.
Material waste such as potato, lentil and turmeric hessian sacks and plastic rice bags are collected, carefully cleaned and crafted into our pieces in a beautiful workshop on Sri Lanka’s east coast.
The recycled Hessian and Plastic rice bags are then teamed with natural, fair trade certified fabric by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WTFO), made by a hand looming group also located on the east coast of Sri Lanka.

Secondly, our Natural Apparel collection. These pieces are all created using natural fibres such as Ramie and Organic Linen. We work with a beautiful natural dye studio, which is actually the reason why I ended up setting up camp here in Indonesia in the first place. They work closely with the government and collect trees that are close to roads and highways that have to be cut down and save their leaves to use as dye. We’ve developed a range of different beautiful colours that we will slowly be releasing this new year, as well as keeping our staple Indigo colorway that complements our Japanese, workwear inspired designs that you’ll be seeing more of in the new collection. In line with our slow made values, every piece is Made to Order in house at Not A Stitch Up

ES: Since starting Last Layer and during your career in fashion have you noticed any changes within the industry, especially in regards to sustainable practices?
ZJ: Yeah for sure. It’s been interesting seeing this ‘sustainable and ethical’ movement really become a trend. Personally, I think it’s great that it’s happening and bringing awareness to a massive issue but obviously it’s only good if people are following through with what they’re claiming, which is unfortunately rarely the case. It’s disheartening to see all the green washing going on. Big fast fashion houses and conglomerates with massive marketing budgets claiming that there $5 t-shirt was fairly paid for, doesn’t check out and is mind blowing that they’re getting a way with it. Education is key though, I feel like when people know they can have a better impact, they want to – It’s just about spreading the message, clearing up the confusion and making it accessible.