Corinne Coolican - COOLI

Since Fashion Fiesta’s grassroots back in 2015, sustainability has always been a fundamental part of the show's ethos. Maintaining this approach has enabled the show to attract designers from Leeds and beyond that share the same sustainable vision.

Fast forward a few years later, Leeds based sustainable designer Corinne Coolican was crowned the winning designer in 2019. Her winning collection translated zero waste fashion into a contemporary ready to wear collection that Leeds locals and a wider audience can interpret into their own wardrobes.

Seven months on from her victory, Corinne talks all things sustainable fashion, designing in the North of England and life after Fashion Fiesta!

How did you kickstart your career in fashion? I graduated in 2018 with a BA (HONS) degree in Fashion Design and Production from Leeds Arts University. The course enabled me to develop skills in Art and Design which I now use in my own designs. Since graduating I’ve been building my own brand, COOLI. Specialising in festival and urban street style, I make my garments from unwanted textiles and create them into wearable fashion.

Was there a stand out moment for you that you remember deciding to launch your own fashion brand? One of the main reasons I wanted to start my own brand was to give myself creative freedom, constructing zero waste fashion whilst earning a living from doing something I love was the perfect combination for me. I think it’s necessary that every brand makes small sustainable changes to reduce the environmental impacts fast fashion causes.

Why did you decide to niche in sustainable fashion rather than jumping on the back of the success fast fashion has had? I believe the impact COOLI has can contribute towards the reduction of fashion waste going to landfill each year. By creating my own fabrics from unwanted textiles it allows me to be creative in the process as well as doing some good for the world.

What challenges along the way have you come across when operating sustainably?

One of the biggest challenges I face working sustainably is storage space, but I am working on that! In regards to your clients, have you found they've been generally surprised that your clothing is ethically sourced and have they been more likely to re-buy having found this out? The majority of my customers buy for the designs and don’t seem to pay much attention to materials or where they come from. That being said, I do have some customers who buy because my designs are ethically made.

How has being a designer in the North of England impacted the operation of COOLI? Being a fashion designer up North is more relaxed, slower paced and the costs are a lot lower than they typically would be in the South of England. I’ve found there’s a lot more fashion events like Fashion Fiesta taking place, this makes it easier to make connections. I don’t think it makes much difference where you are based now because a strong online presence can allow you to connect with people all over the world.

Since winning ‘best designer’ at Fashion Fiesta what's changed for COOLI? Since winning best designer at Fashion Fiesta it’s created more opportunities and I've made so many new connections since winning.

Thank you to Corrine for taking part in Fashion Fiesta the Alumini Archives.

You can find Corinne on instagram @Coolibycorinnecoolican

Written by Libby Dunne for Fashion Fiesta 2020