An Interview with Patrick McDowell

Interview with Patrick McDowell on Fashion’s Sustainable & Ethical Future

Welcome to our exclusive interview with Patrick McDowell, the visionary behind the eponymous independent brand reshaping the fashion landscape from its heart in London. With a mission to redefine luxury through sustainability, McDowell’s journey from Central Saint Martins graduate to global fashion icon has been nothing short of remarkable.

Since unveiling their debut collection at London Fashion Week in 2018, McDowell challenged industry norms and advocated for a more sustainable approach to fashion. They have announced a revolutionary business model ahead of the upcoming showcase at London Fashion Week. This innovative approach merges the drop system with a made-to-order approach, disrupting traditional practices and setting a new standard for social and environmental responsibility in the fashion world.

At the core of the brand has always been a commitment to sustainability, rooted in their childhood experiences of repurposing materials into fashion statements. As Patrick put it, “By offering a more personalised and ethical shopping experience, we’re not just selling clothes, we’re engaging in a shared commitment to sustainability.”

With the unveiling of the AW24 collection, they are set to showcase the latest creations on February 17 during London Fashion Week. In our interview, McDowell shares insights into the creative process, the inspiration behind the latest collection, and how their new business model is merging the drop system with a made-to-order approach, reshaping the future of fashion.

Interview with Patrick McDowell on Fashion's Sustainable & Ethical Future
Patrick McDowell

Can you provide more insight into the inspiration behind merging the drop system with a made-to-order approach for your AW24 collection?

I’ve always been interested in not only designing beautiful clothing but also thinking about the systems the clothes sit within. I think it’s important that we continue to look at ways to be creative and innovate – remaining curious and asking ourselves how we can make things better for everyone across all stages of the process – the artisans we work with, our supply chain partners, and of course our clients. I knew very early on in my career that I wanted to create a fashion brand of the future that was kinder to people and the planet and part of that was to reimagine how clothing is created and sold. We’re limiting what we produce and by creating pieces that fit and suit our clients perfectly to ensure they feel as great as they look.

How do you foresee the fashion industry responding to this business model?

Our model puts both people and our plant at the heart of what we do and I think the industry is ready and open to anything that helps to move us all towards a more sustainable and client-focused future. The hope is that we are able to inspire others to continue to innovate and look at ways we can all work together to make fashion more sustainable.

What challenges did you encounter while implementing such a sustainable approach, and how did you overcome them?

Our business has been built with sustainable excellence at its heart and approaching the market in this alternative way has only been possible with the strong partnerships we have built with our sustainable material suppliers and artisans, had we not had those relationships in place already the challenge of working in this new way and adjusting our supply chain and production cycles would have been far greater. There is also, of course, the economics of producing in this way, but with the belief that we should be putting purpose before profit, we are making sure we are not only doing the right thing for the planet, but we are charging our customers appropriately – making pieces that don’t cost the earth.

How do you believe this model will impact the relationship between the fashion brand and its customers?

The model is designed to strengthen the relationship we have with our customers. By offering a more personalised and ethical shopping experience, we’re not just selling clothes, we’re engaging in a shared commitment to sustainability. This approach fosters a deeper connection between our brand and our customers, building on mutual values and a common purpose.

Can you share examples of the sustainable materials employed in the creation of the AW24 collection?

One of our most used fabrics is from a producer in Italy called Taroni, who since 1880 have made fabrics of the highest quality. Their commitment to the elimination of all hazardous materials in their production and reputation for ethical practices mean we are able to offer our clients pieces that are not only luxurious but consciously crafted.

Interview with Patrick McDowell on Fashion's Sustainable & Ethical Future

How does the brand balance the creative aspects of design with the logistical challenges of sustainable production?

Balancing the creative with the logistical challenges of sustainable production involves innovative thinking from the outset. We ensure that our sustainability efforts complement our aesthetic by collaborating closely with suppliers who understand our vision, share our commitment to ethical practices, and help us to work towards producing in this new and innovative way.

What role do partnerships play in achieving a sustainable growth model, particularly with local manufacturers and makers?

Building strong and meaningful relationships with the people that touch our business, including of course our makers, has always been central to the way we work. By collaborating and having open conversations with local manufacturers and artisans, and finding the best way to work for everyone, we are able to reduce our carbon footprint, support local economies, and ensure that our production practices are ethical. These partnerships are also essential for sharing knowledge and resources towards our sustainability goals.

In your opinion, what is the significance of offering a complimentary re-fit option for your garments in terms of conscious consumption?

We understand that bodies change and by offering our clients a complimentary re-fit, we allow their pieces to change as they do. Similarly, should they decide they want to pass their Patrick McDowell garment on to a family member, friend, or loved one, we can help with this too. This not only reaffirms our commitment to quality but also elongates the life of our garments – helping us to build long and meaningful relationships with our clients.

How has the fashion community responded to your brand’s commitment to transparency and traceability?

The response so far has been positive and is something we feel is essential for building trust and meaningful, long-lasting relationships with our clients.

Interview with Patrick McDowell on Fashion's Sustainable & Ethical Future

Can you share your vision for the future of sustainable luxury in the fashion industry?

My hope for the future is a system where sustainable and ethical practices are built into every part of the industry. I truly believe luxury fashion has the potential to lead by example, showing that it’s possible to combine sustainability with high-quality, innovative design. I hope that the approach we are taking can help to influence the broader industry and change consumer expectations, paving the way for a more sustainable future.