Marisa P. Clark created her brand, Faun Studio, as a way to not only connect with her mother’s home country of Vietnam but to create a more environmentally-friendly and ethical fashion industry. And over the years, the Calgary-based designer has done just that.
Clark has played around with different facets of sustainability, from using deadstock fabric to experimenting with recycled materials to taking a course in natural dyes in Mexico this past January. “I’m really looking forward to trying to figure out a way to produce some textiles more sustainably, using local wool and natural plants to dye them,” she tells FASHION over a video chat.
Clark credits her family’s connection with Vietnam for her drive to design sustainable clothing. “When I was starting my company I was really considering how I could contribute to the economic development of somewhere like Vietnam,” she says. “I wanted to do so in a way that’s not just a charity but that’s actually sustaining local business.” So, shortly after graduating from the London School of the Arts, Clark created Faun Studio, a ready-to-wear clothing brand with production facilities in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam.
The company that owns Faun Studio’s production facilities supports many luxury designers with extremely high production volumes, she explains. “They have just rolls [of fabric] sitting in their storage. So, a couple times a year I’ll get them to send me all the swatches of the leftovers that they have to help them move it out of there. It also allows so that I don’t have to over produce and be left over with a bunch of inventory.”
FASHION spoke with the founder of Faun Studio about sustainability, Canada and Vietnam’s differentiating styles, and the five things bringing her joy right now.
Where do you find most of your inspiration for your pieces?
Definitely from our customers. I really like to engage with them and figure out what they’re looking for each season. It’s easy to follow trend reports and colours of the year and things like that, but I typically find that’s not really sustainable design in the sense that it’s not going to last for years. So, I really try to come up with a basic [design], but then find a colour that people just resonate towards not because it’s a trend colour, but because it brightens your skin tone or brings out certain features….That’s where we’ve seen a big transformation from having more dresses and the silk pieces to now we’re moving into a world where people aren’t getting dressed up as fancily anymore, but still want to wear modern, fashionable clothing.
How would you describe the style of your brand in three words?
Whimsical, modern and bold.
What is something about your brand that would surprise people?
Our team is only three girls from Alberta.
Could you talk about your connection to Vietnam?
I was just seeing how harmful fashion production and that industry could be on people. And with cheap labour moving from China to Vietnam, I really didn’t want to see them experience the same problems with sweatshop labour.
Beyond that, my first thought of starting a fashion line was that I had been to Vietnam over the summer in university, and I’d found a tailor there and custom made a couple jackets and a dress for myself. I just loved coming back to the university and when people would ask where it was from, I was like, “Oh, it was made for me.” Having that relationship with someone and just seeing how skilled they were at creating clothes really inspired me to get into design and I just admire their workmanship so much. And I just find they’re so quick at being able to see a concept and translate it. It’s been a great opportunity to connect with my culture.
How would you describe Calgary and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)’s style?
I definitely find there’s pockets of niche styles in Calgary. You do get more hipsters and things like that. But, in general, you see people conforming to a certain style. Western style definitely plays an influence on people’s outfits — you see a lot of jeans and a cute top. Whereas Ho Chi Minh city gets interesting because there is an American influence — you’re seeing a lot of graphic T-shirts and things like that — but there’s definitely more of a boldness and willingness to take risks in certain younger groups in Vietnam. I think for so long, they grew up with families that were very traditional, and now they’re finally getting access to social media, and seeing Western styles and stuff like that. One of the interesting things I find is that the men seem to care way more about fashion there than the men do here. There’s a lot more of a desire to buy big brands and really curate a look. Whereas here, guys just throw on a t-shirt and jeans and they’re out the door.
What’s one piece from your new collection that’s especially meaningful to you?
I’ve named each piece after my dogs, so they each have a different name. I really like the Nala, which is my puppy right now, in the modern desert sunset print. It just kind of reminds me of being outside with [my dogs].
Favourite and least favourite trend?
What is the most-worn item in your closet?
My high waisted pair of vintage Levi’s. Just a wide leg in a light wash blue.