Interview: Alice Pons Creates Corsets for the Modern Woman

Alice Pons Gucci Continuum collaboration. The Italian womenswear designer gives Gucci deadstock and past-season pieces a new lease of life with her corset creations. Image

Alice Pons is an Italian fashion designer based in her hometown of Milan. She launched her eponymous womenswear brand specialising in corset making after graduating from the London College of Fashion in 2018. Her label has attracted the media's attention and a high-profile clientele, showing a clear desire in the industry to see Alice's modern twist on 18th-century high fashion. 

As the environmental issues associated with climate change continue to worsen, governments and consumers across the globe are demanding higher standards of sustainability. The fashion industry, responsible for as much as 10% of global emissions, has fortunately responded to the call to action. In light of the global agenda to fight climate change, an increasing number of companies are opting for a more sustainable approach to handling business. 

In addition to Alice's own brand values, the talented designer has recently collaborated with Gucci following the launch of its latest sustainable initiative, Gucci Continuum. Selected as one of the designers who made the cut, Alice Pons was tasked with repurposing deadstock fabrics and past-season pieces to give old Gucci a new lease of life. Alice Pons' Gucci Continuum corsets come in various fabrics from the house's recent collections, such as stripes and checks, the Gucci flora silk and another 1960s archival print by Vittorio Accornero. 

At Gen Woo, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. So, we caught up with Alice to chat all things corsets, career and Gucci Continuum. 

Alice Pons is an Italian womenswear designer and London College of Fashion graduate. She specialises in creating corsets for the modern woman. Image

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I studied at the London College of Fashion, and after graduating in 2018, I returned to my hometown to open my eponymous clothing brand, Alice Pons Milano. My brand explores the historic corset's eccentric shapes and intricate structures, reimagining the garment through innovative eyes and promoting greater freedom of self-expression. I combine antiquity with modernity, preserving the beauty and sophistication of the corset while applying modern designs and manufacturing techniques to make it more versatile.

What is your earliest memory of fashion?

Most of my childhood afternoons were spent with my mother at home while she designed her collections. She was a self-taught independent fashion designer, and I was always fascinated by her work, and she used to ask me for advice on colours, fabrics, and cuts of her collections. This experience made me realise that fashion was a more enjoyable and creative path than what I was studying.

What led you to start creatively expressing yourself through clothes and design over any other art form? 

Art has always fascinated me, especially paintings, statues, and historical monuments, and I loved capturing their forms through photography. After high school, I decided to pursue something creative, and I found clothes to be the most practical and accessible form of artistic expression.

You studied Womenswear at the London College of Fashion. What was the most important thing you learnt?

At university, I learned to express myself freely, experiment with different styles, and define my own aesthetic. The best teaching was not having professors always guiding me; I was mostly alone creating, undoing, and redoing based on what I found beautiful.

You are renowned for creating corsets for the modern woman, with your collections combining antiquity and modernity. What are your key creative inspirations?

My main inspirations are the pompous women's dresses from the 16th to the 20th century and images of antique corsets from the Tudor, Rococo, and Victorian eras. I study their original designs in historical corset pattern books and reimagine them for contemporaneity. Each of my corset models is inspired by a specific era, with the original structure brought back to life and adjusted to make them modern, comfortable, and wearable. Each creation is the result of extensive historical research and is meant to modernise and narrate a segment of human history.

How do you want a woman to feel when wearing your pieces?

I want women to feel confident, enhanced in their curves, elegant, and sexy when wearing my pieces. I want them to feel cherished by the finest quality fabrics possible.

You describe your label as a small fashion brand at 360 degrees. Are sustainability and ethical practice important to you?

Sustainability is a core value for Alice Pons Milano. We strive to stay true to our beliefs and support a slow and honest fashion approach. Our brand offers mostly made-to-order and made-to-measure pieces, keeping a limited stock to reduce overproduction and waste. We use local materials within 10 km of our Milan atelier to support Italian craftsmanship and reduce freight emissions. We also up-cycle and re-use scrap fabrics to create limited one-of-a-kind capsule collections. Our goal is to create timeless pieces that can be handed down from generation to generation.

Corset sketches by designer, Alice Pons. Image

How many people are part of your team?

I am the designer and artistic director of the brand. I create all the patterns and prototypes of my clothes. I have a workshop of professional seamstresses in Milan who handle the manufacturing, and I have a team that assists me with marketing, social media, editorials, and image creation.

We all are now aware of the damaging impacts of fast fashion – yet people still buy from these sites. Why do you think this is?

Fast fashion brands offer cheap and stylish clothes that anyone on a tight budget can afford. They have tons of options, and you can easily find them online or in stores, which is why they're so popular. Even though more people realise how bad fast fashion is, not everyone knows or can afford sustainable alternatives. Giving up fast fashion is tough when sustainable options are limited and expensive. Plus, there's something exciting about finding a good deal or treating yourself to something new, and that makes it hard to resist fast fashion's charm.

How can we change things?

To change things, we can spread awareness about the problems with fast fashion and promote sustainable practices. Support brands prioritising sustainability, invest in well-made clothes, shop secondhand, and make conscious choices. Repair, swap, or donate clothes to reduce waste and embrace a circular fashion mindset. Advocate for better labour conditions, environmental regulations, and transparency in fashion. 

What is sparking a green revolution within the fashion industry?

People now understand the fashion industry's impact and are demanding sustainable and ethical options. Brands are changing their practices, and sustainable fashion brands are emerging. Circular fashion models, recycling, and new materials and technologies make sustainability more accessible. Collaboration among brands, organisations, and governments is driving change.

What makes circular fashion better?

Circular fashion is better for the environment and ethical because it reduces resource consumption, minimises waste, and promotes fair trade practices, ethical working conditions, and transparency. It brings economic advantages and supports long-term sustainability.

Alice Pons repurposes and upcycles deadstock Gucci fabrics for her collaboration with Gucci Continuum. Alice’s corsets come in various fabrics from the house’s recent collections, such as stripes and checks, the Gucci flora silk and another 1960s archival print by Vittorio Accornero. Image

You have previously collaborated with Liberty Fabrics and now with Gucci Continuum. How did this opportunity come about? What part of working with the Gucci Continuum most excited you?

The opportunity to collaborate with Gucci Vault arose from their focus on repurposing deadstock fabrics and materials, aligning with my passion for sustainability and circular economy principles. Working with Gucci Continuum excited me because it involved re-designing some of my corset styles with iconic fabrics from the house's past-season collections. This unleashed my creativity, innovation, and the exploration of new aesthetics, pushing the boundaries of traditional designing processes. 

With brands launching sustainable initiatives such as Gucci Continuum, where do you see the industry going?

The fashion industry is moving towards a more responsible and environmentally conscious future. Brands are adopting sustainable practices, circular fashion models are gaining popularity, collaboration among brands and industry organisations is increasing, technology is driving innovation, consumers are demanding sustainable fashion, and governments and certifications are introducing regulations. The industry is progressing through the efforts of brands, consumers, and policymakers, and a sustainable and responsible future is within reach.

What is one of your favourite designs you’ve created, and why? 

Recently, one of my favourite designs has been the more extravagant pieces that truly represent my creativity. Due to the positive trend of the brand, I've been able to afford the time and resources to design without being solely focused on immediate sales, costs, and fit. As a designer, taking time for oneself and unleashing ideas is important. Sometimes a small designer's creativity gets stifled in favour of prioritising growth and sales of simpler, more wearable pieces. 

What has been a highlight of your career so far?

The most exciting opportunity in the last few years has been collaborating with Gucci, a prestigious brand where talented professionals, fashion visionaries, and supportive individuals work. Interacting with capable, professional, and supportive people who dared to help young designers and artists from all over the world showcase their creations to a wider audience was a pleasure. 

What have been the biggest challenges along the way?

As an independent fashion designer, I have faced challenges such as limited resources, financial constraints, and the need to balance creativity with commercial viability. Building a brand from scratch is demanding, and the fashion industry can be competitive and ever-changing. It requires perseverance, adaptability, and a constant drive to innovate and differentiate oneself. 

What advice would you give to aspiring designers?

I advise aspiring fashion designers to stay true to their vision and unique style, never stop learning and experimenting, embrace sustainable practices, build a strong network, and be prepared to work hard and persevere. Don't be afraid to take risks, seize opportunities, and trust your instincts. Most importantly, believe in yourself and your talent, and never give up on your dreams.

What do you hope to bring to the industry with your designs, and how do you see your brand evolving in the future?

I envision my brand expanding its international presence in the next five years. I want to continue creating unique, sustainable fashion that challenges norms and captivates audiences. I aim to collaborate with like-minded designers and brands to further push the boundaries of creativity and innovation. Our sustainability commitment will strengthen as we refine our design aesthetic and weave compelling brand stories. I hope to leave a lasting impact on the fashion industry and inspire positive change towards a more sustainable and inclusive future.

For more information on slow fashion, eco-transparency and more, check out our 'Sustainability in Fashion' focused blogs on the Gen Woo website. Still don't want to miss a thing? We don't blame you! Subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest sustainable fashion, exclusive deals, and updates. 

Above all: remember that doing your best is always better than doing nothing at all when it comes to sustainability. Slow and steady wins the race!


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