Meet The Woman Shaking Up The Denim Industry
Meet The Woman Shaking Up The Denim Industry

Meet The Woman Shaking Up The Denim Industry

Anna Foster – the founder and creative director of E.L.V. Denim – is a fashion sustainability pioneer. Not only is she a champion of ethical practices and planet-friendly processes, she’s also clued up on the latest denim trends. Here, she tells us about her mission to change an industry plagued by waste.
By Emma Bigger

I’ve been in the fashion industry for over 20 years. I started as a stylist and became a fashion director. There came a point when I realised that we were becoming overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of what the industry was producing, and that quality and focus on craftsmanship were being lost.

I wanted to create a brand that gave consumers that feeling of finding something unique. That really explains why E.L.V. Denim is dedicated to crafting timeless fashion pieces from 100% upcycled materials. We champion slow fashion, local craftsmanship and beautiful designs, and we’re determined to do better for the planet.

Sustainability in fashion is about revaluing and reusing materials that already exist. Just because the current form isn’t desirable, there is still a quality that can be reworked – that’s where the mindset change needs to happen, so we value that material and create something new from it. Creativity excels with limited resources, and our purpose is to take what is considered as imperfect and create perfectly tailored clothes. It takes time and effort, but the final piece is worth it.

We champion SLOW FASHION, local craftsmanship and beautiful designs, and we’re determined to do BETTER FOR THE PLANET.

We never use virgin fibres or cut from a roll of fabric. We create from post-consumer garments. By using unwanted existing garments, we can prevent tens of thousands of jeans from ending up in landfill. This might make the design process more challenging, but I will never compromise my collections. 

We produce everything within a five-mile radius of our studio. Local production means we support our community and protect the UK manufacturing industry, as well as ensuring a low carbon footprint. We have zero waste: our scraps are reconstructed into patchwork material, and the smallest scraps are turned into paper.

We are an open book. We are proud of our supply chain, sourcing and production methods. We have all our ‘steps’ listed out on our website, and you can come and visit our studio in east London to see all of these processes in action. We welcome questions, and are always learning and improving.

Clothing that costs less than a cup of coffee has such a huge environmental cost. It’s not designed to last. With the rise and rise of fast fashion, consumers don’t always understand that quality, craftsmanship and design come with a price. We understand that the status quo can’t be changed overnight, but I want our customers to buy these jeans when they are 18 and still wear them when they are 80. That’s the goal.

My first tip for buying more sustainable denim is to not buy stretch denim. It stretches out of shape and is discarded so quickly. Second, don’t throw old jeans in the bin. Find a textile bin and put them it in there. Although we don’t have the perfect solution yet, it has a much better chance of being reused or recycled. It’s better to change 1% of what you do than nothing.

With the rise and rise of fast fashion, consumers don’t always understand that QUALITY, CRAFSTMANSHIP AND DESIGN come with a price.

My go-to look for 2024 is triple denim. Layering different shades of denim can create a strong, relaxed look all from the same textile. Denim has evolved from the everyday jean into beautiful, intricate pieces that can be worn effortlessly yet with maximum impact. I love layering different shades of blue denim together.

I’d describe my personal style as timeless. I meticulously select each piece that enters my wardrobe so I can be certain it will last. I have clothes that I bought in the mid-90s that I still love and wear today – and I definitely don’t follow trends. I believe clothes are a part of your personality. A great outfit gives you confidence – it’s like armour.

I’m drawn to labels that create pieces with meaning including Sacai, Eudon Choi and Phoebe Philo’s old Céline. The first real designer piece I added to my wardrobe was from Hussein Chalayan. Every collection had a beautiful story behind it, and I fell in love with that concept.

My number-one style rule is that clothes must give me confidence. The simple act of getting dressed every day can make me feel good. As a stylist, I used to say to my clients that they should wear the clothes, not the other way round. If you’re not comfortable in what you’re wearing, it really shows. 

I admire people who are true to their style – like Olivia Singer and Leandra Medine Cohen. If I could swap wardrobes with anyone, it would be my friend Alex Eagle. She wears clothes so well, regardless of the brand, and styles everything in a way that makes it look luxury.

When I started E.L.V Denim in 2018, very few people were talking about sustainability. Now it’s a buzzword. To my mind, that’s a positive thing, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to define the future of sustainable fashion. It’s about putting back exactly what you are taking out and, right now, not everyone who uses the word ‘sustainability’ is following that definition. Regardless, E.L.V. Denim will always be true to its origins, and I hope our sourcing, designs and manufacturing can be a blueprint and an inspiration for other brands.


Photographer: Cleo Glover

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