Join us for a chat with Bel Sorrentino, founder of Melbourne-based slow fashion label, Sorrentino Studios.
Sorrentino Studios is a slow and sustainable fashion label based in Melbourne, Australia. During the second wave of COVID, Bel Sorrentino - Sorrentino’s founder - created made-to-order face masks, and from here she generated a foundation from which to build her own fashion label. Pretty impressive, if you ask us.
What made you start Sorrentino Studios?
I started my label in mid-2020 – on the cusp of Melbourne’s second wave of COVID. Funnily enough, it was the second wave that gave me the springboard to start my label, in the form of made-to-order masks.
Since early primary school it was my dream to start a label, and the popularity of my masks gave me the funds required to buy the fabric and patterns for my first collection, ELEMENT 1.0.
The fact that I hated my job (because of the culture, and the lack of sustainable practices) was further incentive for me to use the stage 4 lockdown to design, cut, sew and create a foundation solid enough to go my own way.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I start the day with a long black, then usually either do some yoga or go for a walk around the block. I also like to set an intention or goal for the day to keep myself motivated and focused.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
One of the biggest barriers was creating a network of suppliers that also demonstrate ethical practices in their own operations and their supply chains. The secondary impact of this is on the costs; keeping cost of goods manageable while still supporting ethical suppliers and businesses requires time, planning and customers that are willing to invest in a sustainable brand. Most of our customers do understand the added cost of buying sustainable, and why it should be viewed as an investment rather than a mindless transaction, but I’d love to see that school of thought become mainstream.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Sorrentino Studios, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I lovingly make each piece by hand in my Melbourne studio. From concept to production I do the research, fabric sourcing, design, cutting, sewing and some pattern-making. I outsource a selection of my pattern-making to RB Patterns, which has been in business for over 25 years and is ECA certified. Patternmakers Glen and Scott work from their Melbourne studio, and are both extremely talented, thoughtful and such a joy to visit!
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
There are a few factors that come into play when I select my fabrics. It basically comes down to the fibre content, quality of the fabric and weave, garment care, breathability, comfort, fabric cost and whether it is deadstock. A lot of the harmful environmental impact of fashion production comes from the raw material stage where new fabrics are being made – by utilising deadstock fabrics (that is, fabrics that would’ve otherwise been discarded and ended up in landfill) we produce less, utilise what we have and prevent these from ending up as waste. I also stick to natural fibres because they are breathable, sustainable and biodegradable.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
To back yourself and follow your instincts! Running a small business can be testing – you’re faced with big decisions, pressures and challenges, and you don’t always have anyone to point you in the right direction or guide you, like you would when working for someone else, so you do have to trust your judgement – I find that your gut is usually worth listening to!
What’s next for you and Sorrentino Studios?
I am currently working on my next collection, Element 2.0 which is inspired by water and explores themes of fluidity, adaptability and gender.
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
The True Cost or War on Waste. War on Waste highlights the need for change in consumption, while demonstrating the huge impact that a concerted effort towards waste reduction can have! The True Cost explores the effects of fast fashion on the environment, and the garment workers that emphasise a need for systemic changes in the industry.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
Eli and Tomas, who are the owners of Share Waste. The business helps you find someone in your neighbourhood who is willing to accept food scraps to compost,
or to feed to their worms and animals, if you are unable to do it yourself. This prevents your food scraps from going into landfill, where they can actually end up producing methane (if wrapped/covered in plastic) – which is far more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide!