Moda Spia: Interview with Designer Ursula Dean


Ursula Dean, founder and designer of women’s apparel line, Moda Spia, entered the eco-fashion neighborhood 10 years ago when she started utilizing factory over-runs from Italy.

Since then, the San Francisco designer has stayed true to using interesting, rescued fabrics but has added more organic fabrics for good measure, aiming to create clothing that becomes a keepsake, something coveted and special to its owner that stands the test of time.

Her concentration on seasonal collections that have her signature look of fresh, playful and always inherently feminine lines are what both buyers and shoppers now follow her for. Here’s what she had to say about her part in the eco-fashion movement.

PhotobucketWhat got you into designing with sustainable fabrics?

Honestly, I didn’t realize the inherent “good” to the environment of these left over fabrics until the whole green movement brought it to light. I love textiles and am really glad the surplus goods are in some way helpful in containing the negative impact of textile production on the environment. I started using organic fabrics like cotton/hemp blends, bamboo and more recently organic wool/lyocell blends. They have a very soft hand and beautiful weight and smell good, too!

PhotobucketIs there a different mindset that comes with creating sustainable or “green” garments?

My focus is primarily on the design itself. Through some research I’ve found several green textile companies to work with (like Pick Natural in San Francisco). Their products are exciting to work with and they bring in fresh fabrics on a regular basis. This makes my job as a designer trying to work primarily with green fabrics easy.

PhotobucketDo you feel part of a new eco-designing community?

Most of the designers I know personally have already made the push to offer garments that are at least in part green, so yes.

PhotobucketWhat was a stand-out piece you created over the past 10 years?

The Biba Jacket from my first collection 6 years ago. It was a silk velvet jacket with a ribbon belt and hand-made flower, really loose and bohemian. My partner at the time hand-dyed the velvet and silk-screened the lining. It was incredibly labor-intensive but the result was stunning. Calypso in NY carried it for 2 seasons. Heidi Klum showed up in it in InStyle and that really spiked sales. It was an auspicious start to our business.

PhotobucketHow do you see the future of green clothing design evolving?

I don’t know the answer, nobody does. To me it seems like so many things are coming into play and will continue to. China is making Walmart and Target’s clothes. A LOT of people are shopping at these places right now because they need something and they don’t have any money, nobody has any money right now.  The U.S. relationship with China is changing isn’t it? China is heavily invested in the U.S. I’m not sure if these things will affect production but they may. To me it seems volatile but they’re looking for a partner in production and we’ve got the work for them. That’s the manufacturing end of it, anyway.

PhotobucketDo you think at some point all clothes will just be manufactured sustainably?

As far as sustainable fabrics are concerned I think they will only become more a part of our shopping culture. It seems to have become a very visible thing to most people. If you go to the tiniest town, chances are someone will have at least heard of an organic cotton t-shirt – though not necessarily know what that means!

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.