Innovation That Matters

Petya Mihaylova of Lumiere Paris on Creating a Fully Sustainable Fashion Brand

Wise Words

The CEO and founder of Lumière Paris shares her experience of producing an entire range of sustainable apparel and much more.

Last April Springwise spotted a startup that was turning pollution into high fashion without using any new resources. 

Unlike many brands, which use recycled materials for just one product, French swimwear brand Lumière Paris provides an entire range of sustainable apparel – from activewear to swimwear and protective face masks. The entirety of its fabrics is made from recycled ocean and landfill plastic to supply a fully sustainable fashion brand.

Fashion production makes up 10 per cent of our carbon emissions. Whilst the fashion industry is currently one of the biggest contributors to pollution and environmental damage, brands like Lumière are demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be so. Its commitment to sustainability goes beyond the products themselves. Lumière donates one per cent of the company’s profits to ocean clean-up and other environmental projects.

We wanted to learn more, so we caught up with Lumiere Paris’ CEO and Founder Petya Mihaylova to find out what the key challenges are in producing an entire range of sustainable apparel from discarded plastics and what motivates her to keep pursuing her purpose-driven goals.

Introduction and interview by Katrina Lane

1. Where did the original idea for Lumiere Paris come from? And what inspired you to materialise it?

I had always wanted to have my own fashion line. When I started looking into it, I realized how unsustainable and unethical the fashion industry is. I learned that the industry is one of the biggest contributors to pollution and environmental damage. So, I decided to have a positive impact both within the industry and in the lives of our consumers. Thus, the idea for a 100 per cent sustainable brand was born. 

I’ve had a strong connection with nature since I was very young. I grew up surrounded by beaches and mountains which brought me closer to nature and fostered a sense of care for our environment. Even then, I knew my purpose in this world was to make it a better place for everyone. Those values were embedded in me by my parents to whom I’ll always be grateful. Later in my life, I met my partner who gave me the courage and support to start a business that helped me fulfil my life’s purpose.

2. What does success look like for Lumiere Paris? What are your key objectives at present?

“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” We are here for the long run and to be a leading force in the new era of conscious customers and sustainable living.

At this current stage, our goals are to drive awareness about slow and sustainable fashion, build our brand image globally and inspire more people to support our brand and cause. Lumière Paris is not just a fashion brand. Our focus is also on giving back to our planet and our society.

We are currently working on expanding our product lines adding sustainable bags, stockings, and lingerie over the next 6 months. We are currently focusing on North America and Europe but would like to expand to Asia, Australia, Russia, and the Middle East by next year.

3. What was your background prior to this, and how did that shape your work?

I studied business and finance and went into banking at the beginning of my career. Then I realized how much I cared about helping people and putting a smile on their faces. So, I moved to the hospitality industry where I learned to understand customers’ expectations. The experience I gained in the past really helped me to understand our conscious customer base and build products that they love as well as make a positive impact in our environment.

4. Who or what inspires you personally?

What inspires me the most, personally, is the opportunity to contribute to our society and the environment we live in. I am also inspired by the goodness in people. I think we all have something to offer and to inspire our society in many ways. Every day I try to be a better version of myself and stand up for good and positive causes. Music and nature are my happy place where I seek inspiration enabling me to focus on the bigger picture shaping my vision. Every day spent outdoors increases my creativity and work-life.

5. Through your work so far, are you seeing a genuine paradigm shift in how businesses and consumers approach high-end fashion?

I can see a lot more people starting to be conscious about their lifestyle choices and how it affects the world we live in. The culture of overconsumption we have adopted in the past is at the core of the global environmental crisis. Now we are slowly changing and realizing that we must focus more on our future and the only way to a sustainable future is conscious consumption. I can see more and more businesses making sustainability one of their priorities. However, we have a long way to go to truly embrace sustainable practices and we need to do more as consumers, businesses, and society to make this happen.

6. What are the key challenges you face in your efforts to produce an entire range of sustainable apparel from discarded plastics?

Unlike many other brands, which have a single line or product that is sustainable, we are 100 per cent sustainable. All of our apparel is made using discarded plastics from the ocean and landfills. In essence, we are turning pollution into high fashion without using any new resources. 

One of the biggest challenges we faced was finding a fabric that is of premium quality yet made from discarded plastics. It took us a while to find the right partners, and we were fortunate enough to partner with some of the best premium manufacturers of recycled yarn and fabrics in Italy. 

We have also had challenges printing on the new type of fabric with sustainable inks. So we had to spend a lot of time and effort on R&D to find the right solution to keep our promise of being fully sustainable.

7. What do you think are the major challenges that designers are facing to create sustainable fashion? And do you think that it is possible to truly embrace all points of circular fashion?

From my personal experience, I would say the greatest challenge is finding the right suppliers that cater to sustainable businesses. Although not an easy task, it is still possible to truly embrace a sustainable business model. It takes a lot of dedication and care. 

When Lumière Paris was established, our goal was to be a truly sustainable brand, in every way possible. Not just the fabrics we use, but the hangtags, labels, wash cares, gift boxes, ribbons, bows, thank you cards, and shipping boxes all made using recycled materials. Even the ink used to print the apparel and packaging are sustainable water-based inks. Our shipping is also carbon neutral. 

To further elevate the brand’s mission, we donate 1% of our company profits to ocean clean-up projects. We also work with environmental organizations to plant 1 tree for each package we ship. Lumière Paris supports the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign, which has reported over 13.6 billion newly planted trees.

We are also currently in the process of implementing a program to collect our products after their lifetime and convert them into brand new yarns which can be used to produce new garments. Thus, closing the loop and creating a fully circular fashion economy.

8. What is one book or film that has inspired you and that you would recommend?

I would highly recommend “Let my people go surfing” by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. An inspirational read full of hope and courage! 

In my spare time, I also like watching documentaries. Documentaries paint a picture of reality. A documentary that shook me to the core is David Attenborough: A life on our planet. It makes you question the fundamental relationship between us and our planet.

9. Do you have any other thoughts or wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

First and most, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. Share your ideas with people that care, listen and always be open to feedback. Try to keep your passion alive, set goals and reach for it. We live in a world that provides us with so many opportunities and you need to be bold enough to take those opportunities and run with them. You will face lots of obstacles along the way but never give up. If you fail, fail fast, learn from it and do it better the next time.