Kitten heels have long had a bad rap among fashion fans, but Romania-born, London-based designer Ancuta Sarca is intent on changing the narrative around the divisive style with her unique spliced and skewed mash-up shoes.
Entirely sustainable in her practice, Sarca’s approach sees her source secondhand and surplus Nike sneakers from charity shops around the capital, before merging them with the kind of diminutive heels once relegated to the over-50s. “I always loved Nike’s aesthetics but at the same time I associated it with menswear or masculine shoes,” she explains. “The idea behind this was to reuse my old shoes and feminise the trainers by pushing the boundaries of what they can become.”
Landing a coveted spot among the Fashion East fold back in 2019, Sarca made her debut as the initiative’s first ever accessories-dedicated designer at LFW’s SS20 season. Since then, a long list of luxury retailers have expressed an interest in stocking her collections. “It’s great they’re so interested in what I do and so willing to dedicate so much attention to sustainable brands,” says Sarca. “In the future, I want to keep doing what I’ve always loved doing, but it’s so important to me that my brand is environmentally friendly and I’m able to create a work environment for my employees that’s 100 per cent sustainable.”
What issues or causes are you passionate about and why?
Ancuta Sarca: Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world and as a designer, I feel like I have a responsibility towards the environment and towards the people that work with me to find sustainable solutions in my work process. I choose to work with deadstock materials and products that people don’t want to wear any more, and re-make them to give them a second life and save them from going to waste. With all the problems that are going on in the world at the moment, I think that fashion needs creative people who will re-use what is already out there instead of creating more and more.
What or who gives you hope and why?
Ancuta Sarca: People who care about what’s going on in the world, who want to make a change and who show a level of responsibility in the way they live, work, and consume.
“Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world and as a designer, I feel like I have a responsibility towards the environment to find sustainable solutions” – Ancuta Sarca
How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you, your work, and your community?
Ancuta Sarca: The coronavirus outbreak has mainly affected my production. One of the issues I have is that some of the stores I worked with have postponed or cancelled some orders because of the virus. Another issue that we are trying to work on at the moment is that the factories are all currently closed for an uncertain period of time. I am hoping they will reopen soon and the only issue that we will have is with delivery delays. More personally, the production problems have affected me as this is my only source of income, but I am trying to do my best to find new solutions to make it work.
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Ancuta Sarca: I want to fully dedicate myself to finding new ways of creating sustainable collections. My next collection would be made entirely of repurposed materials and reclaimed products, there are so many products out there that people don’t want to use anymore and I think it’s my responsibility as a designer to re-think them and give them a second chance to be used again. Winning the Dazed 100 grant would also allow me to hire assistants and so I would be able to offer jobs to people. At the moment I do most of the work by myself due to financial reasons, and that has caused lots of issues with production and the way I develop my business. Being able to pay people to help me and rent a space to work would make a huge change in my career.
Emma Elizabeth Davidson