United Kingdom (London)
They might not be taking clothes to space, but the AWAYTOMARS crowdsourcing collective have found a new frontier in the world of fashion: democratic design.
While typical fashion collections are tied closely to the name of the designer or creative director who came up with them, AWAYTOMARS shuns individual success in favour of the collective. This crowdsourced creativity is something anyone with an idea can be part of, and be fairly rewarded for.
Seeing the abundance of ideas that are shared and commented on in different forums and social spaces online, Alfredo Orobio knew there was power in collaborative design. He set up AWAYTOMARS in 2015 to harness it – but also to ensure that creative designers without cash, contacts and technical skills can make their way into the world of fashion and see their ideas realised.
For each collection, the process starts with an idea stage that invites submissions from anyone, anywhere in the world. Designers – from 16-year-old students to established artists – send in their idea, and comment on others’ to evolve the designs. Typically around 1000 ideas are submitted, and the AWAYTOMARS team select 10-15 designs to work with. The AWAYTOMARS team then take on the challenging technical task of prototyping these designs, as well as funding production and taking care of promotion and marketing. Once the pieces start to sell, the original designers receive a cut of the profits – the more popular their piece, the more money they make.
Having started with just 46 designers, the AWAYTOMARS community is now more than 15,000 designers strong and spans more than 90 countries. The company lives by the motto ‘none of us are as strong as all of us’, deliberately not attaching itself to any big name designers.
Customers who walk into their London-based store will find not just clothes, but the AWAYTOMARS team working in their open studio. Shoppers’ opinions on colour, fit, style – you name it – are welcomed by the design team, who chat to anyone willing to share their thoughts.
Their collaboration with Brazilian shoe brand Melissa – the biggest ever of its kind – saw hundreds of shoe design submissions that were narrowed down to three sparkling final pairs. They have also collaborated with Froot Loops (yep, the cereal) to produce ten colourful co-created designs, which launched during 2018’s New York Fashion Week; and with Italian luxury brand M Missoni, for a collection that will launch in 2021.
The ethos of AWAYTOMARS centres on the idea of working together to create fashion – but also to make the world a better place. Increasingly, their collections are geared towards materials that limit impact on the planet. Recent designs – depicting the dramatic imagined world of flora and fauna on Mars – have used Fairtrade, biodegradable materials. And the ‘Remnants’ Collection used offcuts to create circular pieces.
At 2020’s Lisbon Fashion Week, they released their FASHION POSITIVISM collection, in which “each artist interpreted one of the seven global problems that we believe needs to be addressed by our generation in order to achieve a better future”. Each artist’s striking creation made a statement about either gender equality, racial equity, climate change, democracy, freedom of expression, access to education, access to health or endangered cultures. 80% of the profits from their pieces will be donated to international NGOs working on these issues, and the remaining 20% to the artists.
Having been awarded funding by the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) as part of a funding initiative led by University of the Arts London, AWAYTOMARS are now working with the Digital Anthropology Lab at London College of Fashion to develop new technologies to improve the experience of collaboration for their growing community of designers.
AtlasAction: Access the AWAYTOMARS universe here to find out more about all their co-creation projects.
Nature-geek, urban forager and all-round wordy sort. Freelance strategist and writer for organisations that care about the future. Often found reading while walking.
Alfredo Orobio, Founder & CEO
This project has been selected as part of FashionFutures, a new content channel that maps the work of people transforming the fashion sector: the designers, craftspeople, social innovators, educators, community leaders and communicators. Atlas of the Future is excited to partner with Makerversity, with the support of The J J Charitable Trust and their network of fashion friends.