“Making organic T-shirts and calling ourselves sustainable,” is not enough says designer/fashion executive Camilla Modin Djanaieff. “We have to think in a different way, to think about consuming less and in a more conscious way.” This multi-hyphenate Swede is practicing what she preaches: She’s 95 percent vegan, has committed to flying only for business this year, and recently launched Phi, a line of organic and recycled wool and cashmere sweaters and accessories.
Modin Djanaieff’s favorite look (which she pairs with a miniskirt and tights) is the piece that started it all: a striped, shoulder-buttoned number of the sort that she has worn since her childhood in Vӓrmland, which, despite its name, is not a region known for tropical temps. The designer says that growing up in the woods made her especially attuned to the practical importance of a warm sweater. Phi’s have the simple, clean lines associated with Scandinavian design, with a surprisingly soft hand, given the sustainability factor. “The first samples of the cashmere, explains Modin Djanaieff were really, really hard, so I had to source the right fibers and yarn.”
Phi was founded two years ago, during a time of great change in Modin Djanaieff’s life. “It came to a tipping point with sustainability, where I felt I couldn’t work with fast fashion anymore.” As a result, she split with her business partner and formed her own PR company, Modin, which focuses on sustainable brands and premium labels that don’t produce throwaway items. Modin Djanaieff also came to the realization that if she wanted responsible garments that she “really, really, really” liked, she’d have to make her own. Phi was conceived of as a pan-seasonal line for women that can be, and is, worn by men. Modin Djanaieff won’t follow the fashion calendar, but will add styles and colors to the line while retaining popular models as the business grows. To promote longevity and reuse, Modin Djanaieff sells PHIX Kits, which contain recycled yarn in different colors, extra Corozo buttons, and handmade patches that can be used to refurbish sweaters that might have provided a meal to a moth, or been worn thin through use.
Though Modin Djanaieff didn’t study design, she comes at it with years of experience and insider knowledge, having modeled for 10 years. “I’ve always liked fashion and clothes [and] I was so happy that I was scouted. I wasn’t this shy girl, who thought, ‘Oh maybe I should try this,’ I was like, “Finally someone asked me!” Having been exposed to all kinds of fashion, some of it beautifully crafted, and lots with “not so good design and cheap materials,” this Swede finds herself drawn to high quality, classic pieces designed for the long run. “The Scandinavian market uses knits year round as the summer nights are often quite chilly,” notes Modin Djanaieff. Thankfully, warmth is one of Phi’s cool factors.
Phi is available at www.phiatelier.com.