Our #FemaleFounded series is dedicated to celebrating the stories and achievements of women who are paving the way for themselves in the worlds of fashion, jewellery and beauty.

In this exclusive series, we delve into the journeys, experiences, and insights of women who have navigated the entrepreneurial landscape to build successful businesses and drive positive change. Join us as we uncover the inspirations, challenges, and triumphs of these remarkable women!

Since its launch in 2018, E.L.V. Denim has paved the way for sustainable denim with an uncompromising approach to upcycling. Now, in an increasingly overcrowded market, rife with greenwashing and tokenistic approaches to design in a climate crisis, E.L.V. Denim stands proudly as the only denim brand to never cut from a roll of fabric.

We caught up with Anna Foster, the founder of the no-nonsense fashion brand, as she embarks on an exciting collaboration with Liberty and launches two new jean styles.

What has changed since you last spoke to Because back in 2020?
E.L.V. Denim has grown exponentially in the last 3 years in every way. We are now a team of six incredibly driven females – set out to make a positive change in the fashion industry. As a brand, we have expanded from denim into new textiles and categories, but we are still committed to only upcycling these textiles from garments that already exist. We are still the only denim brand that never cuts from a roll of fabric, and I am very, very proud of that.

I collaborated on a denim capsule with Gabriela Hearst and upcycled the waste leather from Hyundai to create a denim and leather jumpsuit. And this year we started upcycling linen from luxury hotels. In January 2024, we have a very exciting collaboration which I can’t wait for.

What gap in the fashion industry did you set out to fill? And have you been able to stay true to your aspirations?
I wanted to prove that upcycling can be a successful business model, rather than being a tokenism capsule collection for marketing purposes. With upcycling, we celebrate the individuality created by revaluing material that is living in a garment that doesn’t do it justice. With E.L.V. Denim we give that material a chance to live a second, and better life. The ethos and values with which I started the business in 2018 still remain the sole purpose today.

What challenges and opportunities has incorporating circular practices into your denim production presented?
It isn’t easy to only upcycle from existing garments, but I truly believe that the “global we” has a duty to respect and revalue material that already has cost the world environmentally, socially, and economically. In addition, the same “global we” has a duty to be responsible for everything that is produced. We live in a world where so much is produced carelessly for the sake of financial gain at the expense of others.

All our circular practices are based on common sense innovation, it makes sense that we should only put out quality garments that are designed to last. Every pair of jeans, shirt, and jacket is hand-curated for its material quality. Once paired for production into its new form, it is checked and rechecked six times before being manufactured. It takes time, but this is where the quality of the garment comes from.

What are the most pressing challenges that the fashion industry faces in becoming more sustainable, and how can these challenges be addressed?
We need to have legislation that all brands, designers, and manufacturers abide by. It’s challenging to recognise that not all “recycled fabrics” are good for the environment. In the case of denim; if something is called “recycled denim” it doesn’t actually mean that it's 100% recycled denim; it is denim made from some recycled materials with a minimal part of denim in it.

I would also love to see a change in the status of a garment’s country of manufacture. Currently, a garment can be made in China and then the final button is sewn on in the UK, the label can then say made in the UK. This will hinder the demand for UK manufacturing which I believe should be supported by UK brands in order to protect our fashion economy.

Can you share some of the key milestones or challenges you've faced in building E.L.V Denim, and how they have shaped your journey as a female founder?
Growing the team was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I have managed to grow a business to sustain a full-time team and that is probably one of my proudest achievements. The team inspire me every day. The business of fashion is daunting, you are constantly on hyperdrive, however, having a pure mission is what I find spurs us on. Also seeking solace in other female founders is something I truly value. I would advise any other female entrepreneur to find her girl army and lean into it.

Can you provide a glimpse into any upcoming projects or plans for E.L.V Denim that our readers can look forward to?
We have launched our first new jeans shapes in three years, The Freya and The Stovepipe. It always takes time to create a new piece that can join our iconic styles. We have just landed in Liberty, which not only is a huge milestone for E.L.V. Denim, but personally, I do a little skip of joy, as it is one of my favourite stores in the world. They stock our new styles but they also asked us to upcycle their silk scarf offcuts into the Aubrey top. It has been such a success that we will be developing this partnership for next season. It is a real honour to be recognised for being a thought leader in this space by a store that I admire so much.

For women interested in entering the fashion industry, what advice would you give based on your experiences as the founder of E.L.V Denim?
Never take no for an answer. Don’t get me wrong, I always listen to advice, but innovation doesn’t come from relying on the status quo.