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Sustainable Fashion Conference: In Dialogue with Award Winning Designer Adrian Furstenburg
Véronique Saunier | 01 March 2019

Adrian Fustenburg - adrianfurstenburg Designer

Recently moved to Singapore young award winner South African designer Adrian Fustenburg is the founder of a brand of leather bags and accessories that specializes in customization and personalization as opposed to mass production. Adrian will participate in the APLF for the first time, both as one of the panelists of the Sustainable Fashion Conference and as a judge to the Best of APLF Awards. In this interview, he describes his brand, shares his perspective about sustainability and explains what he thinks makes a successful designer.

To hear Adrian Furstenburg ‘s views about sustainability, come to the  Sustainable Fashion Conference on March 14, 2019 from 10.00 to 12.00 in APLF Workshop, Hall 3F.

Q:    This is the first time you participate in APLF.  What are your expectations?
A:     I have recently moved to Singapore, therefore new to Asia. I am curious to find out what is happening there and what the market is like - both from a production, technology and a consumer perspective. 

Q:     You are also one of the panelists of the first edition of the Sustainable Fashion Conference. What topic
will you address?

A:     I am looking forward to be dissecting the different areas of sustainability with the other panelists. This is such a vast topic and I would like to dive deeper into the sustainability of how products get made in terms of production and human resources as well as how products get sold both from the retail and customer experience perspective. Also, I reckon that Sustainability should start with the ability to sustain the business from the inside - and that starts with the employees. 

Q:     What is sustainable about the Adrian Furstenburg brand and its products?
A:     When I left my previous employer and embarked on the entrepreneurial journey in 2016 - I asked       myself: “ How can I be the boss that I would like to work for, and how can I be the colleague that I would like to work with?”

I came to the conclusion that true sustainability starts with the employees of the production facility - as that is where the product comes to life. After we launched our first collection in 2017, I took the two workers from the factory - Fanwell and Hezman on a trip to Cape Town. This was their very first time on a fast train and an airplane! One of the reasons for this is - that our clients travel quite a lot; so we walked a mile in their shoes and experienced the world as they do. Travelling, flying and checking into nice hotels - and having our products as part of the journey, made it evident to the workers to see how our products gets used. As a team, it is important that the craftsmen see where the bag starts and ends.

We have also established a profit-sharing structure whereby with every product that is sold, a portion is geared towards the education of the employees’ families and children. So we are not just making bags…we are focused on building our nation, in a small but impactful manner. 

Besides, all of our materials are sourced locally - mainly A-grade cowhide - which is a by-product of the massive meat industry in South Africa. 

Q:    As a young entrepreneur what challenges are you facing?
A:    We are a small brand that specializes in the benefits and beauty of customization and personalization as opposed to mass production. To build a sustainable business by doing customizable products is challenging. This business model goes against the grain of regular fashion/accessory production, as we are not producing any stock items. We have several challenges that come with this, but with clever design and the introduction of technology - we believe we will spearhead the new ways of production that come with the 4th industrial revolution. 

Q:    How do you adapt to the 4th industrial technology while remaining a sustainable brand?
A:    We believe that technology will be at the forefront of keeping the brand, our core beliefs and production style as sustainable as possible. This includes an omni-channel approach to sales, to provide true value for our clients and then finally to be part of the retail renaissance. 

    We are in the design phase of a new collection - that includes 8 new styles that are fully customizable. Our main objective is to build a production facility that has state-of-the-art communication and numbering systems that will streamline the production process.

Q:    How successful has the brand been so far?
A:      We are one of four designers selected to develop amenity kits for South African Airways Business class passengers. This is a big step for future success for our business as potential clients from all over the world will get an introduction to the Adrian Furstenburg brand.

Q:    You will also be one of the judges of the Best of APLF Awards. As a young designer yourself how do you feel about this role? 
A:    In June 2016 my life was changed dramatically, as I was the first South African to win one of the coveted awards at the 10th Independent Handbag Designer Awards in New York City. Therefore I am very excited to be playing a small part in changing the life of a young designer, that will one day also have an impact on how products gets made, and how they get sold.

Q:     What do you think makes a good designer?
A:    Two aspects enter into consideration: practicality and functionality are super important. A handbag is the survival kit of everyday life but aesthetic is also essential. The challenge is to find the perfect balance between the two.