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//Explore a Career in Sustainable Fashion | Ana Fialho

Overview Info

Ana shares her career journey and how she creates accessories made of leather from trees

Explore a Career in Sustainable Fashion | Ana Fialho

Xpert:  Ana Fialho
Role: Sustainable Fashion Designer & Founder
Company:  Pell d’Arbre
Location: Valencia, Spain

Ana Fialho has had a squiggly career path. From fashion design, to communication & PR, to tourism, to lecturing. And finally back to sustainable fashion design when she in 2017 launched her own sustainable accessories brand where all products are made from cork textile.

We talk about Ana’s career journey, why cork is a great material to replace with leather and the importance of spreading awareness on sustainability in order to make a difference.

Watch the full chat below with Ana and Cecilia Nilsson or scroll down for some transcribed highlights and key takeaways.

Xperienceships: Ana, you have a really cool journey and I would like to ask you a little bit more about your own brand, if you could describe a little bit because you mentioned the name, but what is it that you do with your brand?

Ana: My brand is called Pell d’Arbre, and what I do is accessories like, handbags, jewellery, wallets. A little bit of everything, actually. And I do them with cork textile, and the good thing with that is that in Portugal, everybody has seen cork textile and people don’t generally look at it, because it has this stigma, almost, it’s like something for tourists. So locals don’t ever even look at it. Here in Spain there is more opportunity for this material, because people are curious, and people don’t look at it as something that they already have an idea about. Also because I’m vegan, it is the perfect replacement or alternative to leather, because luckily cork textile is made from the skin of a tree and not of an animal.

I make all my products in my workshop. So, no one else produces for me, I do everything. I’ve even done my own website, I do all the communication with clients and I design. So I do everything and that’s nice because I got to learn about a lot of things and I’m still learning new things all the time.

One of the things that I like most about cork textile is that you are supporting something called the cork forests which are very rich in biodiversity. And unfortunately, because the wine industry is coming up with new types of ways to seal their bottles, that are not cork. So, there is a kind of a risk for this industry. And unfortunately, we know how our world works. If something isn’t making money, they will just destroy it, they will change it and plan something else.

And also I come from Portugal form of area, which is very rich in coke or trees. So eat not, you know, it’s part of my roots. And that’s why I really like to work with this kind of material.

X: It’s great to hear that you’re on your own. You’re doing the whole startup journey, like doing your own website and producing and designing and doing everything. I think that’s really cool. But like the cork, are you importing it from Portugal? Or is it accessible to you in Valencia?

A: I buy it from Portugal. But actually, like nowadays, I’m starting this collaboration with some people that are trying to bring up the industry here close to Valencia. In one of the mountains here, there is a history of the cork industry that has kind of died, but they are trying to bring it back. So maybe one of these days, I’ll be able to get my cork textile from here. But anyways, I consider Portugal and Spain kind of the same. It’s like I’m buying locally, because it’s inside of the peninsula, basically.

“Unfortunately, people are not educated on knowing the value of crafts. Like all handmade stuff of small local enterprises, and of course if I was having a target of the north of Europe, I know that I would be selling more and making more money.”

X: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about your startup life, actually. Because I’m really intrigued by it. What have been your greatest challenges? And what have been your greatest successes during these years?

A: I started it in 2017, but because all the things I told you. I’ve been going back and forth between different things, so actually, I just launched my website, this month, in the beginning of December. Up until now, I was attending design markets and stuff like that. And I was working more through Instagram, and selling very small quantities.

So, at least right now, I’m not trying to sell outside of Spain and Portugal. Because I was reading an article a few moments before I talked to you, and it’s true. In Portugal, in Spain, unfortunately, people are not educated on knowing the value of crafts. Like all handmade stuff of small local enterprises, and of course if I was having a target of the north of Europe, I know that I would be selling more and making more money. And maybe in the future, I’ll do that. But I think that if we don’t try to educate the public here of the importance of buying consciously, of buying local and of knowing who’s doing the things you buy. If we don’t do that, we are not ever going to get this kind of public here. So we need to also work on that.

So I am, I’m working together with a local project of designers and creators from Valencia. And we are trying to create a community that tries to educate people and make them aware of all this creativity that is happening right here. That you don’t need to look outside or look to buy from big companies to get stuff that you could get with more quality, and with more fairness from somewhere close by.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you are looking to launch a sustainable product – focus on one problem and come up with a strategy to solve it. It is way harder to launch a whole sustainable business, focus on what is doable and go form there.
  • Look to your own consuming behaviour. Even if we start producing all products in a sustainable way, we won’t fix the planet. The key is to consume less.
  • Awareness of sustainability is growing and during COVID people have started to make more things at home. And now people realize how much work and resources go into the production of a T-shirt and as a result they might buy their next T-shirt from a more conscious brand than they used to.
  • Digital fashion solutions can be a possible solution to our consumer behaviour. See links below!


Talento Tocal Vlc
Meu Teu Lab

Digital Fashion Solutions: Carlings Digital SolutionsThe FabricantDeezenDesign Boom.

Do you want to connect with Ana? You can reach her on:

Nexgen Careers Host Cecilia

I'm Nexgen Careers Head of Content.

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