Monday, 29 July 2013

Kofü Ecodesign Creates Upcycled Elegance

Valérie Fréchette is an innovative jewellery designer based in Montreal. Her label Kofü Ecodesign brings together her love of vintage aesthetics with her passion for a sustainable way of life. I spoke to Valérie about her eco-influences, the future of ethical jewellery and the joys of design!

Q. How did you start down this path of ethical jewellery design?

About 10 years ago, I went into an eco-boutique close to my apartment, not knowing what was awaiting me. I looked around and asked : “What are you selling?”, and the salesperson answered : “ New clothes made from old clothes!”. A new concept had been introduced to my right brain, and the endless possibilities emerging from it have now become reality. From an interest to a hobby, and a lot of jewellery making classes, I eventually started making jewellery out of lace, for it's feminine, elegant and refined style.

Q. In 10 words or less, how would you describe your design aesthetic? 

Balanced, refined, asymmetrical, bold, urban, trend-setting, classic and unique! 

Q. What advice would you give to designers who are interested in becoming more sustainable? 

Ask yourselves this question: “Why buy your raw material new, when you can reuse or recycle something to get the same result?”. Upcycling involves much more processing time than usual jewellery making, but is so much more rewarding. And it is possible to make a collection, or a large-scale production, with raw recycled material. You just have to plan a little bit more, and the final result is a satisfying unique design for each of your client! Which client wouldn’t like that?!

As a designer, you develop a sixth sense when searching for your raw material. When you see a pink leather jacket or a teal lace dress, you have to practice your logical left brain to visualize the end result. Afterwards, let your hands and your self-confidence do the rest… 

Q. Has the cultural mix of Montreal influenced your work at all? 

Yes, absolutely! Montreal is such a great place to be a designer. The community of eco-designers in Montreal is great and also close-knit. Just taking a one hour stroll down Ste-Catherine street gives me ideas for a month! Interestingly enough, both the cultural mix and the proximity of natural settings influence my creative work. I also love to take a stroll in the regional park close to my studio, which helps me to enter a more calm and serene realm. Both are necessary to keep a balanced life, professionally and personally. 

Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now? 

Vuela Vuela is an awesome eco-designer who works with textiles, like organic linen. She transfers illustrations and photographs on her textiles, for an original and unique look. Since I also work with textile (lace) and make them into jewellery, my creative process is strongly inspired by her ethical creations. 

Q. Do you think there’s been an increase in high quality ethical jewellery over the past few years? 

High quality ethical jewellery is more widespread and available than it used to be. Unfortunately, so is low quality, made in China, disposable jewellery made in questionable working conditions. As slow fashion is becoming a widely adopted trend, as a customer (we all buy stuff!) and a member of a community, we must ask ourselves: “What kind of product do I want/need?”, “How was it made?” and “ What is the impact of this choice?”. Unfortunately, few of us take the time to do this.

As a designer, I inform my customers on the contents of our jewellery, i.e. percentage of recycled vs. new material, use of non-toxic glues, high quality hooks and gems - so they know they are buying environmentally conscious jewellery. I also make a point to inform our clientele, via my blog, of our eco-creative process, i.e. the sustainability, the ecological impact, the conditions in which the jewellery is made, etc.

The use of different types of social media allows us to be in direct contact with our clients. From exchanging ideas, to implementing their suggestions to lower our ecological footprint, we make continuous efforts to make our jewellery more sustainable and better for the environment. 

Q. What is one of the most personally rewarding pieces you've ever produced? 

In each new collection, I try to increase the proportion of recycled material in my jewellery, with the ultimate goal of being 100% upcycled! I am also aspiring to create new types of jewellery. Imagine a gorgeous necklace made out of something you would’ve never thought could be used to create a necklace or a bracelet! So I think my most rewarding piece is yet to come!

Q. How do you ensure that the ecological footprint of your work is as small as possible? 

Kofü Ecodesign takes a number of steps to minimize its ecological footprint. For example our entire production chain is inside a 30km radius, from which about 80% of it is inside a 10km radius.  

The main steps we take to ensure a lighter footprint are as follows:

1. We buy or get our fabric and textile in these fabulous places:

2. We are mobile in these green ways to get our raw material:
  • 55% walking or biking
  • 35% in public transport
  • 10% in low gas consumption car
**Kofü Ecodesign tries to limit its use of car travel as much as possible**

3. We deliver our eco-jewelry with Canada Post, since we are available online. By the way, the postal counter is a quick walk from our shop :)

4. Our studio is:

  • Facing the south-west, with large windows that let all the natural light inside, so we can work all day long and enjoy the lovely weather;
  • When it gets dark, we have compact fluorescent lighting;
  • Almost all the furniture and decoration in the workshop is recycled or from thrift stores;
  • All our cleaning products are environmentally friendly 

5. Our company image and our packaging is:
  • Printed on recycled or FSC paper;  
  • Made from reused pattern paper, vintage ribbons and eco-bubble mailers 
Kofü Ecodesign is always striving to improve its production process and is currently working to implement new ways to decrease our ecological footprint. Most of all, we are transparent, and are giving our clients accurate and thorough information regarding the contents of our eco-jewellery and the eco-process behind it! 

Q. What does the future hold for Kofü Ecodesign? 

Good stuff! Kofü Ecodesign is aiming to create 100% upcycled jewellery with a minimal ecological footprint. We have been available on the web for 6 months, and our brand is gradually growing since our jewellery is now available in two boutiques (Canada and USA). As a small business, Kofü Ecodesign’s eco-jewellery is going to be more and more available in retail shops and events that promote locally handmade and upcycled products.

We strongly believe in buying locally and we encourage our customers to go into their neighborhood’s eco-friendly shops and small businesses to discover eco-designers close to home. Kofü Ecodesign will remain on Etsy for our customers abroad that wish to buy our uniquely refined, trend-setting and feminine eco-jewellery. 

You can connect with Kofü Ecodesign on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Stay tuned for my exclusive review and photo-shoot featuring one of Valérie's pieces!


  1. These pieces are gorgeous! I love that there is so much history to them, and that they are eco friendly. So much pretty! xx

    1. Hi Ingrid :D x

      It's amazing how much thought and care Valérie pours into each and every one of her designs isn't it!

      KB xo