Article first published in Forbes Monaco July 2022/ August 22.
Entrepreneur and politician Alexandra Sasha’s ambition to tackle sustainability in the fashion world emanates from her ancestral roots, specifically her biochemist grandparents who specialized in fur hats and dresses. “My grandmother was the tailor and my grandfather hand-sourced all of the material,” says the CEO of Lavacopenhagen. “My grandfather educated me about the importance of zero waste management and the environment while my grandmother taught me about design and style.”
In 2019, Alexandra Sasha and Katja Bessmertnaia cofounded Lavacopenhagen with the idea of an affordably-priced multifunctional coat that can be used in different seasons. “Our aim was to create outerwear based on luxury and elegant practicality that would combat over-consumerism in the fashion industry while retaining the element of our family-founding heritage,” Sasha, 26, explains.
The inaugural collection was designed by Sasha’s mother and produced by her grandfather. “Our first Lavacopenhagen coat caught the attention of many friends. We decided to start creating outerwear pieces on a larger scale,” explains the Monaco entrepreneur, whose mom is currently involved in the family business.
As a young businesswoman living between Copenhagen, London and Monaco, Sasha saw the need for a stylish coat with an any-city adaptability. “Our outerwear collection is engineered purposely to serve multiple functions for what we call ‘the modern 21st-century woman’ lifestyle. A single coat will cater to different seasons and occasions.”
A year after launching the collection in boutique shops such as the Metropole shopping center in Monaco, as well as in South Kensington in London and Copenhagen, the Eco Ocean Capsule collection in Monaco was introduced, inspired by Prince Albert’s ocean preservation initiatives. “Made entirely from recycled plastic objects and fishing nets from the sea, we created luxury fashion garments while at the same time taking action to reduce the amount of waste and ocean pollution,” says Sasha. Lavacopenhagen showcased at the sustainable No Waste Fashion Show as part of the 2020 European Waste Reduction Week in the Principality and won the Monaco Ocean Protection Challenge and the Monaco Impact Prize for the coat’s sustainable design and materials. “The coat merges Scandinavian multifunctional design characterized by a minimal, clean approach that seeks to combine Monegasque eco-consciousness. In our brand, we call it practical elegance.”
Taking their commitment to sustainability up a notch, last year Lavacopenhagen produced a digitalized “seed to garment” denim collection, meaning every seed and thread is traceable and trackable.
All farms are digitalized and their tractors have GPS tags, making every driver trackable and monitored in real time providing full transparency of production. “Logistically, we want to eliminate any carbon footprint. We are proud to say that the seed was planted in the same place where the thread was created and the final bag was tailored.”
Covid provided Lavacopenhagen opportunities to collaborate with other sustainable brands, like Lanéva Boats (Forbes Monaco Top 10 Monaco Innovators List), the Monaco-based creator of 100% electric, custom- made boats, and they participated in the digital edition of the 2020 Monte Carlo Fashion Week. “I took the time to focus on our production. During the pandemic, we opened a pop-up store in the center of Copenhagen with a company focusing on circular furniture. We launched two new collections, one T-shirt collection from certified hemp with Armadillo Botanics, and our digitalized cotton in collaboration with BCT Denim. We also became one of the official sponsors of the 2021 Monte Carlo Streaming Film Festival, where we presented our two collaborative collections.”
With a mission “to challenge the perception that long-lasting luxury outwear pieces have to be extortionate,” Sasha states many of their partnerships are done with female entrepreneurs. “There are still not many of us and we believe, together, you create synergies. We are a part of various female networks within politics, fashion, finance, tech, media and TV. Our advertising is generated by the positive feedback from clients, models, bloggers and producers. The strength and quality of our product allows us to eliminate marketing costs and grow organically.”
Born in Copenhagen, Sasha’s family relocated to Tuscany, Italy, when she was three, and later to Costal Del Sol in Spain before moving back to her city of birth. “My childhood was formed against the backdrop of multicultural diversity and growing up my curiosity about politics was an eager companion.”
Far away from catwalks and a sketch pad, Sasha studied international business and politics at Copenhagen Business School and Political Science and East European Studies at University College London, where she was active in youth politics projects. “I became one of the youngest executive committee members in an alliance in the European Union. I had to present student proposals to senior leaders at the European Parliament in Brussels and this is when I became concerned with how we can create a more environmentally-friendly society on a governmental level.”
After graduation, Sasha became involved in local politics in Copenhagen, first with a municipal advisory committee for the Liberal Party but later she was asked by her party to run for the 2021 local elections in her municipality of Frederiksberg. “I am passionate to push the green transition in our city and improve the entrepreneurial environment.”
She describes a “very intense campaign” that involved numerous debates on topics ranging from UN goals and primary school education to bicycle roads and hospital ground development. “My elections involved 500 placards, two big city buses, an election campaign store and a big team of volunteers.” After the mayoral candidate, she won the most personal votes in the Liberal Party and is currently the first deputy in Frederiksberg. “I now have a seat in the business council which is chaired by the mayor and I am the selected member of the tourism and entrepreneurship committee. As an entrepreneur, I feel the difference a city can make for you and want to bring that forward in local legislation. What matters to me is to have the opportunity to take an impactful idea and inspire other people around me to contribute to that idea, make it better and put it into action.”
Sasha describes Danish people as “very humble” and says they are schooled from an early age to ask questions, challenge ideas and debate positions. “When I ran for office, I received hundreds of messages asking about my view on specific legislations and topics.” She adds that the Danes are environmentally-focused.
“I am also a very strong advocate for circularity and greener solutions,” Sasha says.
“And as cliché as it may sound, I want to leave a positive mark on our planet. I am passionate about making an environmental difference in the process and disrupting the fast fashion industry by creating beautiful clothes that people will want to wear for years.”