Q&A with eco-designer Sonja den Elzen

Sonja is the creator behind Thieves, a line of sustainable clothing made in Toronto. Her garments marry quietly sophisticated lines, a celebration of body and self, and modern confidence. Sonja’s clothing is organic and ethereal in cut and shape, and it’s also 100 per cent natural—she uses fibres such as organic cotton, linen, wool, peace silk and hemp. Sonja recently closed her Queen Street West boutique, but she’s still busy creating new collections, available online at Thieves.ca.

Tell us your background. What started your journey toward creating Thieves?
From 1996 to 2001, I had a streetwear line called Jy Stijls, and after a break travelling and working for other people, I was ready to start a new line. I knew I wanted it to be more designer luxury, and within the first few months of starting it, I had also been researching sustainable eco-fabrics. At first I thought I would create a side line that was eco, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that being sustainable and eco is not a "side line"; it’s a commitment that is grounded in your beliefs. So despite the very limited fabric choices at the time, I developed Thieves to be a sustainable line—it only made sense to have my business follow in the same footsteps as my lifestyle.

Tell us about the name “Thieves”—it’s intriguing! What does it signify?
“Thieves” is based on a poem I wrote about stealing back our sense of self—from society's deep sleep and the marketing that tries to homogenize us all into the same tastes.

What defines Thieves as a fashion brand?
Thieves is about design not affected by the passage of time or miniscule trend moments in fashion, and is rooted in the principles of sustainability and the 21st century. … I am a strong believer of being aware of our symbiotic relationship to the planet, so [sustainability is] just a very natural part of me—how I view the world and our responsibilities toward it.

What does living green mean to you?
For me it means eating macrobiotic, organic and local as much as possible, living with and developing an awareness of breath, making decisions with a conscious awareness of their impact, reducing my footprint, and continually learning to connect with the earth and its abundance, living a balanced life.


Interview by Celine MacKay of Pure Green Magazine.
Photography by Erin Monett of Ever Images.