Columbus based fashion designer Celeste Malvar Stewart (photo by Priscilla Dwomoh)
Ohio Life

Celeste Malvar-Stewart on Being Conscious About Clothes

The Columbus-based fashion designer shares why clothing can bring us joy and how to think sustainably about what we wear. 

Celeste Malvar-Stewart didn’t expect to find a new direction when she moved to Columbus with her husband, William Stewart, in 2012. The clothing designer, who was born in the Philippines, grew up in San Francisco and lived in New York City, found inspiration in the skies over central Ohio aboard William’s four-seater airplane.

“I saw all these farms, which was very foreign to me coming from big cities,” she says. “So I was fascinated. I thought, 'they must have sheep and other animals with fibers.'”

After cold-calling farmers, one got back to her. Since then, she’s been focused on using local wool and other fibers in clothing she creates for her Malvar = Stewart brand, which includes couture dresses, skirts, scarves and vests as well as some ready-to-wear clothes.

Ahead of Fashion Week Columbus, Sept. 24 through 30, we talked with Malvar-Stewart, who teaches tailoring and sustainable design at the Columbus College of Art & Design, about why clothing can bring us joy and how to think sustainably about what we wear. 

What’s behind our emotional connection to the things we wear? 
We as human beings want to feel a connection with everything in life, and I don’t think fashion is excluded from that. We want to feel like we can wear something, feel a certain way and look a certain way, and we can feel those moments of joy. That’s ultimately what we’re always looking for in life. With my brand, I know the animals I source fibers from. So you’re buying this thing, or I’m giving this thing to you, and you know the provenance of it. There’s meaning there.

How can people think more sustainably when it comes to clothing?
One of the things that’s important is this idea of reusing gently worn garments. We don’t have the same stigma we used to have about that. People are more aware of how we’re affecting the environment with fast fashion. That’s also the importance of buying well-made garments — so it can be handed down. 

How would you describe Columbus’ fashion scene? 
I think it’s really exciting. We have Fashion Week Columbus, which is great. And our fashion week is affiliated with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which is huge. So that gives us national as well as global recognition. I feel like the fashion scene here is at the precipice of becoming much bigger than maybe anyone ever expected. We have such a concentration of great designers here.

For more information about Malvar = Stewart, go to