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sustainable fashion

July’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know that I’ve been rolling out a new project in collaboration with Boston photographer Joyelle West.

Each month I’m featuring a series of sustainable fashion brands — some that were past Factory45’ers — and others that I wear, use and love.

This is all in an effort to help integrate more ethical and sustainable fashion into the multi-million dollar Instagram scene where, for the most part, fashion bloggers and “influencers” are touting fast fashion and cheap deals.

As part of this project, I’ll send out monthly emails to highlight some of the brands that I’ve featured, as well as the stories behind them.

(If you’re a sustainable fashion brand that would like to be featured in this project, you can get in touch with me at shannon@factory45.co)

So, without further ado, here are the July products:

SOTELA | REMY DRESS

In 2016 Factory45’er Hanna Baror-Padilla launched Sotela, a body-positive womenswear brand, with a fully-funded Kickstarter campaign.

In the past two years, she’s grown a loyal customer base by championing body appreciation, natural beauty and focusing on fit rather than size labels (the brand never references small, medium or large).

All Sotela garments are made of eco-friendly fabrics that have minimal environmental impact, such as tencel and modal. And every piece is handmade from start to finish in their California studio.

Hanna recently announced that she’s opening her own LA-based factory so that Sotela will operate under a vertically-integrated production model. And the factory will manufacture for other independent brands with similar business values.

My favorite thing about the Remy Dress (pictured above) is the button-down front that is breastfeeding-friendly. This dress is my go-to when I’m out with the baby and need to look put together.

You can shop the Remy Dress and the newly launched Sand Collection here.


VETTA | THE SHIFT DRESS

VETTA is another Factory45 brand that was founded by Cara Bartlett in 2016. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Cara launched “The Ultimate Capsule Collection | 5 Pieces = 30 Outfits” and raised nearly $90,000 to fund her first production run.

Since then, VETTA has gone on to release five more capsule collections in colors and styles that can be mixed and matched to make an easier, more thoughtful wardrobe.

The woven garments are sewn by a family-owned factory in New York City and the sweaters are knitted by a production partner in Los Angeles that runs on 70% solar power.

VETTA has been featured by Vogue Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Who What Wear, The Wall Street Journal and has won the Sak’s Fifth Avenue Emerging Designer Showcase.

My favorite thing about The Shift Dress is the versatility of creating multiple outfits. As pictured above, it can be worn as a dress or you can unbutton the top from the skirt so the top can be worn alone.

You can shop The Shift Dress and all of the past capsule collections here.


NISOLO | SMOKING SHOE

I’ve been wearing Nisolo footwear since the brand first launched in October 2011. Back then it was a lot harder to find ethically-made shoes than it was to find clothing.

Nisolos are handcrafted by artisans with a lifetime of experience in shoemaking, having been raised in the center of the shoemaking capital of Peru. According to the company’s impact report each shoemaker earns 27% higher than fair trade wage requirements, as well as health care and a safe working environment.

All of the leather is sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry, which means that the leftover hides are being used instead of wasted. It also means that no animals were killed for the sole purpose of creating the shoes.

Nisolo is committed to a transparent supply chain by introducing each of their factory partners in detail and publishing an annual impact report that can be read here.

My favorite thing about the Smoking Shoe is how high quality it is. I knew as soon as they arrived in the mail that I would be able to wear them forever. It was a timeless investment purchase that I could feel good about.

You can shop the Smoking Shoe and other Nisolos here.


To see the rest of July’s featured products, come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. I am not an affiliate of any of these brands and do not receive any financial gain if you make a purchase. My only goal to bring more sustainable and ethical fashion options to your wardrobe.

The Reason New Designers Get a Bad Rep

I’m in the business of working with startups and new designers. A lot of the people I work with don’t have a fashion design background. They’re entrepreneurs with a cool idea, but other than that, they don’t have much knowledge on how to get started.

One of the reasons I started Factory45 was because I know there aren’t many industry veterans who want to “deal with” new designers. I’ve had three people in the past week say, “Oh yeah, so-and-so doesn’t even attempt to work with college grads / newbies / design students / etc.”

The fact is, new designers have a bad reputation. If you’re starting to squirm a little, just hear me out.

I’m not saying that you are necessarily to blame for the bad rep, but there are other people who have “spoiled it” for others.

For the most part, suppliers would rather not work with you, sew shops would rather not work with you, factories would rather not work with you. And this is why fashion startups have such a hard time getting started.

Manufacturers in the States have been doing this long enough to know that 9 times out of 10 it just isn’t worth their time to take on the additional baggage of someone new to the industry. They have a responsibility to the construction and production of a product, but they don’t have a responsibility to educate you.

Let me give you an example of an all-too-common email that the vast majority of project managers have probably received:

“Hello – I have a patent for an innovative new apparel product. I’m looking for a production partner to work with – do you do apparel? Are you willing to sign an NDA? What next steps do I need to take? Thanks, [name]”

If you don’t see anything wrong with this example please keep reading.

I want to break this down because there are few different pieces that we should look at:

“PATENT”: If you are trying to patent an apparel product, you are wasting your money. The only person who will tell you otherwise is a lawyer (for obvious reasons). There are .01% of apparel products in the world that are unusual enough to legally protect. Even then, someone else could come in, rip off the design, change one button and your product is no longer protected.

I know the warm and fuzzy feeling you may get from “legitimizing” your company, but trust me, you’re wasting valuable time and money that could be spent on finding out if your customers even want your product.

“INNOVATIVE NEW APPAREL PRODUCT”: This says nothing. There is no sew shop, factory, manufacturer or supplier that is going to take you seriously (or even know how to respond to you) if you don’t give a description of the product you’re trying to make. Ideally, you will be able to tell them the type of garment, the type of fabric you’re using, how many units you’re looking to produce and what your timeline is.

“SIGN AN NDA”: Asking a manufacturer to sign an NDA is akin to writing “amateur hour” on your business card. If your product is good enough to be ripped off or stolen, it won’t be your production partner who does it. Many of the manufacturers in the U.S. have been in this industry for decades. If they were in the business of screwing over designers, then they wouldn’t have lasted this long. I don’t know anyone who would sign an NDA, so please, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by asking.

“WHAT STEPS DO I NEED TO TAKE”: Oh lordy. This has to be the biggest pet peeve of all. And it’s probably the most common question asked. I’m just going to go ahead and put out a PSA for every manufacturer out there: Again, it is not your production partner’s job to educate you. If you don’t know what the next steps are, then you need to go back to the drawing board, do some research, read some blogs, books or hire someone to help you. (I have 30 people coming through Factory45 this spring, because they were smart enough to do that.)

If this all sounds a little harsh, I know you would never do this — I just want to make sure you know why ; )

The thing is, I really want you to succeed. We need entrepreneurs creating products that solve a problem for people. We need new designers working with manufacturers in the U.S. and keeping the momentum up.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to make that happen. I want to make sure you’re doing it the right way.

Here are the things you need in place to approach a potential production partner:

  • A sample
  • A pattern
  • A spec sheet
  • (A good head on your shoulders)
  • (Good communication skills)

Some will require more than that, but at the most basic level, that’s what you need before you should even send out an inquiry email.

If a production partner agrees to take your project on, then you’ll also need:

  • Fabric (don’t wait to source it, but wait to purchase it)
  • Materials
  • Capital

Production will not start until you have all of those items and can pay 50% upfront.

 

I remember reading Kathleen Fasanella’s book several years ago, and she went so far to say: Because designers have a bad rep, don’t call yourself a designer — call yourself a manufacturer.

So now you know — it’s not just me saying it.

 

 

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Are you an aspiring entrepreneur or designer who’s new to the apparel industry? Get the free “Manufacturing Checklist” from Factory45 here.

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Francis 


Ignore the Hype: Eco-Fashion Can Be Easy

This is a guest post from Beth Stewart, Strategic Director of Redress Raleigh.

There are so many things that people are expected to do as ‘eco-minded’ individuals – buy organic, not eat meat (or eat only certain kinds), ride a bike everywhere, take five minute showers, etc – it can be overwhelming. In addition, people are becoming more and more aware of the perils of fast fashion and the detrimental effects your purchasing choices can have on both humanity and the planet.

Redress_ResponsiblyMade_SquareGraphic - smallAs I have mentioned before, there is also a substantial amount of greenwashing or mixed messaging being spread through the media about what “eco-fashion” is and who is doing it.

However, dressing responsibly and making responsible apparel choices may not be as complicated as you think. There are many different aspects to consider when picking out your outfits and accessories – from water usage to chemicals to human ethics to type of material to location of production … just to name a few. As with every industry, there are trade-offs within fashion and textiles as well.

Luckily there are more and more fantastic options popping up for the ecochic customer. Consider these categories the next time you are shopping for clothing and accessories:

  • Upcycled
  • Made in USA
  • Handcrafted
  • Vintage or resale
  • Natural dyes
  • Fair trade
  • Organic or eco-friendly fabrics
  • Little to no-waste patternmaking

Honestly, the best approach is to ask yourself: “What matters to me the most?”

Is it using the least amount of resources?

Consider buying vintage, resale, upcycled, or products that are created using little to no-waste patternmaking. In addition to Goodwill, many communities have resale or consignment stores where you can find gently-used clothes at bargain prices. High-quality vintage sellers can be found in online shops. Raleigh Vintage is a personal favorite and they ship all over the country. Upcycled goods are often tagged on social media too and sites like Etsy lend themselves to more one-of-kind pieces. Zass Design is doing fantastic things with upcycled jewelry pieces.

Or perhaps you strongly believe in supporting the organic movement and avoiding chemicals that pollute waterways?

Consider looking for organic fabrics and natural dyes. Gaia Conceptions uses organic fabrics and natural or low impact dyes. And Patagonia continues to innovate both in recycled and new eco-friendly textiles and materials.

Or maybe you want to purchase items from a more-established standard that is working toward making sure people are treated fairly and receive decent wages for their work?

Then Fair Trade is a good option. Indigenous and Synergy Clothing incorporate both fair trade practices and organic fabrics in their designs. Symbology also works with artisans in India to create most of their textile designs.

Or is it that you delight in getting to know individual designers and supporting the local community?

Consider looking for handcrafted, Made in the USA items. Companies like Lumina and Appalatch produce their goods solely in the U.S. Lisa Stewart handcrafts gorgeous leather accessories. Many cities host periodic marketplaces like The Handmade Market, The Big Crafty, or Northern Grade featuring exclusively handcrafted and/or American-made goods. Find one in your city.

Regardless of what you decide, keep in mind that the industry is continuously striving to be and do better, just like you. Another way you can help move the industry forward is to continue asking questions and seeking information on who makes your clothes and what they’re made from.  twitter-bird-light-bgs1

Currently, there is no one perfect eco-fashion line out there. However, we are fortunate that there is an amazing variety of eco-chic fashions available! This allows us each to dress with our values and our style in mind.

“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” – Coco Chanel

Photos courtesy of Redress Raleigh and Shecky’s

4 Things To Remember When You Shop for Clothes

There are things every single one of us can do to help alleviate the damage done by the traditional fashion industry. Here are the big four:

1. ) Buy local

At the most basic level, when you buy from a local designer or from a local boutique more money stays in the community. According to SustainableConnections.org, “Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.”

Not only are you investing in your own city, but you’re also reducing your individual environmental footprint, creating jobs, and putting your tax dollars to good use.

Putting that into dollars and cents, Businessweek reported “for every $100 spent at a locally owned store, $45 remains in the local economy, compared with about $13 per $100 spent at a big box store.”

2.) Buy “indie”

Support independent designers who are conscious of the production process all the way through. Many of these designers are mindful of where they source their fabric and are involved in the manufacturing from front to back. Some are even doing the sewing themselves in small independent sew shops or incubators.

The stories behind companies like Piece x Piece, Seamly and Manufacture NY are a refreshing glimpse into transparent clothing production.

thrift-shop-photo mombot3.) Buy used

Huge progress can be made by consumers purchasing second-hand. It is imperative that we start making use of the resources already available to us instead of buying new clothing.twitter-bird

Any remaining stigma against thrift shopping has gone out the window with the popularity of consignment chains like Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, and the many local thrift shops popping up all over the world.

Second-hand clothing has even entered the tech scene with websites and apps such as Bib + Tuck, Twice, Poshmark and Nifty Thrifty, boasting beautiful user interfaces that encourage the purchase and reuse of someone else’s unwanted clothing.

Not only are the price tags competitive with the fast fashion giants, but many of the garments appear to be practically new. It’s a win-win for your wallet and for the planet.

4.) Buy less

Buying less is ultimately the solution that can change the world. (And no, it will not lead to an economic Armageddon.)

Considering the fact that society’s throwaway consumption habits are at an all-time high, there are ways to use our dollars more economically and efficiently than buying six H&M dresses for $9.99.

Instead, you can use that same $59.94 (6 x $9.99) to buy an ethically-produced dress from a local designer and wear it for years to come.

I’m not advocating to stop spending. I’m advocating to use your purchasing power in ways that go beyond wearing something once and throwing it away.twitter-bird

And if that’s all a piece of cake, here are a few secondary factors to keep in mind:

seamly-coLook at labels

It can’t be said enough. Do you know where your clothes came from? Who made the t-shirt on your back? Are you comfortable with the possibility that your jeans were made by a modern-day slave on the other side of the world?

Look at the labels on your clothes and ask questions. You can start here.

Wash cold & hang dry

In the United States, the average household does 300-400 loads of laundry per year. A whopping 1,000 loads of laundry are started every second of the day — that’s 13,000 gallons of water per household. Three-quarters of the carbon footprint from a load of laundry comes from drying.

And let’s not forget the amount of chemicals and phosphates that are used in laundry detergent and then leaked back into our water supply, depleting aquatic ecosystems.

To reduce your individual carbon footprint: always wash cold, hang to dry and use phosphate-free laundry detergent.


Have alternative solutions to add to this mix? Tweet me your thoughts at @factory45co.

Photos courtesy of Fashion Revolution Day and Chic Vegan.

 


 

6 Things You Should Know About Your Clothes

Not too long ago, I received this comment on one of my posts: “I want to know more about what you know. I’m such a mindful consumer when it comes to food but have never thought about how my purchasing decisions with clothes, etc could be negatively impacting the change I so emotionally pursue.”

It inspired me to go back to the basics, realizing again how new the sustainable fashion movement is to most consumers. For those of you wondering why you should care about what’s in your closet, here are the big six:

1.) There are chemicals on your clothes. And they’re often carcinogenic. (Carcinogenic = cancer-causing). While the slow food movement is starting to catch on and consumers are becoming increasingly more conscious of what they eat, we don’t yet think of clothing in the same way.

Most of us haven’t caught on that the pesticides, insecticides, formaldehyde and flame-retardants on our clothes are also damaging to our health. Skin is our body’s largest organ and it instinctively absorbs whatever we put on it — clothing chemicals included.

(Next time you’re browsing through the racks at your favorite big box retailer, rub your finger tips together. You’ll notice a grimey film that has transferred off the clothing and onto you.)

2.) There are 27 to 30 million slaves in the world today. Yes, slaves.

Have you ever wondered how companies like Zara and Forever 21 can sell t-shirts for 5 dollars?

There are people in countries such as Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh and India who are forced to work against their will. Whether they’re picking cotton or tanning leather, they aren’t being paid to make your clothing. They are literally bound to a life of enslavement with very little hope of getting out.

Factory workers who are being paid are probably who you would think of as “sweatshop” workers and are most likely earning less than a living wage — that means they can’t afford to feed or shelter themselves, let alone their families. In 2012, a Swedish broadcaster reported that workers in Cambodia were being paid so little they had to borrow money for food.

3.) Big retailers are a big problem.

Our bargain shopping, big sale seeking, cheap consumer mentality is directly related to the people making our clothing. Because we expect to be able to buy a shirt for less than 20 bucks, retailers are forced to find ways to lower costs and compete in a highly-saturated market. This usually requires cutting corners in manufacturing overseas.

In November, H&M made a public statement saying it plans to deliver a “living wage” to more than 850,000 textile workers by 2018. While it sounds like a noble gesture, it raises the question of why the giant retailer wasn’t paying its workers fairly in the first place. In the past, H&M has been accused of promoting poverty pay, unsafe working environments and malnutrition.

H&M is not alone — Forever 21, Inditex (the parent company of Zara), GAP, JC Penney, and many more, are major players in human rights and labor issues around the world.

4.) Our old clothes (and disposable behavior) are ruining Africa’s economy.

Ready to drop off a big pile of donations at your local Goodwill? While the reselling of second-hand clothes is ethically sound, it’s the massive amounts of donations that cause a problem. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the like, receive more clothing donations than they could ever resell. So what happens to the excess?

According to an op-ed in The Business of Fashion, “The majority of donated clothing is sold to second-hand clothing merchants, who sort garments, then bundle them in bales for resale, usually outside the country in which the clothing was originally donated.”

In Sub-Saharan Africa, where one-third of all globally donated clothes are sold, the used clothing business is undermining Africa’s own textiles and manufacturing industry. Even more, “dumping” our unwanted clothing into countries on the other side of the world gives us an unrealistic sense of security that we can continue to consume and throw away at unsustainable rates.

5.) It takes decades for your clothing to decompose in a landfill.

The fast fashion industry has turned four regular seasons into 52 “microseasons” to push new trends and encourage rapid consumption. Retailers make it easy for shoppers to buy a cheap dress, wear it once, and never wear it again. We don’t think about where those clothes go after we’re done with them.

The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing per year. Nylon, rayon, polyester and other synthetic materials are essentially plastics that will most likely be around for far longer than you will. At the rate consumer waste is piling up, it doesn’t look good for the future of the planet.

6.) We’re not helpless.

Consumers have the purchasing power. We all have the ability to change the industry by choosing which companies deserve our dollars. It comes down to educating yourself and adjusting your lifestyle in a way that doesn’t require excessive consumption of disposable clothing.

Education can be as simple as following a few ethical fashion blogs on Facebook. You’ll learn something throughout the day just from reading the headlines. (A few of my favorites are: EcouterreEcoSalonMagnifeco & Ethical Fashion Forum.)

What more can you do? Read my follow-up post, 4 Things to Remember Every Time You Shop For Clothes on the Huffington Post.


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