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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

11 Indie Designers Making a Mark in Ethical Fashion

In an industry of bottom lines, shareholders and cut corners, it’s refreshing to find the people who still view fashion as art. Rather than churning out millions of identical garments, there are designers who have chosen to stay true to the beauty of what fashion can truly be.

Given that these designers still have to compete (in some capacity) with the H&M’s of the world, it’s even more admirable to find those who have also integrated ethics and sustainability into their business models.

These indie designers are staying true to their art form while trying to make the industry a little better along the way.

Moriah Carlson and Alice Wu of Feral Childe | I only recently discovered this bi-coastal design duo, and I’m so glad I did. Moriah and Alice work from studios in Brooklyn and Oakland, respectively, and manufacture their label in NYC’s Garment District. Each garment from the line meets at least two of the sustainability guidelines listed on their website.

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Julia Kastner of Eva & Paul | I was introduced to Julia over email a few months ago and instantly devoured her website. If there’s one thing I struggle with in my own wardrobe, it’s finding sustainably-made jeans, which is why I always resort to buying a stretched out second-hand pair. Julia has found a way to produce 98 percent organic cotton jeans while keeping the price-point under $200. The rest of the materials are fair trade and everything is sewn in the USA.

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Elizabeth Brunner of Piece x Piece | I’ve been a long-time fan of Elizabeth Brunner’s since first meeting her in San Francisco in the summer of 2012. Elizabeth uses sample fabric swatches that are discarded by the pounds from design houses and pieces them together to create one-of-a-kind garments. By making use of what would otherwise be waste, Elizabeth has created a stunning collection made by hand in San Francisco.

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Britt Howard and Rosemary Robinson of PGF House Line | Britt and Rose are the joint-genius behind the Portland Garment Factory. I spent some time with them in 2012 while revamping the design for the “Versalette 2.0.” Although they primarily work on other designer’s products, they have found the time to put together their own line of unique designs being sold all over the country. Everything is manufactured in their self-owned factory in Portland.

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Kristin Glenn of Seamly.co | My former partner-in-crime at {r}evolution apparel, Kristin now designs her own label of versatile clothing made in Denver from deadstock fabric. I swear by the Seamly high-waisted leggings (as I’ve told many of my friends), and the revamped and redesigned Versalette is still being sold under the Seamly label.

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Nicole Bridger of Nicole Bridger | Last year, I heard Nicole Bridger speak at ECO Fashion Week in Vancouver. She founded her company on the belief that fashion doesn’t have to sacrifice a commitment to the environment, so she puts a personal emphasis on transparency. All Nicole Bridger fabrics and materials are ethically-sourced, and are often renewable or biodegradable. Ninety percent of the collection is manufactured in Vancouver while the other 10% is produced in Fair Trade certified factories overseas.

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Betsy & Emily Nunez of Sword & Plough | I’ll never forget the splash that sisters Betsy and Emily made with the launch of their Kickstarter campaign in May 2013. With a goal of raising $20,000, their quadruple-bottom-line bag company that uses reclaimed military fabrics, raised over $300K. All S&P bags are made in the USA with upcycled materials that use 95% less energy than conventional bags.

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Tara St. James of Study N.Y. | Study is a sustainable womenswear label based in Brooklyn. Because it doesn’t adhere to the typical fashion calendar (which is now up to 52 seasons a year), all of the designs are seasonless. Much of the brand’s focus revolves around the story of each garment, the hands that made them, and the ethical materials that were used.

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Although the price points of some of these brands may seem higher than you’re used to, it’s important to consider the timelessness and durability that comes with clothing that is ethically made. All of these designers create garments that will last season after season, and most will stand the test of time as the trends change.

Thank you for supporting ethical and independent design.

This post originally appeared on ShannonWhitehead.com. You can see it here.

Photo credit: Feral Childe, Eva & Paul, Piece x Piece, Portland Garment Factory, Seamly.co, Nicole Bridger, Sword & Plough & Study NY.


Market45

Making It: Startup Advice from the Founder & Designer of Kallio

I was driving through Williamsburg with my friend Sumeera, founder of Madesmith, when I first met Karina Kallio. From across the street, we saw Karina walking down the sidewalk in a black shift dress that perfectly flattered her midterm baby bump. As I got to know more about Karina over dinner, I learned of her design background, her Australian roots, and her growing children’s company, Kallio.

After recently reaching her Kickstarter goal, Karina will soon be opening a workSHOP space in Brooklyn to act as both a studio and a retail space to accompany her children’s line. As she just delivered a baby boy about two weeks ago, it was especially lucky to be able to feature her story on the blog this week. Enjoy.

Factory45: How did you come up with the idea to turn men’s dress shirts into children’s garments?

Kallio-SS14Kallio: I worked as a menswear and womenswear designer for 10 years, and was inspired to create Kallio because I saw first-hand how much waste we were creating as an industry. In creating Kallio, it was really important to consider the line’s entire lifecycle, without compromising on quality or style. Kallio is 100 percent made from men’s shirts, and is sourced, designed and manufactured in New York to support local industry and reduce our carbon footprint. Once in the hands of our customers, the label on our clothes encourages them to consider how they care for it: “Wash only when stinky. Machine wash cold and line dry. No bleach nor dry clean. Repair holes. Hand it down.”

There are several reasons why men’s shirts work so well for us. First, they’re usually made from high-quality fabrics in great patterns and colors, and those details are really important to our brand. We also only use materials that are 100 percent cotton or denim (so they can be easily recycled too), and you can find that quality more readily in men’s shirts. They are also less fitted than women’s tops, and the loose shape works really well to create our line of unexpected, modern classics that kids can be kids in. Lastly, I thought it would be nice to bring dads into kidswear in an unexpected way; we preserve the shirts’ original detailing to hint at each garment’s story, and encourage conversation about where our clothes come from.

F45: What has been the biggest challenge in your supply chain?

Kallio: The biggest challenge was finding a factory that would sew our garments — as each garment is truly ‘one of a kind’ made from a particular upcycled piece, many of the factories wanted to charge sample prices, which wasn’t sustainable for us.

F45: How did you find the sew shop you currently work with? What has your experience been like?

DSC_0161_grandeKallio: It was a total happy accident. I was supposed to meet with another factory owner and she was late for our meeting. Just down the hall was another factory that I went to ask for a piece of paper to leave a note for the lady I was meant to meet. That factory owner asked me what I did, and I showed her my work. She immediately saw the potential of the brand.  She told me that only the week before, a 300 shirt order had been rejected by a customer as the grading had been incorrect. So she was left with 300 shirts and no place for them, so they went into the trash. She did me a favor by taking on my business, and we’ve been working together ever since.

F45: What has been the best method of marketing for Kallio? What hasn’t worked as well?

playtime2014-kallioKallio: Over the years, through our trade shows and from my experience working as a fashion designer, I’ve been really fortunate to work with and meet wonderful people around fashion and lifestyle, including writers and bloggers. Their support, as well as the support of family and friends via simple word of mouth has been really great for us and gotten our name out there. A host of writers and bloggers have also been generous with their support and featured Kallio in their publications and blogs. But it has definitely taken a lot of time on our end to reach out to each contact directly with interesting updates about Kallio that will appeal to their specific angle and target demographic. If you’re asking for (free) coverage of your brand, it’s really important to demonstrate to the writer that you’ve taken the time to craft a story unique to them. It’s also nice to check in every once and a while just to say hi, or share an article they may find interesting.

F45: What is your best advice for aspiring designer entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Kallio: Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from people who have “been there and done that.” You may be an expert in your field, but a business has many facets and the more minds you can glean the better. But at the end of the day, you are the boss and so it’s important to follow and listen to your gut and heart.

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Want more from Kallio? Check out the e-commerce store here.

[Photo credit: Brooklyn Makers, Kai D Utility, Kallio, Renegade Craft]