All Posts in Sustainability

October 9, 2015

Industry Insights with Wabi Sabi CEO Michele Cohen

Originally posted on the Pioneer Mode blog, where we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

Michele Cohen has a word for how she runs her business, Wabi Sabi Ecofashion Concept: "Octopus" (more on that later). Michele, who started out in finance and business strategy, has found herself leading a team for a burgeoning fashion brand—somewhere she never expected to end up. Talking to Michele, you can tell she lives the lifestyle her brand promotes: eco-friendly, sustainable education focused, versatile, completely centered on personal values. Wabi Sabi is gearing up to launch its second collection, but we caught some time with Michele to talk industry pain points, meeting your consumer on every available platform, and her lack of fashion business role models (it's not as negative as it sounds—we promise).

The Daily Pain Points: Tradition and Breaking Stereotypes

Michele: "There are many pain points around being an entrepreneur, specifically with a small company. There are pain points focused around fashion in many aspects—both the idea that it’s difficult to present to the consumer, and that brands are very competitive. Another part that is challenging is the supply chain. The whole manufacturing / production / supply side is very traditional in our industry. Yet we’re in a very consumer-focused, innovative, fast-paced industry. It’s just two different worlds, manufacturing and marketing. They often collide more than they combine. That’s my personal day-to-day pain point: looking at that divide between what’s behind the company and what we do moving forward in terms of commercial strategy.

I always say I’m not sure if I’m an entrepreneur in the fashion industry or if I’m an educator and communicator.

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August 29, 2015

Industry Insights with Bag the Habit’s Liz Long

Originally posted on the Pioneer Mode blog, where we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

We’re continuing the fashion industry conversation with Liz Long—Bag the Habit founder and consultant to Maker’s Row. Last time around, we caught up with Kaight’s Kate McGregor to chat what it’s like as a retailer to work with small brands (spoiler: so much more flexible) and the lack of environmental impact-focused discussion within the design industry. Given that Pioneer Mode is aimed at bringing industry pain points to light, we asked Liz to add a few to the list.

Liz is constantly in contact with fellow entrepreneurs of all levels as they make their way through Maker’s Row—a website dedicated to matching designers with factories. Her own business, Bag the Habit, is focused on creating reusable totes made of 100 percent eco-textiles. Through her own business experience with Bag the Habit, Maker’s Row, and teaching virtual courses through sites like Skillshare, Liz has constantly found ways to grow and share insight through global sharing (something she wishes there were more of—more on that later). Read on to hear Liz’s thoughts on the state of the sharing economy, growing the education-tech space, and whether or not “American made” is here to stay.

What I’ve seen from teaching on these [educational] sites is not just me teaching the students—it’s them connecting with each other. I’m watching this organic connection happen and it’s just awesome.

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August 13, 2015

Industry Insights with Kaight’s Kate McGregor

Originally posted on the Pioneer Mode blog, where we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

To kick off our industry insights series, we chatted with Kate McGregor—the owner and founder of Kaight, a specialty boutique in Brooklyn focusing on sustainable fashion and educating shoppers on the importance of knowing about their clothes' backstory, by putting the idea of discovery at the front of the shopping experience. Kate—who launched her brick and mortar store in August 2006 and the online shop within the following year—has always put the idea of “slow fashion” above all when it comes to the merchandise she carries. The store, which has become a neighborhood favorite, has garnered a multitude of press on its message. In Kate’s words: “We’re all about helping customers style themselves and get the most wear out of their purchases. I’ve had people comment that this philosophy and type of selling is counterintuitive for a retail store: We’re not trying to push products on people. We want customers to really think about what they’re buying and be thoughtful consumers.”

“We’re all about helping customers style themselves and get the most wear out of their purchases. We’re not trying to push products on people.”

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April 23, 2015

Fashion Revolution: Who Made Your Clothes?

We've come a long way when it comes to making transparency a priority in the fashion industry, whether that's focusing on ethical designs or dressing customers in sustainable materials. That being said, there's still a lot to be done in the journey to knowing exactly how clothes are made.

Two years ago today, the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, resulting in 1,133 people killed and over 2,500 injuries. What does this have to do with ethical fashion? Everything. The complex's structure was built to maintain shops and offices—not factory spaces. In addition to the original building, four more floors had been added without a permit to accommodate more production. The added manufacturing-related stress resulted in cracks throughout the building's framework, of which employers in the building were warned. The next day, the structural cracks caused the building the collapse.

It's unsafe work environments like this that have plagued the fashion industry for centuries. Since the accident, April 24th has been deemed Fashion Revolution Day—24 hours dedicated to keeping brands honest about their manufacturing processes.

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November 20, 2014

Make The Future Now: Get a Peek Into BF+DA’s New Accelerator Space in Brooklyn

NL-BFDA-TableThere's something revolutionary about the new Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator space off of the Flushing G stop in Brooklyn. Maybe it's something about the space itself—seeing as its history is as rich as the work that will surely come of it—mixed with the people and enthusiasm within its walls. The space's opening event on November 11th almost seemed more like a pep rally than anything, with the program's makers and designers proudly displaying the fruits of their labors for passersby.

NL-BFDA-PillowsFirst, let's dig into the people and goals behind the initiative. Picture yourself as a recent college grad with no room for running your own endeavor—or simply throw yourself back to those real-life growing pains you remember like yesterday. In a world that's so focused on being self-made, that is a tough place to be. And as a respected arts and design establishment, Pratt knows this. So, instead of offering job placement advice or leaving grads completely on their own to fend for work, they decided to do something for up-and-coming creators. The Brooklyn Accelerator is a space for creatives to find the resources they need to make their ideas into reality, whether that's a desk to work on or a station for 3D printing (you can check out more of the available resources here). One of the most impressive assets was the larger-than-life mechanical loom humming away in one of the side rooms.

While it's easy to walk into a room of makers and quickly recognize what they're doing. But the BF+DA designers are doing much more than simply "making." To be a part of the program, they need to be focused on incorporating sustainable best practices into their work and, straight from the mouth of the program itself, "exploring the relationship of apparel + technology and the future of production."

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September 3, 2013

An Evening of Sustainable Fashion

by Nicolette Hayes

Last week I had the privilege of joining Nicole Lenzen in a beautiful SOHO loft for the monthly meeting of WISE, Women Investing for a Sustainable Economy. These talented and passionate women regularly meet not just to eat wonderful food and talk to like-minded people, but also to enrich their lives with lectures and discussions on diverse topics relating to sustainability in their everyday lives. When Nicole agreed to speak she didn't just sign up for delicious kale and a clothing swap, but also the chance to share styling tips, alterations advice, and general information about the Slow Fashion movement in New York City.

Lovely loft on Greene Street for the meeting of WISE

The evening began with some simple styling for Katie, one of the co-founders of WISE, and advice about how to make an ill-fitting but beloved vintage top into a more wearable part of her wardrobe.

Nicole looks over the items that Katie brought for the clothing swap

Katie_alterations_Nicole helps Katie with a vintage top that needs some alterations

Katie and Nicole discuss the perfect fit

While it can be tempting to simply toss something that doesn't look good, the problem often lies in the fit and not the style. Nicole demonstrated how modifying a garment can transform it into something personal and flattering--a much more sustainable alternative than throwing it out and buying new.

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September 11, 2012

Laurel – Reconstructed Vintage for the Jazz Age Lawn Party

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August, Laurel found an adorable summery dress on eBay. However, when she received the piece, it was in a sorry state of wear & tear. She brought the piece to me, and while I deemed the bodice a patchwork of repairs, the skirt (delicately smocked at the waistband and cleanly bound at each skirt tier) was in great condition. I proposed disassembling the bodice to remove and reuse all the cute blue & white gingham cotton trim, and creating a new bodice in silk organza to match the skirt. In this manner we were able to salvage the best parts of the original, and make a new dress constructed to endure endless dances.

The talented photographer and fellow dancer Lynn Redmile captured Laurel in her dress at the Lawn Party (above & below).

Below, I outline the process of reconstructing this vintage dress, starting with disassembly of the original dress and cleaning the usable parts to bring back the white and blue pop of the gingham print. The trim and the skirt were re-used in the recreation.

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September 11, 2012

Lyana – Restored & Altered Vintage Dress for the Lawn Party

For her first time attending the Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governor's Island, Lyana wanted a special dress for the occasion. Her friend Laurel had found her a vintage chiffon dress with a precious dance-and-flower-themed print, but which needed some work to be wearable, and a little extra care for a more contemporary feel.

When I received the original, several parts were disintegrating, most significantly the shoulder area. While the sleeves were also shredded in some spots, there was enough salvageable fabric in the sleeves to cut a new shoulder yoke to replace the disintegrated areas on the bodice. Read more

January 13, 2012

Janine – Evening Gown from Bride’s Own Wedding Dress

The idea of wearing something only one time, or of storing that item away indefinitely, was not one that resonated with Janine. Therefore, she decided to turn her wedding dress into something new and completely re-wearable! Janine attends formal events on a semi-regular basis, so we decided to design an evening dress for her.

Her wedding dress was made of a blush-coloured silk shantung, which we considered either dyeing another colour, or overlaying with a contrast-coloured lace. From my material library, Janine selected a beautiful French Chantilly lace with a semi-abstracted floral design, to overlay the blush shantung. While the ballgown silhouette of her wedding dress had been fun to wear at her wedding, Janine's typical aesthetic is more streamlined. We wanted the evening gown to be classic enough in styling to transcend seasonal trends, but also with design elements that provided an element of surprise and sexiness.

I designed a full-length sheath gown with soft v-neckline in the front, and an almost completely open back. We loved the look of the lace sheer on the skin, so the straps and back were constructed with no shantung underlining. To support and cleanly finish the lace, I used tea to dye sheer silk organza the same shade as Janine's skin to appear invisible behind the lace. I found two delicate vintage black buttons for the back closure.

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October 29, 2011

Molly – Reclaimed Wedding Dress

Molly brought me her mom’s wedding dress from the 1970s, a cotton kaftan, to integrate into her own dress. We were able to use materials from her mom's dress and incorporate them into a fresh silhouette worthy of Molly’s adorable style.

We decided on a fun tea-length design with a fitted bodice, low back, and a full circle skirt. In looking for a more formal and structured exterior fabric than the muslin from her mom’s dress, we layered silk gazar over silk taffeta. I was able to use the cotton muslin from her mom's dress as inner layers of the bodice, and turned the crochet hem trim into straps. For a final subtle decorative element Molly selected her favorite embroidery pattern from her mom’s dress, which we appliquéd at the back bodice.

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