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The idea of starting a fashion line can be daunting – especially if you don’t already work in the fashion industry.  

  • Where do you source all of your fabric?  
  • Who will be able to help you with the patternmaking?
  • What will all of it cost?
  • Where do I find my customers?

These are just some of the many questions that ran through my mind when I decided to launch my sustainable activewear line this year.

Purchase 'Business Woman' Scoop tee here.

I have a background in finance and advertising, and when I decided to start my line I could barely tell you the difference between a woven and a knit.  However, my belief that I would be bringing better products to the activewear market–for people and the planet–helped me overcome this obvious knowledge gap and find some great resources designed for fashion newbies.  If you’re thinking of starting your own line or just want to do some preliminary research, these resources are for you:

Maker’s Row

Maker’s Row is an amazing online database connecting you directly to suppliers and manufacturers in the U.S.  For a small monthly payment of about $35 per month, you get access to over 10,000 factories, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.  I used their platform to message a fabric supplier and the supplier responded right away.  It’s actually one of the suppliers I decided to use for my line!

They also have an incredible blog where you can read an array of free content written by their staff and others who have started their own companies, with advice on finances, sourcing, and communication.  When I was first starting, I read all of their posts religiously and they seriously upped my confidence.

One last resource I recommend from their site is the Academy; I began here when I all I had was just an idea.  You only have to create a login on the site and they’ll send you daily email mini-courses on Production 101, Sourcing 101, Packaging 101 and more!  I used these courses to secure what my course of action would be going forward.

StartUP Fashion

StartUP Fashion is another online community, but focused more on support and connection between fashion entrepreneurs.  The platform connects emerging brands and independent designers and facilitates conversations about victories, uncertainties, partnerships, and more.  The site is also a great place for startup brands to share tools and information with others.

The founder, Nicole Giordano, also sends out a motivational email every Sunday night and I look forward to it every week.  It always comes at the perfect time and usually focuses on suggestions for self-improvement, like writing your future self a letter or taking time off to avoid burnout.  She also writes about important topics like how to market your brand and steps to take to sell more of your product.

Factory45

I truly don’t know where I’d be without Factory45.  I put this resource last as it is really for those entrepreneurs who are ready to start a sustainable fashion line made in the U.S., but it’s also a financial commitment.  However, it’s worth every penny.   Shannon Lohr, the founder who leads all of the modules, provides direct hands-on assistance acting as your personal consultant through the entire process from sourcing to launch.

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My belief that I would be bringing better products to the activewear market helped me overcome this knowledge gap and find great resources for fashion newbies.

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The course is structured in five modules, similar to the 101 courses in the Maker’s Row Academy, but the tutorials are much more in-depth.  Factory45 covers sourcing, marketing, blogging, production, shipping, and raising money for a successful launch.  The course includes helpful how-to videos, homework exercises, and email templates when reaching out to production partners or media contacts.

Finally, the best part about Factory45 is the community.  Besides having full access to Shannon, who successfully launched an apparel line before starting Factory45, you get access to a large group of other entrepreneurs who are also taking the program.  For me, having people I could call or grab coffee with once a week, who were dealing with the exact same issues as me was extremely beneficial.  The entrepreneurship journey can be a scary one at times, but finding a network of people to empathize with and find strength from makes it much easier!

Best of luck to those of you starting or hoping to start a line.  Feel free to message me on bSmart with any questions along the way!

 

Mary is the founder of Reprise Activewear, a plant-based activewear company in New York City. She is also a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology and enjoys working out and eating healthy.

 

  1.   November 16, 2017
  2.   Fashion

About a year ago, I watched a documentary called The True Cost, a film aimed towards raising awareness about the unethical practices in the fast fashion industry.  Until then, I was completely unaware of all of the unjust practices towards both humans and the planet just to create a new pair of jeans.  After seeing this movie, I made a pledge to only shop from ‘sustainable’ stores going forward.

Shop Bellflower Dress from socially conscious brand Reformation here.

The problem I found with this is that there are a TON of different definitions of what it means to be sustainable.  I was faced with answering questions that I hadn’t anticipated:

  • Was I only going to buy from vintage stores so I wasn’t creating any new waste?
  • Should I start to phase out all of my synthetic-based garments in favor of natural-based alternatives?
  • How much was I willing to raise my price threshold to support my values?
  • Is it better to support small startup brands or big companies with larger influence?

Luckily, I have found that there isn’t really a ‘right’ answer to what is the best definition for sustainable clothing.  It all depends on what your values are, what your budget is, and what you’re shopping for.  Here are some of my favorite ways to shop ‘sustainably.’

Secondhand and Vintage ($)

Shopping secondhand is by far the most affordable option and it’s a great way to shop the traditional brands you love and feel better about doing so.  I love the idea of shopping vintage, but often get overwhelmed with the amount of digging you have to do.  The thrill of finding $18 Levi’s always makes it worth it, but sometimes you don’t want to put in so much work.  So when I found out about Poshmark, I knew it would be the perfect solution for me.

Poshmark is an online marketplace that lets you buy and sell your clothing.  The community is built solely around fashion, which makes it much easier than shopping on a site like eBay.  The best part is that you can shop by brand and save certain items to know when the price for that item has dropped.  Shopping on sites like Poshmark or similar sites like thredUP has allowed me to continue to shop for brands I love that aren’t normally sustainable since those clothes might have otherwise been thrown out.  It also means that no additional resources were used to create new clothing for me!

Capsule collection ($$)

Another concept within sustainable fashion that I love, is the idea of a capsule collection – a minimal number of items you can turn into an exponential number of outfits.  You can do this with items you already own, but if you’re in need of inspiration, Vetta has created a few capsule collections with great pictures showing how you can mix and match all of the pieces in tons of various combinations.  As someone who is always stuck on what to wear, this idea is awesome and always makes me feel like I just tripled the size of my closet.

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No matter your budget, there are many ways you can make a difference by choosing a sustainable way to shop.

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Sustainable Materials ($$$)

There are a lot of companies trying to use better materials, like organic cotton and hemp for their pieces, but one of my favorite practices is using deadstock fabric from merchandise that didn’t get sold and would normally be thrown out.

My absolute favorite company using deadstock fabric is Reformation.  They make beautiful dresses and everyday casual items from a mix of deadstock fabric and other sustainable materials.  If you love their clothes but their prices aren’t in your budget, you can get a lot of great Reformation pieces on Poshmark for much less too!

Another cool and sustainable company is zero waste daniel, owned by a designer who uses fabric scraps from other designers to piece together new clothing.  He’s one of the first people to design with scraps that would have otherwise been thrown out.  I love the creativity in his pieces and knowing that I’m wearing something that prevented more textiles from ending up in the landfill.

So no matter what your budget is, there are many ways you can make a difference by choosing a new, sustainable way to shop!

 

Mary Bemis is the founder of Reprise Activewear, a plant-based activewear company in New York City.  She is also a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology and enjoys working out and eating healthy.

 

  1.   November 15, 2017
  2.   Fashion
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