We strive to embody slow fashion throughout all the aspects of our business:
We only work with 100% natural fibers and 100% natural dyes. We believe in using materials that come from the Earth and will go back to the Earth, without causing social or environmental harm. We work with merino wool, silk, hemp, and organic cotton. Our thread, buttons, closures, and trim are all made of natural materials as well. All of our paper goods are printed on 100% recycled paper.
We use natural plant dyes that we either responsibly wild harvest ourselves or purchase from trusted US suppliers. We dye all of our garments ourselves, by hand. Our Indigo dyeing is done at our Oakland studio, and our Eco-Printing is done at our outdoor dye studio in Orinda.
We make the patterns for our garments by hand and test them on our friends and family to perfect fit. We take our own product photos, and hire folks from our community to model our clothing with the goal of continually expanding our representation.
We work with skilled local sewers to construct our clothing, and pay a living wage. Our pattern grading, garment cutting, accounting, paper goods printing, and web design are all done by small local businesses (many of which are women owned).
Slow fashion is an ever-evolving field. We are committed to making the best choices we can to support sustainability, understand where our materials come from, reduce the environmental impact of what we do, and choose ethical labor practices. There is no one right way to do this. It’s difficult to make a product (let alone an accessible one) while embodying ALL the principals of sustainable clothing production. We and other slow fashion designers do our best to encompass as many of these ideals as possible and still stay in business.
What is Slow Fashion? The following are some of the values that define the movement:
Seeing the Big Picture - We are all interconnected to the larger environmental and social system and must make decisions accordingly. Our collective choices as both consumer and maker make huge impacts on our world .
Slowing Down Consumption - Reducing the need for raw materials will alleviate pressure on natural cycles so clothing production can be in a healthy balance with what the earth can provide.
Quality over quantity - Buy less clothing, and buy higher quality clothing that will last for years instead of months. Mend your clothes and care for them. Swap or pass them down instead of throwing them away.
Celebration of Personal Style - Express your personal style and creativity through the clothes you choose instead of wearing clothes which are considered on trend today, and out of style tomorrow. Support trend resistant clothing with emotional durability.
Responsibility and Respect - Support brands and production practices that demonstrate fair treatment of garment workers. Focus on using local materials and resources when possible. Strive to produce clothing in the least harmful ways available.
Transparency of the Supply Chain - Educate consumers to ask questions about where and how (by whom, with what) their garments were made. Expand information available about the source of each garment.
Diversity and Education - There are many different ways to take part in slow fashion; supporting ethical designers and fair trade brands, buying thrifted and vintage clothing, making and mending your own clothing, participating in clothing swaps, and wearing natural fibers are all ways to take part. Keeping traditional methods of garment & textile making and dyeing techniques alive also gives vibrancy and meaning to what we wear and how it was made.
Why Slow Fashion?
To Reduce waste; Americans throw away 14 million tons of clothing per year (80 lbs per person).
To create demand for a return to quality manufacturing (and lengthen the life of every garment produced).
To spread information, so people can make conscious decisions about the industries they support and vote with their dollar.
To support the millions of garment workers around the world who don’t have access to basic human rights.
To rebuild local supply chains and manufacturing
Why natural (and organic) fibers?
<we only use fabrics that have been made from natural fibers with no bleach or toxic chemical pretreatment>
Natural fibers such as wool, silk, organic cotton, hemp, and linen are renewable resources.
Growing natural fibers creates no toxic runoff when done without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
Producing fabric from natural fibers creates no pollution when done without the use of bleach, synthetic dyes, and other chemicals used to give fabrics fire-, odor-, stain-, water- or wrinkle-resistant traits.
Natural fiber production plays an important role in alleviating poverty by allowing small-scale farmers a place in the international textile market.
Natural fibers absorb perspiration and release it into the air, a process called “wicking” that creates natural ventilation. This makes natural fiber clothing comfortable to wear in a range of temperatures, and reduces the risk of skin rashes and allergic reactions.
Along with being breathable, many natural fibers inhibit bacterial growth, which means they stay clean smelling through more wear, and create less water waste throughout the lifetime of a garment.
All natural fibers are biodegradable. If they are not chemically dyed or treated, they are even compostable. Someday, when they return to the Earth as everything does, they will actually nourish the soil as opposed to toxify it.
Wool absorbs moisture amazingly well, breathes well, and has natural fire retardant properties. Wool also has a natural elasticity that makes it extremely durable.
While cotton is a thirsty crop, fibers like hemp and linen don’t need much water, and silk production uses almost no water at all.
Choosing natural fibers is one of many ways to divest our lives from petrochemicals/crude oil.
Why organic cotton vs conventional?
Conventional cotton farming is extremely herbicide intensive. The chemicals used seep into the groundwater, poison migrating birds, and remain in the fiber after it is made into clothing.
An increasing amount of conventional cotton crops are from genetically modified seed.
Organic cotton farming has a much lighter environmental impact and no toxicity to the wearer.
Why NOT synthetic fibers?
Synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, lycra, spandex, and others are made from petrochemicals; non-renewable resources, the acquisition and use of which destroys natural habitats.
Many toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing of synthetic fabrics. This creates an immense amount of water pollution, as well as releasing noxious greenhouse gasses such as nitrous oxide
Chemicals used in production, such as formaldehyde and sulfuric acid, can be absorbed through the skin and contribute to a number of health risks including cancer. This makes synthetic fabric toxic to the wearer as well as the millions of garment workers making and working with it.
Inexpensive synthetic materials drive small-scale farmers out of the textile market, because they cannot compete with the low prices.
Synthetic fibers foster bacterial growth, which means they must be washed more often to stay clean. This creates more water waste throughout the lifetime of a garment.
Each piece of synthetic clothing sheds thousands of microfibers in every wash, making it one of the largest contributors to plastic buildup in oceans.
Synthetic fibers are not compostable or biodegradable and therefore do not break down into natural elements capable of taking part in the earth's innate cycles.
What about cellulose-based synthetics?
Extruded cellulose fibers such as bamboo, rayon, tencel, modal, lyocell, viscose, and acetate are generally made from relatively renewable crops, and are more biodegradable than petrochemical-based synthetics. However, their manufacturing still involves many toxic chemicals, and is very and energy heavy. For this reason, we choose not to use these fibers in our clothing.
What are Natural Dyes?
Natural dyes are dyes or colorants derived from plants, mollusks, insects, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources – roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood — and other organic sources such as fungi and lichens.
<We use a variety of natural dyes in our work both as whole plants and as extracts . When working with whole plant dyes, we use a combination of windfall, wild harvested invasive plants, and kitchen scrap. We take care not to harvest native plants or depleted resources.>
Why natural dyes?
Natural dyes are non-toxic to wearer, the maker, and the environment. Natural dyes are obtained from renewable sources that can be harnessed responsibly without imposing harm to the environment. Natural dyes are biodegradable and disposing them does not cause pollution.
(Some people even speculate that plants with medicinal properties retain some of their health benefits when used as dyes.)
Natural dyes produce an extraordinary range of rich and complex colours that complement each other.
Growing and harvesting natural dyes are practices accessible to anyone.
Dye plants such as indigo plants have traditionally been used in crop rotation to fix nitrogen in the soil. Dye plants like marigold have insect repellent properties that make them great companion crops for vegetable farming.
The art of natural dyeing has been passed down for thousands of years. It is an integral part of our human cultural heritage. It is important to retain and carry on these ancient techniques so they are not lost in favor of cheaper industrialized methods.
When collecting our own dyes, the colors available become innately seasonal. The constant shifting of what the plants offer connects us to nature and our local biosphere. Working with plant dyes allows us to learn more about the ecosystems that we are a part of, and connects us to our ancestors and to the earth.
Why NOT synthetic (azo, sulfur, vat) dyes?
Synthetic dyes are toxic to the wearer, the maker, and environment. Synthetic dyes are hazardous to consumers and very dangerous for workers in the industry. Each year the global textile industry discharges 40,000 – 50,000 tons of unfiltered synthetic dye into our rivers, that contain heavy metals like lead, mercury, chromium, zinc, cobalt and copper, as well as benzene, formaldehyde, and thousands of other toxic chemicals.
The chemicals used in synthetic dyes have an extremely destructive impact on the health of the garment industry workers that use them, as well as the people who live near the factories that dump their toxic wastewater in the rivers that they rely on for water.
Significant amounts of many chemicals and heavy metals remain in a finished garment until that garment has been washed several times.
What about “low-impact fiber reactive” dyes?
Low-impact fiber reactive dyes are one good alternative to toxic synthetic dyes. These are synthetic dyes that are free of the most toxic chemicals and have a high absorption rate, which means there is less water used in their application and there is less dye that enters the ecosystem. They are still petrochemicals produced from coal tar and don’t have any of the attributes that we appreciate about natural dyes.
Why Local Production?
With production done locally, it is easier to ensure safe, fair, and healthy working conditions for sewers.
Clothing doesn’t have to be shipped as many different places during production, resulting in less fossil fuel consumption. Designers also don’t need to travel to do quality control.
Local production supports US workers and economy and helps rebuild domestic manufacturing.
Why NOT overseas cheap labor?
Some of the countries that do the most garment manufacturing after China (such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam) have some of the worst protections for people working in that industry.
Many garment workers in developing countries, particularly women and migrant workers, work in what is known as the informal economy. This means that they are not recognised by the law and hence do not have access to social security, or most forms of legal and regulatory protections.
The informal economy generates over 35% of global GDP. It is estimated that as much as 60% of all garment production in Asia takes place within this framework
Bangladesh has the highest share of informal employment in Southeast Asia. In 2010, 87 percent of jobs were informal. Even people with formal employment in Bangladesh receive the lowest minimum wage in Asia, (around $39 per month), which is just 18% of a living wage.
Formally employed garment workers in Southeast Asia receive between 18%-66% of a living wage (this varies by country), with informal workers receiving much less. Workers are not allowed to unionize, forced to work long hours with no breaks, food or water, and do and unpaid overtime.
Under pressure from the garment brands, Chinese and Korean factory owners have moved their production to countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, where low wages and favourable trading conditions allow them to create a cheaper product. This ‘race to the bottom’ causes unhealthy competition between garment producing countries in the region.
Supply chains are difficult to track, and factories can hide unsafe conditions. Many large brands the claim to be supporting a living wage for workers are in reality still employing exploitive practices and child labor .
Millions of child laborers are exploited in the garment industry the world over
Progress towards a safer garment industry is being hampered by the failure to address the continued repression of workers’ rights and the unjustified secrecy around where clothing brands produce their goods.
Most garment workers don’t even know which brands they are producing for, and consumers of fast fashion have no way of finding out who made their clothes.