Women Who Innovate

Photo courtesy of Daniella Platt


Scrunchies are back! Your hair can thank the sustainable movement for the ‘80s hair trend’s return, as brands find novel ways to repurpose excess fabrics. This and other sustainable trends were revealed at the third Los Angeles Sustainability Fashion Forum, created by Andrea Kennedy, founder of Fashiondex and sustainable fashion educator at LIM College.

More than 300 attendees gathered at the forum to connect with brands such as Disney, Reck-less, Icon Fitness, Revolve and Vitamin A, which came to seek tangible, practical ways to infuse their supply chain manufacturing with better practices. Los Angeles communications and brand strategy firm Looking Good YAYA was delighted to moderate this panel.

665 Trees Planted

Opening the event with gratitude, Kennedy thanked the crowd for being “willing to work sustainably.” Committing to reduce waste, she calculated that the combined travel emissions of the staff and speakers totaled 8.22 tons of carbon dioxide, which equates to 378 trees. An additional 287 trees were added to offset the CO2 emissions of attendees. In total, 665 trees will be planted through onetreeplanted.org to offset the environmental cost of the forum.

Brands must understand that “natural fiber fabrics that will decompose are always better than synthetics, which are petroleum derived,” Kennedy explained.

Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

As materials rest on state-of-the-art cutters, such as Gerber, they are set to line up efficiently, generating nearly zero excess waste, according to Marta Miller of Lefty Productions and David Prentice of OnPoint Manufacturing. Lusine Mkrtchyan of PremierSource also advised brands to turn any leftovers into a piece that’s useful, like scrunchies or a bag for giveaways.

Onpoint manufacturing is also disrupting the market. The facility’s minimums are one — yes, one! — piece, as Prentice jokingly shared.

“We tried for lower, but no one wanted a half-a-dress,” he said.

With on-demand clothing, the company has the capability to produce within three to five days and ship direct to consumer (DTC) in your brand packaging, eliminating middle-men and waste. This works today, as small brands can emerge DTC, build a “tribe” on social media and produce to their audience demand. The need for validation from a Nordstrom’s or Barney’s is no longer required.

How Brands Can Vet Factories

Mkrtchyan, who produces in Los Angeles, advises brands to visit factories. Both Lefty, based in downtown Los Angeles, and On- Point, based on Florence, Alabama, invite brands to tour its facilities to get a sense of U.S. manufacturing and its state-of-the-art machinery.

“Slow it down,” Miller said. “Make your relationship with manufacturer into an intimate, partnered relationship.”

DL1961 & Study NY on Sustainability

Denim is iconic, yet it’s been known to have a dirty manufacturing process. DL1961 flipped this script, advertising its stats on its website, such as, “The average pair of jeans uses approximately 1,500 gallons of water. An average pair of DL jeans uses just eight gallons.”

To create a denim brand that doesn’t leave a negative impact, Ahmed of DL1961 advised brands to be transparent about the process and to measure efforts toward change. Sustainability is a movement, and it will change tomorrow, she said. Choose influencers who align with your messaging, who you will educate, and trust that they share your message appropriately with their audience.

Similarly, Tara St. James, founder of Study NY and Re:Source, created the “anti-fashion calendar,” an alternative production methodology, after feeling the traditional cycle is too taxing on designers. St. James advised brands to be disruptive. It’s not necessary to follow the traditional calendar of manufacturing if it doesn’t make sense with your message or brand, she said.

By going “off-calendar,” her focus on design increased. This freed St. James to produce a collection her way, and while her showroom dropped her line, she found buyers receptive to her concept when working one-on-one. This process also limits waste, as you’re not forcing production unnecessarily.

“Rather than a few people doing 100% good, we need 100% of people doing a little bit of good,” St. James said.