July 25, 2013

FIT's Sustainable Symposium

Last Friday as a part of FIT's Sustainable Fashion, Health, and Beauty Symposium, we attended the "Sustainable Fashion Tour of NYC." Key stops included Eileen Fisher, Nanette Lepore, Stoll Fashion and Technology Center, and even a chat with Tara St James at Washington Square Park.

photo via Amy DuFault

The tour was organized by Amy DuFault, a sustainable fashion writer, editor, and consultant with over 9 years of experience repping eco designers, co-owning a "conscious clothing" boutique as well as holding a position as editor for the online magazine, EcoSalon. Her mission is to unite the sustainable fashion community through events, collaborations and the creation of "Brain Trust," which connects over 100 members from the community, from farmers to investors. Not to mention, she is also selling t-shirts that call to end fast fashion by supporting what's really important, workers' rights.

photo via Amy DuFault

We all are familiar with the brand Eileen Fisher, but how many of you know the fashion house has a green program that takes used cloth back and donates it to non for profits? After speaking with designer Mimi Wong, we also learned about their domestic sweater production constructed in a small family owned knitting factory in Long Island, which is basically nonexistent here in the US. The brand is also extremely conscious from noting garment contents on labels to communicating fair trade fabrics and social responsibility initiatives on their website to auditing factories and offering workers training programs.

photo via Amy DuFault

Nanette Lepore not only works very close to the season, with Fall 2013 production and delivery, Spring 2014 sales, and Fall 2014 sourcing all happening simultaneously, but the label also produces up to 500 plus pieces per month in eight different factories based in New York. Not only is Nanette Lepore a valued member of the Save the Garment District initiative, but Nanette Lepore has expanded her "Made In The USA" mentality by manufacturing quality, handcrafted shoes at a factory in downtown Los Angeles.

photo via Stoll Knitting

Stoll Knitting is a German knitting machine manufacturer whose core business is selling machines. With the new technology of their multi-gage knitting machine, they have created the Stoll-Denim Collection, an entire knitwear line made with either no seams or fully fashioned to reduce waste. Word around the industry is that this new technology may be featured at the Kingpins Show in Amsterdam in 2014 so keep a look out!

Tara St James is the owner and head designer of Study New York, a sustainable womenswear label based in Brooklyn which tackles another sustainable component of the production process with every collection. Currently, she takes a seasonless approach to design and releases 3-4 new pieces per month. Through better, more direct communication from start to finish of the supply chain, she believes we can further move forward towards a transparent and more conscious industry. Stay tuned for a full fledged interview with Tara in one of of upcoming blogs!

July 18, 2013

Wheeling Forward

Cross industry-wide there is a new standard for omni-channel retailing: SO (online), LO (brick and mortar) and MO (mobile technology). As we continue to move towards a globalized economy, companies need to think about how to remain as accessible as possible to customers. However, as of late, businesses are getting even more proactive as they bring themselves straight to their consumers by hitting the streets, literally.

photo via bangstyle.com

If there's one thing we've noticed this summer, it's the food truck-crazed phenomenon striking New York City during lunch hours. From creative boutiques to gourmet food, a large mix of companies are evolving to reach new markets by creating nomadic businesses on wheels. An idea that has since advanced from the traditional trunk show or door to door salesman is giving new meaning to pop-up shops. With a majority of these so called traveling vendors being start-ups and smaller businesses, they encompass more power to be flexible and accommodating to their clientele based on the day, weather and demand.

photo via The Boston Globe

One of coolest things about these on-the-go stores is that many have been completely revamped into mobile paradises from old delivery vans, potato trucks and even former school buses. Not to mention, while most of the time these vagabond businesses can be found parked in their regular whereabouts, many do offer traveling tours as well as private shopping events, video game parties and personalized services like hair cuts depending on the type of business.

photo via wsj.com

So it was only a matter of time until the fashion world caught on and now it's bringing style directly to you, when and where you want it. Mobile (not to be confused with mobile technology) retail is the latest innovation to reshape the way we shop by offering customers everything from clothing to accessories to gifts from both mainstream brands to independent designers to vintage. This new way of doing business allows retailers to create an intimate shopping experience on wheels and cut down overhead costs in the process. Right here in New York alone we have The Styleliner in the Hamptons, the Celebrities Mobile Boutique in Harlem, The Nomad frequently in SoHo and The Mobile Vintage Shop in Brooklyn. However, these on the go fashion boutiques are launching all over the country with Fashion In Motion based in Chicago, The Fashion Truck in Boston, and Le Fashion Truck in LA so keep an eye out in a city near you!

A few weeks ago, we came across The Sketchbook Project, a traveling crowd sourced art exhibition based in the heart of Williamsburg. The best part about this initiative? Anyone can contribute to their ever-growing collection of art by simply purchasing a sketchbook via their website, filling it up with whatever you like, and sending it back. Besides their brick and mortar Brooklyn flagship and mobile library, the project is also available digitally. So far 70,000 participants from 135 countries have submitted work, which is currently on tour for the summer around the U.S. and Canada.

The online grocer Peapod continues to communicate to their customers "shop anywhere, anytime" by taking things one step further and combining the idea of "mobile billboards" with mobile technology. Customers can now scan and shop for groceries on the side of Peapod's delivery trucks using their smartphones. To cater to their east coast clientele, the trucks will be parked at things like ball parks and concert venues this summer.

In Portland, also known as a mecca for cyclists, it's no wonder businesses on bikes are booming. From florists to coffee shops on-the-go to a traveling farmer's market, entrepreneurs are on the move and in a fun, cultured and conscious way. Even the city's number one tour company happens to be operated on pedal bikes, further deeming Portland, "America's Bicycle Capital."

The future success of almost any business relies on its accessibility, as more and more retailers become available online, in person and on the go. These entrepreneurs are leading the pack by experimenting with on-wheels strategies. While costs may be low and business responsive to where the market is, as with everything else, there are still challenges. For this nomadic concept to work, a firm understanding of one's customer and the ability to keep shoppers informed about where and when you will be somewhere is crucial. Many of the solutions to these obstacles lies in the fusion of social, local and mobile technology with a dynamism that allows businesses to be adjustable in this new age of global business and consumer driven industries. At this point, it's looking like the best way to figure out what works is to take it to the streets because sometimes you have to work your way up, or in this case around. 

July 10, 2013

The Object of Desire

With the events in Bangladesh all over the media, questions of what, where, and how to shop have moved to the forefront of our attention. These disasters have sparked the approval of a European-led safety accord which proposes obligatory factory inspections in Bangladesh over the next nine months. Overall, we are becoming more transparent, because there is no other way, with information and scandals so readily available to the public. Companies have a choice to either continue making a quick buck and risk damaging their brand's reputation or start to revolutionize the way they are doing things by making smart decisions and listening to their consumers.

Where are we standing today with our consumption patterns? What technologies, innovations, and initiatives exist in the textile industry to help consumers make a better choice and diminish waste? As we ask ourselves these questions, we become more conscious and continue to demand more sustainable, ethical products made available.

Let's face it, we all have way too much stuff and reusing, remaking, and buying less have been key topics in the industry for a while now. It's about time retailers tailor their retail models to adapt to these changing ideals.

video via Yerdle

One method is a collective consumerism approach like that of the website, Yerdle, which shares underused items like clothing and electronics to friends free of charge. Others like Hello Rewind, sell goods reworked from scraps by making t-shirts into laptop sleeves. Rather than necessarily reducing an item's footprint (which we have still yet to fully comprehend), the idea is to extend not only a product's life cycle but overall value for as long as possible.

photo via ecouterre

The fast fashion retailer, Topshop has upcycling on the mind as they collaborate with Orsola de Castro to release their second "Reclaim to Wear" Collection. The capsule collection is constructed from production offcuts and surplus stock to create items like delicate floral printed silks, sleeveless dresses with lace panels, and matching camisole and culotte separates. According to Topshop's head of sourcing and technical services, Stephen Mongan, "The inspiration behind the collection was to turn away from disposable fashion, giving a new lease of life to disregarded prints from previous seasons." Hopefully Topshop will keep these efforts up and challenge themselves to further integrate this design method into more of their core collections by reworking both fabrics and prints.

photo via USA Today

For most, it's all about recycling, which is deeply engrained in social responsibility initiatives across the board. From curbside pickups to clothing collection bins, many local governments around the nation are supporting this recycling boom by instilling more accessible channels in cities, towns and apartment buildings. Even some major retailers like The North Face and H&M are promoting in-store containers for donating clothes by offering shopping incentives.

video via Gustin

However, in today's day and age, it's just as much about fortune 500 companies as it is about startups, which are leaving traditional means behind, experimenting, creating, and most importantly, directly connecting with consumers. Gustin, a premium menswear denim brand, is one company making changes as they operate an entirely online, direct-to-consumer, crowdfunded business model. Not only are all jeans produced right in San Francisco, but the label really focuses on giving the customer what they want by letting them decide what actually goes into production. In other words, rather than producing what they think will sell, they only make what their customers actually want and sell it to them at a lower price point in the process.

video via Fashion United

Whether we like it or not, the best thing to help us move forward towards a more sustainable and ethically minded industry is nonetheless through technology. From technically enhanced fabrications to innovative gadgets to a continued commitment to sustainability, Nike has got to be the most cutting edge company out there. They are making huge strides in the industry once again with their new Making app which assists designers by evaluating materials based on four environmental components including water, energy, chemistry and waste. By pulling data from Nike's Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) from the past seven years, the app can offer comparisons based on how various textiles rank on a sustainable level. This tool will not only further educate designers but give them the accessibility to make better choices about what they use and how.

We've talked about the digital printing revolution before but we can't emphasize enough how revolutionary this is. As 3D printers become more and more affordable and reach businesses on a large scale, they will continue to be another major factor pushing sustainability forward. With techniques that precisely cut patterns and molds, these printers enormously reduce excessive waste. Not to mention, they can create products on demand which could ultimately eliminate manufacturing minimums. We highlighted Continuum Fashion's Constrvct in the past, but we have to mention some of their more recent accomplishments which include a 3D printed shoe collection, a wearable bikini and software which allows a LBD to be created in mere minutes. 3D printing is here and it may be coming to a home near you sooner than you think! 

Despite everything being at our fingertips, we still need to be mindful about what we are buying and where it is coming from, even if it requires a little extra research of our own. Even though we as consumers are demanding sustainable and ethical products, the overall industry is just beginning to learn how to adapt to this. Unfortunately you really can't believe everything you hear, and hopefully as we move towards a more transparent lifestyle, with more unified standards in place, we will be able to depend on retailers and brands to administer smarter and safer practices. When tragedy strikes, people come together so we really hope (and firmly believe) that the industry can fully join forces and make it a better place for everyone, everywhere. 

July 3, 2013

A Perfect Getaway

Last weekend we took off to the Connecticut side of the Long Island sound to scout out the area and get a much needed break from the hustle, bustle and heat of New York. This spot is accessible by train and upon getting off, you immediately feel as if time has stopped. Full of fresh air, fantastic views and hospital people, if you're looking to escape the crazed city life, this could be your chance at the perfect getaway. Since we had such a great local retreat, we'd like to share our weekend itinerary with what to do, where to eat and of course our favorite shops from along the way!

photo via Lily Juliet

First stop was a charming little town located at the Southeastern end of New Haven County called Madison. Before we hit the beach, we popped into the whimsical shop, Lily Juliet, which is quickly becoming the destination for unique items from gifts to home, entertaining, wedding or "just for me" merchandise. Besides introducing new designers whose products tell a story, many of what's sold in the store is designed by Lily Juliet exclusively for the store. If you explore further, you'll find a quaint cottage behind the shop called Lily Juliet Too that is hosting yoga workshops, designer trunk shows, art openings, you name it! We were lucky enough to get a personal tour from one of the co-owners, Joanie Horton, who took us around to show us more of the magic of the area.

Known for Connecticut's largest shoreline park, Hammonasset, is a two mile stretch offering it all! Whether you're feeling active with saltwater fishing, camping, hiking, and boating or more relaxing activities like going for a cool swim, having a quiet picnic, taking a stroll along the boardwalk or simply soaking up some sun with a good book, this may just quickly become your new favorite beach escape.

photo via G-Zen

From here we continued to Branford to grab a healthy and extremely delicious bite to eat. Handcrafted daily from scratch by the dynamic Chef duo, Ami and Mark Shadle, the elegant and relaxed, G-Zen offers entirely plant-based cuisines consisting of vegan/vegetarian and raw foods. The menu even includes a strong selection of wines, beers and sakes that are organic, vegan and biodynamic. Decorated with a communal take on dining, this eco-conscious, zen inspired business, brings freshness to the local eating scene and it's not just in the food. The restaurant values a lifestyle that takes a responsible approach towards one's health and they are dedicated to nourishing both the body and soul.

photo via The Lovet Shop

Nestled further down Main Street, Lovet is another really cool shop to check out that designs and produces its own clothing and accessories, as well as features a plethora of other designers. Owned by a former model, Lovet's style is classic with a twist, and offers merchandise that not only makes you feel good but want to wear time and time again.

Home to the Linden Point House, Stony Creek was our next and final stop for the day. This beachfront property has a breathtaking view of the Thimble Islands and is a marvelous place to stay overnight that neighbors both Branford and Madison. In addition to the unforgettable landscapes, this luscious estate is a haven for relaxation with hammocks, a gazebo, and an array of aged trees adding to the ambience.

Before you leave the village of Stony Creek, you can't miss the standalone shop, Taken For Granite. This peaceful sanctuary sells an array of treasures, antiques, and gifts, some new, some old, but all filled with a special piece of history.

photo via Chester Sunday Market

On Sunday morning, we had to visit the town of Chester for its infamous farmer's market. The Chester Sunday Market is not only a weekly festivity, but a community driven celebration that focuses on the locally-produced and regionally-made, right here in Connecticut. Located at the center of the market is the Chester Sunday Market tent full of volunteers who are there to answer any questions, give advice or just offer a friendly hello. Additionally, the event highlights musicians and chefs from the area as well as different neighborhood businesses.

photo via Dina Varano

As our weekend drew to a close, we couldn't resist stopping at one last spot, Dina Varano. This gallery of curated jewelry and artisan crafted gifts has been an inspirational destination for visitors for more than 20 years. Many of Dina's pieces reflect the beauty of nature at its finest, much of it drawn from local Connecticut scenery and the surrounding New England. It's the perfect place to end your weekend with a special keepsake that will forever remind you of the peace and magic across the sound.

Know of any other great getaways in the area? Please feel free to share! And no matter what you do or where you go, make sure to have a Happy Fourth Everyone!

One more thing...please check out the banner on the side of this blog for more information on FIT's Sustainable Fashion & Beauty Symposium.

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