I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Katie of Sustainability in Style - really appreciated her original questions and obvious commitment to sustainability in style...
For those readers out there that are being introduced to your label for the first time would you kindly share the story of the conception of Liz Alig and what it is that you love about the products you manufacture?
Liz Alig started as a very small line of dresses with the idea of creating a collection that was ethically produced from fabric to sewing while at the same time being fashion forward. I love the unique story each piece has and how the clothing unites two groups of women across the globe.
Sustainability in Style has been looking a lot at the definitions of sustainable and ethical clothing and concluded that the term ‘conscious’ is more all encompassing. Can you define what conscious clothing means to you at Liz Alig?
I started Liz Alig before sustainable or ethical clothing became a buzz word (especially in the States), so the way that we consciously choose our raw materials, fabrics, dyes, and production partners is ingrained into the brand.
Conscious clothing for Liz Alig means we spend a little – or a lot – of extra time visiting the groups we work with, asking where they buy their fabric, creating collections out of 100% recycled materials. It is spending the extra time to ask the hard questions and design a collection around the ethical resources we have.
Many of your items are made from 100% recycled materials. Can you please share with us more about the manufacturing process of these items?
What most of us don’t know is that when we are done with our clothing in the Western World it is shipped to developing countries to be re-sold there.
In Ghana alone the second hand clothing industry is an 80 million dollar a year industry.
This works out well for us, because we can go to the local market in Ghana or Honduras and purchase second hand t-shirts rather than shipping them there. Then they are cleaned and cut again as if they where fabric (there is actually a whole lot of fabric in a t-shirt). This process does take extra time, cutting around holes and strains or choosing high quality fabrics; Also, when designing a garment we have to think about making pattern pieces that are smaller and can fit on a t-shirt. But we love these extra details and think this longer process is worth it.
What kinds of obstacles have you incurred (and hopefully overcome) on your path as a conscious fashion label?
I have found one of the hardest things about having a conscious fashion label is being in the middle between two groups of people. Quality control, especially when working with recycled materials, is a challenge…the language barriers can be a challenge. Also, the completely different aesthetic can be a challenge. On the other hand some of our consumers have never been to a developing country – they are happy to help – but don’t have any idea why shipments are late because of government strikes, or why our producers really like bright colors, or how poor some of the women we work with really are. It is tough being in the middle. I understand both sides, but it can be hard to bridge that gap.
What has been the proudest moment to date for the Liz Alig label?
I am always proud to see the work of the women we work with progress. Each collection we get it is exciting to see them improve. I also really love hearing the stories of the women who make our clothing and how it is impacting their lives. It is easy to get lost in the emails and spec sheets and orders, but when I hear those stories it reminds me why it is all important.
If you had a limitless budget (and a creative imagination) what improvements would you make to your current business practices to make the whole process as sustainable as possible?
I love this question. Naturally I would love to visit the groups a whole lot more often – not sure this would improve our business practices though : ) Also, I would say the last area that is slow to catch up in the sustainable fashion movement is the sourcing of raw materials. I would love to help groups become more vertically integrated – buy their own fields so they could learn how to grow cotton ethically themselves.