A Conversation About Sustainability and Entrepreneurship With BreeLayne Carter
L.A. based designer BreeLayne Carter has built her namesake fashion brand around a small-scale, local production chain, using only deadstock or pre-existing materials. We invited her to a conversation about sustainable fashion and female entrepreneurship.
Being a female entrepreneur within the field of sustainable fashion, (and creator of the Feminist World Tour T-shirt), we wanted to talk to one of our favorite designers BreeLayne Carter about her genuine passion for both fashion and nature, and the contradiction that might lie therein. Having established her own eco-friendly business model (read more about it here), we’re curious to know what her advise would be to other brands, and new female entrepreneurs, heading in that same direction. Can there be fashion (in the traditional sense) in a sustainable world?
Why is sustainability an important aspect of your business?
– Nature has always been an important part of who I am, and I’ve felt so connected to and inspired by it from a young age. I spent a lot of time alone in the canyons of Malibu as a child, so I know the healing power of nature first-hand. I also know the healing power of fashion. The way we look has an affect on the way we think about ourselves. But most clothing is made with little regard for the impact it has on nature. So my aim is to reconcile the apparent conflict between these two things I love.
What would you like to say to the brands (big and small) that are still going by a “conventional” business model?
– I encourage you to rethink the impact you’re making on the environment. We have the choice to be pro-environment and actively partake in making even small changes to better it. Furthermore, there is a business opportunity in it. Before the Macintosh, people thought of computers as a niche product. But then along came Apple, and they showed everyone that there was a huge market for a new way of thinking. Obviously they went on to become one of the most successful and influential companies in the world. I think a similar shift is coming in the fashion industry. Whether it is a reckoning or an opportunity for existing companies depends upon how willing they are to recognize the changing attitudes of the masses.
What do you wish we talked more about today when it comes to fashion and consumption?
– I don’t think people really understand the depth of devastation on our environment. It’s completely catastrophic and shameful. We all need to make better decisions and make an effort to sustain our resources before they diminish!
“We’re in a time in society where people—and women, in particular—are fired up to encourage each other and be supportive”
Do you think there’s a dilemma in consuming fashion and wanting to live sustainably? How do you reason with this contradiction?
– That’s a complex question. I believe that some contradictions can be reconciled. In my personal life, I’m really particular about the products I choose to support. Every action has consequences. Every purchase is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. So, as long as people have to wear clothes, fashion will have a place. It’s not about whether I support fashion or not. It’s about which companies I choose to support that meet my needs.
– On the flip side, I think some people tend to internalize their guilt about what our species is doing to the planet, and it can become destructive on a psychological level. Personally, I know I tend to be self-critical, so I try not to be so hard on myself when it comes to this. If I realize I’ve supported a brand that doesn’t align with my ethics, I make a mental note and aim to be more mindful in the future, but I know I’m not perfect and I allow myself to make mistakes knowing I do my best.
More and more young women are starting up their own business today, challenging the fashion industry’s outdated system. What would you say are the biggest challenges they’ll face, and how could this be easier?
– For me, it was challenging from a financial perspective to keep up at doing multiple collections per year and several fashion weeks. The industry has historically been dominated by power-players and when you dive in, especially without having connections, it’s intimidating. I remember doubting myself a lot, but then I was like “fuck it”, and didn’t let my insecurities hold me back from achieving my dreams and the difference I wanted to make. I think adopting a non-traditional business model is a crucial act of evolution and adaptation.
Is there a way you as business women can learn by and support each other in this fashion (r)evolution?
– Using your voice through social media or word of mouth. We’re in a time in society where people—and women, in particular—are fired up to encourage each other and be supportive. Having discussions, whether in person or online, is really important. Obviously, having it in public helps to get the word out and can be more personal.
– It also pays dividends to be kind to yourself and others. There may always be haters who want to see you fail, or charlatans who rip off your ideas and present them as their own—but don’t get caught up in it. Focus on the relationships that lift you up and sustain your vision. Find your tribe, and you can do more together than you ever could alone.
What is your best advise to other women wanting to start up sustainable brands?
– You need to really want it, as it’s a full-time commitment. Do a lot of research and intern at several companies to gain the most hands-on experience. Create a niche for yourself—something that others know you for and that is recognizably different. That sounds like such an intense statement, but I really think it’s at the core of positive thinking philosophy: know what you want, and be persistent in pursuing it. Oh, and being true to yourself should not generate conflict, it should generate harmony. An authentic person can have a revitalizing effect on everyone they meet.
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