New York-based designer Araks Yeramyan launched the eponymous lingerie line in 2000 and followed up with swim in 2013. This season, she’s presenting a fully sustainable collection of swimwear that comes in a recycled nylon fabric called ECONYL® (also favored by H&M and Swedish Stockings) made from used fishing nets and other discarded nylon waste—waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, or worse: the ocean. Also, being made from nylon, the swim pieces are said to be endlessly recyclable, and the goal is to make the entire range of swimwear from regenerated fabrics by 2020.
Araks design and produce locally in New York, working mainly with Italian cotton fabrics. Having not yet made the shift towards organic or other eco-friendly qualities, it’s clear that that’s the direction she wants to be heading. Having a conscious approach and sustainable mindset, she’s already a lot further ahead than most.
Can you tell us a bit about the design process for Araks?
– We are committed to making quality garments that are meant to last. In design, we create collections that are timeless, in protest to the disposability of clothes perpetuated by the fast fashion industry. We want to contribute to the behavioral shift that encourages people to consume consciously. Each new season is designed with the intention of women purchasing pieces to complement the ones they already have, not to replace them.
– We have designed the collection around core fabrics that are evergreen, enabling us to incorporate excess fabric from previous seasons into new collections. When possible, we use sustainable fabrics and always seek to produce garments locally in NYC, allowing us to forgo the carbon footprint associated with shipping from overseas.
And we’re always curious about production—what can you tell us about yours?
– In regards to production, we have management procedures in place to avoid overproduction and waste. Araks are constantly researching and developing new ways to sharpen our sustainable edge, forever looking to partner up with vendors who share our environmental vision. For example: one of our factories is run entirely on solar power, avoiding the production of harmful emissions associated with coal.
– Since the launch of the brand, I have tried to dedicate myself to seeking out talented women and providing opportunities to partner and grow our businesses together. When I started, lingerie was a pretty niche market with only very few that specialied in this category. Along the way, Araks’ met talented seamstresses who shared my love of lingerie and had aspirations to do bigger things.
– Over the years we have supported these entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses by committing to our production, investing in equipment, and providing operational support and guidance. To date, through the brand and personal ties, we have supported the start of three women-owned production facilities in New York.
You seem to focus a lot on conventional cotton—how come?
– We’ve had a very difficult time sourcing organic cotton jersey and rib fabrics that are offered at a similar quality to our current fabric as well as a similar price point. We are hoping that customer demand for organic cotton will increase to such a point that more options on our end will become available. There are certainly challenges associated with sourcing sustainable materials, but we really value brands and partners that are promoting this approach to production and consumer goods.
What does sustainability mean to you as a brand, and how do you incorporate this into your work?
– One of the core values of Araks is being economical and using resources wisely, as we are painfully aware of the effects of the garment industry on the globe and seek to limit our impact as much as possible. We strive to bring economical, conscious thinking to every part of the business, and are always looking to perform and function in the best possible manner to optimize efficiency. This filters down to the everyday operations of our studio: we try to re-use as much as possible, avoid plastic as best as we can, and make our packaging eco-friendly.
– We really value the workers that enabled Araks to become a reality and enure the fair treatment of all of our working community from the factory to the office. We seek to support other organisations that are committed to the surrounding environment and community. Throughout the year we donate a portion of sales to support organisations that share our vision, including Planned Parenthood and Sierra Club.
What can you tell us about your new sustainable swimwear collection?
– We wanted to challenge ourselves to create an entirely sustainable collection. The swimsuits feature Italian fabric made from ECONYL® fiber. ECONYL® utilizes 100% recycled nylon materials, including abandoned fishing nets and other discarded nylon waste that are salvaged from oceans and landfills. This smart nylon matches the same high quality standards as traditional nylon, plus ECONYL® swimsuits can be recycled endlessly without any loss of quality. The use of this fabric helps to clean up the oceans and lessen our environmental impact. It feels great to produce beautiful Araks swimwear that doesn’t cost the earth!
Your aim is to have a swimwear collection made entirely from regenerated fabrics by 2020. How will you achieve this?
– We’ve been working towards this for a while. When we buy new fabrics, we source from sustainable origins, but we also like to incorporate past fabrics into current seasons so that they are not wasted. With every season, the industry is evolving rapidly to develop more sustainable fabric options for designers. We think by 2020 there will be enough options to produce our entire range, and hopefully this intention will be adopted by the entire industry.
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