A New Approach for Sustainable Production

I often hesitate to call Atèlette a sustainable womenswear brand because I feel like there is so much more I could be doing, which is a big reason as to why our label says “consciously crafted”. I truly feel that sustainability in fashion (and in life) is a spectrum. I’m not sure WHO, if anyone, has the definitive guide to HOW to be a sustainable clothing label, but I do feel like as a designer and owner, I feel a responsibility to craft and create in a way that aligns with my own personal ethos and values. I know there are several websites that grade the sustainability practices of brands, and for some Atèlette will hit the mark, and for others there’s probably room for improvement.

Though, isn’t that life? Isn’t there always room for improvement? To borrow the wise words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya’s words resonate and align so much with my approach for building, sustaining, and creating for Atèlette.

Taking the leap into creating my own feminine womenswear label without any background or formal design training has been daunting and the learning curve has been steep (and costly). I am discovering what parts of this business journey I really love and that’s kind of what I want to talk about today.

I love creating and designing garments! It is a dopamine hit I can liken to growing flowers from seed, nurturing the seedlings, and then many months later cutting flowers to make a floral arrangement to enjoy and revel in and months after that continuing to enjoy their beauty in dried form. The joy for me is being able to take a grain of an idea, a seed, and through care and attention, seeing it grow into something so tangible and so real. I have always said to my husband, if I wasn’t in fashion, I’d become a flower farmer, a micro flower farmer to be specific. The idea of running anything big or complex just really does not appeal to my inert being. Though sometimes I feel like I live in a paradox of realities. I crave more than anything a slow-paced life, and yet I cannot stand sitting still and feeling idle. I must always be doing something. I cannot just sit in my garden and enjoy it. I like to enjoy it while weeding, pruning, and having my hands in the dirt. Anyhow, I’m getting a bit off topic, so I will steer myself back on course.

Getting back to discovering what I love most about Atèlette and the creative process: the designing and creating! I just received a few new prototype samples that I sketched a few weeks ago and oh the joy and thrill to slip into a dress that once just existed on paper! And for it to fit so beautifully and make me feel so beautiful! However, a subtle pattern I am seeing (now that I’ve released a few pieces) is that my excitement and love for a garment doesn’t really coincide with the sales numbers for those garments.

So, moving forward, I will be designing and creating samples to my heart’s content and will now have a new feature…actually sidebar. I actually wanted to launch the Atèlette website with this IDEA already in place but got talked out of it (by my self). So, since I’m such a new label and still getting my name out there, I figure, why the hell not try it out? So, the new feature is a section on the website called “IN DEVELOPMENT'' which is where you will get to see all the styles I am working on and by voting on these garments, I can determine which pieces to actually produce and offer for sale in the shop.

As of right now I am designing pieces based on vintage garments I own either in my personal archives or in my hundreds of backstock of vintage having been a vintage dealer in the past. Then I produce these pieces and allow you to pre-order them which helps me determine how many of each size to cut. The thing is though, in order for our factory partners to also be profitable, I still need to produce a minimum number of units. The pre-orders allows me to determine how to break down the size runs a bit better which helps eliminate producing things that may not sell.

Now, the IN DEVELOPMENT feature basically creates another layer of ensuring I’m not making things only a few people want. I am crowdsourcing some of my design ideas through social media by asking my audience which dress they want me to reproduce and remake on our Instagram feed. But now I am going to start designing as much as my creativity allows and then giving you the power of deciding which of my designs to actually produce.

If you’re in the fashion world, especially as a buyer, this isn’t dissimilar to a brand’s model for choosing what to cut and produce based on how their pieces do well at markets and tradeshows. As a fashion buyer, I often review a brand’s upcoming collection and “pre-order” styles for upcoming seasons for my shop. However, a brand will choose not to cut/produce a garment if they didn’t get enough buyers or interest for that particular style. So, the “IN DEVELOPMENT” is pretty much the same thing, except Atèlette is a direct-to-consumer clothing label meaning you my lovelies, are the buyers. You’re not buying for a shop, you’re buying for yourself, your own wardrobe and closet. Garments I design that don’t get enough votes, I simply won’t make. Or perhaps I’ll make slightly different versions of them (different fabric, different sleeves, maybe change the waistline, add or remove finishing touches etc).

I am really excited to showcase this feature because it actually allows me to design more things at once, but still only produce a few pieces at a time! This feature will mean I am no longer just guessing what sizes to make from pre-orders, but from the get-go which of my designs YOU feel the most attuned to. I adore all the things I design as they’re kind of like my little babies. I don’t really have a favorite per-se, but it’s nice to see which of my design babies are YOUR favorite. Then I can clone them and you can adopt it and take it home. (Wow, sorry for that weird analogy, it’s past my bedtime!)

Anyhow, this is a win win! A win for you, I think, I hope? A win for me since now I can just create many different versions of a similar thing (like seriously, I have 6 sketches of an Edwardian camisole I’m working on right now!) Awin for producing less waste in fashion! A win for sustainable fashion production! And a win for becoming a more conscious consumer! Hurrah!!

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