I’ve never cared for fashion. Jeans and t-shirts: that was me. Still is to a great extent but I’m growing older and I find myself taking a little more care in how I dress. My office job contributes to that: I need to look nice for board meetings. Thus, a burgeoning interest, if not quite love, for fashion.
The more I learn about the world, the more important it becomes for me to make responsible choices which means I don’t buy a great deal of clothing new. I’m a thrift store shopper. Thrift stores are a fantastic place to find clothes because I love a bargain. I then use the money I saved on my bargain wardrobe to purchase books and a few nice pieces that serve to dress up my bargain finds. Since these items are new, they have to be organic, sustainable, and support fair trade. Since I prefer they not be too expensive, I shop Ebay.
Ebay is another of my favorite places to grab a good deal. I can’t always find clothing that fits at a thrift store. I’m tall with broad shoulders, long arms, and long legs. I find most tall people are like me: when they find something that fits they wear it until it falls apart which means it can be difficult to find clothes-especially pants-at a thrift store. Ebay fills that void. I can put in my size, my inseam and choose the color. Best of all, I can choose the material I’m looking for and organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo are all options. It was while using these search parameters that I found Nancy’s Gone Green.
Nancy’s Gone Green was the perfect place for finding second hand bargains alongside eco-friendly brands. I could find a good sale among the eco-friendly brands if I waited long enough and picked up clothing from brands like Threads For Thought at a fraction of the price. My wardrobe needed supplementing and I recently ordered several shirts to replace the shapeless, fading ones I could no longer wear to my office job. While placing my order, I saw the Nancy’s Gone Green business name was changing to Ash and Rose. Ever curious, I browsed the new Ash and Rose website and discovered I liked fashion after all. I found items like this vegan jacket:
While perusing the Ash and Rose website, I made contact with Mary Savoca, co-founder and buyer for Nancy’s Gone Green; now Ash and Rose. Mary is responsible for forging the partnerships with eco-friendly brands while her mother focuses on the Ash and Rose private label designs. Mary was kind enough to take some time out of her schedule to answer some questions about the eco designers that make up the bulk of the collection as well as the original private label designs.
Kate: How did you form partnerships with all the eco designers you work with, and what criteria do you use to choose what brands to sell?
Mary: I’ve been building relationships with eco fashion designers for almost a decade now! It started with my first business, which I co-founded with my mom Nea. We had fun selling vintage clothing on eBay for a while, and decided to open our own online shop. While Nea continued to focus on vintage, I decided to pursue my own interest in organic and sustainable clothing, which felt like a natural complement to vintage. It all started with an online search for eco brands, and then I started going to trade shows too.
Now that we’ve opened Ash & Rose, Nea is focused on developing our private label collection, while I continue to scout out new eco collections to offer in our shop. It’s amazing how much the eco-fashion landscape has changed in just the past few years. It used to be just a handful of expensive couture designer labels, with a smattering of more affordable but super boring styles, and of course the tie-dyed organic t-shirts with peace signs…ugh!
Now there are tons of new eco labels popping up every season, with a huge range of styles and prices. I look for designers who manufacture in the USA or follow fair labor guidelines for imports. Materials must be sustainable – usually organic or recycled, and the manufacturing process must have a low environmental impact. There is no such thing as cheap eco fashion, but I’m committed to offering accessible prices: most things in our shop are under $100 and nothing is over $200. I look for practical, comfortable clothes with artful designs and unexpected details. And of course, I have to absolutely love everything we sell!
Kate: You sell a lot of products that are made from recycled fabrics. Can you tell me what the recycled materials are and where they come from? How are recycled materials turned into garments?
Mary: When you think of “eco” fabrics, polyester is probably not on the list, right? Recycled polyester is actually one of the greatest innovations in sustainable textiles. It’s made from post-consumer plastic bottles and other plastic waste that’s ground into tiny flakes, melted down, and extruded into new fibers. It’s a low-impact process, and the best part is that recycled poly garments are really affordable!
Threads 4 Thought is a great entry-level eco brand that uses fabric blends containing recycled polyester in most of their garments. They work with a factory in Weihai China that has one of the most advanced waste-water recycling programs in the world, recycling 82% of their water (the highest in the US is 20%). One of my favorite pieces from T4T is the Curry Blouse made from recycled poly chiffon.
Lur is a fantastic company that takes sustainability to new heights with their innovative fabric. It’s made from 50% recycled poly, and 50% recycled cotton. The cotton comes from apparel factory scraps, which are broken down and spun into new yarn. The scrap cotton yarn provides all the color for Lur garments – no new dyes are used! The Passionflower Poncho is my top pick from Lur right now.
Kate: I love that Nea is making clothes right here in the USA. Where does she get inspiration for her designs? What is her process from concept to end result for a garment like the Watercolor Maxi Dress?
Mary: It’s so much fun for me to see my mom at work – she is a phenomenal designer and an expert at her craft. She starts with salvaged and designer remnant fabrics. These are cast-offs from larger manufacturers, slightly flawed fabric or extra bolts that normally would get trashed. She also works with vintage fabrics, from things like old curtains or handmade lace tablecloths! Nea looks for beautiful fabrics that inspire her, and the designs usually spring from there.
With the Watercolor Maxi Dress, Nea started with the soft, sheer fabric with an abstract floral print in gorgeous cool tones. It really just had to become a full length gown – the fabric spoke! Since she was designing for fall, she went for a higher boat neckline and cap sleeves. Then she looked through her massive collection of vintage and antique lace and trim and found a handmade black trim that was the absolutely perfect accent at the waistline.
Right now, Nea does 100% of the production herself at her home studio. That means that when you buy an Ash & Rose Collection garment, her handwork went into every step of the process! We don’t offer the collection wholesale, so the prices are pretty amazing for garments that are handcrafted by the designer from start to finish. Even as she starts to work with local factories to produce certain designs, she’ll continue to use reclaimed fabrics and oversee every step of the process.
My thanks to Mary for answering my questions! For more information on how Mary and her mother got started, check out their blog on Ash and Rose.
For all you fashion lovers out there: while Nancy’s Gone Green is transitioning to Ash and Rose, there is an amazing sale going on. Looking for eco deals? Check it out!