CHANGING HOW WE MAKE OUR CLOTHING
I've been keeping a big secret! This transition has been in the works for over a year, and I'm thrilled to finally tell you.
Over the past 2 years, the health of our planet has become a huge concern of mine. I nearly shut down Akasha Sun just because I felt like I couldn't justify running a clothing business if it meant taking something from Mother Earth. The burden of being eco-conscious is laid on consumers and small businesses, while large companies are truly the ones causing the most harm. I kept having dreams and feelings that I could use this as an opportunity to be a part of a change in the fashion industry. Something kept pulling me back into my business, letting me know it wasn't time to give up.
Changing Our Mission
I felt really disconnected from my brand in the beginning of 2020, but when I realized I wanted to be an ethical and eco-friendly clothing company, the pieces fell into place. As much as I love creating beautiful hand-dyed clothes, I realized there was so much more depth I has been missing.
We have been unconsciously ethical and sustainable since the beginning. We have used cotton as our primary fabric since we started in 2013. This was the fabric of choice back then because it was a natural fiber and was easy to tie dye. We produced our clothing in a small factory in New York that paid employees above a living wage. The environment in the factory was to the highest standard, and they practiced sustainable production practices. The cotton we used is sustainably sourced, and the dyes we use are low-impact and non-toxic.
I also changed how we packaged our clothing and made sure each element was well thought out. If I'm not able to immediately change something due to cost or supply, I make goals to in the near future.
But I knew I wanted to do more. This last step meant jumping with both feet in - taking a risk. It felt really uncomfortable for me, especially since I have done things a certain way for so long.
going back to the basics
Although the factory we were using was very ethical and sustainable, it was still a factory. I felt out of control of our own brand. To create a new style meant thousands of dollars and huge minimums. I couldn't afford to make a new style, so we kept the same styles for years. There was little to no flexibility and I didn't like being so hands-off with my own clothing company.
So, I tore everything down and went back to the basics. We recently introduced a seamstress to our team! We will now be hand making our clothing! We are still in the process of creating new prototypes with her, but have some exciting new designs in the works. In a lot of ways, it's like starting over completely. However, it's a beautiful beginning, and one that will allow for so many more possibilities and room to grow.
Changing our fabric
Not only will we be changing how we make our clothing, but we are also changing fabrics! As much as I love and adore our sustainable cotton/spandex blend, I knew it wasn't as good of an alternative to plastic clothing (our ultimate goal is to get people out of plastic fibers!). It also isn't as sustainable as we ultimately want. I did SO much research for a new fabric. The number of fabric samples I have tested are in the 100s. I tried everything from bamboo to hemp and everything else you can imagine. They were too thin, didn't hold up well with washes, felt rough, looked rough, too delicate, didn't dye well, you name it. I got so frustrated that I almost went back to organic cotton. Then I met this amazing woman at a fabric company that introduced me to something completely different. I hadn't heard of it, but did a ton of research on it while I waited for my samples.
It was truly love at first sight when I felt this one. It drapes beautifully, looks so silky, and feel so soft. The fabric is called Tencel.
TENCEL™ is milled from Eucalyptus trees, which grow fast and thick in zero-footprint, Oeko-tex, FSC, and PEFC certified forests in Austria. The production of Tencel does not use pesticides, fertilizers, or insecticides and uses 80% less water than cotton or bamboo. TENCEL™ is made through one of the most sustainable processes of any fabric in the world. It is a closed loop production process that transforms wood pulp into fibers, recycling water and reusing solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%. Synthetic products like polyester take hundreds of years to break down, but Tencel is 100% biodegradable.
Lyocell is a manufacturing process of rayon which is much more eco-friendly than its relatives modal and viscose. Lyocell is made in a closed-loop system that recycles almost all of the chemicals used. TENCEL™ lyocell is considered to be one of the most sustainable fabrics of modern technology. Considerably more eco-friendly than both cotton and bamboo.
We added in 10% spandex to our activewear styles to allow for enough stretch for those that do yoga and other activities. Although spandex is still a synthetic, we know it needs this in order to compete with polyester/nylon. When a more natural option for spandex becomes available, we will switch to that (they are working on it!).
We decided to call this new fabric Woodland Threads for our brand. Jeanne came up with it, and I love it!
What does it feel like?
Tencel feels like "the love child between cotton and silk". Woodland Threads are extremely smooth and gentle on the skin. With no harsh toxic chemicals used in production (like many synthetic fabrics like polyester), Woodland Threads are perfect for people with sensitive skin.
Tencel has incredible absorption characteristics. It absorbs moisture 50%-70% better than cotton. It’s also more breathable and less susceptible to odorous bacteria growth like environmentally-damaging synthetics. This fabric is ideal for a sweaty gym session!
Will our prices change?
Becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly does come at a price, especially for small businesses. We don't have the capability of buying fabric and supplies in huge quantities, so our costs go up for lower minimums. It is also important to understand that Tencel is a more expensive and high-end fabric than cotton.
We are going to be working with one seamstress instead of a factory. We want to pay her above a good living wage at $17 an hour. With our increased costs for supplies, fabric, wages, and overall production, we will have to also raise our prices. However, we plan to keep our profit margins low so we can offer the best prices possible.
This is slow fashion, and each piece is an investment. We believe it’s always worth prioritizing quality over quantity. Our quality standards are increasing significantly with these changes.
An exciting future for akasha sun
Most of all, we love what this means for our brand. We are opening the door to SO many possibilities. We will be able to create new styles and change styles whenever we want to. We can do more consistent drops with new styles and colorways. You will be able to confidently say your clothing was handmade and hand-dyed with love and care. Basically, we are truly slowing down our fashion more than ever, and we feel it's the best decision we have made yet. I hope you are as excited as we are for what's next!
If you are interested in being a part of this community to change the fashion industry and strive for better, you can apply to be a brand ambassador here.
Thank you so much for being here on this journey with us. I seriously wouldn't have the confidence to do this without all of your encouragement.
Sending you so much love and gratitude.