Sunday, December 26, 2010

High waisters

I have been looking for jeans like this for years and am a bit crazed to find them before Jan. 1st (when I enter the no fashion purchases for a year experiment). Its been a challenge to find well made, high waisters in the land of jeggings and low rises. I also happen to be looking for denim with minimal washing, no embroidery or crystals, mid-weight and minimal stretch.

The other things I have been panicked to purchase but haven't actually purchased yet are socks, tights, lingerie, and shirts/blouses. Thus far I have only purchased those super cute (hopefully not man repellent) lace up corset no. 6 clogs for spring summer and I want some cute cotton socks to wear as option two, in addition to red toes (to potentially counter act the man repellentness).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do You Love What You Wear?

So work slowed up and for the first time in 10 months, I left the office early to meet Tara St. James at a Stoll seminar on Life Cycle Analysis (much to my surprise, not the cradle to cradle kind, more the trend kind?) and was free to play around 5:30! Tara stepped in as, Cruise Director and activity no. 1 was a Wear Your Love party thrown by founders Anna Schori and Sofia Hedstrom.
way of reminding people to value and cherish their clothes. With various collaborators we host Wear Your Love parties in the US and Europe where we invite guests to tell us their personal memories attached to their inherited coats, party dresses and band t-shirts. In the romantic light of our photo boot we document the love. If you can’t make it to our next party we hope you can share your love by sending in your story and a picture to us. Wear Your Love – respect your clothes by remembering their story.
In the first decade of the 21st century we have consumed clothes like fast food, stuffing our groaning wardrobes like sartorial gluttons, but with every trendy new garment that ended up hanging unused in the closet we lost some clothing common sense.

Tara brought to my attention that Sophia had actually spent the last year abstaining from making any fashion purchases and it all seems fuzzy now but, I suggested we do the same??? So we are. Starting January 1.

Ecouterre: Ask a Designer

How can eco-designers stay profitable while advocating slow fashion?

It’s tough but not impossible and definitely more rewarding. The key is this, you have to be equally, if not more creative in designing your business model as your collection or product.

I have always said my biggest challenge wasn't that of being a sustainable designer, it was managing cash flow. The fashion industry, if you work within a conventional business model is a challenge, period. Seasons overlap; you are developing one season at the same time you have to pay production balances to your factories and collect from your customers for the season prior. If you don't have a nice chunk of change in your bank to self finance your development a year in advance, you are waiting for your customers to pay, which doesn't always arrive in time to pay for your production or arrive at all. This cash pickle has nothing to do with sustainable design and everything to do with the fashion calendar, credit availability, market interest rates and your retailer's financial health and/or your relationship with them.

The reality of a global economy makes sourcing "sustainable" materials and production an act of moral and financial gambling. A practice that requires an independent designer to bust out their own moral compass and make calculated and informed decisions, provide transparency and an explanation of the many gray areas to educate consumers.

Having said that, designers CAN design their own business models. Models that work better for them, the needs of the stakeholders and the development and production of their products or collections. This is where designers can really stand out, innovate and get an edge. There are pioneers doing just that, including Alabama Chanin, Tom Ford, Bonobos, Dosa and Patagonia. These are just a few examples.

I earned a degree in business before I studied fashion at CCA and I like to collect business models as a hobby. As part of this pursuit and my collective industry experience, I have compiled a list of eleven factors that I have deduced increase the likelihood of financial sustainability and the success of a business. These eleven factors are not absolutes but rather common themes I have found in brands with staying power, growing companies that are surviving the economic recession and common errors I have witnessed among new entrepreneurs.

1) Rethink success: for the past decade or more the end goal of many fashion brands was growth and often growth through a public offering. Public companies, for the sake of quick quarterly growth tend to sacrifice good design. Getting the maximum amount of goods out the door is the main objective. Often innovative, thoughtful, sustainable design requires a longer development process because it is new and requires time to problem solve and or craft. However, Private vs. Public ownership allows for more control, innovation over time, natural growth and the benefits of success returned to stakeholders rather than shareholders.

2) Triple bottom line business models focus on environmental, social and financial sustainability as opposed to conventional models that focus on growth and/or profit only. Often companies neglect to see the opportunities to provide solutions to social needs via equitable for profit business models.

3) Think vertical. Own or develop a partnership with most or the key parts of the supply chain, including, production, retail outlets, ecommerce, etc. One of the biggest challenges is getting everyone within the supply chain in sync. For example, farmers need to know market demand for organic cotton at planting time, which is typically 8 months prior to sales market for fashion. I've always believed we need a CSA (community supported agriculture) inspired system with cotton farmers. Today, with global cotton shortages it might be the only way that smaller companies can secure cotton and have it available when they need it. The largest global retailers buy up the entire supply. In addition, everyone is tightening his or her belts. Factories demand longer lead times, higher prices and larger orders. Retailers demand shorter lead times, lower prices and place smaller orders. The designer is often left in the middle with out much control and all of the risk.

4) Family funding or other equally invested/aligned partnerships are like winning the lottery. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is going into business under-capitalized and or hastily choose partners. The healthiest companies I have seen have partners with different and complimentary strengths. There is someone who designs; another who manages the business and they share a long-term vision. You may be talented enough to do both but at a certain point there are not enough hours in the day to design and manage well. Those designers that have really won the lottery, partner with someone who is established in textiles manufacturing and/or garment manufacturing. See #2.

5) Grow your business through equity vs. debt. Some short-term debt against sales is good and necessary to leverage production but not always available and often expensive. Re-invest profits as much as you can. Taking loans out for reasons other than to pay for production based on hard orders is a high stakes gamble.

6) Don't underestimate the power of scarcity of product. If demand is greater than supply and you are still making a profit that is the good news. You’ll get there.

7) Become best friends with Quickbooks. Seriously. Know what is going on in your business, it will help you make good decisions and prevent disaster.

8) Have a genuine Story and/or "heritage". There is so much stuff out there, designers need to connect and develop relationships with customers rather than chase consumers. Customers (as opposed to consumers) bond with a brand and they come back season after season. One way to do so is to develop a unique process and tell the story about the people behind the scenes, the people making and maybe crafting your product. I think the Craftspeople, the Makers are the next “celebrities” because Americans don't know how to make anymore. The momentum is already there as seen in popular tv shows that give you a glimpse of behind the scenes production like Top Chef or Project Runway. Do not make something up, it’s not very satisfying and transparency will be asked of you.

9) Design timeless pieces and don’t reinvent the wheel every season. This not only cuts down on development costs but also makes a brand more identifiable and reliable. People fall in love with a well-designed piece, wear it beyond a season, tell their friends and come back looking for more.

10) Don’t overspend on marketing/PR expenditures. Although press can give the illusion of success there is not necessarily a direct relationship between press and sales. There are many creative ways to generate a press following but more importantly you need a customer following. Focus on making great, unique products that sell and the press will find you.

11) Live within your means, it’s much more pleasant than living in debt. Do not count the money until it is in the bank and the check has cleared, you just never know what might happen along the way.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Dave Cole, "The Money Dress," (Detail of dollar bill fabric), approximately one-thousand one dollar bills cut into continuous strips and knit together in the pattern of a Vera Wang evening gown, 2006.

Slow Money Principles include:
I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down -- not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food (or may I suggest small fashion) enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living. (amen.)

VI. Paul Newman said, "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out." Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:

* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits? (or what if they didn't have to b/c companies served legitimate human needs without exploiting humans and at an expensive to the earth.)
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?



Its always a challenge to define "slow fashion" and I am constantly working on my "elevator speech". I think this manifesto, though not quite elevator speech length, does a really good job explaining the environmental, social, cultural and aesthetic motivation for slowing down fashion.
I would like to add as a designer and a craftsperson, it much more rewarding. There is a human instinct to do a good job well for its own sake, to nourish the head and heart with work of hand.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fashion Tries on Zero Waste Design


You must click the link in the title of this post and read the article now.
The fact that a discussion about Zero Waste Design has made it to the NY Times is mind blowing to me (in a good way).
I am beyond excited for Timo and as a member of the Loomstate team, very excited to be working on this collaboration. Stay tuned for updates.

Here's a clip.
YOU wear organic T-shirts. You hang your clothes to dry. You recycle your unloved suits and dresses.

But frankly, that’s just the tip of the green iceberg.

Today’s truly fashion-forward have a more radical ambition: zero waste.

That may sound more like an indie band than an environmental aspiration, but it’s a new focus of top fashion schools.

Zero-waste design strives to create clothing patterns that leave not so much as a scrap of fabric on the cutting room floor. This is not some wacky avant-garde exercise; it’s a way to eliminate millions of tons of garbage a year. Apparel industry professionals say that about 15 to 20 percent of the fabric used to produce clothing winds up in the nation’s landfills because it’s cheaper to dump the scraps than to recycle them.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Moth Love

Portland sustainable fashion designer Gretchen Jones of MothLove, won the first challenge on Project Runway's Season 8.
"I always want to be fashion first. I want you to purchase me because I'm an amazing brand that just happens to be green."

Manuals, Certifications, Standards

I cannot tell you how many times I've received or overheard requests from companies or customers looking for a step-by-step guide to Sustainability.

Unfortunately, though, "We" cannot give you a universal, detailed manual for Sustainability—and here are some reasons why:

1) Sustainability is more than an organic certification or a third party fair labor certification. It's a way of thinking. It's continuously asking, is this action, material, process etc. sustainable for everyone including mother earth?

2) "We" are still figuring it out. Give us a second. This revolution involves a lot of people, a lot of materials, a lot of products, a lot of grey areas. Problem solving and finding real solutions takes time. Time to test and time to refine.

3) Not everything can, needs to or will be certified organic. For example, alpaca. My friend Tamara owns a knitwear company Kusikuy.
KUSIKUY alpaca fleece is sourced from free range alpacas that graze in small herds on the natural native grasses of Bolivia's Andes Mountains. They are cared for humanely, allowed to roam freely up mountainsides and then gently led back to family farms where they are corralled and tended to for a short period of time before being left to wander free again. Alpacas are valuable because they produce fine quality fiber throughout their entire life. They are deeply honored in the Andean tradition.
Nothing Kusikuy produces is certified organic. But is Kusikuy's Alpaca any less sustainable than, say, organic cotton? Cotton production requires large amounts of water (often irrigated), lots of washing and drying and is often made into disposable tee shirts?

4) Sustianability is not one size fits all. What works for Wal-mart may not work for a small to medium American fashion designer.

Instead of a manual, you have to continuously be a detective/student and bust out your own moral compass.

For the record, I'm not saying that there aren't a good number of cool/reliable/helpful organizations already doing really great stuff to promote sustainability. Take Transfair, which sets standards for fair trade and labor, or Oeko-Tex, a leader in textile certification. Both are great partners and have great tools for companies striving to achieve social and environmental sustainability.

I am especially excited for Source4Style (in BETA) a,
(B2B) online marketplace that allows designers and retail sourcing specialists to search, compare and purchase more sustainable materials from a growing network of global suppliers.
Summer Rayne Oakes, a co-founder, is the first tell you they are not claiming to be the "moral authority", they are simply a vehicle to provide transparency along the supply chain so you can make your own educated decisions.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The main goal of the Textile Arts Center is to provide support to fiber artists, and everyday people interested in working with fiber, by acting as a resource facility and creative meeting place.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

RIP Carol Sedestrom Ross:

The below tid bit of an interview with Carol is taken from HAND/EYE magazine.
I love what she say about Push vs. Pull movements.
-It gives me hope that the demand for well-crafted garments will grow.
-Supports my complicated beliefs about green marketing.

Carol Sedestrom Ross: The Arts and Crafts Movement eventually died in the US, I think because the public was not particularly interested in handmade things. It was the first time in history that you could buy mass produced things and use them and throw them away and get more of them. I think that artists are always the first to respond to social change so it doesn't surprise me that Charles Rennie Macintosh and William Morris and other artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement were the ones saying:" Wait, wait, we can make these things, too". But nobody was paying any attention to them, we do now but not then. That was a "pushed movement" then, in marketing terms, the artists were trying to push their ideas onto other people. What is happening now is what is called a "pulled" movement because the public is very tired of mass produced things and prefers handmade so it is pulling the movement forward. There is now a huge appetite for craft in the US. I heard a lecture last Friday by John Naisbit who wrote Megatrends. He is most famous for his "high tech, high touch" concept, that is, the more technology we have in our lives the more things we need to touch to remind ourselves that we are human. It was the industrial revolution which started the craft movement and now it is the technological revolution 100 years later that is really pulling it forward.

Jo Litson: The more time people spend with their computers the more they need the other side.

Monday, April 26, 2010

1 of 200.

We are at a point in history with a unique opportunity to create new sustainable economic models, businesses, and lives. I imagine an explosion of economic solutions where the powerful force of entrepreneurship is mobilized for eco-preservation and social enrichment. As part of the fashion community, I hope for increased awareness that we do not work in isolation, we are part of a process and aesthetics is only one part. Good design includes creating a production model where everyone in the process is nourished, including the earth. Within this model, we might then deliver beautifully crafted garments, that potentially serve a lifetime.
-Caroline Priebe 11.15.09


1. Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher

2. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

3. Developing Power: How Women Transformed International Development editted by Arvonne Fraser and Irene Tinker

4. Cradle to Cradle by McDonough and Braungart

5. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz


Caroline Skelton Priebe founded fashion label ULURU in Brooklyn, July 2004 based on "slow fashion" design principles. She also co-founded the 5 in 1 designer retail collaborative in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the hotbed progressive American design and craft. In addition to operating and designing ULURU, Caroline is a stylist, image consultant, sustainable design and business model expert and a certified Martha Beck life coach. She is currently writing a book titled, The Collection, an introduction to "slow fashion", an investigation into garment communication and how building one's own personal "collection" can accurately speak your truth.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sustainable Exchange: Methods and Practices for Collaborative Partnerships







Sustainable Exchange: Methods and Practices for Collaborative Partnerships is an exhibition shedding light on the possibilities and versatility of sustainable consumption, production and business within our local and global community. Through the presentations of six local artists and designers, we hope to inspire and be inspired by our local community, bringing people closer and more connected with the things they own and more allied within the shared networks where they live and work. The artists will occupy TODA design studio for 4 days, creating an open platform for sharing, exchange, coexistence, alternative teaching and learning. Sustainable Exchange will showcase thought-provoking art and design and will be an experimental laboratory where communal ideals, practices and methods can be shared and exchanged to collectively grow the sustainable movement. Please join us for our workshops and open gallery hours, 12-6pm daily.




In crochets early days, it was considered a pastime of the upper class, whereby they could create delicate and detailed items to decorate their homes or their clothing. Now this portable practice is popular amongst all ages and skill levels. Join Eko-Lab for a gathering of creative crocheting for beginners. You will learn the basic crochet stitches and how you can put them together to make different patterns using solely your fingers as hooks. The workshop will be instructed by Eko-lab’s master crocheter Xing-Zhen Chung-Hilyard (XZ). Materials are generously provided by Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool and Swans Island, but feel free to bring your own fingers.



In this workshop you will learn and experiment with natural dyes. Synthetic dyes are harmful for the environment replacing them with earth friendly natural dyes that are made from flowers, trees, fruits, vegetables, spices and teas can give a range of colors and are a beautiful alternative. Bring a garment or a piece of fabric that is a natural material (ie. silk or cotton) and we will show you how to dye using simple practices that can easily be replicated in your own kitchen. The dyes involved will be turmeric spice (yellow), smoked tea (grey), and madder root (red). Attend the Eko-Lab beginners crochet workshop and bring your new crochet piece in for dyeing!



This experimental workshop will introduce participants to the art of fashion illustration and mixed medium collage. Experimental artists Susan Cianciolo will introduce the varied techniques of drawing from a live figure as well as encourage the use of paints, chalks, pencils, and inks to develop ones personal style. Immediately following the drawing workshop, both instructors will introduce the art of collage using their newly created fashion illustrations, papers, tapes, glues and other miscellaneous materials. Participants are encouraged to bring and work within their own sketchbooks. Materials will be provided but attendees are welcome to bring their own.



This seminar will focus on the possibilities of starting and operating a sustainable business within the art and design world. The methods and practices discussed in this open forum are versatile and can be applied to many fields and various industries.



Using food obtained through CSA baskets and local farmers, Anne Apparu, an acclaimed sustainable foods chef, will prepare an extraordinary meal and offer cooking demonstrations using natural ingredients and lots of love. This all day event will celebrate slow and seasonal cooking. Please join us for open discussions, good food, and good people. All are welcome, bring something to share and watch it transform into a delectable dish.