The Lighthouse top in Ace & Jig's black Geo fabric. Photos courtesy of Ace & Jig

Holy Geo! The Making of Ace & Jig’s Most Striking Fall Pattern

Ace & Jig’s clothing is effortless, seasonless and amazingly comfortable. But if we had to summarize the brand’s magic in a word, it would be karma. Designers Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson pour an incredible amount of thought and love into their custom textiles, and that devotion comes right back at them in the form of an intensely loyal customer base.

In a recent email, the designers offered a glimpse at the making of their stunning Geo fabric, which they created in two colorways for fall 2015. Here’s what they revealed about the process behind the pattern.

The Inspo

ethica antique overshot coverlet ace jig geo pattern

Photos: greens_antiques on eBay.

The black and natural versions of Ace & Jig’s Geo fabric were inspired by antique American coverlets from the mid-1800s. For any seriously obsessed fans out there who might want an original overshot quilt to match the brand’s sartorial adaptation, head over to eBay STAT. We happened to stumble upon the reversible quilt pictured above, and both patterns look to be nearly identical matches for the striking textile that everyone’s obsessing over this season.

The Process

ace and jig loom

Ace & Jig fabrics are made in India, where a color specialist described as “something of a magician” by the designers dyes the raw natural fibers by hand. The yarns dry out in the sun before being loaded into antique handlooms. The rest of the process relies on the skill of the weavers, who deftly use their hands and a foot treadle to work the ancient looms and create the intricate patterns we all love so much.

The Design

making of ace and jig geo fabric

“The square motif in our Geo fabric is known as a ‘Lover’s Chain,’” Vaughan and Wilson note, adding that the fabric is “a 100 percent cotton double-cloth.” Some trivia: Each side of the two-ply fabric is identical to the other because both layers of the textile are woven simultaneously.

The Results

ace and jig fall 2015 geo pattern
We can’t say enough about these gorgeous, geometric compositions of black, red and ecru. The designers, though, say it’s the tactile appeal of their two-ply fabric that adds a special touch: “The doublecloth weave lends this textile an heirloom hand and feel.”

September 28, 2015
Brother Vellies SS16. Photo: Kat Slootsky for Ravelin

The Top Ethical Shoe Moments From New York Fashion Week

In the overwhelming frenzy that is Fashion Week, it can be hard enough to keep up, let alone appreciate the little things in life (read: shoes). But ethical brands really brought it for spring 2016, wowing us with fairly made footwear that emphasized artisanal techniques. From feathered gladiators to fringed slide sandals, click through the slideshow to see the standout styles.

September 19, 2015
Upstate x Jill Lindsey fringed throw blankets, made by artisans in Nicaragua.

11 Sustainable Fashion Designers Who Should Also Outfit Your Home

It happens–sometimes an article of clothing seems too darn gorgeous to be stowed away behind closet doors. But for those of us who find garment-rack closets or Coveteur-like surroundings a bit impractical IRL, it’s a good thing that several of our favorite sustainable fashion brands are now dabbling in interior design, too.

Producing home goods provides a respite from “the (short!) fashion schedule,” says Ellen Van Dusen, who unveiled her debut line of bedding, bath and home accessories this spring. “In this first collection, I brought back some of my favorite prints from past seasons, which was really nice because I was able to extend their lifespan,” she told Sight Unseen.

Whether your pad could use some new pillows, a wall lamp or a hanging flower pot, look to the same designers who are leading the way in responsible fashion to bring sustainable style into your home.

ace jig pillow gridlock
1. Ace & Jig
Considering the painstaking process behind Ace & Jig’s custom textiles (not to mention the cult-like devotion they inspire), it would be a shame to let a single scrap go unused. But wastefulness would be uncharacteristic of designers Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson, whose Bazaar line of home goods expertly mixes and matches the duo’s greatest fabric hits in the form of patched pillows, double-cloth quilts and their popular “flags”–oversize fabric swatches strung together to create playful banners.

shabd tea towel
2. Shabd
Our Instagram pals might remember Shabd Simon-Alexander’s Earth Day upcycling project, in which the fashion designer and textile artist worked some of her tie-dye skills on customers’ used bedding. Simon-Alexander treated old sheets and pillowcases to colorful makeovers, later returning them to their owners as more “magical, colorful” versions of their former selves. Though that service is no longer on offer, the Shabd shop is still stocked with pillows, napkins, throws and tea towels created by the woman who taught Martha Stewart how to tie-dye (true story!).

dusen dusen home collection
3. Dusen Dusen
The decorative potential in Ellen Van Dusen’s colorful prints is off the charts, and it’s something she clearly knows. “I like the scale of these kinds of items, their longevity in a home, and the idea of creating a space full of color and pattern,” she says. Among the towels, throws, rugs, bedding and poufs in Dusen Dusen’s debut home line (which launched on its webshop this month), loyalists will recognize the label’s signatures scribbles, geometric patterns and distinctive Alphabet print.

ethica upstate blankets
4. Upstate
In a few short years, Kalen Kaminski’s collection of shibori scarves has grown into an incredible range of Vogue-approved clothing, plus home decor items like floor pillows, table runners and organic cotton duvet covers. This summer, Kaminski partnered with Brooklyn boutique owner Jill Lindsey on an exceptionally cool blanket collab. Made by artisans in Nicaragua using locally sourced materials, the fringed throws are woven on 90-year-old looms, then dyed by hand in NYC.

under the canopy blankets
5. Under the Canopy
Most chemicals are absorbed through the skin, which is a big reason that Under the Canopy is committed to safe, sustainable textiles–if you don’t want toxic pesticides or carcinogenic chemicals on your clothes, you probably don’t want them on your sheets and towels either. Our go-to brand for GOTS-certified, organic-cotton basics has a bedding and bath collection that reflects the same sensibilities: classic and neutral colors, pure materials, functional design, plus some fun mixed in via printed and embellished pillows.

ethica proud mary huipile pillows
6. Proud Mary
After finding inspiration in both the indigenous peoples and brightly colored textiles of South America, Charlestonian Harper Poe channeled her design talent into global artisan collaborations aimed at craft preservation. If there’s anything we could possibly covet more than Proud Mary’s recycled-denim sandals or Lesotho-made ponchos and vests, it’s the brand’s indigo blankets from Mali and huipile pillows from Guatemala–both the embodiment of an aesthetic Poe calls “ethnic modern.”

indego africa
7. Indego Africa
Indego Africa has a two-prong approach to breaking the cycle of poverty in Rwanda: selling handcrafted pieces made by female artisans, and investing that income into education programs for those same women. The nonprofit has created jewelry and accessories for the likes of Madewell and Nicole Miller, and its home offerings are just as compelling. Think wooden bowls and woven baskets, drinking glasses made from upcycled cow horn, and even embroidered art.

tara st james study ny quilts
8. Study
Study’s Tara St. James took the runner-up slot in last year’s CFDA / Lexus Eco Fashion Challenge for the many ways she advances ethical and sustainable fashion. Among those contributions? Her commitment to zero-waste. One of the ways St. James keeps her excess fabric cuttings from ending up in landfills is by turning the pieces into hand-stitched patchwork quilts. Study has even collaborated with likeminded brands Fait la Force and Osei-Duro on some quilts, thereby salvaging some of their textile surplus also.

ethica bohemia wooden spoons
9. Bohemia
Bohemia’s clothing has a free-spirited flair worthy of its name. The aesthetic carries over to the Scottish brand’s collection of bold home accessories, but it’s expressed with more restraint: look for fringed hammam towels made by artisans in Turkey, canvas storage pots that were block-printed in Rajasthan, and pom pom pillows and blankets handloomed by Moroccan weavers. If your inclinations are more minimalist, look to the surprisingly spare line of kitchen utensils, carved in Marrakech from unvarnished wood.

ivana helsinki lamps
10. Ivana Helsinki
Did you ever have a dress you loved so much you wanted to turn it into a lamp? The quirky thought occurred to Ivana Helsinki designer Paola Suhonen–a tireless creative collaborator who’s previously teamed up with everyone from Volvo to snowboard brands. This time around, she worked with Finnish lighting company e.lite on a group of floor, table and ceiling lamps featuring prints from her past collections. It’s mood lighting on a whole new level.

ethica carleen quilt pillow
11. Carleen
In the darkest days of winter, few things feel more precious than an insulated layering piece à la Kelsy Parkhouse, who sources reclaimed vintage quilts and turns them into one-of-a-kind, borderline-magical vests and coats. Once the fabric for the vests and coats has been cut, there are leftover pieces that are too small to turn into outerwear. Voilà: Carleen quilt pillows, which even ring in at under $100.

September 09, 2015
Angela Tsai’s multi-tasking design, worn as a turban. Photo courtesy of Mamachic

Motherhood Inspired Me to Design the Most Versatile Garment You’ll Ever Own

Holding my two children close at night makes my world, ironically, much larger. I constantly wonder, what are they touching, eating, breathing? And in the weary whirlwind of new motherhood, I often think, am I still beautiful? I want to be the best mama for them, to keep them safe and healthy while staying true to who I was before they turned my world wildly upside down.

It’s an incredible balancing act. To a new mother, the earth can seem complex, overwhelming, even discouraging. So with my company, Mamachic Co., I set out to inspire and simplify life for women like me.

I created a garment that both lessens the everyday load for a mama (it can be used as a nursing cover, burp cloth or swaddle blanket) and keeps her self-confidence growing (there are at least 25 ways to style it). Versatility, sustainability and, yes, beauty drive Mamachic.

Video: 15 Ways to Wear the Mamachic Scarf

We source renewable resources like bamboo to create our fabric; we keep our carbon footprint low by choosing eco-friendly vendors within an 80-mile radius of our sew shop; and we proudly manufacture in the U.S.A., at a worker-owned cooperative that pays living wages and gives back to its community. These small but important choices give me peace of mind for my kids’ future–and yours.

Mamachic scarves launched this week on P.S. We’re pretty sure this new-mom must-have will go over well with minimalists and travelers, too.

September 05, 2015
Styling by Victoria Lee Case and photography by Tracy Toler-Phillips

Thoughtfully Magazine’s Gorgeous Ethical Fashion Shoot in Central Park

If this photograph makes you want to run bikini-clad through Central Park with our exquisite Aish scarf trailing behind you, all we can say is: us too! At the very least, this stunning shot should make you want to pick up a copy of Thoughtfully Magazine, where all of the fashion spreads feature nontoxic makeup and ethically made clothing.

The scarf pictured here was made by artisans in Bengal using a 2,000-year-old weaving technique called jamdani. And to our delight, several more Ethica items–including styles by Ace & Jig, Etnia Barcelona, A Peace Treaty and Merchant Society–are showcased in this summer fashion story.

Sneak a peek at more of the looks on Thoughtfully’s blog, and pick up Issue 3 to see the full feature.

August 19, 2015
Fashion consultant Julie Gilhart wearing Suno. Photo via

4 Surprising Statements Julie Gilhart Just Made About Sustainable Fashion

If any group reveres Julie Gilhart more than the luxury fashion industry, it’s the sustainable fashion industry.

During her 18-year tenure as VP and fashion director of Barneys New York, Gilhart used her vaunted position to promote a more principled approach to apparel production, and she lent important support to ethical labels including Loomstate, Alabama Chanin and Organic by John Patrick. In 2008, she even challenged the likes of Martin Margiela, Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren to create sustainable looks for an in-store fashion show–the first time, according to Gilhart, that many of the participants were tasked with incorporating environmental considerations into their design process.

Speaking with the sustainable design publication Ever Manifesto last year, Gilhart said it was the exorbitant cost of a Parisian couture show that woke her up to the excesses of the fashion world.

“Someone told me it cost over a million dollars to produce,” Gilhart said of the show. “At the time, there were an increasing amount of discussions happening on the negative impact that we were having on the planet. Poverty, especially in certain regions of Africa where food and water were scarce, was a hot topic in the news. I was looking at the clothes–none of which were available for sale, as everything was based on fantasy–and all of a sudden it did not make sense for me. It was a moment of change for how I would do and see things.”

Since parting ways with Barneys in 2010, Gilhart has worked as a fashion consultant, counseling brands and conglomerates on sustainability strategies, as well as helping Amazon hone its approach to luxury retail. This month, she and friend Simon Collins, former dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons, launched the first of what may become a monthly event series called Fashion Garage, during which the two dispensed free advice to anyone seeking it.

“I was surprised at the questions that came in terms of responsibility and sustainability. We had a lot of people asking about how you can incorporate that into what one is doing,” Gilhart told Redef in a lengthy interview following the event. “That surprised me, but also made me really excited because it’s a platform I do love to explore.”

fashion garage

Gilhart and Collins during the inaugural Fashion Garage. Photo via

As always, Gilhart's views on sustainable fashion are nuanced and insightful. Here are four things, ranging from encouraging to eyebrow-raising, that she said to Redef on the subject.

1. Customers do–or will–care.
“If you’re in the fashion business, you do one of two things: you follow trends, or you pick up on energy and you create energy. I think that sustainability–or responsibility, or ethics, or whatever you call it–is an emerging trend that does have energy. You have to pay attention to it.”

2. This movement is in the hands of small brands.
“There are three things you can really look at [in creating a sustainable brand]: What is your supply chain? What are your materials? And how and where do you produce–who’s actually making it? When you’re big and already have a developed business, it’s really hard to go back and re-do. If you’re small, it’s easier to build.

“Sometimes it seems more costly, so you have to examine it. The first step is to be conscious and aware of where you are right now and start to chip away at it. If you think you’re going to build the Pyramids, it seems impossible. But if you start with one stone, eventually you’ll get the Pyramids built.”

3. Ethical fast fashion is not an oxymoron.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the bad things. Take fast fashion. Everybody bashes fast fashion. In my dreams, I would love to see a fast fashion brand that’s made well, that has a proper supply chain, that uses great materials. That pays homage to the human part of it, to the labour. I think it’s possible.

“We need to look at the way the world is now–pretty soon we’re going to have nine billion people on this planet. That’s a lot of people to clothe. We still need to push ways of rethinking the way we buy and use clothes. It’s going to take a lot of changing consumer behavior, and we all know that behavior is hard to change. We need to chip away at that, but we also need to accept the fact that fast fashion will probably exist–so let’s make it better. You can still be a profitable business and be a responsible business.”

4. It may be investors, not consumers, who ultimately bring about change.
“The other thing about sustainability that I think is very interesting is the investor scene. We’ve seen the tragedies that can come from not doing things in the right way–for example, Rana Plaza, where over a thousand people were killed. So, what does that say if I’m an investor? I want to invest in something that’s pretty much risk-free, [and] we’re seeing how risky not being sustainable can be.”

Gilhart also shared her take on whether fashion designers are overworked, why breaking into fashion is easier today than ever before and plenty more. Read the interview in its entirety on Redef.

August 15, 2015
A film still from The True Cost featuring a Bangladeshi garment worker and her daughter.

If You Wear Clothes, You Need to Watch “The True Cost”

The importance of ethical and sustainable fashion can’t be explained in a soundbyte. It’s an impossibly complex question that, nonetheless, I often find myself fielding in settings that demand a five-minute answer. (Raise your hand if you want to talk child labor or cancer-causing chemicals at a cocktail party.)

Since May 29th, I’ve finally had a digestible but honest response to this query: If you truly want to understand the tangible, staggering ways that the fashion industry negatively impacts the environment and people around the world, set aside 92 minutes and watch The True Cost.

Available on Netflix starting today, this documentary is a compelling crash course on the problems with the modern-day fashion industry–from the health risks that genetically modified cotton seeds pose to communities right here in America, to the unimaginable working conditions endured by the world’s 40 million (primarily female) garment workers, to what’s happening to the 70 lbs. of clothing each of us is tossing every year. 

ethica the true cost landfill

The True Cost reveals what happens to the clothes we donate or discard.

Spoiler: It’s not pretty. It’s a daunting, emotionally draining subject, and this film doesn’t sugarcoat it. To be honest, as much as I’d been looking forward to the release of this film and the arrival of my Kickstarter reward for backing the project, I waited several weeks from the time I received my DVD before I sat down and watched it. Even though I think about these issues every day, I was expecting this movie to make me upset–and it did. I expected to feel frustrated, and for all of the collective progress we’ve made on this front in recent years to seem small. Check, check.

What it did not make me feel, however, was hopeless. In fact, my most important takeaway from this documentary was a reminder of how very fixable this problem is.

Building on the frequent comparison between slow fashion and slow food, Paste Magazine likens The True Cost to Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary, Super Size Me. Aside from being apt, the analogy offers reasons to be hopeful: Fortune recently reported that, as shoppers have shifted their support toward small, local and responsible producers, the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies have lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share since 2009. It’s an impact that has prompted Big Food to change the way it does business.

In 2015 alone, Kraft Foods removed synthetic colors and artificial preservatives from its mac and cheese; General Mills cut sugar content in Yoplait yogurt by 25 percent and made Cheerios GMO-free; Hershey promised to have “clean labels” (i.e., simple ingredients) for its signature Kisses by the end of the year; and both Tyson and McDonald’s stopped selling chicken treated with human antibiotics.

It’s real change driven by consumers who sought, and found, alternatives to the status quo. And it’s change that, perhaps in part, began with a movie.

Learn more about The True Costat

July 17, 2015
Meet Your New Role Models: 5 Insanely Inspiring Eco Activists

Meet Your New Role Models: 5 Insanely Inspiring Eco Activists

Those connected to the global green scene may have noticed some familiar names in Under the Canopy’s debut collection: many of the styles are named after women who are using a diverse set of talents–from writing to racecar driving–to champion sustainability around the world.

“All of these women are game-changers–people who are doing really great work around this movement,” says Under the Canopy founder Marci Zaroff, who herself has been promoting sustainable fashion for the past two decades. The sartorial tribute, she explains, is about “celebrating women who are rising to the occasion, who are saying ‘Let’s all be the change we wish to see in the world.’”

Below, Zaroff introduces us to five of these female leaders and their mega-inspiring work.

1. Leilani Münter, racecar driver

Leilani Munter

Photo by Phil Cavali

Leilani Münter is a force to be reckoned with. She is one of the leading female NASCAR drivers in history, and she only drives cars powered by renewable energy. I actually got to watch her in a race where she partnered with The Solutions Project, which Mark Ruffalo started. He hosted an event where she raced a solar-powered car–it was just unbelievable. She has a huge following. NASCAR is actually the number one spectator sport in America, so the impact she has, and her platform to create awareness around green, is really powerful.

2. Greta Eagan, blogger, stylist and author

Greta Eagan


Greta Eagan has been a powerful force of awareness with her amazing Fashion Me Green blog. An eco-stylist, model and writer of Wear No Evil: How to Change the World With Your Wardrobe, Greta truly walks the talk and is the embodiment of eco-chic beauty.

3. Erin Schrode, speaker and entrepreneur

Erin Schrode


Erin Schrode is a rising star like you’ve never met. When she was 13 years old, she started an organization called Teens Turning Green, which has now turned into tens of thousands of high school and college kids all over the country that are educating their peers around the green movement in food, in fashion and in lifestyle. They recently changed the name to just Turning Green because Erin and the first generation of this organization are now in their early 20s, but she’s still out there traveling the world as a young green leader.

4. Starre Vartan, author and blogger

Starre Vartan


Starre Vartan, founder and editor of Eco-Chick, was one of the early bloggers and writers around the eco-fashion space. She has been out there building content and educating people. Education has always been a really important propellant in driving this movement forward, so I applaud her work.

5. Zoe Helene, artist and environmental activist

Zoe Helene

Photo by Tracy Eller

Zoe Helene started an organization called Cosmic Sister, where she’s connected women from all different sectors. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so as we all come together and share our collective voices, we’re stronger together than apart. She’s also been a leading voice among women within the natural products industry, and she is doing some great work in the plant world too, in terms of recognizing the symbiotic relationship that humanity and the plant kingdom have.

July 12, 2015
Photos courtesy of Marci Zaroff

Meet the Woman Who Literally Invented Eco-Fashion

The word “pioneer” often precedes Marci Zaroff’s name, but the term hardly begins to cover it. For the last two decades, Zaroff has been tirelessly advocating for sustainability in textiles and fashion–launching Under the Canopy, one of the world’s first sustainable lifestyle brands, in 1996; playing a key role in defining the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) in 2002; working with the likes of Whole Foods, Macy’s and Target to introduce organic-fiber products into stores nationwide; and helping Fair Trade USA develop its first textile certification. She has also executive produced a sustainable fashion documentary, Thread, and is a public speaker who's previously shared a stage with Al Gore. She is, in other words, a total #girlboss.

This year, Under the Canopy expanded from home goods into a full line of GOTS-certified organic clothing. Available online exclusively at Ethica, the collection of loungewear and wardrobe basics has already been spotted on the likes of actress Alysia Reiner and TV personalities Catt Sadler and Louise Roe. We spoke to Zaroff about her 20-year journey to make sustainable fashion a reality.

Under the Canopy organic cotton Greta tee

An organic cotton V-neck tee by Under the Canopy.

You created and trademarked the term eco-fashion in 1995. Whats surprised you about the way the industry has evolved over the past 20 years? What’s surprised me most is how long it took to take root. The outdoor apparel industry got it so much faster, and I think that’s because of that sector’s connection to the environment. But fashion has such great storytelling cachet that I thought eco-fashion would’ve gained momentum much sooner. A lot of early pioneers–talented people–just couldn’t withstand that timeline and ended up dropping out of the space.

While the eco-fashion movement was picking up steam in the outdoor space, the fast fashion movement was picking up steam in the fashion space, which was the antithesis. We almost had to get to an extreme for the fashion industry to wake up and embrace the change. I think that’s what happened, and Rana Plaza was a big catalyst for this.

Louise Roe workout leggings

Louise Roe wearing Under the Canopys Molly leggings. Photo:

Do you believe that we’re approaching the tipping point for ethical and sustainable fashion? Is there anything about this moment in time that feels different from where this movement has been in the past? A thousand percent. The Internet and the digital world have changed the game. People are longing for storytelling and connection, and the timing has never been better in terms of leveraging social media as a wildfire tool to educate.

That’s always been the missing link: education. There are all these different spokes on the wheel of eco-fashion, whether you’re talking about organic products or fair trade, or ethically made items or minimizing impacts–whichever battle you want to pick. Now that we can be online and share stories that resonate, it’s all starting to grow exponentially.

And now you see sites like Ethica that are becoming portals where, once people have that education, they can actually translate it into action. There was really a lack of that.

catt sadler under the canopy

Catt Sadler in an Under the Canopy tee. Photo courtesy of Under the Canopy

Which among your many accomplishments makes you most proud? The meta answer to that is the fact that when I created the term eco-fashion in the early ’90s and trademarked it in 1995, it didn’t exist. People thought I was absolutely crazy, and every time I said the term, people laughed at me and said, “Marci, no one is ever going to buy into that. Those are two completely dichotomous worlds. People who are into ecology and humanitarianism and consciousness are not the people who are into fashion. And the people who are into fashion, they look at the green, humanitarian, consciousness world as a bunch of weirdo hippie treehuggers. You’re stepping into a paradox, and it doesn’t make sense.”

But I’m a bridge builder, so I suppose that I get incredible joy now at seeing that that bridge has been built, and that today when you say eco-fashion, people don’t give you a blank-eyed stare. They say, “Of course.” Wow. And especially the younger generation, they get it instantly.

“I’ve learned that the way to stay in balance and harmony is to have one set of values and not two. To have your personal and professional lives in sync.”

al gore marci zaroff

Zaroff with former Vice President Al Gore. Photo courtesy of Marci Zaroff

You always look radiant, and you're always such a positive presence. What are your secrets for inner and outer beauty? Building on what I was just saying, it’s not about ‘this or that,’ it’s about ‘this and that.’ It’s about no compromises, so for me, looking good is important, but so is feeling good and doing good. I’ve learned that the way to stay in balance and harmony and radiate true health is to have one set of values and not two. To have values where your personal and your professional lives are in sync, and you live a healthy and conscious lifestyle and make choices that resonate on a deep level.

It’s like water for chocolate in that you want the energy of what you’re putting in and on your body to touch you on every level. And so I live with passion and purpose, and love is a big part of that. I find love to be the key ingredient in everything that I do.

Related Story: Meet 5 Eco Babes Who Inspired Under the Canopy's Debut Collection

under the canopy gots certified organic cotton

Under the Canopy's organic cotton moto sweatpants.

As a woman who is living her passion and leading several companies, whats the best piece of leadership advice you can offer? We create whatever reality we can envision, so you have to find your inner strength and trust your gut. One of the comments I find myself saying on a regular basis when I do public speaking is to always follow your heart, not your head, because it’s within you, the inner strength within you, where your soul lives, where your truth lives, that you really have all the answers you need. It goes back to being about no compromise and trusting your gut. Oh, and never ask why. Ask why not.

July 06, 2015
Designer Samantha Giordano. Photography by Julia Pinter

We Talk Nabokov, Feminism & Ethical Fashion With the Brainy Babe Behind Dolores Haze

If short dresses and pleated skirts don't sound like the makings of a feminist fashion label, you're probably not familiar with Dolores Haze–or its creator, Samantha Giordano.

The sustainable fashion brand borrows its name from the titular character in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and its coquettish aesthetic stems from a subversive reading of the book. "I'm inspired by the dichotomy between her sorrowful story in the novel and the flirtatious, hyper-feminine Lolita" portrayed in pop culture, Giordano says.

We caught up with the #girlpower advocate (who earned a sociology degree from Barnard College before attending Parsons) to explore the brainy bent behind her line. Which, by the way, is made at a woman-owned factory in NYC.

designer samantha giordano feminist

Giordano has unapologetically positioned Dolores Haze as a feminist brand.

When did you first read Lolita? Did you know at the time that it would have a lasting influence on you? I first read Lolita at 17, and upon finishing thought, “Dolores Haze is the most badass name for a fashion line.” My initial experience in the design world coincided with reading Lolita: interning at Nicole Miller. It was clear then that I wanted to work in fashion and that I had found the perfect name for a future line. Shortly thereafter, I bought the domain, knowing that one day down the road I’d have my own brand.

“When I first read Lolita, I thought, 'Dolores Haze is the most badass name for a fashion line.' Shortly thereafter, I bought the domain, knowing that one day I’d have my own brand.”

What is the story behind your SS15 collection, A Stranger I Know? Each season, I seek the sentiment of nostalgia for inspiration. The SS15 collection was inspired by the notion of a memory of someone eroding and fading over time, thereupon becoming “The Stranger I Know.” This idea was mirrored with the floral graph-check print. I took photographs of flowers and then manipulated them to look as though they’ve been xeroxed over and over again, leaving a grainy image less sharp than the original.

Related Story: The Making of Dolores Haze's Must-Have SS15 Print

How is the undercurrent of darkness that defines Dolores Haze manifested in this collection? It's manifested in an array of manners, be it creating menswear-inspired motorcycle jackets with feminine silk floral linings or unexpectedly using leather in pastel shades for sexy halter tops and tanks. The juxtaposition of color and fabrication is our go-to way to bring in the layer of darkness that informs our aesthetic.

A Dolores Haze rack

Styles from the Dolores Haze SS15 collection.

Can you speak to the idea that women self-objectify through their fashion choices? How is Dolores Haze a response to that? Many women self-objectify through their fashion choices by becoming hyperaware of how to hide whatever their perceived physical flaws may be. The media socializes many young women to conflate their worth with their appearance. You flip open magazines and they're filled with pages touching on an array of insecurities: how to dress to conceal X, Y and Z physical faults.

samantha giordano

Giordano outside her Brooklyn studio wearing Dolores Haze SS15.

I have fashionable friends with an array of body types–they wear what they want, and style it well. We need to teach girls that your confidence isn’t dependent on what the media teaches us a flawless body is. It’s your confidence, drive, passions and empathy that make you attractive. Shopping and getting dressed up should be a means to make women feel positive, because nothing’s sexier than confidence.

We love that you openly approach fashion design from both a sociological and artistic perspective. Why do you think so many designers are reluctant to express an ideology? This notion that having an intellectual identity might undermine good design feels reminiscent of stereotypes that polarize femininity, beauty and intelligence. Thank you! That’s so great to hear that my approach to design is appreciated. I’m not sure why many labels shy away from incorporating an ideology into their brand identity. My first assumption is a concern with commercial viability, and the dilemma that haunts many creatives as to whether or not to dilute your voice to make it more accessible. The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

dolores haze

The Dolores Haze SS15 lookbook.

What gave me the impetus to fully embrace and integrate philosophical and sociological inspiration was my experience studying abroad at Central Saint Martins in London. During our first class, the professor proclaimed that we could be inspired by anything from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, to the emotions evoked after a one-night stand. This innovative approach to cultivating creativity is what possessed me to design with an intellectual approach.

Within the fashion world, womanhood seems to be unintentionally cast into female stereotypes of girly, goth, office-wear, preppy, etc., but women’s identities are far more complex. This feeds into the notion of polarized femininity. What I gravitate toward is a mix, and I felt there needed to be a label that embraced the complexity of femininity.

Scenes from Samantha Giordano's studio

Scenes from Giordano's studio.

For all the literary D.Haze babes out there, what are some other novels that you love or found influential? Some other novels that I love for all the literary D.Haze babes are: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, and Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust.

During my youth, my influences were confessional poets such as Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. As I got older, I began to be influenced and engrossed in the world of philosophy, reading Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. I was often told by people that my appreciation of philosophy would be useless in whatever career path I choose. I’m so grateful that I’m actually able to integrate this into my work.

June 12, 2015