Iris Alonzo and Carolina Crespo have a full circle view of fashion. After working in the American Apparel factory for over a decade, they know that fashion doesn't come from a runway, it comes from factory. With their new brand EVERYBODY, they started with the factories to totally rethink how clothes are designed and manufactured.
Both Iris and Carolina worked in creative at American Apparel — Iris as the Creative Director for 11 years and Carolina as the Director of Graphics and Kidswear for 15 years — and yet, nearly every piece sold on EVERYBODY is designed by someone who’s never designed clothing. For example, neighborhood chess master Prakash designed a shirt with a pocket that's four fingers wide and writer/chef/musician Kiki Kudo designed a little black dress with purse-sized pockets.
When designs hit the factory, EVERYBODY’s ecological mission is front and center. One of their first big launches was the Trash Tee. It’s the first shirt of its kind, made of 100% recycled cotton. On March 16, Iris and Carolina are bringing some Trash Tees to Lumi HQ for Talk Shop! They'll dish on finding the perfect manufacturers, creating designs with non-designers, and of course, the making of the Trash Tee. Read our Q&A with Iris and Carolina below and RSVP for Talk Shop here.
Before leaving American Apparel, how long were you planning for EVERYBODY and when did you know it was the right time to launch?
Iris: EVERYBODY was an idea I had after being out on my own for about four months. Then once Carolina left American Apparel, she called to see what I was up to and we started meeting about it. It took us about 12 months of sampling, experimenting, researching, and developing before we were ready to launch.
A lot of longstanding clothing brands and retailers are seeing their final days, while a new generation of apparel brands are taking the helm. Is it especially challenging launching your brand during this pivotal transition period?
Carolina: I think it’s always challenging to launch a company, regardless of the market. In terms of other clothing brands and retailers seeing their final days, to me it’s a sign that customers and the market are ready for fresh ideas which could be a good thing for the new generation of brands.
“Before we ever sewed a single t-shirt, we decided on what we stood for in the long run, which is respect for workers, ecology, and ideas.”
Minimalism is still going strong in fashion, but personalization seems to be creeping back in. Do you think fashion can be too basic? Or are basics just a blank slate for you?
Iris: Both Carolina and I prefer basics in our day-to-day lives and for our business. We are active and get our hands (and clothes) dirty every day and appreciate having a functional, well-made, go-to uniform. That said, I think anything goes in fashion today. Both minimalism and maximalism can be equally interesting if it’s thoughtfully designed.
There has been a huge boom in digitally-native apparel stores. Do you aim to stay online only, or do you have any plans to open a brick-and-mortar store?
Carolina: We want to focus on our online business and would like to develop a few concepts for IRL experiences, one of which we just started testing, Informal Shop, which is where we make efficient and creative use of a space, from a car trunk to a hotel room, from two hours to two weeks. We really like to interact with customers and explain the story about each contributor first-hand.
“Small brands have to remember that they are the trendsetters — the innovators at the tip of the pyramid in many cases.”
What do you wish people knew about manufacturing in Los Angeles?
Carolina: How diverse it is. You can get anything done in Los Angeles! There are far more things that you can make in LA than you can’t, and most manufacturers love what they do and are very willing to work with you, small or big, to make your vision come to life.
The fashion industry is gargantuan with a lot of ecological and ethical challenges. How can small/new brands move the needle on age-old practices that seem set in stone?
Iris: Small brands have to remember that they are the trendsetters — the innovators at the tip of the pyramid in many cases. Even though EVERYBODY is tiny, we’ve been fortunate enough to get some good press about our efforts using recycled fibers in our Trash Tee. Our yarn manufacturer keeps us posted on all the calls they get from BIG companies trying to figure out EVERYBODY’s supply chain, which shows us that they are taking note of the little guys!
Carolina: Before we ever sewed a single t-shirt, we decided on what we stood for in the long run, which is respect for workers, ecology, and ideas, and made a pact to do our best to make the right choices in those regards, no matter how our business grows. We hope to set a good example for startups and larger companies alike that fashion doesn’t have to be exploitative in order to be successful.
Header image by Harry Eelman by way of Vogue.
Iris and Carolina are bringing a collective 26 years of experience and a totally fresh perspective on apparel to the next Talk Shop. You don't want to miss it — RSVP here.
When: Thursday, March 16. Talk is at 7 p.m. Wine, cheese, and mingling at 6:30. Feel free to come early and check out our HQ!
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