I initially started my blog to help others (and myself!) find fashion that was consciously produced without the use of animal products. I’ve always tried to be at least a bit mindful about where my clothing and accessories come from, but truthfully didn’t always ask the important questions like : who made these clothes or where did they come from exactly?
This blog has motivated me to broaden the scope of what I look for in terms of what actually constitutes vegan and cruelty-free fashion; after all, a product can’t really be considered cruelty-free if the people involved in manufacturing the product aren’t treated fairly, or if the product is extremely wasteful and terrible for the environment. Connecting with others within this community has really been a wonderful experience and has helped me to reanalyze certain choices I’ve made with respect to my purchasing habits as a consumer and has helped me find more of a voice in terms of questions to ask companies and designers when it comes to researching their supply chains. While fast-fashion is obviously a cheap and easy way to fill your closet, and has plenty of vegan-friendly options, it’s certainly not the best in terms of quality and both the social and environmental implications.
Happily, there are a growing number of designers and brands who do not use animal products and are also conscious of their impact on the environment, in addition to being socially responsible in their labor practices, ensuring that anyone involved in the production of their products is treated fairly. They are committed to reclaiming what sometimes seems to be lost within the fashion industry: quality, passion, community, and partnership such that no aspect of the supply chain is exploitative.
One such designer with whom I’ve been lucky enough to connect is Jackii Ramis of Indigo Apparel based in Long Beach, NY. Jackii truly embodies the spirit of the slow fashion movement in just about every way. Her brands’ ethos is focused on awareness; awareness of the sustainability of the materials used, awareness of how they impact the environment, and awareness in producing something that is luxurious, desirable, and eco-friendly. She eloquently says:
Slow fashion is a community driven fashion movement. It’s also about consumers being more aware of where their clothes are made and what they’re made of. Slow fashion revolves around appreciation for high quality materials that are good for your body and the environment. Awareness of the pace of life and the beauty in slowing it down.
Jackii has been producing every single piece from her brand Indigo Apparel by hand, in her studio on NY. With years of experience under her belt, which includes training in Milan and the exploration of myriad sustainable materials, Jackii has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of her newest collection, which will be produced from samples she has created herself. This will enable her to pre-sell the styles from her collection so she can purchase larger quantities of materials and produce more. The pieces from Jackii’s collection are characterized by eco-friendly and sustainable materials that are luxuriously soft and feel beautiful on the skin. They are casual, yet elegant, and lend themselves to versatility in their ability to wear for comfort, but also style.
I caught up with Jackii to learn more about her collection, her interest in sustainability and slow fashion, and some of her favorite things.
MKC: What is your background?
JR: I’m an FIT fashion design grad- studied my last year of school in Italy at Politecnico di Milano. I’m originally from Long Island; I’ve moved around quite a bit, but I’m living in Long Beach, NY right now and have a studio space nearby.
MKC: What compelled you to start a vegan friendly sustainable clothing line? When do you hope to launch?
JR: I started Indigo Apparel about 2 years ago. After I finished college I was living in Milan working in the creative office at Eurojersey, a textile design facility with an on site factory. After adapting to the sustainable way of life in Europe, it was just part of me. It’s not an optional thing, or extra effort to bring your own shopping bag- it’s just something you do. In school, during my thesis project where I put together a collection for a fashion show, my teachers helped guide me toward eco-friendly options such as working with Citta del Arte to get fabrics (a sustainable living foundation), as well as sourcing seconds leather and fish leather.* It was an eye-opening experience. When I decided to start my own company, sustainable materials were the only options that really came into my mind. (editors note: Jackii does not use any animal products with Indigo Apparel – everything is vegan).
MKC: Is this a solo mission or are there other members of the team?
JR: Currently, it’s a solo mission with the input of some highly skilled and creative freelance artists.
MKC: What are your favorite materials to work with?
I love working with bamboo, but it might be because it’s still so new to me. Before I started Indigo Apparel, I had never dyed my own fabrics. I love textile design and manipulation, and learning this new skill has given me a never ending sense of inspiration.
MKC: What are your dyeing techniques and what types of dyes you use?
JR: Because I use organic bamboo, cotton, hemp, and other natural fabrics, I’m able to use low impact dyes, which have been classified by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 (an international certification process) as eco-friendly. These do not contain toxic chemicals or mordants (which fix the dye to the fabric), require less rinsing and have a high absorption rate in the fabric. High absorption rates and a decreased use of rinse water create less waste water.
MKC: Are there any exciting new eco-friendly / sustainable materials/fabrications on the horizon?
JR: For Indigo? Yes. Indigo Apparel has partnered with Green Tree Textiles, a textile recycling facility. We’ve been given yards of unwanted fabrics that would have otherwise ended up in the trash by large design houses, so now these recycled fabrics can be used to create a more dynamic collection. Unfortunately, all of these are not natural fabrics, so they can’t be dyed with the same dyes I use now. That said, there are so many other ways to use the fabric- I’m experimenting a bit with laser cutting.
MKC: Why is sustainability in fashion so important?
JR: There are so many different facets of sustainability and sustainable fashion, but it’s important to do what you can (as a designer AND consumer) because fast-fashion is destroying our planet. It sounds like a heavy accusation, but it isn’t even a question. The toxic waste produced by this industry is enormous, and the way that factory workers (sewing, dye plants, and related) are treated is horrific. I believe it’s up to the industry to make the change internally because there is no excuse for ignoring the facts.
MKC: Any favorites from your line?
JR: Yes! I think my favorite look is the organic Paradise crochet top (SO soft) paired with the long Coral Reef skirt. (*pictured in featured image*) It goes from day to night really easily, and is so comfortable. You’d never believe how soft bamboo fabric is!
MKC: How would you characterize your personal style?
JR: It really depends on the day, I have a really diverse style. I like to be comfortable, but I like to dress up, too. I wear a lot of black.. and a lot of tights with shorts. My favorite thing to wear is tights, I have an entire drawer dedicated to them! They’re my go to- I’ll wear short dresses and sneakers too.
MKC: You’re going away for the weekend – what essentials are in your bag?
JR: Soft gold shimmer eyeshadow and a pair of black skinny jeans.
MKC: Any favorite vegan / sustainable designers ?
MKC: Where can we purchase your products now?
JR: www.TheIndigoShop.com as well as fairs and festivals around NY, and I’ll be at Newport Folk Festival in RI this year.
MKC: Tell us a bit about the Kickstarter campaign and what you’ll be able to achieve if you hit your goal?
JR: The Kickstarter campaign was launched at the same time as Indigo’s summer 2015 collection. The reason behind it is that Indigo is a super small company, and getting accepted into Newport Folk Festival is so exciting, and a big deal! There are going to be over 30,000 people in attendance. It’s a lot of pressure. To purchase all of the materials, and produce all of the clothing that I’m going to need to bring for the event, it’s necessary for me to offset partial cost by using the Kickstarter as a pre-order system. This way, everyone who donates gets first dibs on some awesome pieces- some of which are limited edition for the KS- and I can begin production on the new line.
I really love exploring emerging designers, particularly those who aren’t afraid to take a stand against what has become a very wasteful, unsustainable, and exploitative industry.
I’m also really loving her bamboo crochet top and think it would be a perfect piece that would pair well with just about anything in my summer wardrobe!
Check out her Kickstarter campaign here.