(RE)designing with Lanni Lantto: Interview

Lanni Lanto Draped See Dress

photo: Yin Tang

by Nevena Rousseva

LA based Lanni Lantto is not a designer. She is a (RE)designer.  Her approach is unconventional, as was her route to fashion- starting out as an environmental and social activists in Washington D.C. The premise of her designs is using pre-existing materials, like clothing she finds in thrift stores to breath new life into them as redesigned pieces. Instead of sketching designs she uses an actual garment as her canvas and lets it guide her to creating a new piece.  This way she creates zero new waste and actually keeps garments out of landfills. Her goal is to take upcycling mainstream and change perceptions about the concept.

On September 9th Lanni will be participating in Tesla’s Style Night where through her redesigns she will explore the transformation from petroleum-based transportation to electric vehicles. I caught up with her about redesigning, her philosophy, and the challenges facing her and the fashion industry.

What’s your favorite part about redesigning clothing?

The creative process, being able to conceptualize the potential of the transformation of one object into something else is very exciting.  Then being able to tell people what it is made out of and in their reaction seeing that they just saw that same potential and knowing that now they are forever changed. Even if it’s the tiniest of rethinking, at least I was able to affect them by showing them what is possible.

You were an activist before moving to fashion- why fashion?

Yes, I was born an activist in that I have always been very sensitive to the injustices around me.  We live in a culture that degrades women and destroys nature.  It may seem that these things are separate but I believe they are very much related.  Fashion doesn’t have to be so superficial; it is a wonderful vehicle of change.  It’s all about the message we convey through this medium; and my message is about rising above the bulls*it to a higher truth.

What’s the higher truth?

The truth is that we all are beautiful as we are.  You don’t have to do anything to become beautiful nor does a flower, – it just blossoms into what it was always meant to be.  Making a connection between our personal self-worth and the value of our natural resources is a big first step.


Lanni Lanto XL Blazer

photo: Yin Tang

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the fashion industry today?

Long-term sustainability, limited raw resources, and ethics.  The fashion industry has gotten itself to a very greedy stage; create as much as possible as fast as possible while making as much money as possible.  The results have been devastating considering this is a trillion-dollar global industry; toxic chemicals, immense water waste, Co2 pollution, landfills overfilling with last season’s trends, low wages and inhumane working conditions.  We are so over-fed by ready-made fashion that we don’t even know where our clothes are made or even HOW they are made!  I ask people all the time, do you know how your shirt was made? Do you?  Redress Asia made a great video that shows a shirt’s lifecycle.

Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve redesigned?

I’m currently working on a piece that tells the story of our transition from the mindset of industrialization to ‘ecolization’ (I may have just coined a term!).  There are so many layers of symbolism that are possible through the art of clothing; color, texture, history – along with the actual materials like car parts, employee tags from the River Rouge plant, voltmeters – all these things tell a story without words.

What are you finding to be your biggest challenge right now?

My biggest challenge is patience.  I have so many ideas on how to bring upcycling mainstream that require collaborating with other people.  There is a lot of integrity behind this mission so it’s about waiting for the right people to show up at the right time.  Which I am confident they will.


Lanni Lanto Design

photo: Yin Tang

What’s one other thing in the world you’d like to see get redesigned in some way?

There is a global movement happening, where as a species, we are evolving to a new level of thought and action.  We are seeing the negative consequences of how we have designed our lives over the past couple hundred years and we’ve realized this is not working for the planet or us.  We are redesigning our future in all areas (from green architecture to gift economies) based on ecological principles- working in harmony with our surroundings instead of dominating them.  I see fashion redesigning as one part of a whole in our awakening to a better future.

Where did you grow up?

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, surrounded by woods and Lake Superior.  It takes about 3-7 hours in any direction to get to a “major” city so it’s easy to be connected to nature.  It’s a harsh place to grow up 8 months out of the year (cold climate and heavy snow) but we tend to become very resilient and resourceful as a result.♥

For more on redesigning check out some of Lanni’s videos. To see more of Lanni’s work click here.

Are You a Rebel? 10 Questions For Rebel Root designer Eva Riu + 50% Discount Code

Rebel Root Couple

by Nevena Rousseva

Many of us dream of being rebels at some point in our lives. A rebel breaks the rules, follows their own lead, and is always cool. Maybe in high school, maybe in college, or maybe even now. But for many of us the reality is we can’t be rebels in our daily lives. So enter Barcelona based clothing brand Rebel Root to give you a little bit of rebel. The core if the one-year-old company is sustainability and ethical production, but that does not mean that style has been sacrificed. In fact, the edgy clothing pieces will have you channeling your inner bad-ass as soon as you put them on.

I caught up with Eva over email about what her brand stands for, her inspiration, how she rebels in her daily life, and how they help protect the knowledge of artisans.

And for our readers Rebel Root is offering a 50% discount on all merchandise. See code below…..but first, read on!

What’s the concept behind Rebel Root?

Rebel Root is a new clothing and accessories brand, created in Barcelona for men and women. We have based all our work on Ethical Fashion, ensuring that our production and design chain respects and defends human rights and protects the environment. We have these principles in mind for everything, from production processes all the way to every fabric we work with.

What was your inspiration for the collection and what’s your process?

I usually listen to something on the radio that inspires me. During the creation of my last collection, I was captivated by “Colony Collapse”, a song by Filastine, who is a Barcelona’s based musician. I start by putting together all the ideas and concepts that I have with all the materials and fabric options at my disposal. After that I do a lot of sketching. For our collection we did hundreds of sketches. Once I have a clear idea of the designs, I meet with my artisans and work to make some samples. As soon as I get the samples I decide which ones will go into production.

Rebel Root

Who are these artisans?

On our website you can check the artisan who made each piece. Working with fair trade their standard of living has improved and they can now afford to save. Their work is appreciated and their name recognized.

Previous to RebelRoot you had a clothing line called the The Mystic Onion. Was that line based on, ethical fashion? If not, why did you transition to sustainable fashion with Rebelroot?

The Mystic Onion was a locally made brand. But I decided to take one more step, so I created RebelRoot. I am not only interested in how something is made, but also in the fabrics. I like to increase the capacity and wellbeing of the people and communities behind fashion.

Where is your clothing produced?

The clothing is produced all around the world depending on the product. The pieces made outside Europe have World Fair Trade Certification. Check this brief comparison between Fair Trade certified and standard producers.

What are the handcrafting techniques that you use?

Some of the fabrics are hand printed by Batik artisans in Indonesia. Made in Indonesia under very high standards of Fair Trade. The jewelry is made by our artisans with wood and glass beads techniques.

The editorial is very interesting- plants growing from people’s body parts, what is the idea behind it?

The name ‘RebelRoot’ is what inspired this concept. We all have a ‘Rebel Root’ inside of us that can come out. That, I imagined as a plant that grows inside of us, and comes out as leaves. It’s something that we grow; Rebels dreaming in a sustainable world.

Rebel Root
What does the name RebelRoot mean?

We always envisioned ourselves as a company that would create products with a very strong foundation on values and techniques. That said, we wanted to do so whilst elevating the design and established looks that most times other fair-trade companies use. We thought we could apply a much more modern, casual and elegant style to our products, but still have them evoke their origins, techniques and artisans behind them. A foundation as a root, and a rebel as a style equals RebelRoot.

Rebel Root

Do you rebel in your daily life? If so, how?

Nowadays we can buy many things, it’s easy and cheap. I try to think in every product that I buy. We still have the power of choosing, so we can be a conscious consumer.

What is the “protection of knowledge” concept?

It is key for us to support hand crafting throughout all aspects of our production chain. This ensures the future of the communities that collaborate with Rebel Root as well as allows them to make their own cultures known. We use traditional hand crafting techniques, on designs made in Barcelona.♥

To get some of these pieces click here. At checkout use the code ‘styleandthestartup’ to get 50% off!!

For more on Rebel Root and their commitment to ethical fashion click here.

Connect with Rebel Root: Facebook, Twitter

Rebel Root Woman

Editorial: The Fashion Industry in Excess

by Nevena Rousseva

The river in the YouTube video is blood red.

It’s not this color from a horrific massacre, although that’s what one might initially think. The potent color comes from something much less terrifying.

In fact the color comes from something a lot of us consider glamorous, inspiring, and important. Fashion. The must have red garment is the cause of the blood red color. An unexpected reality from an industry that creates beautiful things. The video, made in 2010 is part of “Clean by Design” an NRDC program to clean up the fashion industry and educate designers on more environmentally conscious design decisions. There’s a saying among environmental groups that goes “You know the color that’s going to be in fashion next season by the color of the rivers in China.” So next season that river might be blue or green, depending on the color that’s in style.

Many consumers are not aware of the havoc the fashion industry causes the environment. Conventionally made clothing and accessories that we purchase may be beautiful and stylish, but they also cause environmental damage. A lot of it. Added up and coupled with excessive production and consumption the damage has led the fashion industry to be named by the NRDC as third worst polluter after the oil and cement industries.

The textile industry has a huge water footprint. It is the third largest consumer of water in the world, behind the paper and oil industry according to “Cleaning Up The Fashion Industry” report. Starting at the fields, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce a singe pair of jeans and 400 gallons to produce a single T-shirt. The water needed to grow cotton for ten pairs of jeans is enough to fill a 16 by 32 in ground pool.

For many women having ten pairs of jeans is normal if not too little.

Altogether the industry produces approximately 70 million tons of wastewater in a single year. The World Bank estimates that 17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment. 72 toxic chemicals in our water come solely from textile dyeing, 30 of which cannot be removed.

An NRDC study revealed that a mill dying 45,000 tons of fabric reported using 8.4 million tons of water annually. That’s 200 tons of water for each ton of fabric dyed. Many color mistakes are made and about 10 to 20 percent of fabric in a mill has to be re-dyed two to three times. About five percent never achieve the desired color and are landfilled. Millions of tons of unused fabric are burned or sent to landfills each year when dyed the wrong colors.

Air pollution from textile mills is another impact the fashion industry has on the environment. The industry in total generates 3.1 million tons of carbon dioxide. According to the NRDC, the textile industry creates about 3 billion tons of soot each year. Soot is thought to be the second largest cause of global warming after carbon dioxide.

Pre-consumer and post-consumer waste is another major environmental issue for the industry. Of the fabric that makes it to cutting tables on average 15 to 20 percent is wasted during the cutting process and discarded. According to industry insiders, it is cheaper to landfill the scarps than to recycle them.

Over 90 million items of clothing end up in landfill sites globally each year. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. According to the EPA an estimated 13.1 million tons of textiles were generated in 2010, or 5.3 percent of total municipal solid waste.

Timo Rissanen, a professor of fashion design and sustainability at New York’s Parsons School of Design says the problem of waste in fashion is “systematic” pointing out that “the dominant economic model is geared towards endless waste-making.” At the very minimum, this is an industry built on the very idea of planned obsolescence – who would wear ‘last year’s’ clothes?- and that in and of itself is an unsustainable practice.

The driving force that’s been encouraging the endless waste-making has been the growing insatiable demand for fashion goods. Americans buy roughly 20 billion garments annually—64 items per person per year. Women in particular are encouraged to love clothing and derive their identities from it. There is no such thing as having too much. More is always better. And interestingly, the metrosexual phenomenon has resulted in many men becoming fashion plates too—with a similar consciousness of wastefulness.

Upon watching home buying and improvement shows one of the biggest issues for buyers is the closets are not big enough. We now need McClosets , whether our house is a McMansions or not.

There was a point in time when having too much was ridiculed. In the mid-eighties outrage sparked when it was discovered that Imelda Marcos, the first lady of the Philippines owned between two and three thousand pairs of shoes. Nowadays we admire people who have vast clothing and accessories collections.

But what’s the value in having so much excess. Carrie Bradshaw, the lovable heroine of Sex and the City found herself in trouble when she realized she had spent the equivalent of a down payment for her apartment on shoes. When it came down to it, her beloved shoes couldn’t buy her something of real importance.

According to Lucy Siegle, environmental journalist and author of the book “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?” women now demand roughly four times the number of clothes than in 1980. To satisfy the current demand around 80 billion garments are produced worldwide. By 2006 Europe was consuming 391 million pairs of jeans every year. The water used to grow the cotton for all those jeans could fill a little over 36.6 million pools. In 2007 an incredible three pairs of jeans were being sold every second.

Yet women still feel like they “have nothing to wear”. How can this be? Siegle points to her “investments” in micro-trend pieces that in the end compiled a wasteland. And UK women consume so much clothing that annually they discard roughly 60 pounds.

The kicker is that many of us don’t understand the idea of not consuming fashion.

Our consumption has been fueled by two factors, mainly the ever-growing obsession with celebrities and trends, and the growth of fast fashion retailers who have been more than willing to feed our obsessions with cheap clothing. This industry has not only learned how to feed our desires, but they encourage consumers to see clothing as disposable. Fast-fashion retailers like TopShop, Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 have seduced average shoppers into believing that owning a twenty-dollar diluted version of a designer piece spotted on a celebrity puts them on the same level as that celebrity. And the idea of always shopping is seen as aspirational, reserved for the glamorous and elite. Fast-fashion has enabled the masses to live that aspiration in one form or another.

But owning a lot of clothing has not made us dress better. If fact, shopping fast-fashion has deteriorated personal style. It has created homogenized looks where one person looks like a version of another.  Mark Twain said “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” That’s can be applied to today’s world if “clothes” is substituted with “well made clothes” and “naked people” is changed to “people wearing cheap fashion”. A person wearing a well-made garment stands out, gets noticed, is taken seriously and heard. If this wasn’t true then successful women wouldn’t care about the right dress, pants, or shoes, and businessmen wouldn’t wear custom made suits. Dressing in the same low quality clothes as everyone else only makes you blend in further.

We follow trends relentlessly yet the styles we most admire and celebrate are classic and timeless. We praise the style of women like Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and most recently Kate Middleton, who always chooses classic pieces over ephemeral trends. But we ourselves choose trendy pieces over real timeless investment pieces. We buy what we are told by retailers and magazines only to discard it soon after for the next trendy item they push. If we all chose long lasting pieces and curbed excessive buying the excessiveness of the industry would dissipate.

There is hope.

A shift within the fashion industry has been taking place in dealing with the environmental problems excessiveness has caused. Companies of all sizes including the conglomerates Phillip van Heusen, owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and Kering Group, formerly PPR, owner of Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Puma, have committed to improving their environmental performance. And with increased resource scarcity this shift in gears is necessary. “We surpassed the tipping point already and we are facing scarce resources. The industry as a whole is moving in the direction [of conserving]- mainly reducing the need for water, energy, chemicals and waste.” says Carmen Artigas, a sustainable designer, consultant, and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology teaching Ethical Fashion.

And a new generation of sustainable designers is emerging who are making the health of the environment a priority. Natalia Allen who debuted her first collection in May 2012 says “I think there are major issues in the industry. We are all on this huge learning curve and trying to unlearn bad habits as well as aspire toward great habits.”

Ms. Allen believes customers should have higher expectations from retailers, saying “I think every customer should expect sustainable practices from the brands they support.” She sees waste as one of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry. “Right now the waste cycle for fashion is enormous and getting larger and larger every year. At Essentialist [her line], I design and make products that will last. Each dress is made from quality textiles that will outlast a season.”

Carrie Parry is another example of this new environmentally minded design generation. Ms. Parry says her company is “committed to adopting a closed-loop approach to waste management, in either the deconstruction and reuse of raw materials, recycling, cutting waste in the design and manufacturing process and donation to others which extends the product lifecycle and minimizing waste sent to landfill.”

Her namesake company is using several approaches to tackle waste “We currently recycle all fabric scraps from our cutting process. We first work to lessen waste during the marking process and whatever scraps we do have we are working to up-cycle into small home and fashion accessories. We also currently send some scraps and unused swatches to local universities for education projects and are putting a take-back program in place to collect any unwanted garments so we can donate and recycle properly.”

Innovative techniques and technologies are also gaining ground. Zero-waste garments are designed to create no waste, and emerging brands like Alabama Chanin and Dosa have focused on a zero-waste business model. Titania Inglis, who won the coveted Ecco Domani award for Sustainable Design incorporates zero-waste into her designs.

Ms Allen relies on emerging technology to reduce her environmental footprint. For manufacturing, she uses a machine that stitches the garments together in one step creating seamless clothing and eliminating cutting waste. “Traditionally clothing is cut out of a block of fabric and a person will then sew the pieces together using a sewing machine,” says Ms. Allen “The technology that I’m working with allows me to go directly from the fabric to the finished garment in one step.”

Fashion design students are also more conscious and interested in the industry’s environmental impact. Ms. Artigas says of students in her class “once they become sensitized to the damage the industry has created they start generating concepts and ideas on how to be efficient with design and the use of materials.”

So while small designers are working to create a more sustainable fashion industry, fast-fashion retailers are inevitably trying to keep the system as is. The evidence is in the writing on the wall. Going into the H&M store on 34th street and 7th avenue last year I saw the following plastered on one of their walls: “New stuff is coming in each and everyday so why not do the same?” Overconsumption is still the dominant model for these types of retailers and they would prefer customers to continue to over-shop at their stores.

The belief that we can continue to shop and discard garments in the same way we have been doing and have a sustainable fashion industry is an unrealistic one. At some point, and that point is now, we have to make a decision as consumers if fleeting trends and excessive shopping are more important than preventing the collapse of the environment, something that would affect all of us, not just the fashion obsessed.♥

From Somewhere Cozy Knits For The Cold Weather

From Somewhere Fall 2011

It’s undeniable that it’s cold outside. The leaves are falling fast and winter is around the corner. But no need to mourn the warm days that have passed. Instead wrap yourself in one of these cozy knits from UK brand From Somewehre and feel that warmth all over again. Made from luxury designer pre- consumer waste like proofs, swatches, production off-cuts and end of rolls, these clothes are all unique. From Somewhere is about re-thinking the fashion industry’s waste and creating beautiful clothes from reclaimed materials.

My other favorite pieces.From Somewhere Fall 2011

Saturday Afternoon: Patchwork Blazer by Adhesif

Adhesif Fall 2011 Beyond Blazer

I love this patchwork blazer by Vancouver based brand Adhesif. It’s made from reclaimed wool panels, mostly cashmere and merino. The buttons are handmade or vintage. One front side pocket.

My Must: Nicole Bridger Olive Green Jacket

Nicole Bridger Fall 2011 Olive Green JacketI love the color and drape of this jacket by Vancouver designer Nicole Bridger. I also love the she is committed to creating socially conscious clothing. The line is made from sustainable fabrics that are from natural and renewable resources and are dyed with low impact dyes.

NYFW: Sustainable Designer Exhibition Spring 2012 @ Nolcha


Afia Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion WeekAfia Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Dresses

Afia Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Designer

Designer Meghan Sebold

Afia uses Ghana textiles that are purchased from small vendors and sewn by Ghanaian seamstresses paid a fair wage. I love the bright colorful prints, especially the green shorts! Buying Afia will add color to your wardrobe and support the women in Ghana.


Carrie Parry Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion WeekCarrie Parry Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week2

Carrie Parry Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Designer

Designer Carrie Parry

Founded on the principles of environmental and social consideration Carrie Parry Spring 2012 stays true to her commitment, using hand-spun cotton that supports WomenWeave in India, biodegradable curpo, and organic cotton dobby. Fabrics are dyed using azo free dyes. The line is produced in New York supporting the local garment industry.


Soham Dave Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion WeekSoham Dave Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week2

Soham Dave Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Fabrics

Soham Dave Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Designer

right: Designer Nimet Degirmencioglu

Soham Dave blends fair-trade, hand-craft and sustainability to offer a contemporary range of clothing. Supporting artisans in India who weave, dye fabrics and embroider all by hand using biodegradable and recycled fabrics is at the core of the Spring 2012 collection. Garments are made by hand, on average taking about a day to produce one garment. One of the brand’s mission is to empower its mostly female workforce.


Stay By Mar Spring 2012 Collection Nolcha Fashion Week Stay By Mar Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Red Orange DressesStay By Mar Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Designer

Stay By Mar Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Designer2

Designer Marianne Angeli Rodriguez

For Spring 2012 Stay by Mar has joined forces with Care for Kenya and has collaborated with the Women’s Center of Kibera, a women’s empowerment program based in the largest slum of East Africa, to produce the capsule collection.  To read more about the collaboration click here.


Rainbow People Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Pink Reversible Top

Designer Ngoc-Phung Dang

Rainbow People Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week Turquoise TopRainbow People Spring 2012 Nolcha Fashion Week

French based Rainbow People combines high-end fashion with ecology and ethics. The line is inspired by American movies of the forties to the sixties, and uses only natural fabrics like silk and organic cotton. The clothes are timeless and have versatility in mind with reversible tops and dresses. Garments are produced locally in France.