What do zero waste fashion, the Women's March on Washington, Orange Is The New Black, and Caravan Studio have in common? LIVARI Clothing. A disruptor of fast fashion, a breaker of fleeting trends, and a collaborative expression of art and activism born from three women whose track record demonstrates they don't just talk the talk, they live by their threads. Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, Youth Initiative Coordinator of the Women's March on Washington, turned to zero waste design after learning of Timo Rissanen-- who wrote his PhD on zero waste fashion design and continues to teach these practices at Parson's in New York City. Take this love for ethical design and combine it with activist Alysia Reiner, former executive assistant to the warden at Litchfield and captivator of Mr. Caputo on Orange Is The New Black, and a movable dialogue has begun. The final touch is Claudine DeSola who brings her expertise of styling, marketing, and connections to brands that give LIVARI wings to fly, and in doing so uplifts all they come into contact with-- AO included!
AO: Why was it important for you to create a zero waste clothing label?
Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs: From the fabric choices we make to the people we choose to hire to make the clothing, we wanted every decision to be thoughtful and impactful in a positive way to the maker, the environment and the industry. From eco-friendly fabrics like recycled polyester and bemberg, to paying our workers fair wages and working with like-minded places like the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, we took every opportunity we had to do better than we could have.
AO: Talk to me about what zero waste clothing means from small to large details.
Alysia Reiner:Before we sketched a single design we had a focus group and talked to women about what they loved and hated in fashion, their favorite pieces and least favorite body parts, what about fit is important to them, etc. So I would say first off all our style is based on what women want. We are all about super chic clean lines that current but not at all trendy; we would not be zero waste or eco-friendly if we were fast fashion! We also wanted to make things season less and very convertible: a jacket that can be a vest, a dress that can be longer or shorter...etc.
AO: What does the name LIVARI come from?
Claudine DeSola: I originally like the name Arya because of Game of Thrones but when we were chatting Tabitha was like my son's name is Ari and then some how Alysia said my daughter's name is Liv ( for short ) and somehow LIVARI just came to be. It was originally based on them as mother's, but it has notes of empress and lion and we feel like it is a strong name.
AO: What does each owner bring to the company? How do you guys collaborate?
Alysia Reiner: Claudine introduced Tabitha and I because she knew we both had a deep passion for both the environment and women's rights. I like to say under our current administration both women and the environment have become endangered species and we collaborated to use the art of fashion as a form of activism.
Claudine DeSola: I think Tabitha brings the design - she went to school for design. She helped introduce us to all these amazing artisans that helped us from dying our fabrics using natural materials to finding extra yardage of beautiful unused fabrics to create beautiful gowns from. I bring styling and connections with accessory brands and then the marketing / experiential arm. For instance I linked us with Brother who was so supportive with providing machines so we could use them for making of the collection. Alysia brings the "green guru" - her house is eco - friendly and she is an eco - activist so for instance for this show she introduced us to Cool Effectto reverse our carbon footprint that we made during the show.
AO: Tell me about your innovative shopping experiences.
Claudine DeSola: We don't have commercial type shopping experiences our goal is to develop a conversation and surround ourselves with a like minded community for instance for the show we worked with IVY- an incredible organization that focuses on social impact and there were over 300 of them in the audience at our show. Most recently we worked with Brother for a makers event for two of their new machines that are amazing - one is a ScanNCut that helps with avoiding fabric waste. By encouraging our guests to be makers, making gifts on sewing machines or buying sewing machines and limiting the big push to buy all these pieces our goal is to create fashion alchemy; having pieces in your wardrobe that have a story or purpose.
AO: I love your backbone t-shirt and the message that comes with it— women are the backbone of society. Is fashion political?
Claudine DeSola: I think everything we do is about politics - the food we eat, the businesses we support, where we travel, where we work - there is a notion of politics and ethics, so definitely with the clothes we buy there is a political issue.
The tee originally came together because it is part of a series of paintings Hodaya Louis did and one is a mural that will be featured in Alysia's film Egg--- we loved it and started looking at it and we are like "that looks like a backbone, [which is] a theme in our collection we want to present. Women are the backbone to our society! The tees are all created by Road Twenty-Two they have an amazing story themselves.
Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs: More than half the people employed by the fashion industry as garment workers are women. A vast cross-section of these garment workers are women of color or immigrant women. We can't have a conversation about ethical fashion without discussing gender equity in the workplace. Advocacy for fair working conditions for garment workers is a movement that directly affects women, especially women of color and immigrant women. The Women's March is, among other things, an intersectional movement that advocates for gender equity in the workplace, at home and everywhere in between.
AO: How do these two worlds collide for LIVARI?
Claudine DeSola: I think it is important as we continue that a lot [of worlds] collide or there are a lot of conversations - from politics, to sustainability, to women's rights, to fair trade, to fair work, to supporting the arts-- everything. We want to be part of the conversation and community. Working with Amborella is part of that conversation, be able to share something that flourishes is so beautiful.
AO: What’s next for LIVARI?
Claudine DeSola: For Mother's Day we plan to showcase our breastfeeding dress - we hope to do some great events around that and just celebrate motherhood and being a women
AO: Will you create a men’s label?
Claudine DeSola: I hope some items that are for all.
AO: How do each of you practice sustainability in your everyday lives, beyond your company?
Alysia Reiner: Sustainable is about little conscious choices we can make daily: From recycling and composting to carrying your own water bottle, travel coffee mug & utensils, from buying local and joining a CSA, to radiant heating and double flush toilets in our home, or choosing organic beauty products and making your own cleaning products! There are so many small choices that add up!
Claudine DeSola: To me it is also about making some of your own food. Having a garden where I utilize compost as my fertilizer and I grow tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and lettuce from Burpee. I share with at least 10 neighbors throughout the summer and this is a little way we can build on sustainability and community.
To learn more about LIVARI, visit their website.