Episode 191: Fast Jewelry, Knockoffs, and Net 60 with Emily Li Mandri of MLE

Emily Li Mandri, founder and design behind MLE, joins Amanda to talk about all things accessories and jewelry, including
  • What is costume jewelry? And why is metal content important?
  • The drawbacks of “fast jewelry”
  • What are the challenges of running a small, ethical accessories brand?
  • How are knockoffs and copycats a big part of the jewelry/accessories industry?
  • What happens when bigger brands don’t pay their invoices?
And so much more! Read more about what is happening with Neighborhood Goods and unpaid brands here: “Neighborhood Goods Has Closed–Vendors Want their Money.”

Amanda gets things started with thoughts about the “Loneliness Economy,” capitalism, and community. It turns out that one of the most revolutionary things we can do is…be active and supportive members of our community!

Find Emily and MLE here:
@madebyMLE on Instagram
madebyMLE.com (use code CLOTHESHORSE to get 10% off your order)

Additional reading:

“The Loneliness Economy: How Capitalism Thrives on Isolation,” Piyush Patel, Medium.
“Capitalism starves us of love — we don’t have to stand by,” Alexandra Kauffman, The Emory Wheel.
“Capitalism Subverts Community,” Robert Neuwirth, Noema.
“Capitalism has warped our understanding of community — and it’s making us vulnerable to manipulation,” Valerie Vande Panne, Salon.

Register for the February Clotheshorse Webinar/Hang Out Session: Why new clothes are kind a garbage…
February 29, 8pm EST.  Free (but please support Clotheshorse via Ko-fi if you enjoy yourself)!
Limited to 100 attendees, so register now here.

If you want to share your opinion/additional thoughts on the subjects we cover in each episode, feel free to email, whether it’s a typed out message or an audio recording:  [email protected]
Or call the Clotheshorse hotline: 717.925.7417

Did you enjoy this episode? Consider “buying me a coffee” via Ko-fi:


Welcome to Clotheshorse, the podcast that carried a bin of broken 00s and early 2010s fast fashion jewelry back and forth across the country like three times.


I’m your host, Amanda and this is episode 191! This week’s guest is Emily of jewelry and accessories brand, MLE. We are going to talk about all things accessories, including the drawbacks of “fast jewelry” to the challenges of running an ethical and sustainable accessories brand to the rampant copying and knockoffs in the accessories world.


You know, since THE EMAIL, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about releasing an episode with a small business owner as a guest. For no particular reason, really. After all, just because Emily and I are talking about her business and why she does what she does, doesn’t mean we are trying to sell you something.  And I want to be clear about that.  This conversation with Emily will really underscore the challenges that small businesses face in a world where large businesses always have an unfair advantage, and continue to gobble up and destroy small businesses, particularly ethical small businesses.   And furthermore, I maintain that ethical small businesses are the future.  That’s the key word there: ethical.


So a lot has been swirling around in my head since the email episode, well, really long before the email episode.  And it’s kinda funny (always) how a lot of different things I have been thinking about will sort of merge with something that happens IRL and help me see a bigger picture.


As I have been saying, community and building more community within the slow fashion movement is a priority for me.  I was thinking about that a lot last year as I felt very lonely and isolated in Austin. It was on my mind even more after the whole thing with Remake. And to be honest, I would not have made it through the Remake thing/continued to work on Clotheshorse after the way Remake handled it if it hadn’t been for the tremendous support of the Clotheshorse community. I have always felt motivated and inspired by all of you, but at that moment, you also gave me strength and confidence that I would have not have had otherwise. 


Community is really magical like that. 


I have also had a lot of conversations with various friends and members of our community over the last few months that reminded me that we’ve all become kinda disconnected over the past few years.  Like, in 2020 and 2021, we were all in constant contact, talking about our lives, our work, our dreams, our fears…and inspiring and supporting one another the whole time.  For me, that time period was transformative.  


And then in 2022, we were forced to pretend that life was “normal,” that the pandemic was over, that we would go back to the “before times” of 2019.  But you and I both know that it will never be the “before times” again. So much happened (and continues to happen) that pushes us forward and into different places, ideas, and situations that we never imagined before.  I mean, think about all of the things that happened in the world from 2020-2022.  Think about how much all of us changed and grew on a personal level.  It could never be the “before times” again and that’s a good thing.  I think this abrupt quasi end to the pandemic, this forced pretending that it was 2019 again…it pulled us apart as we tried to adapt. I know it was a shock for me, and when I’m dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety, I kinda turn inward.  I don’t reach out to others.  I don’t go places. I just hang out at home with Dustin and the cats.


I think that many of us found ourselves doing the same thing.


And as a result, our community felt more distant. It didn’t help that even instagram wasn’t showing us one other’s posts.  In fact, social media was probably keeping us apart even more because we had relied on it so much in the past to connect us, to keep the conversation going, and now it wasn’t doing that.


Something else that struck me when I compared 2020-21 to the past two years? Is how we were all there sorta protecting one another from trolls and general shittiness on the internet. Because to be clear: trolls are always trolling, particularly when it comes to conversations about slow fashion, sustainability, etc.  You never know when someone will decide to go scorched earth with you over Amazon, Shein, or vegan leather.  And while yes, I deal with my share of this, I see it happening even more often to the small business owners in our community who do a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of the unpaid labor of educating others about the ethical and environmental implications of the fast fashion industry.


Which is funny (but not in a haha way, more like an enraging way)…because millions of people will take a greenwashing campaign by Nike or Zara or Free People and literally shower it with clapping hands emojis and declarations of “this is why you are my favorite brand” without one single question.  They just trust these companies that frankly, do not deserve our trust.


But if a small business is trying hard to do things ethically and pay themselves a living wage, well, people have to show up to question the prices, the products, or the ethics of that (often one person) small business.   Like, the bar is SO MUCH higher for these small businesses than it will ever be for Nike or Madewell or whatever…and yet, even when these small businesses show the math, show their values, show proof that they are in fact ethical and decent people…that doesn’t translate into sales that allow them to support themselves. And it’s not because people aren’t shopping, because they are…they are just still opting to give their money to Amazon or Nordstrom or whatever.  As we discussed in THE EMAIL episode, we all need to buy a lot less stuff.  And we need to start doing that right now.  But even if we buy half as much stuff, there’s still plenty of money flowing through the system to support small businesses. Where it goes wrong is when we cut our spending in half, but then keep shopping at Amazon.  Then more people are just pushed to get jobs working for Amazon as other options dry up.


Anyway, last week (or so) Dani of Picnicwear sent out an email about a sale.  And someone literally replied to the email–which like what? Next level troll technique there–saying “when you finally realize all of your merchandise is grossly overpriced.” The whole thing was super weird because the email sender had just subscribed to the mailing list six days earlier.  And I’ll just tell you that it was a bold move to send that email because obviously an email address and name was attached to it. And the sender was an artist herself. So it was all just so weird, and I’m sure just someone having a bad day and needing a way to kind get it out. So why not respond to an email from a stranger?


This whole email led to Dani doing an entire reel showing how the math MATHS for her business (and spoiler: the math totally maths) and I couldn’t help but wonder why Dani has to do that but you know, Zara or Urban Outfitters or Shein don’t have to do that? And people are fine with continuing to shop those brands.  I want to be clear that the math doesn’t math for any of those companies without a whole bunch of human exploitation and tax loopholes.

But here’s the thing: y’all (and I’m using the collective y’all here, meaning like the entire population of the internet) know that Dani’s math will math, as will any other small brand out there. Y’all know that stuff’s not grossly overpriced…unless you’re talking about the like $98 dress from a big retailer that only cost them $10 to make.  Y’all know that responding to an email sent from a small business (where most likely there is one employee and it’s the owner and they are sending and answering the damn emails)…y’all know that is a shitty and hurtful thing and that it’s not going to result in anything good happening, right?


So if everyone knows these things, why make these kinds of comments or send trolly emails? Because we are all struggling: financially, emotionally, physically, you name it.  It’s a really hard time to exist.  And we are lonelier than ever.


In fact, there’s an entire “loneliness economy” based on our yearning for human contact and connection that businesses are trying to figure out how to turn into lucrative money making industries. And some are already succeeding: social media platforms, dating apps, porn platforms and services, AI chat buddies and girlfriends, online gambling and gaming.  I can’t even begin to imagine what will be invented next to make us feel less lonely. But I know we also overconsume all kinds of things in pursuit of an escape from loneliness. I can’t help but even think that a Shein haul video is a way to connect with others, after the lonely experience of shopping online.  I see this loneliness as an underlying theme in anti-reseller pile-ons in the comments of a TikTok. Or subreddits and facebook groups for specific brands. People are looking for connection, but it often arrives in the form of consumerism.


I am going to share a short Medium piece by Piyush Patel called “The Loneliness Economy: How Capitalism Thrives on Isolation.”  He writes, “The Loneliness Economy is a dark manifestation of modern capitalism, where corporations profit off people’s yearning for genuine human connections. In this dystopian landscape, shallow interactions, virtual validation, and superficial relationships dominate, leaving individuals disconnected, empty, and lonelier than ever before. It is essential for society to recognize the detrimental effects of this economy and seek ways to prioritize meaningful human connections to combat the loneliness epidemic.”


And the thing is: late stage capitalism (or whatever you want to call what we are experiencing right now) profits from our loneliness, while also exacerbating our loneliness.  We’re too busy working, trying to survive, even competing with one another for a tiny, tiny piece of the economic pie…we’re so busy fighting to exist that we don’t have time left to be with one another.


Alexandra Kaufmann is a student at Emory University and she wrote a great piece for The Emory Wheel last February called “Capitalism starves us of love — we don’t have to stand by.” And it has haunted me (in a good way) since the first time I read it.  If you only read one thing I have ever shared with you here on Clotheshorse, read this one.


She writes, “While love is nebulous, intrinsic and necessary, capitalism is the opposite: conversely defined, external and unnecessary. Characterized by the state’s lack of interference in the economy, capitalism is a free market economy system that assumes humans are motivated by their own interests and operate in the world as self-serving individuals. Capitalism as it manifests in American society has spawned a unique set of circumstances for the working and lower class, in which self-reliant individuals are expected to work for profit-motivated companies in order to survive, while becoming increasingly alienated from others and unable to focus on their relationships. 


Capitalism pushes us to focus on individual achievement and career advancement rather than personal connection. We are forced to busy ourselves with work to keep up with expenses and bills, leaving little time to bond with our loved ones. To put it plainly, while we are still capable of feeling love, the work culture that capitalism has created interferes with our ability to fulfill that love.”


It’s infuriating to think that we spend so much of our time working, commuting to work, getting ready for work, worrying about work, that we often have very little time or emotional energy left for anything else.  Often we are too exhausted to do more than watch TV or have a drink and go to bed, maybe doom scroll or do some online shopping while we watch TV and have a drink. There’s nothing left for connecting with others.  And so, we become even more lonely, which most likely, drives us to buy more stuff, watch more TV, have more drinks…leading to debt…which leads us to work more…which makes us more lonely…which leads to more shopping and drinking…and so on and so on.


I’ll be honest with all of you: I was so lonely while we were in Austin.  In many ways, it was not a new feeling.  I had been feeling lonely since we left Portland in 2018.  I didn’t really make new friends in Philadelphia (because I was working all the time), then the pandemic began, then we moved to Austin, then I worked all the time, then I was lonelier than ever. And yes, I would often think back to 2020-21, when it felt as if the world was collapsing, but I never felt lonely thanks to the large community of friends I had made through Clotheshorse. Because I had time to build and maintain those friendships.  That kinda went away for all of us in 2022, right?


I’m going to share another piece with you in the show notes, written in 2022 by Robert Neuwirth for Noema, called “Capitalism Subverts Community.”  This one is a lot more economics focused (so I think Stacie of Rainbow Vintage will love this one), and it talks about how there are sort of two types of economics happening concurrently all over the world.  

There is the “top up” economics, the version that governments and economists alike are observing and discussing.  It’s the standard version of the economy that we know: growth year over year, widening wealth disparity, competition that maybe isn’t that competitive anymore, decreasing options as companies grow and stomp out small businesses.  About this “top up” economics, Neuwirth says, “The top-up economic sphere functions like a gated community in which people who have money can pretend that everything they do and have in life is based on merit, and that the communal and cooperative boosts from which they profit are nothing but natural outgrowths of that merit.”


The second is “the bottom-down” (as Neuwirth calls it) and this is all about working together to solve problems, thinking of the greater good, mutual aid, and just generally humans being humans together.  This is the version of the economy that the vast majority of the population experiences…or I should say, COULD experience if we recognized the foolishness of the predominant narrative created by late stage capitalism, namely that idea of merit and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.


About the “bottoms-down” economy, Neuwirth writes, “The key benefit of communal and cooperative ties is more basic: They provide platforms from which people can see further as they move forward in the world. 


Change always comes from below — and it is in the bottom-down relationships where growth and egalitarianism can flourish. Every volunteer fire department is a community platform. Every mutually managed water system demonstrates that neighbors can build things when they need each other. Every community-based childcare network or parent-teacher association is a nascent collective. Every civic association, neighborhood or church council, social action network or food pantry gives people a broader perspective. Every collectively run savings and credit association demonstrates that communal trust can give people a leg up.


It is through these self-governing institutions — which people join with their hearts as well as their heads — that we can hope to impact our system’s most intractable problems.”


Here’s the thing: we don’t get to work together to fix these problems if we don’t take a step back to realize who our community really is. When we send trolly emails to small businesses or defend Shein in the comments section or go after secondhand resellers…we are actually distancing ourselves more from our actual community and holding back progress.


I’ve said for a long time that slow fashion is really an issue of class solidarity: do you stand with big corporations who underpay and exploit other humans all while polluting the planet where we all need to live? Or do you stand with the workers, the humans, the people trying their hardest to do better? Would you prioritize having a steady stream of cute, trendy clothes over human lives? Is it actually helpful to pile-on resellers online? What progress comes from fighting amongst ourselves? Absolutely none.


There’s a feeling that I have been feeling with more increasing and frightening intensity year after year after  year.  And it’s not something I want to feel because it robs me of my hope, of my strength, of my commitment to fighting for what is right: and that is the feeling that I cannot stop the bad things happening in this world. That no matter how many times I call my Senator, I cannot stop the senseless suffering happening in Gaza and the Congo right now. That I cannot free the Uyghur Muslims in China. That I cannot stop the suffering of animals and humans all over this planet. That I cannot slow the terror that is climate change.  That I can’t stop people from shooting innocent humans or hurting others.  


I know many of you feel that, too.  The thing is, I can’t let myself surrender to that feeling of hopelessness because it is that hope that keeps us going.  And the truth is, I can’t change the world on my own, but I can change it when I’m working alongside an entire community of people.  When I reach outside of the exhaustion and fear that keep me isolated and lonely, and I reach out to all of you.   Change does come from below. And WE are the below. It won’t happen without community.


In a 2019 piece for Salon called “Capitalism has warped our understanding of community — and it’s making us vulnerable to manipulation,” Valerie Pande Panne writes, “community is not a destination, nor a goal. It’s a way of being in the world, found where you are at, in the real world, with people most likely very different from you. It’s something that cannot be purchased.


If you see that, if you live in that, you’ll never be alone, and you’ll always be a part of something bigger than yourself.”


We need community now more than ever. We are facing problems so huge that will never be fixed without all of us.  And to be honest, do we really want to wait around for our governments or Amazon to fix it for us? I think they have already proven that we can’t count on that or even trust them to think of us.  When you really think about it, leaning into community, getting to know those around you, working alongside of them…community is the most anti-capitalist thing around.  Embracing your community is a revolutionary act.


Now I’m one person who myself is trying to survive in late stage capitalism, but I’m also committed to doing what I can to support and nurture this community.  I’m trying to leverage social media to actually make it work as a community builder by keeping us in touch and starting conversations. I’m hoping to get out in the world and see you all IRL this year (including via the still incredibly nebulous Clotheshorse IRL convention this summer). And I’m also trying this new virtual meetup situation.  I mean, we gotta try everything right? So if you haven’t heard about it already, the first Clotheshorse virtual webinar/hang out session will be happening on February 29, aka leap day.  And in this session, I’ll be talking with all of you about why new clothes are kinda garbage these days. I’ll do a presentation of a lot of things I’ve discussed in these episodes AND I’ll take your questions. In fact, I’m hoping for a lot of audience participation because that’s my favorite part!  It’s free (but I encourage all of you to buy me a ko-fi afterwards for my work).  To register, follow the link in the show notes.  Because I’m too poor for the Zoom “webinar” level account, this session is only open to 100 people, so it’s first come first serve. I think there about 40 spots left as of recording this, so don’t mess around and wait until the last minute. This thing may be an abject failure and no one will show up, but if it’s good, I want to keep doing it.

Okay, with that epic intro, let’s jump into my conversation with Emily!


All right, Emily, why don’t you introduce yourself to everyone?



Hi everyone, my name is Emily Lamondre. I’m a women’s accessories designer and I’m based in upstate New York in Socrates in the Catskills. My brand is called MLE, the letters M-L-E, which sounds just like my name and it’s actually my initials backwards. I’ve had the…



What? Okay, I just got it that it was Emily, but that’s also amazing that that’s your initials backwards. Did your parents plan that? Wow.



Yeah, I don’t know, it’s, no, it just, I mean, it just kind of happened. I mean, when I started the line, I wanted to have, you know, like a designer brand that had my name somehow involved in it, you know, like a typical high-end fashion brand, and, but I also wanted it to feel contemporary and modern, and I loved the idea of it being initials, and that’s how we, how I ended up with MLE.



Wow, that worked out so well. So how did you end up with a career in fashion? Is this something you always wanted to do or did it happen to you?



It sort of just happened. That being said, I come from a long line of creatives and family members that have worked in the fashion industry. My grandparents on my dad’s side were tailors. My Armenian grandmother on my mom’s side was a seamstress. She actually made samples for Macy’s and many other brands in the 70s and 80s. And I…

always have been creative. I have a background in fine arts and painting and I always have liked making things. And as I got older, it shifted away from the visual arts into more, shall we say, a commercial avenue. And, you know, it started actually with silkscreen t-shirts in college. I was an art history major undergrad at Johns Hopkins. I was graduating in 2009 during a recession, and during that time, yeah, I know, it was a type of thing, I was very concerned about what’s gonna happen to me next, what am I doing? Do I wanna go to grad school? Do I wanna get a full-time job? And nothing was really jelling with me, and I’d always been creative, I’d been able to support myself before that with other jobs I came up with over the summer and things like that when I was home from college.



Great time.



I thought about painting t-shirts and even silkscreen t-shirts as what I support myself. Actually, that spring semester, senior year, we had an event on campus called Spring Fair and I sold out of my t-shirts. Every day I had my booth and that night I would be up all night printing more t-shirts and I was like, maybe I’m onto something. Then that first summer after graduating, I actually supported myself entirely off of selling t-shirts, which was pretty cool.



That’s amazing.



Yeah, I felt like I was onto something and it was really exciting. But then what happened was the weather got cold and people weren’t buying T-shirts as much as they were in the warmer weather months. And there was an opportunity at that time. Baltimore, where I went to college, had an amazing thrifting scene. And I started buying clothing that I was finding at thrift stores, reworking them and silk screening on them. And that became like the next, I guess, evolution of my brand. Silk-screened t-shirts moved into vintage clothing that I would alter in silk-screened and it was a sustainable way, you know, to create fashionable pieces or pieces that were interesting but still unique. And then what happened with that was during this time I had been out of school for about a year or so and…


I decided to apply for an MBA program at NYU Stern. That was part-time. I liked they did have a part-time program, so I would be able to still work on my company, but then also apply the learnings from the course to whatever I was doing. And I was accepted. And with that, I moved to New York. My whole perspective about what a fashion company was or what I could have completely changed, you know, I was in the capital, the world capital of fashion and just being exposed by so many other brands and what I was learning in grad school really changed everything for me. And it was that time that it morphed from, you know, t-shirt company to vintage clothing that I was silk screening on to it became a full-on contemporary women’s line that I was designing prints myself. I was having the prints produced on fabric. I was doing the pattern making. I was taking class at FIT part-time and learning how to do that as well, making the samples. And then I started getting wholesale orders from, and then I started getting wholesale

which was, you know, when I started this line, that was my goal, and within, I’d say, two years or year and a half of moving to New York City, it happened, and that was a big turning point for me.



I mean, that’s incredible. That’s like the dream, you know? That’s amazing.



Yeah, I mean, it was the dream at first, I’ll say that, but I had a lot going on at that time. So I was getting my MBA part-time. I was actually working full-time during the day as a print designer for a women’s company to be able to fund my fashion company. And then I was also doing my fashion company proceedings or running that company, basically, whatever time existed besides that. And it was a lot. I mean, something that came out of it, order I got from Urban Outfitters, it was an $11,000 order, which I’d never seen that much money ever in my life in one time. But the way that order came in and the way a lot of wholesale retailers operate is it was a net 60 order. And that was an order they placed, I believe, in July for shipping in November. And I had to figure out how to fund that order myself, so to do the production. At that time, you know, to find the funds. That’s why I got that job, to be able to fund.

the production of that first run and then it just became you know in a way a slippery slope because as soon as I ship that order waiting 60 days to get paid Then it was okay. They want to place another order, but where’s that money coming from the orders are getting bigger and bigger



Yeah, that’s, I mean, I will tell you that like all of my friends who have smaller brands, like this is the, they still face this struggle that often when, you know, you sell to a bigger account like Urban Outfitters, they’re going to give you those net 60 turns and you really can’t negotiate them because you’re sort of like the power imbalance is there, right? You’re not going to push back and be like, actually, I need net 15 or something like they you don’t feel like you can do that. And

so many of my friends who have brands that are selling to like larger retailers like this or even selling on fair, they’re in this constant, like, I don’t know, like anxiety about money because the money is going to come, but it’s going to come like four months, five months after they pay for the production. And I mean, that’s just not reasonable for a small business. That’s like a really. really dangerous place to be. It’s really scary. And I have noticed that more and more different services are popping up to sort of give brands, I don’t know, what I think of as like payday loans, to cover the production that they’re going to have to pay back then. And in some regards, the terms are pretty reasonable. Shopify, for example, does this. But. I am always like waiting for the other shoe to drop with anything that involves money. Like, when’s this going to become like really, I don’t know, predatory where suddenly the interest rates are going to get really high or the terms are going to be out of control. So I think that this is like this is the thing that stands in the way of the growth of so many small businesses or even the ability for the designers, the owners to pay themselves. And for me, like as I’ve moved up the ladder in buying, I’m obviously not a buyer anymore. But as I made that progression and got to the leadership level where I actually sometimes could make decisions, you know, I would often negotiate a deposit model with small brands where I’d be like, OK, cost of the order upfront upon issuing the order so that you can pay for production because it’s not fair for you to go into debt to sell stuff to us you know and I

I haven’t I don’t think I’ve ever told the story on the podcast before, but back when I worked at Nasty Gal, we placed an order. I mean, I specifically placed an order for these jackets from a brand that is very now very well known in the sort of like made in the USA. Slow fashion space. They’re based in L.A. And they had just made the shift from set. They mostly sold pins and patches, but they started making these jackets. And I placed an order for just like a small amount. away. So we placed another order for a lot more and those sold out and then we placed an even bigger order, but we weren’t giving this person a deposit on any of this stuff or any sort of good payment terms and After we placed that huge order I got laid off about a month later or a little bit longer later like Nasty I’ll officially declared bankruptcy in that time period. They received this huge order, which I can’t even imagine This was like a one-person company at that point of money that they put out for this production. And this was once again, a person who had been primarily making pins and patches. Now they make only apparel and they make a lot of it, but they…shipped the order and then it was like, oh, guess what? Well, you’re going to get you’re not going to get paid now because we declared bankruptcy. You’re going to get some sort of settlement of pennies for a doll on the dollar. And that the owner of that brand was really transparent about it on social media, which I’m really proud of them for doing that. That was basically like, we’re probably going to go bankrupt over this. This is probably the end of my business. And what she actually did then was start a Kickstarter program to start manufacturing more apparel and to cover that expense.


That was what really got the brand going. But that’s like a really rare situation where it works out that well. And so for me, like that story is something that I’ve carried with me through my career since then. Like how can we mitigate that risk? But the pushback that you’ll get from finance. about giving better terms to small brands. It’s ridiculous. Like they just can’t see, they can’t see it. They just don’t care. I don’t know. So the fact that you, I mean, I think that it surprises a lot of people to hear that designers, small brands, they often work full-time jobs too, just to fund the business. That’s like almost everyone I know.



Yeah, and I think also part of this that a lot of people don’t realize is in terms of the production, as a designer, you have to pay all your suppliers up front. It’s not like they’re waiting to get paid for you to get paid from the wholesaler for them to get paid. No, you have to pay your production up front, you have to pay your team up front, so you’re operating at a loss and then waiting to get paid after it shifts, after you don’t even have the goods anymore.



Yeah, it’s so long, because some retailers are like, OK, we will the net 60 terms, which means they have 60 days to pay you, begins after we’ve received the order. So it’s like, OK, there’s the shipping and that’s got to get to the warehouse. And they have to like if the warehouse is backed up, like if it’s holiday season or something, there might be a few more weeks on top of that. I mean, it’s a long time. It’s got to feel endless when it’s your money on the line.



Yeah, so it was a combination of, you know, the orders are getting larger. I wasn’t able to fund the order myself. So then also, the wholesale orders I was getting, there was pressure to drive the cost down, which meant diluting the quality, and I had a certain quality level I wanted to maintain. So there were things such as my samples, I made them all in silk, but in order to meet the price point that the wholesalers were looking for, we had to do it in polyester. Then I had some prints that, you know, we were matching the prints on the seams, and because of that, we were using extra fabric, and to get the cost down, that meant mismatching the print.

So it became, you know, it just became diluting, and it was a very different quality than what it started with. But then also, just besides all of that…


The nature of having a clothing brand is that you run into fit issues and a really high return rate. And for me, that just wasn’t sustainable. I didn’t experience it personally for this brand, but it was something I was aware of and it was also something I got exposure to when, after deciding to take a break from this business, after I felt burnt out and I basically needed to continue to support myself, but was still interested in fashion, I moved into working in e-commerce and digital marketing for fashion brands. into what was going on with the return rate. The average return rate for a clothing company for online is about 30%. And if you just think, yeah, it is wild. Because if you think about just the logistics of 30% of your inventory being returned to you, but then also having to repackage it, check it, and just the emissions being generated from all that driving back and forth for the carriers to do those returns, it does become a sustainability issue. So after working for about, five years or so in e-commerce, working for fashion brands, working in terms of implementing digital marketing and e-commerce ideas, I saw these brands growing. I decided I was becoming interested in starting something myself, but I wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be. I was thinking a lot about sustainability, thinking about this high return rate, and I landed on accessories. The reason I decided to move into accessories is


So there’s less of a need to come out the big new collection every season, which means less waste. And then that size fit issue that you experience with clothing, it’s not as much of a concern. And that’s something I’ve seen on my end, personally, with my accessories brand, MLE. It’s that we have like a virtually zero percent return rate, which is amazing. And besides that, also, you get more creative freedom. So when you say accessories, it could literally be anything, which I love. 



Yeah, I started my career in accessories and it was way more fun than working in apparel because you are so, well, especially if you have to meet really aggressive pricing targets, you’re so reigned in an apparel. And I felt like when I was at accessories, like if I could dream it, I could make it. And it was far more creatively fulfilling than clothing ever was and.


That return rate, man, you cannot discount that. It’s such a big deal, you know, because that’s the other thing. Like and I’ve been talking about that in previous episodes. You know, one of the reasons clothes are so garbagey right now is that return rate. Like 30 percent is pretty average. I read the most recent like quarterly financial stuff about Revolve, like the transcript of their financial call and their return rate year to date for 2023 at that point was 60 percent.


6 out of 10 garments they sold got returned, which is like a nightmare. I don’t know how they’re still in business. And you know, in most companies.






when your return rate is that high, what happens is you’re given larger margin targets to make the math math, which means the cost of everything you make has to be even lower, which means everything is getting diluted even more. Whereas in accessories, yes, we have aggressive margin targets, but we didn’t have to make up for all of these returns and other fit issues. I mean, I felt frequently in apparel, we would receive a whole order that we couldn’t even sell because there was some egregious fit or quality issue that didn’t happen as much in accessories. Not to be, there’s plenty of horrible fast fashion accessories out there, but like just from like a working on it in the buying product development side, it’s so much more fun.


OK, so, you know, one thing you make is jewelry, right? And when you and I were preparing for this episode, you used a term that I’m used to using for work as well, and that is costume jewelry. But what I’ve found is that most people don’t know what that means. So could you explain to everyone what costume jewelry is?



Sure, so costume jewelry is jewelry that is not made with precious metals. So that would be, for example, sterling silver, 14 karat gold, platinum. So it’s jewelry that can look very expensive or mimic the look of fine jewelry, gold or silver, but the focus is on the affordability. So with that means that it’s being made with materials that are not gold and silver. So usually that means a base that is brass or zinc, and it’s usually plated. So that being said, there’s a whole range of quality in terms of costume jewelry. Another term for costume jewelry that we use


is fashion, so fashion jewelry versus fine jewelry. And something about the plating is, for example, if you’re looking at a gold ring that is a costume jewelry ring, that probably has a base of brass and it has a plate layer on top of it that’s a gold tone, but it might not necessarily actually be 14 karat gold. It might just be some mix of metals that has an effect to look gold. And there’s many different also


thicknesses of the plating. So that is a whole array, a whole range of quality right there just with the thickness because I’ve had jewelry personally, costume jewelry that you know you wear it once, you wash your hands with it and the plating comes off. And then related to that is a lot of times with costume jewelry in order to have that plating layer stick they use metals to help reinforce that layer. So for example, nickel. So nickel is a metal that’s not hypoallergenic. A lot of people are allergic to it and it’s actually illegal in Europe to use nickel for costume jewelry. But in the US, it’s very common actually to put nickel under the plating layer to have a stronger bond to keep that semi-precious metal or even something that just looks like a gold to the base metal.



Interesting like how what do you know what this the signs are that you might one be wearing something nickel and to be allergic to it Like is do you get like inflammation or rash? Is that when your ear turns green?



Yeah, so usually signs that you’re allergic to whatever is going on with the costume jewelry is that it’s itchy, it turns red or pink, it’s inflamed, it can puff up.


The turning, the green is what’s, that’s actually a result of the brass, the base layer being exposed. So that can leave a mark or even a ring around, like on your finger if you’re wearing a ring that the base metal has been exposed. That being said, at Emily, at our brand, we do make some pieces that are, in theory, considered costume jewelry, but we take the extra precaution to make sure that the quality’s there. So, for example, for the plating, we work with a plater in Rhode Island


of plating and we use genuine 14 karat gold or platinum and we do wear testing and we make sure that all our pieces are hypoallergenic so we’re not using nickel in the plating we’re also making pieces out of stainless steel which is hypoallergenic. So again there’s a whole range here in terms of what costume jewelry can be but it’s very common with fashion brands to do costume jewelry because it’s an affordability thing right and that’s something that’s come up a lot with our pieces because we offer fine jewelry pieces that are solid 14 karat gold but the price point you know something that’s you know $600 to $900 is not necessarily accessible to someone and that’s why the costume jewelry version comes out a plated version.



Yeah, I mean, costume jewelry, obviously, like I’ve worked my whole career in the fast fashion realm, so I was exclusively working with costume jewelry. And it’s interesting, like you said, there is a whole spectrum here. We’re talking like at the bottom level, like Claire’s right. Or like the jewelry at Forever 21 that is somehow two dollars and 90 cents for a necklace. You know, there’s that at the bottom. Obviously, jewelry you would be buying from Shein or Timu or Sara, really any fast fashion brand. And, you know, and then there’s the and well-plated, high quality stuff that is built to last. My experience is that those styles are frequently coming from smaller brands like yours. And the other thing I’ll just say is that in the world, I mean it’s just like when we’re talking about buying clothing, right?


In the world of jewelry, it’s really important to read and ask questions about the metal, about like the plating, et cetera, because this is another area where people by people, I mean, like companies, brands are not necessarily pricing in a way that reflects the quality. Yes, we can say if we go to Claire’s and we can get three of those earring cards of like 20 studs for like five dollars. Yes, we can we can say with certainty that these are not earrings that are built to last, that they we’re not going to get a lot of use of them. They’re not the best use of our money. They’re going to be in the landfill. Right. But.


I look at, you know, other brands like, say, anthropology or, you know, like, and other stories and whatnot who are selling costume jewelry at a higher price point that would make you think that it is higher quality, but it is not necessarily. It’s really important to read, like, the information about what this is made of. And if it’s not clear, that’s probably a red flag, because certainly any brand is going to brag about using high quality materials


to you to get you to purchase, but you can also just reach out. I mean, we would even when I was like at Urban Outfitters, where our clear our I mean, our jewelry was vaguely nicer than what you would buy at Forever 21. At least it looked nicer in the store, but it wasn’t necessarily higher quality. But people would reach out all the time and just say, hey, is this hypoallergenic? Is this this? Is this that? And I respect those people for doing that, even though we had to constantly say no.


You know, like I think that these are really important things to think about. And I personally, I. get this anxiety sometimes when I think about I think about the specific time in my life, probably between like 2005 and 2010 when I was buying so much jewelry on sale at Urban Outfitters and at Forever 21. And it was the era of like statement necklaces and stuff and how sometimes those necklaces wouldn’t even last a few wears. Like you were saying, you get it wet and the plating would come off or it would turn black or the chains would just break or, you know, on and on and on.


And that makes me think, I think that we, you know, we talk about clothing a lot being this huge waste crisis, but crappy jewelry is a part of that too.



Yeah, because I think also part of it is, you know, a big thing with the jewelry industry is being able to recycle metals. When you don’t know what the metals are, how can you possibly recycle them?


I mean, that was going to be my next question, because I kind of am pretty sure I know the answer here, which is like, you can’t recycle the jewelry that you buy at the mall because it’s all like composite, right? It would be impossible. Putting it in your recycling bin is not going to make it better. You know what I mean?



Yeah, and then you can’t, you also can’t melt it down because that’s something that we do in the jewelry industry is that scrap metal or even pieces that people don’t want anymore, it’s melted down and used to cast a new piece. But when you don’t know what the metal is, when it’s an amalgam of zinc and nickel and all these other things, you can’t melt that and reuse it.



Yeah, so it’s just garbage, which brings me to my next question, because it was something that we talk about this a lot with clothing, like with the quality of clothing being so bad right now, like specifically, you know, like the vast majority of brand new clothing that people are buying right now is so bad. I mean, all you need to do is go spend an afternoon at a thrift store and you will see it. It’s scandalous.


You know, the question we ask a lot is what will the vintage clothing of 20 to 30 years from now be? Because it seems like the clothing that people are buying right now is not going to be around then or be desirable. I mean, it’ll be around. It’ll be somewhere in a landfill, but it won’t be around being worn in the same way that clothing from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s are. And so my question is, like, what will the vintage jewelry of the future


be since we know a lot of the low end costume jewelry, which for sure companies are making and selling so much of this like I will tell you that when you go into your standard fast fashion store the most profitable stuff in that store


is the jewelry because they mark it up so much. I mean, we’re talking like necklaces that are $2 that are selling for 20. It’s a huge marked up markup. But we know the quality isn’t there. Like, what will the vintage jewelry of the future be? Like, what will our generation hand down to our grandchildren?

And I think I think it’s because we’ve been like in this idea of like more is more. And we need lots of jewelry rather than like a few nice things that we just wear and feel good about.

I don’t know, like what are your thoughts on that?



Yep. Well, I mean, something I’m struggling with because…


Somewhat similarly as you, you know, when I was younger, and that’s all I could afford at the time, you know, I was buying fashion jewelry when I was a college student or right out of college. I was buying those Forever 21 pieces, and it’s funny because now, you know, 15 years later, I’m going through my jewelry collection and I see those pieces and they’re all, you know, tarnished and they’re not wearable, and I know that if I put them in my ear, my ear’s gonna get itchy from it, and I feel bad throwing it out, but what am I supposed to do with it?








I know, because you can’t recycle it. Yeah, yeah.



becomes. Yeah, so then it’s like okay because now also I feel very bad throwing things away because it goes in a landfill. It’s not like it disappears like it disappears from you from your you know immediate life but it’s basically in a landfill will never break down and it’s forever.



Yeah, it’s really, I mean, I will tell you that there was this.


bin of like that fast fashion costume jewelry that I was just moving around from city to city as I moved because I didn’t know what to do with it. I was like, all a lot of this has turned black or green or white. It’s all gross. I don’t know what to do with it. I know I can’t recycle it. I have tried cleaning it and I can’t. And yet I still haven’t found out where it goes and what to do with it. And I was just like, man, if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought all this. And now it’s like this burden. I mean, I think all the time, like, if we went to the Grand Canyon and it was full of fast fashion clothes, we would all be devastated. And people would have this very visceral reason to change their consumption habits. But, you know, often, like, the reality of waste is sort of hidden from us. We just, like, put it in the trash bin. And then we never have to see it unless we drive by a landfill or something really fast. And I think, like, having this burden of carrying around

reminding me like it’s stuck with me. I’ve barely purchased any jewelry since then, because I’m just like, oh, it’s too stressful. I only want if I’m going to buy something, I’m going to buy something I’m going to wear the rest of my life, you know. And.



Totally. I mean, I go through it with my… I remember when I was organizing my jewelry, just the jewelry box I was going through, and I was like, wow, so much of my space I have allocated for my jewelry is costume jewelry from when I was, you know, younger. And, you know, my favorite thing, which is like funny, it’s like, you know, like all that crystal stuff that’s just all cloudy, and you’re looking at it and it’s so sad. You’re like, well, I can’t bring the sparkle back to this. I can’t make it clear again. It’s just…



In 2020, 2021, when I was like home a lot, I finally started doing stuff with some of that random jewelry I’d been carrying around to mix results. And I even went to the thrift store and bought other costume jewelry and like broke it down for its beads and stuff. And I made some really cool things. But like, I think I hesitate to even speak out loud about that because I don’t want people to think like, oh, I can just continue to buy a bunch of dumb stuff and I will later make something else out of it. Because like odds are high that you won’t.


You know, like that was an exceptional time where I was just sitting at home every day and I could only play the Sims for so long before I got burned. I was like feeling resentful of my Sims. I needed to do something else. OK, where are we here? Where are we here? OK, so. You know, you’ve been running. I mean, I feel like you’ve been running a brand in one way or another, like since you reached adulthood, basically, right?


What challenges do you face as a small business owner?



Yeah, so in terms of, you know, doing production and sampling of accessories, it’s very different from clothing because…


Designing accessories relies a lot on components. And what I mean by components, like hardware, different aspects to have the accessories fit together. So for jewelry, it could be a clasp or even an earring that the rest of the beads hang off. And it’s very important when you’re doing this kind of accessories work to think about, for me anyways, what makes this piece unique? What makes this like…


fall under my brand? How does this stand out? How does this look like something no one’s seen before? And the issue with that is a lot of times it comes down to I need to design something, like a component, which means, you know, do I hire a CAD designer? Do I learn CAD? My husband and I actually recently bought a 3D printer and I mean some of my designs already are based in CAD, but it’s a lot of needing to develop something yourself and then having to do a production run of that component.






in order to then put it together with everything else to make it custom. Does that make sense? What I’m saying? Yeah.



No, it totally I mean, I think, you know, when I when I talk to people who don’t work within the industry and also work with people who work within the industry but don’t know the product development side of it, there seems to be a lot of confusion. I don’t know, misconception, I guess I’ll say that if you can imagine something.


then China can make it for you or someone can make it for you. And it’s actually so much more complicated than that. That is 100 percent not true. Now, maybe if you work at Zara, right, and you’re going to make 100000 units of something and you have a specific class or component in mind. Sure, they might be able to actually make that for you. They can create a mold and manufacture that. But like if you’re a small brand, you don’t get to say, I want this very specific class, but that doesn’t exist, but that I imagined.



Like it’s not that simple. And sometimes it will take so many samples back and forth to get things right, even if you are able to get the components that you want. But man, I had, I specifically like when you were talking about that, it triggered a memory of like my worst job ever. No, it’s fine. The creative director there had no experience in fashion whatsoever or product development. And yet she would like, I don’t know. She was under that misconception that if she had an idea, then I should be able to just go out and find someone with it, like within a day. And it would often be like, I have this vision of like a button or a fabric print or a fabric.

And like it would be tears from magazines or from blogs or whatever and I’d be like this is You sent me a picture of like a specific clasp from like a Gucci bag Like we can’t get that you know like or like this like tapestry fabric It’s very beautiful But like we would have to buy like a hundred thousand yards to make that exist even if we could And or like a very specific button. It was always something like that and I was like it’s way more complicated than you think, especially when you don’t have a lot of buying power. And it’s also really hard to convey what your vision is to someone else. You know what I mean? Like, it’s just not that simple.



Yeah, totally. I mean, I think that’s why right now I’m spending the time learning CAD, because I’ve done sketches and sent it to a designer or a factory to then say, OK, can you do the sample for me and make the mold for me? And it comes out different than I expect. And so I do want to have more control over that. And also, I think it helps keep costs down by doing this kind of work on my own instead of relying on a factory or another designer to do it. But then it means more work for me. I do things like sometimes I’ll carve things out and then we’ll cast that and that’s how we’ll get our master. Master is what that means, it’s like the piece that you make the mold from.


It’s the thing that before you do your production, it’s the perfect specimen, excuse me, it’s the perfect specimen that already exists, you make your mold and then you use that for your production run. So we do that with our jewelry, for our rings and our earrings, our necklace clasps, even for hair clips, you know, some of our clips involve having a 3D mold, injection mold, which, you know, our croissant claw clips, that is a 3D mold.


That was very challenging to figure out with my factory. And I frankly don’t see many other hair clips like that have that kind of a texture. But for me it was important, that’s also something else when you’re designing. You wanna create something that your customer hasn’t seen before because that’s what makes you unique from other brands. And that’s what makes you stand out. But what ends up happening is you just keep innovating and challenging yourself and throwing, it’s almost like jumping through hoops. It’s like what other complicated things I figure out that I haven’t seen before.



I also just appreciate the effort that you’re putting in to like learn these skills and create these initial samples and molds because I think that, you know, if you haven’t worked in the industry, you don’t know how wasteful the sample back and forth process can be. Like it can be, especially in accessories, so many tries until it’s right. Three, four, five, six, seven. I mean, that’s ostensibly what sample sales are for to sell all that weird stuff. But we know a lot of that just goes to waste, you know?

it’s especially like early in my career, the first category I worked on, it was shoes, which was like, if you’ve ever, there is nothing more disappointing than the first sample of a shoe development. It’s like always so bad and you’re like, oh, wow, cool. So no one would ever want this shoe. At least you only made one. It’s not a pair. But like, what are we going to do with this? It’s going to be seven more samples until we get this shoe right. And so we’re going to have all these seven single shoes that are just trash, you know, and I think like that would have been a really great time for my employer to invest in, like a designer who could CAD this stuff up for us.

you know, or creating samples in-house that could just be go into production, but rather, no, we’re just creating one sample after another, you know, shipping it via air from China over and over again, maybe India. We’re using all these resources to continue to not get this right. It’s like one of those things that you don’t know about. And so you work in the industry and you see all these other ways in which it can be really wasteful, mostly because brands aren’t spending the money to make it less wasteful. So I applaud you for learning all these different ways.



Oh, thanks. Well, it’s definitely a lot because…


That’s, I mean, part of this is also, you know, as you’re doing this, you’re like, what’s my next best seller going to be? And you have that pressure as you’re going through this, is like, I think this could be good, but will it be great? Will it go viral? You don’t know. And that’s just, you know, the design process. After you do the design process, for me at least, with my brand, then I have to do the content creation. So we do a photo shoot, we work with a team on social media. My husband and I work very closely in terms of creating all the content together. We have a concept, you know, content, and then we post it on social, and then it’s like, okay, did it do well? Did it not do well? Did we post it the right time?





Oh, the time, man. I’m always like living on the edge and posting at the wrong time and then being mad at myself. Like I knew better, but I just didn’t feel like waiting, you know? Yeah, it’s a it’s a whole it’s a whole thing. I mean, it is like.



It’s all… it’s never ending, huh?



You know, I always say that like small business owners, they actually probably have the most detailed and lengthy resume of anyone because you end up doing like the jobs of 10 different people. I mean, here you are. You’re doing product development and content creation and social media and digital marketing. And like, there’s also the logistics of it all. Right. Like getting stuff in, getting stuff out, you know, like, do you do you and your husband fulfill all the orders or do you have a third party



So I have a small team, I’m very lucky to work with a small team in upstate in Saugerties So I have someone that does my shipping for me. We ship out three to four times a week and that’s a huge help. And then besides that I have a studio assistant that I work with that helps keep me organized and she does an amazing job in terms of you know multitasking and just whatever the project is. We work on that together. I also have a few seamstresses and sewers that I work with and it’s also gotten to the point you know a whole other part of this is recently went through an issue over the summer. I had a factory in the Garment District that I had been working with the past four years that was doing my production of my handbags. And they went out of business. It was so crazy. It was, I was thinking about placing a new order with them and I had been delaying it for a few weeks and I didn’t quite know why and I just had this feeling like I need to call them and I need to place this order. So I call and they say, we’re closing, we’re going out of business, tomorrow’s our last day.

I swear they say we have some bolts of your fabric you need to come tomorrow and pick them up otherwise we have to throw everything out tomorrow’s our last day. So I literally you know get up seven in the morning drive to the city which is about a two-hour ride and fill up my car with all my fabric wave goodbye to them and that was it. And that was so stressful for me because it marked a big turning point because I was so excited to be leveraging the garment district, to be working with the factory in the garment district, to say locally made, made New York. But at that moment, it’s like, do I find a new factory to work with? And I spent time, I spent a few days after that in the garment district looking for other factories. And what I found out was the reason that factory closed is that they were severely undercharging me for the production they were doing. And I had no, I honestly had no idea


Amanda Oh no, why? How?



designer clothing and they were putting, basically doing my production runs in between the designer clothing. And so I thought, you know, this designer clothing is so complicated. My pieces, because I make all my samples myself. I still make my samples myself. So I looked at them, like, this must not be very, they must have some machine or some process that this is not that complicated for them.


And all the other factors I went to after that in the Garmin District, you know, were quoting me four to six times as much as what this other factory had been charging me. And it became, you know what? This isn’t sustainable anymore for me to do production in the Garmin District. It got to that point. So after that, I moved everything to my studio in Saugerties in the cast skills. And I have a team in place that I’ve been training since the summer on doing my production in-house in Saugerties. Which, yeah.






huge change and that’s like again another hat to wear because before it used to be okay here’s the sample here’s the top of production is approved and now I’ll just be in touch and you know two three weeks and it’ll be ready I’ll come pick it up or you’ll ship it to me now it’s literally I’m working with the team and we’re doing the production in my studio yeah



Wow, that is yeah. I mean, it’s funny. I’ve been like hearing this story more and more often lately. A few of my clients like their domestic factories have been closing too. And it’s just like, what are we going to do? I I.


I think like I felt like we were making a lot of progress with like, and when I say we, I mean, it’s a collective we not like you and me. I thought we were making a lot of progress with more and more production coming back to the United States, but it seems like in the past year or so, it’s actually moving in a direction again, which is very concerning to me.



Yeah, I mean, it’s getting to the point, even sometimes I talk to, you know, makers or factories, you know, within the area and they say, yeah, this has to get to do this overseas to hit this price point. And it’s, it’s challenging because, you know,


from I guess my point of view or just if you’re doing the math, you know, $15 an hour in New York at this point is the minimum wage, right? If you’re hiring a factory to sew something for you or make something for you, they’re doubling that. You know, they want to make profit off of that. So they have to pay their worker $15 an hour. And then on top of that, in theory, they have to also make $15 an hour for themselves. So think about like a dress all the components in an hour, right? So then you start to do the math, or like my handbags, like my handbags, I can make my handbags, you know, depending on what it is, maybe, you know, in two hours, but then you start to say, okay, so I’m making it myself, what would it be if a factory makes it? And then you start to crunch the numbers, and you’re like, this doesn’t make sense anymore at this price point that I was selling it at.



Yeah, I mean, I definitely think, you know, we live in this era, which we talk about all the time here on Clotheshorse. You know, we have been very confused about what the price and value of clothing and bags and shoes and everything we buy is because we have I mean, the reality is we’ve been able to buy necklaces for two dollars and 90 cents and dresses for 20 bucks because people weren’t getting paid a living wage. Right. And we’re working under terrible conditions. There’s no way you can get a brand new necklace for two bucks or a dress for twenty dollars without something like that happening, right? Without that being a part of it. And then, of course, also the quality being another element of it. And I think we just have to have like a really, really hard conversation with ourselves about like how much stuff do we need? We probably don’t need as much as we think we do. In fact, it’s not probably it’s for sure we don’t. It was interesting. I was doing an interview, I was being interviewed by someone who lives in the UK for their graduate school project. And they were telling me they were like, yeah, you know, do you ever feel kind of like upset because you’ll have a friend who says, oh, all I can afford is she and but then you see them place like a three hundred dollar order and you wonder like.


Couldn’t they just have bought a couple of nice things for $300 rather than like a haul for $300? And I’m like, dude, this is me like every day. I’m spiraling about this every day. It’s definitely on my mind. How do we dismantle this? More is better that we’ve all been, I don’t know, we’ve been infected with it. We need to move away from that and know that we want nice things that will last a long time that ethically, no one’s suffering to get it done, and when we do that we’re gonna pay more so maybe we just don’t need as many, you know? I think, I think that’s, that’s an obstacle that I feel is facing all of my friends who are small brands because they have to do the labor of trying to convince people of that. And it’s also what is keeping places like Shein and Tmoo just like growing and growing because, well, if I can’t get as a gazillion things from you, I’ll get it from somewhere else. It’s like it is one of those things that actually infuriates me, but it also frustrates me because I just I don’t know how we fix it, but it needs to be fixed.


I don’t know. I don’t know. But I’m glad you like broke it out that way, because I think it’s really important. Remember, if the if the minimum wage is $15, which is should garment work pay more than $15?



I think so. I think it’s actually very skilled laborer. Yeah.



Absolutely, it should be a living, people sewing, clothing, bags, making jewelry, all these things, they should be getting a living wage for their work because it’s highly skilled. Well, that means we’re not gonna get handbags for 30 bucks or 50 bucks or maybe even 100 bucks. And we have to be okay with that because maybe we don’t need a whole closet of bags. I mean, there’s no maybe about it, we don’t. It’s the same thing with shoes, gosh, early in the pandemic, my husband and I briefly for, I don’t know, like three months got really into that show, married at first sight. And there’s like a gazillion seasons. So it was a time killer. And it would inevitably there’s an episode where they the couples are like going to move in together and they always go to the woman’s house. And she’s got boxes and boxes and boxes of horrible shoes that she’s only worn one time. And it’s this whole thing like, where are we going to put all your shoes and bags? And it’s like, yeah, why do you have all those shoes and bags? They’re terrible.


It’s the same thing. It’s like I think for the world to be more ethical, we have to unpack it within ourselves too. Like we’re a part of that equation. And yeah, yeah.



Yeah, I think part of this also, you know, we were talking about the cost of the labor, but we haven’t even talked about the cost of the materials for the components, for the fabric, for, yeah, all the different things that are involved. And I know in the past you’ve said with fast fashion, the least expensive, I forget, say it again, with fast fashion.



Oh yeah.



The most expensive part is always the fabric. And so that’s the one where we cut the corners the most, because it shouldn’t be that way. The most expensive thing should not be the fabric. It should be the labor. So that’s like messed up anyway. But like we just continue to dilute the fabric until it is like so far from the original that alone, like, will change what a garment is, you know. And its longevity is like instantly changed. So we would always in meetings start by


cheapening the fabric and sometimes it takes like three or four or five passes. I mean, I can’t even imagine like in a situation where you’re making handbags or jewelry, where then you have to also start thinking about components. Like at least with clothing, it’s like, oh, we already put the cheapest zipper in. Don’t worry. I mean, I’m laughing, but it’s sad, of course.



Yeah. Yeah, the thing with no accessories, those components need to perform. You know, that zipper needs to work. Other.



Right. Yes, somehow in clothing, we’re just like, oh, it broke already. Oh, well, I don’t know what’s wrong with us as a species, but yeah, but like with accessories, they do. I mean, if you have a bag and the strap breaks, that’s bad. It’s like unusable. Right. So quality is like really, really important. But like, have you found over the past few years that these individual pieces and even the materials, have they gone up in price a lot?



They have. So all the fabric I use for my accessories, for my handbags, for my sleep masks, for some of my jewelry even, that’s all remnant fabric that I source from the garment district. So remnant fabric, what that means, it’s fabric that’s left over from other designers when they do production runs. And that being said, it’s not an expensive fabric, you know, it’s designer fabric, and also the cost has gone up a lot. I’d say at least 25% over the past two years.


And I buy a lot of things like silk shirmoos, you know, which is, that’s a very, you know, high-end fine fabric, and the cost of that has gone up. And it’s also becoming more difficult to source these kinds of materials, these high-end materials, because a lot of these designers don’t want to do it anymore, because they know the cost is going up even when they’re producing it on their end, when they’re doing the production with their mills.



That makes sense. Yeah, I didn’t even think of that, that they might be like buying a lot less fabric, too, because I mean, like in the like 2010 to 2015 span of my career, maybe even a little bit longer. Man, we were wasting so much fabric, like running so much more that we would ever use. I feel like.

Definitely anyone who was working with that leftover slash dead stock fabric was probably having their pick of the litter back then, but I would guess since 2020 especially, there’s a lot less to work with.



Yeah, there is. I mean, I see it firsthand when I go to source fabrics. Some colors just are not easy to find. And also it becomes once, I mean, the thing with remnant fabric is once it’s sold out, that’s it. You get limited edition runs basically. And it becomes a challenge when I have larger orders, especially with wholesalers that they want to order something that I might have a small quantity of, I have to go figure out, can I source something similar? I can’t find the same exact color, up a lot with actually is I have these heart-shaped sleep masks that are very popular usually around Valentine’s Day and it’s actually very difficult to find bright red silk charmeuse. Every time a wholesale order comes in for that it’s like I know it’s gonna be a challenge. It’s like oh no!



I bet. Yeah, there’s not enough red clothing these days anyway. I’ve just noticed that side note. But yeah, I could see I mean, that is, you know, that is another thing that a lot of people who work outside of this like wouldn’t be thinking of when you’re trying to be as sustainable and unwaistful as possible.



Oh wow.



It kind of is like it adds like another layer of sort of like creative and intellectual challenge to figure out what you can get and work with that. You know, like it’s not as simple as like, oh, I’m going to go into work today and I have a Panto and I’m going to order, you know, a thousand yards of this fabric and it’ll be easy. Right. This is like so much more next level because it’s not once again, it goes back to this idea of like it. You can’t just get everything you dream of easily, you know.

And it I mean, I can’t even imagine how frustrating that can be sometimes. Or frustrating, I mean stressful, especially if you have an order for it.



Yeah, I mean, what happens usually if I can’t find the fabric, I’ll send swatches or other options. I’ll say, well, this isn’t available, but what about this one? This one’s available, and I know it’s similar, and this is what you were looking for, this kind of detail. It’s like you’re looking for a metallic brocade, while this one has a similar finish. Are you okay with this one? And they tend to be understanding. There tends to be usually some form of re-educating in a way, because I think a lot of larger companies are not used to this idea that things are available only in finite quantity. We can’t just do a huge production run of a material because this is what you’re ordering, that this is like we have to be resourceful and try to source something else because that’s how we operate. We try to operate as sustainably as possible. But I mean, that’s like the ethos of our company that like we’re not going to create excess. Like we’re not like another fashion brand. We work with what’s readily available in terms of, you know, if we’re sourcing fabrics, a certain fabric, then it’s just not meant to be.



Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah, it’s not the same. I mean, I, you know, for me, like as a buyer, I’m accustomed to being able to say like, this is exactly what I want color wise and fabric wise. I just get it. You know, it’s it. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Working in product development and design and production for any of these big brands has its own very unhappy times and challenges, you know, top of mind being that like the product you end up with is never what you envisioned in the beginning. But you never have to say, oh, I’m just going to take what I can get in fabrics or materials like and work around that. Like at least you can kind of say what you want there. You’re just going to, thanks to the pricing, end up with product that you like hate at the end, you know, which is its own mental challenge. What other decisions do you make about materials to be more thoughtful about their impact?



Yeah, so I can talk a little bit about the jewelry. So the idea of making sure that all the jewelry we design is hypoallergenic. That being said, there’s a challenge with gold jewelry being hypoallergenic, but then also lasting a long time. And specifically, I’m thinking about earrings. To get a gold-tone earring that’s going to last to a point where, you know, like a lifetime. And have it to not be a fine metal, like a gold-filled kind of thing. That’s very challenging. That’s something that I’m working through right now. I’m actually trying to design a collection where I have, you know, earrings that I have like a fabric bow component and I want to attach it in theory to like some kind of gold hardware, but then it becomes what is that gold hardware that, what does that earring hook look like that this bow is being attached to? How do I make sure that plating on that gold hook doesn’t come off after a few wears? How do we make sure it’s still hypoallergenic? How does that affect the price point? Because when you’re thinking about, for example, plating silver, you know, you could do something like gold vermouth, but then the cost goes up. That’s like a 2.5 micron thick plating that, yes, it will last over a long time. But then all of a sudden, you know, we’re going from like, you know, for example, like a $65 earring to it might be like a $300 to $500 earring, depending on how big that component is. So it’s, there’s challenges with that for sure.



OK, so when we got our conversation started, we talked about the challenges with cash flow and terms and wholesale that you’re facing back when you were making apparel. Do you still experience that kind of thing with accessories?


Emily I do, I do, in terms of having some cash flow issues.


We still work with large retailers that offer net terms, i.e. net 60. And it is for me a challenge in terms of being able to accept these kinds of orders and then also figure out what I’m doing with my cash flow. I still pay all my production people and my staff up front for the orders. I set reminders on my calendar for when some of these payments are due. That being said, I do have one major retailer that I was working with that were actually selling on consignment, not net terms, and they’ve actually never paid me. So they owe me currently around $14,000. And I’ve been chasing them down now for about five months and have yet to be paid.



That is ridiculous. Because I know who it is. And like you told me, yeah.



Yeah, I mean, yeah, I’m not gonna say who it is, but for me, you know.


That’s a lot of money, just personally. You know, I have a team, I pay a staff, I have a mortgage, I have rent for my studio, I have a family, and that money could, like, it’s not like it doesn’t go unnoticed, you know, not being able to collect that. And the amount of energy I’ve also spent, you know, chasing it down, it’s just, it’s a waste of time, frankly.



It is. It is. And also, like, you know, if I mean, I don’t know anything about your financial situation, but let’s say you had put that cost of production on your credit card. It’s just collecting interest right now. So it costs you more money to. And a lot of the makers I know, like they are they’re using credit cards to keep things going, you know. So it actually like cuts into your ability. And by you, I mean all small business owners out there, like your ability to grow.

And because you’re being held back by this and I do like the company that I know Did owes you money? I feel like they’re going through something weird right now Like I don’t know like they’re maybe starting to close some stores or something. I don’t know But still it’s not okay, you know, they have way more money than you do


So what about like, you know, something I had mentioned before is like when you sell on wholesale and you kind of brought it up to you, you know, because there’s so much like downward pressure kind of on pricing, you know, like generally, basically you want the price that the whoever like the whoever you’re selling is to from a wholesale and they’re going to be able to sell it for four times that price and it’ll make sense, which often means that you have to like really.

You have to really revisit cost quite a bit. Do you find that super challenging? Like have you had to make changes based on that?



Yes and no, I mean…


For me, the way I’ve handled it is that there are specific categories or products that I can wholesale and then there are some that I can’t. For example, my fine jewelry, the pieces I make that are in solid 14 karat gold, I can’t wholesale that because the amount of markup I need to be able to make money or profit off of that, it just doesn’t make sense for the customer. It becomes too high a price point, it becomes too inflated, and the amount of effort on my end to make that piece is just, again, not worth it.


end of the day. That being said, the pieces I do wholesale, my typical margin is 50% of my retail price. I’ve been able to be firm on that. And I really do appreciate that major retailers that I work with accept that. When I had my clothing company back in the day, I think it was like a 2.4 markup. So I really appreciate that it hasn’t been an issue that we can operate on a two times markup.



Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Ah, it does. It does. So, OK, here’s something I want to ask you about, which we talked about a little bit before, because I have other friends who work in the space of accessories and jewelry and because I have worked on the other side of it. Have you been copied by anyone?



Unfortunately, yes. We have had some of our hair clips copied by major retailers. So I have specifically seen copies of my hair clips at Target and Old Navy. And unfortunately, they are slightly different when of course when you see it, it’s like 30% or whatever. However, you determine 30% enough to say, okay, you can’t, or you say the design is generic enough that we can’t prove that they copied it, but I know for a fact those are my designs


you know, for example my hair clips, I draw all those shapes by hand myself and it’s a, when you when you draw a shape yourself and then you see it in real life you recognize that shape.



Yeah, well, no doubt. You know, and I was telling you, we talked about this before, like in my experience, like just in the span of my career, it is the accessories and the jewelry that copied the most egregiously. I would just say often the buyers for these retailers have no idea that it’s a copy. Now, that doesn’t mean that sometimes they aren’t a part of it because someone in leadership plopped a photo on their desk and said, copy this. But.


What I would find, like the way we would source accessories, especially hair accessories and jewelry, was like, and this is everywhere I’ve worked. We didn’t have a design team for that. So what we would do is we’d go to market, we would go to showrooms, and you go into these showrooms, especially for like all the, like the smaller the item, the more of this there is. Like as of jewelry, it’s like exceptional. You’ll go into a showroom.


and they will just have mountains of boards. Some of them are hanging on the wall, but others are just stacked up in corners. And on every board are just like, you know, 50, 100 different things you could buy pinned to them. And you sort of page through them and look at all of them, pull the ones you like, and then they send you pricing. Right. Or you ask to make changes. And ostensibly, you as the buyer go in there with the belief that all of these things were designed by that vendor’s designer.


if that designer even exists is the is the caveat there, but you assume that’s the case and often.


You know, like I think specifically of when I was working at Urban Outfitters, like, listen, I have plenty of problems with that company, and I could talk about that for like six hours straight. But back then we were often getting accused of stealing jewelry designs. And actually, we literally had no idea because we went to market. The vendor had it pinned on a board. We liked it. We bought it. We it’s really hard to look for copies of stuff on the Internet, even in the era of Google Lens, you know, of like Google Image Search.


hard to find exact to find out whether or not something is copied or not. Sometimes it’s easier than others. But back then we didn’t even have that resource. And so we would go back to these vendors like, hey, I thought you designed this. And of course, no one gives you a straight answer. But I think that so much of this egregious copying in the realm of jewelry and small accessories, it happens because retailers, they don’t want to spend the money to have designers of their own for it. Like they will for clothing.


for these smaller items. And so what happens is you’re at the mercy of these vendors and you have to like hope that they’re not dishonest. Like I would be really surprised if even old Navy had designers for accessories. I would be really, really surprised because we didn’t have urban outfitters, you know, like they don’t want anthropology. They don’t want to free people. They buy all the stuff on the market. Like the buyers will develop some stuff and like they’ll see stuff in showrooms. But I think, I think that’s why the copies happen so egregiously. And I do think the disinterest in hiring designers to create this stuff, like on the corporate level, is because they want to keep selling us stuff like hair clips and necklaces for really cheap and have them still be profitable. But the moment you have a designer, you have to pay. Suddenly it’s not as profitable to sell us really cheap things, you know? But I mean, how did you feel? Because I…


I will tell you, every time something like this comes up on the internet, most people show up and are outraged, right? Some people show up and say, well, you should feel really honored that your stuff was copied because that means it was good. What are your thoughts on this? How did you feel when you were copied?



Well, you know, when I started my brand, I had one piece that went viral right out the gate. It was called the Gentleman’s Agreement, and it was a necklace that had a hand-shaped clasp that was magnetic, and when I designed it, I had a feeling, I’m like, this is something I feel like is gonna be very popular, and this could get knocked off.



Uh oh. Uh huh.



And I was fortunate because when I came out with that product, I copy, I did a, I copywrote, copyrighted. Which one is it? I was fortunate when I came out with this design, I spent the time to copyright the design. And by doing that, I had that protection. And sure enough, about three years after launching this, I started to see knockoffs of this necklace. So I was seeing them on Amazon. I was seeing them on Etsy. And I actually worked with a law firm. And we found with the law firm over 200 sellers across the internet selling a knockoff of this necklace, using my like doing a knockoff of the product they were using my images to sell the product.



God, that’s a classic. I see that so often now. It’s like a double whammy of copy.



Yeah, it was crazy. And what also was, in a way, funny about this is that the images they were using to sell the necklace were images that were on some of my other product listings or on social media. And I had never actually thought that image would be a good image to choose to promote that product. I was like, how interesting, they made that choice.



Well, there’s no accounting for, I don’t know, taste strategy, whatever. That is so, I mean, honestly, I feel like nine times out of 10 when I encounter a story online like on social media about an art, like a maker, an artist, a designer being copied, they always steal the photos too. It’s like the full package of copying. It’s crazy.



Yeah, it’s, and then after, so after going through that, something I learned, which I think is helpful for other business owners is when you go through the copywriting process, it’s not only important to copyright your design, you can actually also copyright your images too, and that’s additional protection. That being said, the volume of content I create for MLE, for me to be copywriting, you can do it in batches. I forget how many images at a time you can do it, but for me that just seems very overwhelming even though I went through this, but hopefully this is good advice for you know another designer that is worried about this. But going through this whole thing, it was emotionally very difficult when I first discovered it because what was happening was as these knockoffs were coming out, even though I hadn’t really discovered them yet, like all of them, I saw a direct correlation with the knockoffs coming out and my sales of this piece, the gentleman’s agreement, decreasing. Like it definitely affected our business and to the point where you know what used to be the majority of my sales for my company became you know a very small percentage and for me it became okay I have to keep innovating I have to come up with my next best thing.



Yeah, I think. I think because I mean, I obviously like have really strong feelings about this and this like whole culture of dupes, you know, I mean, there are all these Facebook groups where people are searching for dupes of different brands and inevitably these are like, you know, AliExpress, Tmoo, Shian, knockoffs of things, sometimes even like random places like Hot Topic or, you know, other fast fashion brands from them all will also have dupes of this stuff. And it’s like I can’t stop watching these groups because I just need to know. But I also do get upset because there’s definitely this feeling on the behalf, on the part of the people who participate in this like, deep culture, that it’s sort of like a victimless crime. And it’s like, actually, you know, I have seen one, people totally not realize who created something in the first place. Like, like artists lose ownership of their work.


because people start to think, oh, didn’t Zara invent that or something? And two, like, yeah, it directly cuts into sales. And it’s just so frustrating. I mean, the other thing I often see with these dupe groups is like,


rather than going and buying like one selkie dress for like three hundred and fifty dollars, they’ll buy ten dupes from Sheehan. So it’s also part of this like more is more culture, you know, of like we have to have a lot of stuff, not just one awesome thing. And I just it frustrates me to no end. It’s one of those things like I have to like stop myself from thinking about it sometimes because I’ll just like work myself up into just like a tizzy over it, because I’m like, oh, the repercussions are very real. They’re very real, you know?



Yeah, I mean, also part of this, I remember before the knock-off started coming out, I would have all the time followers comment on Instagram, where can I get a dupe of this? On my feed. Yeah, and it was just like, I’m seeing this, hello.



So rude!


Uh, no, I mean, I see kind of stuff all the time, too. Like, come on, guys, don’t do that. It’s very hurtful. You know, especially like, I mean, one of the reasons I really love like talking to small business owners like here on close horse is that I want.


Everyone out there to understand how much of your whole self, your life you put into this, all this extra thoughtfulness, like, you know, we were talking about, like the scraps and things like that. Like this is this is work worth supporting versus like going out and buying a dupe. I mean, I can’t I’ve seen people asking designers where they can find a dupe all the time on Instagram posts, but I still I can’t believe it’s real.



That being said, we had to buy one to see what the quality was, so we bought one. It was horrible, I have to tell you. The hands, so the funny thing is, whoever, I guess, came out with this knockoff or whatever they did, they didn’t even, you know, buy an original. They just copied it off of the image, so the hands are all veiny, which, you know, ours are the way ours designs a very feminine, beautiful hand. These are veiny, very strange, creepy hands.

It was nowhere the same and then it was interesting also to see how they did the chain versus our chain We spent a lot of time You know in terms of like the way our chain is that each link to make sure that Where like the beginning and ending of the ring is like hidden and theirs was all over the place So it was just so funny to see a side-by-side comparison of it



Yeah, I mean, often that’s the other thing about these dupes. I mean, frequently they’re like copied off the photo. So like a lot gets lost in translation, you know. I think like what’s so funny to me is like, you know, using she is an example. Like I remember.


Four or five years ago, people would buy stuff on Shein and it was like a meme format, like what I thought I was getting and then what I actually got. And you would see the photos and we’re like, oh yeah, that’s what would happen if you stole the photo from a website and tried to remake it without ever actually seeing the item in first place in real life in the first place. Like this is what you end up with. But yeah, like back then we were laughing about it and now we’re like, oh, whatever. It’s so what if it’s a veiny necklace?


You know? OK, so like, you know, we’re coming down the homestretch here, so I just wanted to hear like what’s going on now. What are you going to do next? You know, what worries you? I feel like a lot of my friends who are small business owners, they’re really worried right now. Like, what’s on your mind?



Yeah, well, top of mind is thinking about how to grow my brand. I think 2023 was a very challenging year for all small businesses with what’s going on with social media, with digital marketing, and I’m thinking about other ways to get exposure. So one thing I’m thinking about is possibly opening a store which I’ve never had before. I’ve experimented with pop-ups. I’m thinking about collaborations with other brands, expanding to other categories. I’m currently developing a line of wallets using Remnant and Surplus leather in my studio. And just in general, I want to see my pieces be worn out more. I want to see them more in the public. I mean, my dream would be to have a major celebrity wear it that’s manifesting that for 2024. Let’s see if that happens.

I’m in a really great place right now in terms of my company that I have a wonderful group of women that I work with and to have a solid team behind me. This is the first time honestly I feel like I have what I need to grow and so for me it’s just go time. It’s about you know just honing in and just whatever I want to develop in terms of these new categories or expand to just go for it and small brands, you know, coming out of the pandemic. And I just hope people don’t forget about supporting small businesses. With everything that’s changed with digital marketing, it’s becoming really difficult as a small brand to get that share of voice and grow. And that’s forcing us to look into other avenues, other channels to continue to build up our businesses.



Yeah, I think that’s a really good call out. Because like, you know, I hear and I read that retail sales for this holiday were bigger than ever. But I see all my small business friends like really, really fretting right now. And I do worry that people have forgotten. And I guess we just have to keep reminding them once again, like.


There’s a big difference between buying from like, you know, going and buying your hair clips at like Old Navy versus buying them from you. And, you know, it’s the quality. It’s the ethics and fair wages involved. It’s the knowing that you’re really mindful about your waist and creating the best product. Like, there’s a big difference. You get so much for your money that’s beyond a clip that holds your hair. And I just like once again, it just comes back to us unpacking that within ourselves.



All right, well, do you have any like final words of wisdom or parting thoughts you would like to share with everyone?



Well, thank you so much. Oh, no, it’s okay. Well, I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity to come on your podcast and to speak with you about this. Sustainability and fashion is something that’s very important to me, and it really resonates that you’ve developed a whole podcast around this, and it really means a lot to me, and it’s been so nice to connect with someone who’s as passionate about it as I am. So thank you for having me.

I want to thank Emily for taking the time to talk to me! I hope you all enjoyed getting to know her as much as I did.  


I wanted to give you an update on one thing that Emily mentioned in our convo: the retailer that owes her money (I want to say it was around $14K).  Well, that company was/is Neighborhood Goods. And I guess I say “was” rather than “is” because it seems to have closed all of its locations, deleted all of its social media posts, and pulled down its website.  And the company owes a lot of money to other brands (all small businesses, too). I have my own thoughts on this situation (namely that the CEO is handling it all in a very unprofessional and immature manner). And I’m also nervous that any of these businesses will be paid, based on what I saw happen when Nasty Gal went bankrupt.  I’ll be keeping my eye on this situation and I will update you with anything I learn. I’m going to share an article from Inc from about two days ago that gives the most accurate summary of where the situation is right now.  


I will share all of the places you can find Emily in the show notes, including as @madebymle on instagram and at madebymle.com  As a special offer for Clotheshorse listeners, if you find yourself needing a gift or a special piece of jewelry that you will wear for a long time, you can use code CLOTHESHORSE at www.madebymle.com to get 10% off your order. 


Okay, that wraps up this week’s episode! I’ll be back next week with an episode about happiness and overconsumption that I have been thinking about nonstop since recording it. 

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High Energy Vintage is a fun and funky vintage shop located in Somerville, MA, just a few minutes away from downtown Boston. They offer a highly curated selection of bright and colorful clothing and accessories from the 1940s-1990s for people of all genders. Husband-and-wife duo Wiley & Jessamy handpick each piece for quality and style, with a focus on pieces that transcend trends and will find a home in your closet for many years to come! In addition to clothing, the shop also features a large selection of vintage vinyl and old school video games. Find them on instagram @ highenergyvintage, online at highenergyvintage.com, and at markets in and around Boston.

St. Evens is an NYC-based vintage shop that is dedicated to bringing you those special pieces you’ll reach for again and again. More than just a store, St. Evens is dedicated to sharing the stories and history behind the garments. 10% of all sales are donated to a different charitable organization each month.  New vintage is released every Thursday at wearStEvens.com, with previews of new pieces and more brought to you on Instagram at @wear_st.evens.

Deco Denim is a startup based out of San Francisco, selling clothing and accessories that are sustainable, gender fluid, size inclusive and high quality–made to last for years to come. Deco Denim is trying to change the way you think about buying clothes. Founder Sarah Mattes wants to empower people to ask important questions like, “Where was this made? Was this garment made ethically? Is this fabric made of plastic? Can this garment be upcycled and if not, can it be recycled?” Signup at decodenim.com to receive $20 off your first purchase. They promise not to spam you and send out no more than 3 emails a month, with 2 of them surrounding education or a personal note from the Founder. Find them on Instagram as @deco.denim.

The Pewter Thimble Is there a little bit of Italy in your soul? Are you an enthusiast of pre-loved decor and accessories? Bring vintage Italian style — and history — into your space with The Pewter Thimble (@thepewterthimble). We source useful and beautiful things, and mend them where needed. We also find gorgeous illustrations, and make them print-worthy. Tarot cards, tea towels and handpicked treasures, available to you from the comfort of your own home. Responsibly sourced from across Rome, lovingly renewed by fairly paid artists and artisans, with something for every budget. Discover more at thepewterthimble.com

Blank Cass, or Blanket Coats by Cass, is focused on restoring, renewing, and reviving the history held within vintage and heirloom textiles. By embodying and transferring the love, craft, and energy that is original to each vintage textile into a new garment, I hope we can reteach ourselves to care for and mend what we have and make it last. Blank Cass lives on Instagram @blank_cass and a website will be launched soon at blankcass.com.

Gabriela Antonas is a visual artist, an upcycler, and a fashion designer, but Gabriela Antonas is also a feminist micro business with radical ideals. She’s the one woman band, trying to help you understand, why slow fashion is what the earth needs. If you find your self in New Orleans, LA, you may buy her ready-to-wear upcycled garments in person at the store “Slow Down” (2855 Magazine St). Slow Down Nola only sells vintage and slow fashion from local designers. Gabriela’s garments are guaranteed to be in stock in person, but they also have a website so you may support this women owned and run business from wherever you are! If you are interested in Gabriela making a one of a kind garment for you DM her on Instagram at @slowfashiongabriela to book a consultation.

Vagabond Vintage DTLV is a vintage clothing, accessories & decor reselling business based in Downtown Las Vegas. Not only do we sell in Las Vegas, but we are also located throughout resale markets in San Francisco as well as at a curated boutique called Lux and Ivy located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jessica, the founder & owner of Vagabond Vintage DTLV, recently opened the first IRL location located in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas on August 5th. The shop has a strong emphasis on 60s & 70s garments, single stitch tee shirts & dreamy loungewear. Follow them on instagram, @vagabondvintage.dtlv and keep an eye out for their website coming fall of 2022.

Country Feedback is a mom & pop record shop in Tarboro, North Carolina. They specialize in used rock, country, and soul and offer affordable vintage clothing and housewares. Do you have used records you want to sell? Country Feedback wants to buy them! Find us on Instagram @countryfeedbackvintageandvinyl or head downeast and visit our brick and mortar. All are welcome at this inclusive and family-friendly record shop in the country!

Located in Whistler, Canada, Velvet Underground is a “velvet jungle” full of vintage and second-hand clothes, plants, a vegan cafe and lots of rad products from other small sustainable businesses. Our mission is to create a brand and community dedicated to promoting self-expression, as well as educating and inspiring a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle both for the people and the planet. Find us on Instagram @shop_velvetunderground or online at www.shopvelvetunderground.com

Selina Sanders, a social impact brand that specializes in up-cycled clothing, using only reclaimed, vintage or thrifted materials: from tea towels, linens, blankets and quilts.  Sustainably crafted in Los Angeles, each piece is designed to last in one’s closet for generations to come.  Maximum Style; Minimal Carbon Footprint.

Salt Hats:  purveyors of truly sustainable hats. Hand blocked, sewn and embellished in Detroit, Michigan.

Republica Unicornia Yarns: Hand-Dyed Yarn and notions for the color-obsessed. Made with love and some swearing in fabulous Atlanta, Georgia by Head Yarn Wench Kathleen. Get ready for rainbows with a side of Giving A Damn! Republica Unicornia is all about making your own magic using small-batch, responsibly sourced, hand-dyed yarns and thoughtfully made notions. Slow fashion all the way down and discover the joy of creating your very own beautiful hand knit, crocheted, or woven pieces. Find us on Instagram @republica_unicornia_yarns and at www.republicaunicornia.com.

Cute Little Ruin is an online shop dedicated to providing quality vintage and secondhand clothing, vinyl, and home items in a wide range of styles and price points.  If it’s ethical and legal, we try to find a new home for it!  Vintage style with progressive values.  Find us on Instagram at @CuteLittleRuin.