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Study NY: Brooklyn goes sustainable

Study New York is a Brooklyn based ethical contemporary womenswear brand that uses only sustainable materials. Started by high spirited individual, Tara St James, Study New York doesn't focus on the traditional "seasonal" collections, but defines her clothes depending on what technique process it took to get there, using only the best handpicked materials that are all organically sourced. Read about her mission in our interview with the Study New York founder, discussing her sustainable and personal successes and challenges with the brand. 
Could you explain in a little more detail how you are making your collections “sustainable”, and how you would define “sustainability” in the fashion industry?
This is the definition I find to be the most accurate: Sustainable means using methods, systems and materials that won't deplete resources or harm natural cycles" (Rosenbaum, 1993).
I have a checklist of sustainability tenets, and on my blog. If I can check off at least 3 items from the list with each garment, then I will consider it sustainable and therefore eligible to be branded Study. But checklist aside, I don't believe another human, animal or the environment should have to suffer for fashion. It's as simple as that. I also use only organic or sustainable textiles (organic cotton, hemp, recycled poly, linen and peace silk).  I also work with fair trade and co-op based factories in Peru and India who pay fair wages and work to sustain traditional weaving and knitting techniques while providing income for indigenous populations.
When did you decide to focus on sustainable fashion? 
I started Covet, a more mass market eco brand in 2004.  When I left that company to start my own collection, I was armed with a tremendous amount of knowledge about the industry and production, and I couldn't conscientiously create a new brand that wasn't sustainable.
Would you say sustainable practices in fashion are getting easier? 
I see the sustainable design industry becoming more mainstream.  As young design students learn about the importance of ethical and sustainable design, I believe they will bring this belief into their jobs and future careers, and slowly sustainable choices will begin to trickle upward from them.  That's why I believe education is key to the future of sustainability.
What is your inspiration for your clothes?
The name “Study” was born of a desire I had to really examine my production process and focus on a different technique every season.  That began with zero waste patternmaking, then progressed to weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, pleating, etc...  Now that I'm no longer producing seasonal collections I still focus on different techniques but I spread that focus over several months rather than each edition.
What is the biggest change you have you seen? 
The greatest change I have seen with the business is the dialogue that has happened between my retail outlets and myself.  Not only have they been incredibly supportive of the change, it has also allowed me to really learn more about their needs and interactions with their customers. In the past I worked with a showroom and attended trade shows where buyers could come and order the next season's collection.  Now I find myself needing to send styles out to the retailers once a month and while photos are a good way of doing this, I don't believe it's the only solution, so at present I'm talking regularly to my retailers to figure out the best way to approach them monthly with new product.
How do you hope Study New York will develop in the future, and do you have any plans for it?
I want to include more collaboration in the Study brand, whether it's for the main product range, an off-shoot or for private label development with my retailers, I love the idea of product development on a broader scale. 
Posted by Stephanie 15 August, 2014

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