I was so excited to receive the new floral Meghan Evans dress in the mail last week. I love the black scuba fabric dress from last fall – as did my 6′-3″ sister, when she borrowed it for a going away party. She loved it so much, I still have not gotten it back and it has turned up on her Instagram feed several times since then. Just like 2003.
Meghan and I have a mutual interest in sustainability, particularly when it comes to clothing. She and I emailed back and forth about the topic several rounds before it became clear to me that I wanted to share not only our conversation, but also how she implements sustainability into her line. Our conversation, after the photos…
dress (℅ Meghan Evans Clothing) // shoes // sunglasses // tote bag // handbag (old J.Crew, similar) // scarf (old, Christian LaCroix) // watch // pearl earrings // pearl necklace (old) // pendant necklace // pearl bracelet (old) // cuff // ring // lip color (in #49)
Lucinda: What inspired you to develop a line of tall clothing?
Meghan: I have a really long torso and have always struggled to find tops, jackets, and dresses that fit. Growing up, I resorted sizing up in a desperate attempt to gain an inch in length (if I was lucky). When that was no longer cutting it, I started buying dresses that I knew were too short and turning them into tops (you can always hem something and make it shorter!). But, as we all know, simply making a top (or dress) longer doesn’t always result in the best fit. Things like armholes, bust darts, waistline placement, and sleeve lengths also have to be adjusted to ensure the best tall fit. My husband inevitably asked why I didn’t just make tops to fit tall women to begin with. So, I started looking into it.
L: I always said that it must be easier to be shorter and take up a dress or a pair of pants, rather than being tall because there is only so much hem you can let out. You have recently incorporated regular length sizing in your most recent collection. Was there a particular trend or factor that caused that shift?
M: It wasn’t an easy decision. I got into this industry to fix one problem: the lack of tall friendly tops, jackets, and dresses. But, in doing so I realized that I offered a unique approach to ethical fashion and people were interested in the aesthetic even though they didn’t face challenges finding pieces that fit them because of their height. Ultimately, I decided to expand the sizes offered in response to customer demand.
L: I have seen the @MeghanEvansClothing Instagram stories showing your hunt for deadstock. Aside from utilizing deadstock, do you implement any other sustainable practices in your collections?
M: Yes! Sometimes I think it’s easy to focus on a few obvious things when deciding how “sustainable” a clothing brand is. For example, do they use deadstock or eco-friendly fabric? In my opinion, to determine whether a brand is ethical and sustainable, you have to look at the brand as a whole. As you mentioned, I do use deadstock fabric to manufacture some of my styles. But, I also manufacture in limited quantities which reduces potential waste and limits my impact even when using conventional fabrics. I work with a woman-owned, small run production company located in Washington, DC. Doing so streamlines production and is extremely environmentally friendly (no long trips required for fittings or to check in on production, no shipping inventory and samples back and forth, etc). I’m also a big proponent of designing pieces that are versatile and timeless. For example, I value an ethically made sheath dress from conventional fabric more than an ethically made crop top from organic cotton because I will get a lot more wear and use out of the sheath dress given my lifestyle.
L: I once read that the transportation effects of the Toyota Prius to various dealers’ lots is so significant that it negates its purpose of reducing carbon emissions. Last week on the PopFashion podcast, Kaarin and Lisa discussed how there is a secondary market for high end, empty beauty product packaging for the sake of staging Instagram posts. While it is sustainable for something like this to have an afterlife, Lisa pointed out that the cost for shipping is not sustainable. It took me too long to figure out that using local vendors is not only advantageous for a community, but also for minimizing my carbon footprint.
M: There’s always a trade off! I think shopping local is one of the best things we can do for the environment and for the economy, more money is retained and circulated in your area when you shop with a local business as opposed to a chain location.
L: Backtracking for the layperson, can you expand on what deadstock is?
M: Deadstock is fabric that remains unsold by a fabric mill or unused by a large fashion house. Fabric producers and designers buy and produce based on expected need with an allowance for error. Sometimes a mill over-produces or a fashion house over-buys. This leftover fabric oftentimes ends up in a landfill. The production of fabric is one of the most environmentally taxing parts of the fashion industry, so it’s important to use the fabric since natural resources have already been expended to make it.
L: Just mentioning overproduction reminds me of Burberry. Percentage-wise, how much deadstock comprises each of your collections?
M: It varies greatly from season to season. Finding deadstock is like a scavenger hunt and its availability is unpredictable. This summer, four out of six (67%) of my styles were made from deadstock. I’m working to increase my use of deadstock and eco-friendly stock fabric.
L: I work in A&E and I have seen so much greenwashing in the built environment industries; it occurred to me that it probably happens in clothing design. For instance, J.Crew just made a dress out of “environmentally-friendly” Japanese Cupro – and it may be environmentally friendly, but that calls for supply chain research. Can you give us a cheat sheet for eco-friendly fabric you can recommend consumers look for?
M: Unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s an easy answer. Tencel, linen, cupro, and organic cotton are the more common fabrics generally seen as environmentally friendly. But, they are largely produced outside of the United States and therefore must be imported (by air or boat) from oversees and trucked great distances.
L: Ah, it goes back to that trade off you mentioned. As a consumer, how do you shop for clothing while incorporating your personal environmental- and social-minded standards?
M: It’s hard. And it’s really, really hard when you’re tall. But, I like to give small and independent brands a chance, because you never know until you try. And if the top doesn’t work for me, I look forward to buying it as a gift for a friend or family member. I also prioritize local and made in the US goods. But, I don’t want to come across as though I’m perfect. I’m not. If you know me personally you know I love J.Crew. It’s the only mega clothing retailer I shop with these days, so I do my best to limit how much I buy from them and make sure anything I do buy is versatile and well loved. I also avoid brands like Gap and H&M that are known for their poor production practices.
L: It hurts my heart that Gap is guilty. I cannot imagine how (founders) Don and Doris feel about their legacy.
L: Can you recommend a must-watch sustainable style documentary?
L: Have you watched RiverBlue? My husband and I watched it on Amazon Prime and amongst the mind blowing industry revelations, we were surprised to see that it was hosted and driven by Alex James of the 90s British band Blur.
M: Yes, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it! I’ll have to re-watch it, good to know it’s on Amazon Prime.
L: How often do you release collections?
M: I currently release capsule collections twice a year, in the summer and winter; however, I’m working to release a few additional pieces in spring and fall.
L: I know I am not the only one looking forward to the next drop.