A Small Business Journey: Stumbling Into Sustainable Fashion
Our story started before sustainable fashion became a buzz word. We were always sustainable in the sense that we sold and refashioned vintage clothing. Clothing that came from thrift stores or we rescued from the literal mountains of clothing piles in warehouses on the Texas/Mexico border towns where you can buy clothing by the pound. There are some good clothes to find in there, but you gotta work for it!! It wasn’t until I was swimming in a pile of clothing did it really sink in that there was a MAJOR problem with textile waste on this planet. I was determined to find a way to make a small difference.
I have always shopped in thrift stores for most of my clothing and when I moved to Austin I really started dressing head to toe secondhand. In 2009, I started refashioning thrifted office attire when a Temp agency sent me on odd office jobs—I was making it work with what I had right out of college. My friend Sarah would embroider on clothes and I would get busy cutting up hems and taking out elastic waistbands. We were Loving Cup Vintage for only a short time while I was going to cosmetology school, after I graduated I started working in the Austin Film Industry and took a 5 year detour that changed my life.
Below are some items we re-worked as Loving Cup in 2010.
Our line of scrap fabric products came about because we needed more products to sell and not having the funds to buy anything new. I was relying on my small business to pay the bills and sometimes rent wins over new inventory. That was just a reality, and sometime still is. I used all of the scrap pieces of fabric we had on hand and just made it work. At this point I still never focused on sustainability as our main goal, I just wanted to make cool clothes and accessories affordable.
When we started Socorro Society in 2015 our main scrap fabric product were fringe purses and, shortly after, hand embroidered denim purses made from pant legs of jeans we were cutting into jorts. I have also made scrap fabric camera straps and aprons as well. It was only in 2017 that I started to make the wire headbands (shop here) and just a few months ago that I put the rest of the scraps to use as scrunchies (shop here).
I never pushed sustainability as my main focus five years ago because I didn’t realize the gravity of fast fashion and the massive humanitarian and environmental impacts it was having on the planet. Of course, I always knew that these super cheap clothes weren’t made in the best conditions, but the rate in which clothing has been made in the last 2-4 years has increased to a point where we can no longer ignore what is happening. To be honest, I’m just thrifty and have always had to buy my own clothing. I never understood how places like Urban Outfitters could get away with selling a “grunge inspired vintage looking flannel” for $49.99 when the real thing was so easily found on the racks of thrift stores. I wanted to get genuine on trend vintage pieces, items that already existed on this planet, into people closets. But that has grown to a much larger need to spread the word on shopping second hand, and empowering anyone with the ideas and tools on how to make those thrifted items new and unique.
In 2017 our embroidered vintage products became more popular and I started to teach embroidery (learn about our workshops) as a way to bring new life to tired clothing. Again, adding to the message of sustainability. Mending your clothing, putting in a little work to find what you need second hand first, make small changes to what is in your closet already before going out and buying new. I teach everyone the craft of embroidering with the focus being to embroider on clothing. I try to give examples on how minimal work can make a BIG impact with only one or two stitches.
At the end of the day, living a sustainable lifestyle and focusing my business on promoting thrifting, refashioning, hand embroidery and creative reuse isn’t a gimmick; it’s just a way of life for us. Wither it be in my business or for our family making ethical purchases with our hard earned dollars is at the forefront of what we do every day. Yes it is a little bit more work, but it’s our reality that we cannot afford to buy every little thing brand new, nor is that in my nature. I know I can find good stuff second hand. We take our kids shopping at the thrift store all the time. Give your kid $5 and tell them what tag colors that are on sale, I promise they will leave with at least 2 or 3 good items plus get a math lesson or two. I am so excited to share easy ways to embroider on clothing, up-cycle thrift store finds and how to creatively reuse every day items to lesson our impact on the planet and do our part and jumping on the band wagon to a better tomorrow. I hope that y’all can find some useful tips and inspiration here and we can build a community of #fashionablysustainable warriors.
Here are a few good articles, sites and infographics about the fashion industry for a little more education on the industrial impacts on people and the environment, and a forecast on how our future shoppers will take their slow fashion responsibilities to heart. Click graphics to read more: