Japan Wants More Fashion Designers from Abroad

As Japan’s population ages and shrinks, the government hopes to alleviate the labour shortage by recruiting more foreign specialists. But are there more obstacles than opportunities?

TOKYO, Japan – For young graduates and seasoned designers alike, it sounds like a dream job. Getting hired to work in the Tokyo design studio of Comme des Garçons, Sacai or one of Japan’s many cult streetwear brands gets people like Ellie Connor-Phillips very excited.

“If I was given the opportunity to work as a designer in Japan, I would absolutely pursue it. There’s so much about Japanese fashion that makes me want to work there,” says the London-based menswear student. “[It] would be such a massive privilege.”

While there are probably no current vacancies at studios as in demand as these, Connor-Phillips’s chances of living and working in Japan could get significantly better. According to recent reports, the Japanese government has expressed a commitment to make the recruitment pathway for specialist and skilled foreign workers clearer and easier, and changes are already underway.

“As the current laws stand in Japan, foreigners are allowed to work here as designers, but the guidelines that today’s immigration sector have in place are quite vague and need to be changed,” says Shigeru Furuichi, the deputy director of the creative industries division at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

Furuichi is working to bring more fashion designers to Japan in an effort to internationalise the country’s famous but somewhat contained, closed-loop fashion industry. To achieve this, however, many changes need to be made, he says, emphasising the various grey areas in Japan’s immigration guidelines that discourage employers who might otherwise consider hiring foreigners.

Japan quivers on the edge of massive change

“Legally, fashion companies can [already] apply for their employees to get a working visa, but because the guidelines are not precise, in many cases the companies view these procedures as complicated and difficult, and will avoid it,” he explains.

Demographic Time Bomb

Last year, the World Economic Forum highlighted the fact that Japan’s population shrank by one million people in the previous five-year period, aggravating the country’s already acute labour deficit. But Japan’s immigration and nationality laws are notoriously strict.

Japan quivers on the edge of massive change: in 2020, the Olympics will arrive in Tokyo, putting additional stress on an already burdened system. Due to an ageing population, a declining birth rate, and a nationwide labour shortage, the country is under increasing pressure to start sourcing more workers from elsewhere.

Retailers have been bearing the brunt of hiring troubles. Last month, department store chain Lumine cut back its opening hours by closing twelve of its stores 30 minutes earlier due to staff shortages, and concerns that late-night shifts may deter potential employees.

Chinese-speaking shop staff, for example, are already in high demand in Japan’s luxury districts to cope with an influx of wealthy Chinese and Taiwanese tourists seeking fashion and beauty products. Last year, Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido reportedly hired eight non-Japanese employees, a record high for the company, and the number of Chinese speakers working for Kanebo has more than quadrupled since 2012, albeit from a very low base rate.

According to reports from The Japan Times, the number of foreigners (gaijin) working in Japan has almost doubled in just eight years, from 486,000 in 2008 to 908,000 in 2015. But while the number surpassed one million in the last year, it remains relatively low in a nation of 127 million people.

For starry-eyed creatives with their sights set on a job in Japan, there is reason for cautious optimism. While the Japanese government debates legislation and drafts policy, some big companies are already ahead of the curve.

Uniqlo, the Tokyo-based retail behemoth, has support systems set up for foreigners to work at the design studio in Japan, and a talent acquisition team scouting young designers from institutions across the world, including London’s Central Saint Martins.

“Once hired, we encourage talent to transfer within the company, and this often means transferring from one country to another, including the opportunity to work in Japan,” said an official spokesperson for the company. “[So] on account of our global hiring approach, we don’t believe the … labour shortage crisis is affecting us.”

Opportunities and obstacles

Japan’s high fashion houses have their own set of obstacles for would-be recruits. Yusuke Koishi, chief executive and founder of fashion consulting company Kleinstein, is a former lead planner at Comme des Garcons, and continues to work closely with Rei Kawakubo and the team. In organisations as exclusive as Comme, he says, a labour shortage becomes moot: “Companies like Comme des Garçons and Yohji [Yamamoto] are very competitive, so it’s easy for them to find people who speak Japanese.”

Without that language ability, says Koishi, working as a designer at these places is extremely difficult: “At a creative level like design or production, because you need to communicate with manufacturers and subsidiaries, it’s impossible to do the job without learning Japanese. If the talent is super or they can offer something unique, then maybe. The roles at these companies are open to everyone, but it’s very hard to survive, and people need specific skills to stand out.”

He cites the Italian designer Ennio Capasa, who worked with Yohji Yamamoto for two years before founding Costume National, but concedes that was over 30 years ago and that these kinds of hires are increasingly rare.

The cultural barriers and the idiosyncrasies presented by the Japanese market could mean that, although foreign designers could bring an element of fresh thought to design houses, they might also struggle to capture the zeitgeist like their Japanese contemporaries. Consistent success would require in-depth market understanding and experience of the way Japanese consumers think; a tall order for a young gaijin graduate.

That Japanese companies traditionally promote from within is also an issue, and hinders potential employees that might otherwise be outsourced for more senior roles. “Companies like Beams, for example, often require that employees first work for three or four years on the shop floor before they can be hired by the design team. Today’s immigration guidelines say that this is forbidden and a designer should be a designer immediately, but in the Japanese fashion industry this is not realistic. We’re currently working so that, in the future, foreigners can be hired in this manner. It’s not just designers, we want to apply this rule for producers and stylists too,” says Furuichi.

Jason Lee Coates is the director of H3O Fashion Bureau, a rare Tokyo-based gaijin-founded fashion business. Coates says he started his own PR, sales and distribution company when he couldn’t find a job in Japan. “I’d talk to magazines here and they would laugh because I couldn’t speak Japanese, so in the end I took a job in Dubai before coming back to Japan to set up H3O.” Despite the difficulties, Coates says there are pros to being non-Japanese: “It’s what makes us different, and when my buyers come to my showroom, they come for that foreign element.”

It’s very hard to survive, and people need specific skills to stand out.

Some domestic companies are only just waking up to the idea of hiring foreigners. La Foret, the youth-orientated department store in the heart of Harajuku, recruited its very first foreign intern last year. Nobuo Arakawa, the chief executive and president of La Foret, made the hire in a bid to learn more about the global market. “[The intern] worked by doing research on other retailers to compare their good and bad points, through the eyes of a foreign consumer,” he says.

The advantage of having a foreign perspective at a company like La Foret, which is a go-to destination for international shoppers, is not lost on Arakawa: “I want to hire foreign staff to learn which of our brands will do well with foreign consumers. To stimulate our brand we have to expand and learn more about the foreign markets, [so] it’s becoming more important to hire and collaborate with foreign people.”

In other words, foreigners stand a better chance of working in Japan if they take up a collaborative role to help bridge the many gaps that exist between Japanese companies, international markets and consumers they are targeting. Because of the gaps between Japan and the West in terms of business culture, language and market intelligence, Westerners have particular advantages when it comes to job hunting.

“The best way for Western people to get employed in fashion here is to be a window of communication,” says Koishi, referring to the go-between role of a madoguchi, or “window-opener.” “It’s a great advantage for Japanese companies when employees provide connections or doors to the West.” And while these doors remain uncommon in Japan, they’re finally, slowly, starting to open.



Beauty: the best new men’s fragrances

‘I’m partial to wearing a masculine scent myself.’ Photograph: Alex Lake for the Guardian

It often falls on me to choose fragrances for the husbands, fathers and sons of the women in my life, and it’s a task I relish. I’m partial to wearing a masculine scent myself, and am always mustard-keen to sniff out what’s new and interesting. I use that last word pointedly, because men’s perfume can often be a crashing bore. For at least two decades, mainstream brands seemed to peddle the same old watery, slightly fruity concoctions that smelled more like loo cleaner than man of elegance. “Fresh” and “clean” said all the fancy press packs, as if clean even has a smell, and as if this was all that men desired in a fragrance.

But one can still have lightness, brightness, airiness, even a little soapiness, without losing character and personality: here are some new ones I love, each especially good at this time of year, when heavy, musky, dirty concoctions can feel a bit obtrusive and lecherous. Ulrich Lang Apsu eau de toilette (£75) is among my favourites. It’s an exceptionally modest, cut-grass smell punctuated by peppery herbs and a dash of citrus, and seems to smell as lovely on women as it does on men (indeed, several of those featured this week are comfortably unisex). It has a glassiness that will cut nicely through the oncoming claggy weather, though the huge bottle should easily see you through winter.

Also herbal, but a little gutsier, is Aesop Tacit (£70), which smells strongly of a basil plant left on a hot kitchen windowsill and has surprisingly good longevity for a “green” scent. Jo Malone Black Cedarwood & Juniper (£44) is bigger and boozier than the brand’s other colognes, and with its slightly mysterious, foresty fogginess, is woodsier than most on this list, though a touch of sweetness provides some sunlight through the treetops.

If you’re hazy on the distinction between clementine and mandarin (don’t get me started on satsuma and tangerine), dissecting Atelier’s delightful Clémentine California might drive you, well, bananas. Over hints of vetiver and spice, the soft citrus is almost playfully dominant. It could almost count as one of your five a day. It launches at the end of the month. If you can’t wait that long, try Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte (from £56). All of the above are light enough to allay fears of the cloying and complex, yet intriguing enough to show that fresh needn’t mean boring.


Celebrity stylist Elizabeth Saltzman on the fashion secrets we can all learn from the A-list

Gwyneth Paltrow wearing Tom Ford to the Oscars in 2012.

“I can’t cook,” confesses Elizabeth Saltzman. “You come over and I’m going to give you one meal. But I know that I can’t cook; I know what I’m good at, and I know what I’m not good at. I like people who are brave enough to say that they’re not good at something, and they need someone to help them.”

What Saltzman is good at – really good at – is styling. Settling in London after stints as fashion editor at American Vogue and fashion director at Vanity Fair, she now uses her connections in Los Angeles and New York as a stylist to some of the world’s best known A-list actresses.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton all have Saltzman to thank for their consistently high places on those perennial best-dressed lists. Not that such status means her clients are tricky to work with. “Diva moments are for movies. Usually, the bigger the name, the smaller the ego,” Saltzman says. “Of course, there are moments when you think: can you please just put on the shoes? Can we please not discuss this button any more, or whether the split should be this high or that high? Once I asked Gwyneth Paltrow, ‘How many dresses do you think I’ve gotten in for you in our lifetime?’ And she said, ‘How many do you think I’ve tried on?’ ”

Saoirse Ronan wearing Duro Olowu at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2016. Credit: Rex

A place on best-dressed lists is the ultimate endorsement, and Saltzman’s pinch-me moment came dressing Gwyneth Paltrow for the 2012 Oscars – she chose a Tom Ford caped white dress. “Knowing what a risk that was – it didn’t have a sequin or a pouf, it had a cape – I wrote all the worst headlines that could possibly come. I didn’t have a back-up dress, there was no other fitting. But that’s been remembered every year since; every Oscars, I turn on to watch E! while we’re getting everyone else ready, and it always comes up.”

The pressure of nights like the Oscars for stylists has only increased since social media caused what she calls “a meteor shower of awareness” of the industry. “Everyone can know everything now, that someone’s been to this party or worn this, and it gave relevance to stylists. It used to be that no one wanted anyone to know they had a stylist; now, they thank their stylist.” But the visibility cuts both ways, and the possibility of getting panned by the press is always there. “I’ve had moments where things just haven’t worked. But that’s when you get to be really creative – and breathe. If you stress and get into a tizzy and pull your hair out, you’re just going to end up overeating with your hair pulled out,” she laughs. “Whereas if you just focus, there’s always a dress out there.”

Red-carpet dressing now is a lot more strategic than just choosing a beautiful dress for an A-list client, says Saltzman. “What are they trying to say at that moment? Are they just about to sign a health and beauty deal, so we’re going to show a lot more skin? Is there a possibility of a brand campaign if we put someone new in front of their face?” Given that contracts with fashion and beauty houses can mean huge sums of money, for both the actresses and the stylists who broker the deals, you can see why.

Uma Thurman wearing custom Elsa Schiaparelli at the AIDS Gala in Cannes last year. Credit: Rex

All in the industry appreciate the power a sartorial moment on the red carpet can bring. When Jennifer Lawrence, a face of Dior since 2012, fell up the stairs on the way to collect an Oscar in her Dior ballgown, the image went viral on social media – a modern-day publicity campaign, if you like. But while some celebrity stylists choose to capitalise on this new-found power, Saltzman prefers to focus on her work.

“It’s a really crazy time in fashion, this uber-stylist moment. There were never awards for stylists before – now there are. There was never notoriety – now people want to be known. I don’t want to be known.”

Gwyneth Paltrow wearing Gucci at the LACMA Gala in LA last year. Credit: Rex

Today, she has made an exception to discuss her latest project – a line of embellished wedge flipflops, in collaboration with Rocket Dog. “It all started at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, where everyone took off their shoes in agony by 9pm. I ended up buying simple wedgie flipflops and customising them for my girls so that after the awards ceremony they could put them on under their long dresses to go to the after-after-party, without me thinking they were going to cut their feet on the glass or step on their dress. And I ended up wearing them, and then I ended up really wearing them,” she laughs. “Everyone kept asking me where I got them. I thought, ‘What? That’s what people are stopping me about at fashion shows?’ ”

Growing up in a creative household (her mother was fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, her father an interior designer) and in a time before social media and smartphones, Saltzman “would try anything” when it came to clothes. “I remember my poor father’s face sometimes when he’d see me; he’d ask, ‘What’s under the coat?’ But in this day and age, if I had daughters, I’d be like, ‘You’re not going out dressed like that.’ ”

Gemma Arterton wearing Erdem at the ‘Their Finest’ premiere in New York last month. Credit: Rex

These days, Saltzman says her style has softened. “Now, I like classics, with a tiny little twist.” Her approach to high-stakes event dressing – and one that every woman can follow – is to wear what makes you feel confident.

“My style has definitely changed since I’ve gotten older. I’ve gained a lot of weight, and that’s no fun, it definitely takes away your confidence. I think that’s why I tell the great women that I work with, ‘We’re not using Spanx.’ Even though I love Spanx, I just believe that people should feel confident, and if they don’t, then do something about it. You know: work out for two weeks before you hit the red carpet. Eat well, get enough sleep. Treat yourself nicely.”

Saltzman’s learnt from the A-listers in that sense.

The ES x RD collaboration launches today.

“If you look at Elle Macpherson, or Uma, or Gwyneth, who have incredible skin and legs – Elle’s over 50, the others are in their forties – they have incredible bodies, and they work really hard to achieve them. Five years ago, people would have said they shouldn’t be wearing things above their knees. But that’s just not true.”

Samantha Cameron and former aide Isabel Spearman reunite to launch fashion charity event

Samantha Cameron has joined forces with the woman who served as her special adviser in her years at 10 Downing Street to launch a fundraising scheme for a fashion charity.

Mrs Cameron and Isabel Spearman, who was awarded an OBE in former Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation honours list, were pictured together at an event for the Smart Works Fashion Club.

Smart Works is a charity that helps unemployed women prepare for job interviews by offering fashion and styling advice as well as interview training. Clients, who include former offenders and homeless women, are given an outfit to wear to an interview.

In a question and answer session, Ms Spearman, an ambassador for the charity, and Mrs Cameron discussed the importance of women feeling confident in the clothes they wear for work.

It was part of an event at the Devonshire Club in the City of London to launch a series of talks to raise money for the charity.

ISabel Spearman
Isabel Spearman worked with Samantha Cameron at Downing Street Credit: Alpha Press 

Since leaving Downing Street, Mrs Cameron has set up her own fashion label called Cefinn, which combines the first and last letters of the Cameron surname with the initials of her four children- Elwen, Florence, Ivan and Nancy.

The 35-piece collection is described as an “urban uniform for busy women who love fashion”.

After being an aide for Mrs Cameron, Ms Spearman went on to run a brand and image consultancy. She was previously PR director for accessories brand Anya Hindmarch.

Samantha and David Cameron
Samantha and David Cameron Credit: Leon Neal /AFP


Speaking after the launch event Mrs Cameron said:  “Whilst living at Downing Street I volunteered for Smart Works doing interview training and I am extremely passionate about supporting the charity as it is so effective at helping unemployed women gain confidence and prepare them for interview success.”

During his time in office, David Cameron backed the work of the charity, saying: “Smart Works helps their clients approach job interviews with the skills and training they need to sell themselves and the confidence they will look the part.

“Their team of volunteers have provided invaluable support to over 1,000 women taking their first steps back into the world of work.”



These Kid Stylists Helped Women Rediscover Their Confidence Through Fashion

Clothing brand Long Tall Sally’s #StyleHasNoRules campaign is all about helping women rediscover their fashion confidence. The brand, which specializes in pieces for women taller than 5 feet 8 inches, enlisted six adorable kid stylists to put together outfits for women who felt like they were in a fashion rut, constrained by what traditional fashion rules say they should and shouldn’t wear.

Camilla Treharne, creative director at Long Tall Sally, tells Bustle the inspiration behind #StyleHasNoRules comes from hard data gathered in a worldwide survey. The results: 65 percent of women lack fashion confidence, and 87 percent cite size, shape, and skin color for reasons why they can’t wear certain items.

“But here’s the interesting bit,” Treharne adds. “In their childhood years, 80 percent of women wore whatever made them happy. So, we wanted to approach this campaign through the eyes of children — blissfully free of body hang-ups, unaware of style ‘rules’ and with complete freedom to experiment. Essentially, we wanted to put the fun back into fashion.”

More than 600 women responded to Long Tall Sally’s offer to be featured in a “makeover photoshoot with a difference,” Treharne says. “[They] admitted that they had lost their confidence and no longer knew how to style themselves.”

Long Tall Sally chose models from diverse size, age, and shape groups, but “we also looked for interesting stories,” Treharne explains. “Our six finalists are all amazing women, from Zoe, a soldier in the British Military Police and mum of two, to Pavan, a 23-year-old student.”

The brand also held a casting to net their “little stylists,” — aka the six whip-smart kiddos who styled #StyleHasNoRules’s adult models. “We held a (very memorable!) casting to recruit our six mini stylists,” Treharne tells Bustle. “We knew from our research that children under the age of 10 wear whatever makes them happy, so we recruited six children between the ages of six and eight, the perfect age to really capture the wonder of dressing up and the fun of fashion.”

When the time came to get down to work, “[our] mini stylists had no direction from us,” Treharne says. “They were literally left to their own devices, putting their outfits together complete with bags, shoes, and jewelry. It was amazing to see!”

Mini stylist Emily (pictured above), said, “I think Dannii is really cool. She looks quite sporty. I’ve chosen patterned trousers with spots and diamonds – a bit like leggings but looser. I’m a fan of baggy trousers. I love the jacket because it’s the color of wet grass and it’s long so it will keep her warm. She will look good in these earrings because they’ve got feathers and jewels that hang down and look magical. I think it’s important for Dannii to be comfortable in her outfit. I’ve called it ‘Sporty Fun’.”

Model Dannii said before her styling, “I have my wardrobe staples and when I’m wearing those I feel quite confident. I tend to wear plain, black clothes — things that I know will fit well. They’re safe. The trouble is coming out of my comfort zone. … It takes roughly three or four attempts before I’ve found [an outfit] that I like.”

And after her styling? “This isn’t an outfit I’d choose for myself but I must admit it looks quite cool,” she said.

You can see a campaign video and bios about all the models and mini stylists on Long Tall Sally’s website.

Long Tall Sally’s previous campaigns have been about empowering women who don’t fit the fashion industry’s “typical” shape and size, but #StyleHasNoRules just may be the brand’s most innovative and inclusive campaign yet. It’s a truly fantastic way to show women there is no right or wrong when it comes to wearing what they love.


12 Of The Stupidest Quotes About Men’s Fashion

For every Tom Ford nugget of pure style wisdom, there’s a clanger of epic proportions from people who should, frankly, know better. We’re looking at you, Lagerfeld.

While we’re always keen to showcase the knowledge that’ll actually benefit your wardrobe, cataloguing the most WTF soundbites can help safeguard it, too. Disclaimer: we advise you take a deep, deep breath.

“People could say, ‘What do you mean you want to help the world and you’re so concerned about fashion?’ It’s illegal to be naked. It’s not illegal to not listen to music.” – Kanye West
Luckily, Mr West, it’s not illegal to not wear clothes. Although, judging by Yeezy Season 3, you’re campaigning for that to be the case after #Kanye2020.

“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” – Karl Lagerfeld
Nobody’s told Karl about athleisure yet, then?

“I like fashion to go down to the street, but I can’t accept that it should originate there.” – Coco Chanel
Trying telling that to Supreme, who made a multi-million dollar company from that very thing.

“People have told me about organised crime in the fashion industry, but I can’t talk about that. I’m looking to stay alive.” – Calvin Klein
Mess with the mobsters of the style world as expect to wake up with a horse’s head in your bed (or worse, a pair of bootcut jeans).

“When a person is in fashion, all they do is right.” – Lord Chesterfield
Right and wrong can change. Like Justin Timberlake’s hair.

“Only men who are not interested in women are interested in women’s clothes. Men who like women never notice what they wear.” – Anatole France
Granted, this was said sometime between the 1840s and 1960s. But in 2017 the ‘fashion is just for gay men’ stereotype is pure reductive.

“The worst is a fashion designer who talks all the time of his or her creativity, what they are, how the evolved. Just shut up and do it.” – Karl Lagerfeld
Or, you know, you could just talk instead about Adele’s weight, how Meryl Streep is ‘cheap’, Pippa Middleton’s looks, Michelle Obama’s hair, etc. etc. and so on and so forth.

“I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” – Ralph Lauren
Sure, a Ralph Oxford shirt can be pretty dreamy. But it’s not worthy of your headspace in the Land of Nod.

“Always dress like it’s the best day of your life.” – Anon
What, your wedding?

“Always dress like you’re going to see your worst enemy.” – Kimora Lee Simmons
Though if you turn up in a Patrick Bateman raincoat, you may be giving the game away.

“When in doubt, wear red.” – Bill Blass
If you’re an ageing toff, that is. Otherwise, we’d strongly advise playing it safe with neutrals.

“What I hate is nasty, ugly people. The worst is ugly short men. Women can be short, but for men it is impossible.” – Karl Lagerfeld
Weighing in at a lofty, er, 5 foot 8, King Karl seems to have forgotten about the man in the mirror.

Has eco-friendly fashion grown in New Orleans?

These sustainably made items are for sale at Green Serene. Photo courtesy of Jamie Menutis

City Park will host its annual Earth Day festivities on Tuesday (April 25) from 4 to 7 p.m., featuring exhibitors showing eco-friendly products, activities for children, cooking demonstrations and food. The celebration will take place on the plaza in front of the Oscar J. Tolmas Center, 5 Victory Ave.

In recent years, it’s gotten a little easier to be eco-conscious in New Orleans. There are several local stores offering products made with sustainable practices, organic and and fair trade ingredients. In honor of Earth Day, we caught up with Jamie Menutis, owner of Green Serene, a Magazine Street boutique specializing in ethically made women’s clothing and accessories.

Eco-friendly fashion has come a long way in the eight years since Menutis opened Green Serene. This transcript was edit for length and clarity.

We last talked to you about eco fashion in New Orleans about eight years ago. Has it grown since then?
I think that it’s grown immensely since 2009. We were just getting a feel for it. And when people used to come in the store, we used to have to explain to them our concept and what we do. Now, eight years later, people really do get it and really understand it. We’ve broadened it to become more than just eco fabrics or sustainable fabrics. We’ve added fair trade, locally made and made in the U.S. products.

What’s contributed to the popularity of sustainable fashion?
I think people are becoming more aware of the clothing and getting more used to the idea. That’s why it doesn’t seem like something so unattainable. It’s about awareness. The prices also have come down. When it first started, sustainable clothing was not so cute and very expensive. It’s come a long way. … There’s a lot more sustainable clothing being made (so there are more options).

What fabrics are commonly used to make eco-friendly clothing today?
Organic cotton, which isn’t grown with pesticides, and then we have a lot of bamboo clothing. (Bamboo) needs very little water to grow. It’s a nice fabric and has a lot of nice properties to it. It keeps people cool when it’s warm out, and the opposite when it’s cold, and it’s antimicrobial. It feels like silk. People love it, and mostly what they notice about the clothing is the way that it feels compared to other clothing. … If we have any polyester, it’s a recycled polyester and usually mixed with organic cotton. Eco-friendly clothes feel so good on them that people get spoiled.

You mentioned that you’re now featuring more clothing made in the United States. Is it hard to find sustainably made brands here?
Clothing is made all over. Eighty percent is made in China. The U.S. used to have a much bigger clothing industry. Now it’s coming back a little. I’m trying to support it, but I do have clothing from every country — Nepal and all over the world. It’s really important to support American designers.

Fabric, where it’s made and how it’s made, is all important to me. It’s really a mission. If you want to make a lot of money, I would say this isn’t what you want to jump into. If it’s your mission, and you love it, it’s a joy every day.

Have you always been conscious of the origins of your clothing?
No, I haven’t always been conscious of what I wear. I’ve probably been like everyone else and just wanted to find things that were cute for the day and may or may not wear it again. I started to learn more about (eco fashion), and once my consciousness became more raised about the conditions and what’s going on in the environment, I realized it was very difficult to find clothing that isn’t made that way. This all happened after Hurricane Katrina, when I was living in Texas and thinking about starting a business.

When I came back, I wanted to start something that was different. … I’m happy to see that other shops now are doing similar things, and we could all complement each other. It kind of happened organically. There are some new (sustainable fashion and accessories) stores that have popped up across the city.

We’re all friends, we all know each other, and we all want to support each other.

The next time you’re cleaning out your closet think of this: Americans toss out a whopping 10.5 million tons of clothing annually, sending discarded jeans, jackets, blouses and shirts into landfills, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. Between 1999 and 2009, the amount of post-consumer textile waste in the United States grew by 40 percent, and Americans recycle or donate only about 15 percent of their used clothing to charity or textile recyclers.