The sole of TireFlops

1. Please tell us about your brand. Who are the key players in your company?
We are GomaVial Solutions S.L., the creators of TireFlops®, flip flops made with recycled tires. The idea was born when 3 engineers decided to look for a solution to minimize the risk in biker crashes. Their research led them to take an interest in used tires and they began to think of all the utilities that could be extracted from them.

2. What makes your TireFlops® unique and sets it apart from its competitors?
We use recycled tires for the soles. At first glance, our flip flops seem like normal sandals, but if you look at the sole closely, you will see the tire design. This gives our sandals a unique character and also preserves the tire properties like grip, flexibility and durability. We believe in a sustainable world.

3. Where is your brand based?
We are a Spanish company. Our central office is located in San Sebastian. TireFlops® is an international brand. You can find it in any part of the world. Our worldwide philosophy is “Walk leaving no footprint”.

4. When was GomaVial Solutions S.L. developed and formed?
GomaVial was developed about 6 years ago. We created a new technology for tire recycling. The innovation of our technology lies in the recycling process – we do not burn, grind or use chemicals. We give new utility to the tires while respecting the environment.

5. How did the idea for TireFlops® develop?
Tires are essential for safe car travel as much as quality footwear is essential to walk through life. But when tires or shoe soles become worn, both elements can be problematic for the planet and shoe wearer. All things considered, our engineers came up with the idea of mixing these concepts to change their direction.This is how TireFlops® were conceived. Transforming an old tire into a sole to eliminate waste and provide a durable sole under your feet. Footwear that doesn’t leave an environmental trace!

6. What inspired you to pursue a business in the fashion industry?
The bands that we extract for the tires are very useful. We have reached different sectors with our material. We wanted to try new areas, so we decided to enter the footwear industry contributing shoe soles made from recycled tire bands.

7. What’s the biggest highlight of your career to date? Why?
We launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to move TireFlops® forward. Many thanks to our contributors who believed in our project and helped to subsidize it.

8. What’s your biggest career mistake to date?
Possibly not developing TireFlops® sooner than we did. Everything is a process and we learn from all situations. Our creative contributions have made a remarkable difference in the world.

9. What are your key strengths?
Excellent communication, customer service and our environmental consciousness are key strengths. We really care about the environment. We recycle with a new deconstructed tire technology . In the process, we do not burn, grind or use a chemical process for recycling.

10. Where do you see your career going in the next 5 years?
GomaVial will continue recycling tires and producing utilities from them. The brand TireFlops has helped us to introduce our recycled soles to the footwear industry. Our materials work well in many different types of shoes including flip flops. We want to make ourselves known to various brands and companies so that they use our recycled tire soles in their products while making an environmental contribution to our world.

TireFlops1 TireFlops2

Text Editor, L.T. Clayton

Bringing Sustainability to the American Made Movement

1. Where is your brand based? How did your brand develop?
My brand Kathrine Zeren is based in Houston where I grew up. I had moved back home to be closer to family and to take a break from the fashion industry.  Once I realized that I missed designing, I alsorealized that I had this idea for a company that I wanted to try out, and the industry in Houston was largely untapped and full of potential.

2. Who are the key players in your company?
I am the owner of the company and head designer. However, I have collaborated with other artists/designers (O’Douds All Natural, Anvil Handcrafted, and Kari Breitigam) on certain projects.

3. What are your current endeavors?
We currently supply menswear accessories (ties & pocket squares), apothecary products, leather goods, and vintage finds. I’m currently working on my new collection of men’s accessories for S/S 2016, and have some other projects in development.

4. What’s the idea behind your brand?
I partially wanted to start a company so that I would have freedom to create the kind of organization I’d like to be associated with indefinitely.  Sustainability is important to me, so I decided that all of the fabrics we’d work with would be sustainable sourced.  It’s also become increasingly more difficult over the last several decades to produce clothing domestically, which I think is unfortunate, so I decided to keep production in the USA as well.  It’s not the easiest way to go about things, but I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.  If more people take a stand, our resources will only be greater!

5. How is your brand unique?
I am one of the few USA made brands out there to offer menswear accessories that are also made using sustainable materials. Usually, it’s one or the other.

6. What is the timing of your brand development?  
After having almost a decade’s worth of experience in the fashion world, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge a little over a year ago. The economy was looking up, so it seemed like the right time to do it.

7. What motivated you to enter the fashion industry?
Growing up, I was apparently difficult on shopping trips – nothing was every quite right in my opinion.  I would always want to tweak the clothing to fit this idea I had in my head.  When I was trying to decide what I’d like to study in school, apparel design felt like a very natural choice, as it combined my love for art, functional design, and clothing.

8. What projects are you currently undertaking and where do you see yourself in the future?
I would like to expand my product line and eventually be in a position to partner even more with up and coming artists/designers.  I want to create the kind of company that attracts people – not only customers (obviously), but also talented creatives wanting to be part of something that is more than the typical, corporate fashion company – one that is more involved in the community and has a killer workplace environment.

9. Is there someone in the fashion industry who inspires you?
I am still really blown away by the business models of Warby Parker and Apolis. They aren’t just creating cool products, they’re using their business practices to affect real change in their respective industries. They inspired me to think, “Why can’t I do that?”

10. What type of work roles have you enjoyed the most? Why?
I love the creative process the most.  A majority of the time is spent trying to turn my ideas into reality, but it’s that brainstorming process that is the most exciting part.  When I sit down to think about the next collection, anything is possible. That’s an exhilarating feeling to have.

11. Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?
I like to collect a lot of imagery – sometimes hundreds of pictures – of anything that piques my interest.  Once I’ve collected a good amount, I step back and try to find the common thread in all of it.  It’s at that point that a theme will begin to emerge. I will then do some more focused research until I have a clear mood board depicting the direction I’d like to go for the new collection.

kathrinezeren.com1 kathrinezeren.com2 kathrinezeren.com3

Text Editor, L.T. Clayton

Winter Moose story

1. How did your business develop?
My family has always supported farmers’ markets and local food, and we enjoy designing and sewing. A few years ago, a friend of mine asked if I could sew him a pair of pants, made of locally sourced fabric. That question, combined with my daughter’s love of history and fashion spurred me to investigate our local fiber and fashion industries. As I got to know alpaca farmers, sheep farmers, and some mill owners, I became more and more enthusiastic about making fabric and fashion from regional materials.

2. Who are the key players in your business?
There are many small businesses in the area that are key to our work.  Fiber farmers and processors, dye farmers, dyers and professional hand weavers are some of the major contributors to Winter Moose. My family also plays a big part as we work together on all aspects of the business, design and sewing.

3. Does geography play a role in your business?
Absolutely. We make all our design and product choices based on what materials, technology and skills are available in New England and especially Vermont. Keeping our sources regional makes it easier to ensure quality and also requires us to stay connected with the land here – the farms and the seasons.

4. Who benefits from your business?
The global textile industry is one of Earth’s top polluters of the environment and we provide an alternative to that. Our products contain only natural fibers and plant based dyes.

Winter Moose helps the environment by keeping the twenty (or more) steps, from fiber and dye farms to fashion construction as close together as possible. This makes our carbon footprint very low and has the added benefit of stimulating our local economy. Supporting local economy is an integral part of our mission.

5. What makes Winter Moose unique?
As designers of small runs of textiles and made to fit accessories, we are involved in every step of our production. We know where our fiber comes from and who spins it into yarn. For example, by working with local craftspeople, we can be assured that our buttons are made from locally reclaimed wood and finished with natural oils. We personally meet with weavers to discuss textile patterns and can make sure that no synthetic fragrances or formaldehyde get added to our fabric during manufacture.
We are committed to creating a clean, all natural line with no petrochemical preservatives, sizings, detergents, fragrances or dyes – for the health of our craftspeople, our customers and the entire planet.

6. What about timing of the business is significant?
I think people are starting to care about what their clothes are made of. People are concerned about fair wages and environmental toxins in the fashion industry. I think raising awareness about these issues is important and creating high quality, natural alternatives is key in this process.

7. What is the vision behind the name Winter Moose?
We wanted a name that would “feel right” for our fashion and connect our brand with the land. In Vermont, Winter is a time of quiet that often inspires profound thoughts. The moose is Vermont’s largest, strongest native animal. It has an elegance that is a part of the rural individuality of the North East.  I like to think that our commitment to the slow and detailed process of making elegant fashion from the ground up is reflected in this name.

8. What is Winter Moose doing now and where do you see yourselves going in the future?
We are making hats, gloves and cowls at the moment. As we expand, we will add vests, bags and knitting kits. Eventually, our goal is to produce outerwear as well.

9. Do you have a particular research process you use when starting a new collection?
There are three major influences that we rely on for our design and inspiration. The plants and animals of Vermont inform our choices of color, texture and pattern. Our love of historic fashion from diverse times and places inspires our creativity and we hope to purvey a sense of dignity, practicality and elegance in all of our work.

10. Who are your favorites designers?
My favorite designers are Lilli Ann, Armani, Ralph Lauren and Dolce and Gabbana.

Text Editor, L.T. Clayton

REIGN&GRAY presents “The Skarf”

1. Please tell us about your brand. Who are the key players?
We are REIGN&GRAY creators of The Skarf, a reversible scarf that attaches behind the neck using 2 leather-enclosed magnets. REIGN&GRAY is owned and operated by Kim DeVries & Michelle Demman.

2. What makes your scarves unique?
Conventional scarves tend to come with tutorials on “100 ways to wear or wrap your scarf” leaving most consumers both frustrated and flustered.  Our belief is “life is complicated enough, looking fabulous shouldn’t be”.  Being avid scarf lovers, we recognized this common problem and came up with a solution!  As well We took our vision one step further and designed a reversible scarf combining two looks in one!

3. Where is your brand based?
REIGN&GRAY is a Canadian based company in Kelowna, BC.  We believe that scarves are universal.  Being geographically located where it is cold over six months a year presents an advantage.  That being said, we have had a great deal of interest in countries such as Dubai & Thailand where the climate may be hot, but the malls and restaurants are heavily air-conditioned!  This quick, constant temperature shift means people are carrying shawls, sweaters or The Skarf!

4. When was REIGN&GRAY developed and formed?
REIGN&GRAY was conceptualized in 2014 and registered as a business in 2015. We launched a Kickstarter Campaign in Fall 2015 with a targeted goal to crowd fund $15,000.  We raised $30,000 in 38 days! Currently, we are fulfilling  pre-orders from Kickstarter and then focusing on the launch of our online store launch.

5. How did the idea for The Skarf develop?
This idea developed from a conversation between 2 lifelong friends over coffee! One had the vision and one had the push to implement the idea!
Together we spent a year refining both the physical and logistical aspects of The Skarf.

6. What inspired you to pursue a business in the fashion industry?  
For both of us, our love of fashion has outweighed our in-depth knowledge of the industry.  Our goal is to solve a problem by introducing The Scarf to the fashion industry.  As avid scarf lovers, we were frustrated with the time it took to wrap, flap, twist and tug our scarves, only to arrive at our destination – unwrapping it all!  Realizing there MUST be a better way, we created a solution and a fashion game changer.  To be honest, our goal was to pursure problem solving in a very fashionable way!

7. What’s the biggest highlight of your career to date? Why?
A highlight was seeing our Kickstarter goal of $15,000 being doubled in such a short amount of time.  That meant that our idea was validated! People like our fashionable solution!  Ha!ha! It validated those late night meetings, stressing over “should we or shouldn’t we?”  I think any artist or entrepreneur would tell you that there is a level of vulnerability mixed into it all.  We compare this process to having a baby and then going “ta da world, our idea has been born!”  As an artist, you want the “ooooooOOhs and aaaaahhH’s” not a room full of silence or the Seinfeld “well she has personality!”  When we doubled our goal, it gave us the green light that our idea was viable.

8. What’s your biggest career mistake to date?
Not to sound cliche, but to be honest we think “mistakes” are part of the process.  Brene Brown talks about being brave and that in order to live authentic and brave lives we risk failure or mistakes!  There have been moments where we made a choice on an aspect of The Skarf and in the end it may not have had the desired result, but we tried.  We risked, we tried & most importantly we learned from the experiences. If we view any and every hiccup as huge mistakes or failures, then on a business or personal level are we really succeeding?

9. As entreprenuers, what are your key strengths?
Our key strengths are communication, an open approach to business highs and lows and a unique product.

10. Where you get your fabrics from?
Currently we source both our fabrics and manufacturing in Thailand.  We are working with a business in Thailand, which serves women who have come from the northeast of Thailand looking for work. This sewing business was established in 2001, initially to keep young children with their mother’s (instead of sending them to their villages to be raised by grandparents) and to supplement family incomes. They believe in supporting the whole family of the women who sew and being just and fair in how they do business. By supporting REIGN&GRAY you are also supporting these women as they continue their life story, half a world away.

11. What sets The Skarf apart from its competitors?
The Skarf is unique in that we make you look good & save time.  There is no need to re-twist, wrap around your hair or watch a YouTube tutorial on how to use it.  Pick, Click and go.  Oh and did we mention it is reversible?  Spill that Merlot or Mayo & flip it around – we’ve got you covered, literally!

12. Where do you see your career going in the next 5 years?
Well, we would love to see REIGN&GRAY thriving and succeeding both online and in stores.  We have both short and long term dreams & goals!  We would love to see The Skarf around the necks of every man, woman and child on the planet.

Text Editor, L.T. Clayton

Chief Eyewear: Sunglasses making an impact!

1. What is Chief Eyewear? Who are the key players in your company? Who does brand benefit?
Chief Eyewear is a Melbourne based company run by myself, my brother (Darcy) and one of my best mates (Dean). The idea came about when Dean was off work for 3 months with a snapped achilles. He wanted to create a stylish range of sunglasses while also reducing our ecological footprint. It was also something that we could do together to make a real difference and it’s become our major interest outside of our day jobs, well ahead of any sports we used to play or other hobbies that used to occupy most of our time.

2. How did the idea for Chief Eyewear come about?
The idea came about initially when Dean was off work for 3 months with a serious achilles injury and had all the time to assess his career options and new business ventures. After discussing it over a few beers with myself the idea developed pretty quickly and brand names, logos, product ideas all came together very quickly and the introduction of a third business partner has really helped us manage all the tasks involved with running your own business and Darcy has been a great driver in moving the business forward at a rate that we couldn’t have

3. What is unique about your brand?
Bamboo and wooden eyewear is a concept that is relatively new, especially in Australia. It was very important to us to have a product that is made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials. 86% of ocean debris is plastic and over 1,000,000 seabirds and marine mammals die each year from plastic so we really wanted to do something about improving those horrifying statistics. One of the charities we donate to is Seabird Rescue Foundation. They do some really great work and helping create awareness in the community is where it all starts.

4. Why is this important news?
Apart from the fact that we are eco-friendly and focus on making our products from sustainable materials, we are looking to create a range that is unique. Every pair in itself is actually unique due to the wooden grain. Some of the different types of wood that we have used and will be bringing out in the future are like nothing you have ever seen before. They also all float on the water so no more losing pairs while on a boat, jet skiing or whatever water activities you like! We have started out with bamboo and wooden eyewear but we will be releasing other types of apparel, including hats, t-shirts, watches and other types of eyewear in the future so there are some really exciting times coming up for Chief Eyewear!

5. Where is this happening/is there a geographical angle?
We sell mainly from our online store at the moment and various online distributors who sell our product on their fashion websites and e-commerce stores. It’s important that the online retailers that sell our product fit in with our brand image and target market demographic. Our products are also located in a store in Sorrento,  a beach town in Vic Australia.  We plan to push the wholesale side of our business and target more retail stores around the country in the next year.

6. What is the timing of your brand expansion?
We have only been in business for just over a year and already so much has happened. We project that the next year will see the introduction of more new products and further presence of our brand in the Australian and international markets.

7. What made you enter fashion industry?
We’ve all grown up around the beach and it had a major impact on our lives. Our summers in Australia are spent in the water and the winters are spent vacationing in countries that are in summer season. So apart from owning lots of pairs of sunglasses over the years and having a keen interest in fashion, whether it be through work or the very busy social scene, we really wanted to create our own brand of unique products that people would find fashionable.

8. What’s the biggest highlight of your career to date? Why?
Starting our own business has been the biggest highlight of my career to date. For the 3 of us, we have always worked for someone and followed instructions and a set of rules so it’s been challenging, yet rewarding to set our own rules and pave our own pathway while developing our own brand.

9. What’s your biggest career mistake to date? What did you learn from this mistake?
We’ve made a few mistakes in the infancy of our business and have learned a lot in the first year. Dealing with suppliers/manufacturers in other countries isn’t always easy and the lines of communication are often blurred. We may have launched a product too soon before getting it 100% right and we regret doing that. We have continuously improved our products and will continue to do so. The amount of samples that we order and go back and forth with before ordering bulk now is crazy but we’ve realized how necessary that is. As they say, if you’re not embarrassed by your first product then you’ve launched too late!

10. Where do you see your brand going in 3 – 5 years?
I would love to see Chief become our full time responsibility in 3 to 5 years. At the moment, we all still have our day jobs and we manage Chief in amongst it all and in our spare time as our business on the side but it’s moved so quickly in 1 year and who knows how much bigger it can get in 3 – 5 years time. We have so many ideas, I just can’t wait to release them bit by bit and see the reaction from our supporters!

11. How did your interest in fashion begin?
We’ve all always been interested in fashion to a certain point but not obsessed with it. I suppose living in Melbourne – it’s a very trendy city, and the venues and events that we like to attend generally require a certain standard of dress, which we really enjoy and are fascinated seeing how the styles change from year to year.

12. Who in the fashion industry inspires you?
All of the Victoria’s Secret models! Haha

13. What type of work have you enjoyed the most? Why?
I personally enjoy roles where I can grow a business through building and maintaining close relationships with clientele. Dealing in asset finance predominantly with all of my leads coming from referrers, it has become imperative to have those face to face relationship skills and that’s what I enjoy most. My other partners, while also generally business savvy, have enjoyed roles that are more marketing/advertising based and creatively focused so the makeup of our business has all angles covered and we certainly work together across all departments very seamlessly.

14. What types of work roles have frustrated you the most? Why?
Roles where I am stuck behind a desk all day, every day frustrate me beyond belief. I feel trapped and stuck in a moment I can’t get out of. I like to be out and about making things happen, dealing with people face to face and taking in whatever the world out there has to offer and looking for that next opportunity!

15. What are your key strengths?
Relationship building, business development, sales and attention to detail are some of my main strengths. All have been very important in my roles to date as a finance broker and BDM for various companies.

16. What are your key weaknesses / development areas? What are you doing about them?
Time management is something I’ve had to work on quite a bit. I often take on more responsibilities and tasks than I have the time for and need to learn to delegate better. Over the last few years I have learned to prioritize tasks and utilize my support network in the office as well as my business partners better to become more productive and successful.

17. How would you describe your personality and working style?
Very laid back and personable in my approach to people but extremely motivated and driven to reach my goals and continue to achieve above and beyond what is expected of me.

18. How many people in your team were laid off?
Luckily no one has been laid off at Chief Eyewear yet.

19. Where are you from originally?
All of us at Chief Eyewear were born and raised in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia). We have all traveled extensively to South America, Europe, the States, Asia and to a lesser extent Africa.

20. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way when it comes to starting a brand?
Trademarking the brand was a big lesson we should have looked into prior to launching because it ended up being very costly and time consuming getting our name/logo trademarked in our category as we had not done our proper research before starting. We’ve also learned to become smarter with our cost of goods and other expenses involved in making a sale to properly determine how to price our goods.

21. You recently returned from Mexico. How was your visit?
Mexico was a fascinating country to visit. Throughout the Caribbean coast, different towns vary in their culture, demographic and development. I really liked Playa Del Carmen as it incorporated the party vibe of Cancun and the culture and beauty of Tulum. The people were incredibly friendly, the food was outstanding and the service was first class.

22. What projects are you currently undertaking and where do you see yourself in the future?
We are launching hats very soon and we are designing more sunglasses and other types of apparel. We are not only looking to enhance our online presence but we will be in further stores around Victoria and hopefully the rest of Australia over the next year or two.

23. Why the primarily white, cream color for the Summer 2015 collection?
We wanted to offer lots of options for our customers and the light natural bamboo color is very beachy and great as a summer pair. The black bamboo and other darker frames are certainly more versatile in terms of being able to wear them out and to dressier events. They have presumably sold better, but initially we wanted to give customers as much variety as possible to see what the market wants.

24. What’s the idea behind your brand name?
We wanted a name that was earthy and synonymous with our values and culture. We felt like Chief fit the bill. It also gives a feeling of pride and confidence in oneself that will make people feel great about wearing the sunglasses. We also knew we could branch off the Chief name and find a lot of cool tribal words that we could use as product line names.

“Be your own boss, become a Chief’!”

Text Editor, L.T. Clayton

An interview that introduces the background behind of the growing trend of Crosskix

Crosskix is a pioneering functional footwear in mold injected, they are shoes for multi-purpose uses. A few years ago, there was only one major player in the EVA footwear industry – Crocs. This is an interview that introduces the background behind of the growing trend of Crosskix lifestyle and culture.

Life as a Samurai jewelry maker

1. Tell me about yourself
I am Takahiro Sumida – Owner, designer and creator of Lacquersmith LYNX. I learned Uruhi (Japanese lacquer) art and started my brand 4 years ago. I am the sole owner and I do everything: design, create, sales, etc… Our target audience is anyone looking for unusual and exotic jewelry. I create jewelry inspired by samurai armor. I use materials and techniques similar to the Samurai period. They use Urushi (Japanese lacquer) on a metal or leather for color. Urushi is a traditional Japanese painting material. It is collected from the Urushi tree. It is a very rare natural material. It can be collected at a rate of one glass per tree. Samurai armor makers used Urushi because it is weatherproof and rust-proof. I use Urushi on silver, gold and brass.

2. Why is this important news — how is your fashion different?
Samurai armor is not everyday wear, but if you put on our products, you can get a feel for Samurai armor. The jewelry I create is unique and cannot be found anywhere else.

3. Where is this happening/is there a geographical angle/is the location of business relevant?
The Japanese have beautiful traditional culture and art. I was lucky to be born in such an environment. By being Japanese, I can integrate Samurai soul into my jewelry. It also adds a level of credibility to my creations and selling points.

4. How did this come about?
Currently, Japanese traditional arts are gradually dying and Urushi buyers are decreasing. If we we do nothing, Urushi art and culture is going to die out completely. I can’t just sit and watch this happen, so I can help this art form if people get to know the beauty of Urushi through my works.

5. How would you describe your personality and working style?
Before I started this making , I decided my next job would the last. I’m going to put everything into my work and I will create this jewelry until the day I die. Creating is my joy. I get lost in the creative process sometimes forget to eat and sleep while working. At times I can be lazy, so I have to push myself every time to move forward.

6. Who are some of your favorite designers?
1. Rene Lalique who was the Art Nouveau jewelery designer. I love his bionic and beautifully designed works.
2. Zeshin Shibata. He was a legendary Urushi artisan and I respect him greatly.

7. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way when it comes to starting a brand?
Creating is not difficult, but bringing awareness to my creations is very challenging. I opened a shop in Etsy and raised Kickstarter funding, but this was not enough. I realize I need to use social media platforms more wisely.

8. What’s the idea behind your brand, where did the name come from?
I use traditional Japanese art. I’d like to transition into modern art/fashion. Then I could save this traditional art form for the future.

9. What projects are you currently undertaking and where do you see yourself in the future?
I’m planning to make simple jewelry like rings and pendant for ladies. I am currently living in Japan, but my customers are 90% foreigners. I’d like to sell to customers face to face so I’m planning to move to the EU or USA in the near future.

10. Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?
I look for designs derived from Japanese history. There are so many different shapes of samurai armor called KAWARI-KABUTO (strange helmet). I also read Japanese traditional pattern and style books. These books always inspire me!