Sustainability in Fashion with Paneros Founder Lauren DeCarli

Michael Nascenzi

As we’ve grown more conscience of our effect on the environment, rampant consumer spending and fast fashion have come into focus. In the past few decades fashion has become the one the world’s top polluters.  It’s become clear that buying fast, cheap, trendy clothes made in sweatshops around the world greatly contribute to waste while taking advantage of oppressed communities, creating both an unsustainable environmental cost and a tragic human cost. There’s a better way. We sat down with newly launched Paneros Clothing founder Lauren DeCarli to discuss sustainability, fashion, and the future of the industry.

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Thanks for sitting down with us. Let’s start by getting a bit into your background. How did you get started in the fashion industry?
I got started in the fashion industry as an intern at Sanctuary Clothing while I was attending FIDM. I was soon hired part time as the design room assistant and continued to move up in the company to Senior Designer over the span of 9 1/2 years.

Why did you decide to found your own clothing company?
This might take a while haha…In high school, once I knew I wanted to become a designer and work in the fashion industry, I had a dream of having my own line one day. My dream continued through college which is why I continued my education and got my Bachelors degree in Business Management. Within the last few years, I really thought harder about it and felt that I was ready to take the jump and actually do it. I decided to start Paneros because I wanted to create pieces sustainably, ethically and that were limited edition, and one a kind. I saw a need for this in the industry from a designer level and also as a consumer I was tired of the poor quality, poor fit, and mass production of the fast fashion industry specifically. So many times, I would show up somewhere and would be wearing the same thing as someone else or someone else would come up to me and mention that they had the same top or dress or whatever it was I was wearing. Nothing felt unique or special anymore and I felt like everything started looking the same no matter where I shopped. 

Who would you say your biggest influences or inspirations are? Does living in Los Angeles play a role in that?
It’s hard to name specifics because I find design inspiration from so many different places. It could be a color in a painting that really catches my eye, a detail on a vintage piece or a silhouette from a runway show. My girl friends who have started their own successful companies and have been successful have been a huge inspiration to me as a woman business owner. I think living in LA definitely plays a role because we have some many incredible places to get inspired from. I went vintage shopping and thrifting with one of my friends from FIDM a few months ago and was so inspired by the beautiful craftsmanship and fabrics. Even going to the Rosebowl Flea Market or the Long Beach Flea Market and sifting through all of the clothes there, you’re bound to find some inspiration. I think LA is a really special place, especially not being from here… I realize how lucky I am to be in a place where there’s so much diversity and beauty. 

Sustainability is a huge part of your ethos. How did you become so passionate about it?
Growing up my brother was vegan and only shopped at thrift stores, so I think that subconsciously had an influence on me. But it really wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I myself became more passionate about it. I stopped eating meat because of all of the negative impacts it has on the planet and I continued to do research and just learn about it. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to travel and see the impacts of the fashion industry and educate myself about it and ultimately make a change. I always felt the need to give back in some way… I even thought about quitting the fashion industry all together and joining the Peace Corp years ago, but I love to design. I think giving back to the planet is one the best ways I can give back.

What can we do as average consumers to reduce waste in our clothing consumption?
Mass consumerism has become a way of life it seems these days, and I can admit to doing it as well- I’m not perfect. I think any consumer can truly think about if what they’re buying is something that they need, or if it’s just something they want, and how many times are they actually going to use it (or in our case, wear it). Cutting back on the amount of clothes you buy and wearing them more often, and getting more use out of them can definitely help. Another way any consumer can reduce waste in their clothing consumption is to buy second hand clothing. Thrifting and buying repurposed clothing reduces not only waste, but so many other things because no new resources, or at least very little, have gone into you buying that used piece of clothing. You can also repair your clothes if they have a rip or tear, etc. instead of throwing them out (which you should never do!). It’s funny I realized recently how many people don’t know how to even sew on a button if it falls off. Learning to mend and take care of your clothes so that they do last longer is something anyone can do with a simple needle and thread.

Your company strives for Inclusive Sustainability and Responsible Manufacturing. Can you expand on what that means?
The word ‘sustainable’ gets thrown around a lot these days, and can mean a lot of different things. In the fashion industry, we believe there are 5 key principles to think about in regards to products: smarter/eco-friendly fibers and fabrics, responsible manufacturing, quality over quantity, less pollution, and less waste. But we also know that true sustainability does not end with the products, and must include all of the people involved. So we like the term “Inclusive Sustainability” to remind everyone that the people matter too, from the people who make the clothes to the people working for the company that designs and markets them. Even though we are a two person team, we have valued diversity from the beginning and you can see this in the models and influencers we used for our one of a kind vintage upcycled Hawaiian products.

Responsible manufacturing, specifically, involves a dark secret – that child labor, sweatshops, and unsafe factories are still rampant in the fashion industry and especially in certain regions. There is a global movement going on right now that is pushing for supply chain transparency – and for us, we have chosen to feature the factories and the actual artisans crafting the pieces right on our website.  So when you shop with us, you really know who made your clothes. I think this is a trend you will continue to see if you look for it and we are excited that others are getting on board!
These are complicated issues, and we have a lot of posts on our blog and throughout our website about it if you want to learn more.  

So tell us about your newest collection that’s launching.
Thanks- I’ll try to keep the pitch short! I started the company about a year ago creating one of a kind upcycled products, and the new collection today is our first full production line made from stock and deadstock fabric. The women’s ready to wear line is the culmination of the last 8 months effort to design and ethically create quality and affordable products that can be worn for years to come. Our Mahalo Print  was printed on a beautiful stock rayon fabric only using 2 colors to minimize the amount of dyes needed. The line includes hand beaded shirts, created in a ‘slow fashion’ workshop by 2 Balinese women artisans, and we are thrilled to help preserve some of these fine craftsmanship traditions.  We designed a lot of the products with music festival fans in mind, and we can’t wait for everyone to see it! 

And last but not least, where can we find these dope threads and what’s next for Paneros Clothing?
We only sell direct to consumers online through our website, https://panerosclothing.com, or our social channels like our Instagram (@PanerosClothing) and Facebook (facebook.com/panerosclothing). If you sign up for our email list on the website, you’ll get 10% off your first order and we offer free shipping on order over $100. We are currently donating 10% of proceeds to the CDC foundation and the ACLU. We are already working on our next set of products to complement and expand on the women’s ready to wear line this summer, but also be on the lookout for some amazing pieces we are working on with natural dyes that don’t need artificial chemicals to color the products.

And last but not least, thank YOU Mike for taking the time to talk with me!

Of Course! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

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