American Pride

Emma the Lion is 100% American, building a community of fashion hustlers in Houston, Texas and from sea to shining sea.

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I believe in voting with my dollars, and supporting business practices that I feel are right and just. I want to do businesses with companies that don’t exploit their workers. This is why I like working with American companies: American fair labor laws provide enormous protections for workers. I also just believe in meeting the people you’re working with: shaking their hand and meeting their employees.

I’m not saying I won’t do business with the right foreign fabric or apparel manufacturer, but I am saying that before I pay, I investigate.

How You Too Can Vote with Your Dollars

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  1. Know what “Made in USA” Means, and Doesn’t Mean

Textile products that are “all or virtually all” made in the U.S. can bear the label “Made in USA.”

What does this mean? The Federal Trade Commission has a lot to say about this, but I like this example:

Example: A table lamp is assembled in the U.S. from American-made brass, an American-made Tiffany-style lampshade, and an imported base. The base accounts for a small percent of the total cost of making the lamp. An unqualified Made in USA claim is deceptive for two reasons: The base is not far enough removed in the manufacturing process from the finished product to be of little consequence and it is a significant part of the final product.
— FTC Website

How does this apply to a garment? If a garment has an unqualified “Made in USA” label, then its seller should have considered not only (i) the country where the garment is manufactured, but also (ii) the country of origin for the substantial amount of materials (including fabric) used to make the garment. If both USA, then Made in USA.

2. Two percent of the Clothing Americans Buy is Made in USA

The apparel industry today is hugely valuable. But profits are high when costs are low and it’s cheaper to produce clothing outside of the US than in the US. Ergo, only 2% of the clothing we buy today is Made in the USA. The average U.S. garment worker may be paid about 38 times more than the wage of their counterpart in Bangladesh.

So, give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve supported a brand that makes its clothing in the USA. You’ve supported fair, living wages for another human.

3. Customization is America

As a designer, one of the best parts about making things in America is that I can take more risks, be more creative, and “customize” my designs. Being able to sit across a table with my amazing pattern-maker, and review a pattern in person, is magical. Especially since some of my designs — most, I hope — are “different.” I don’t think I would have a very easy time creating the Athena from halfway across the world. American workshops can move quickly and are more artisan-based than volume-based, allowing creations such as the Athena to come to life.

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In conclusion, thank you America.

x o x - Emma

Ancient Greek Design in ETL

There are striking similarities between the first ETL collection and ancient Greek and Roman tunic designs. Here are the top three.

(1) Draped by Your Own Fair Hands:

Modern dress incorporates quite a bit of sewn structure. ETL garments are sewn, yes, but you have to drape the garments to finish the process. Just like the ancient Greeks! Of course, their choice was driven largely by necessity. Before such technology as the needle was widely used, cloth was used in an un-cut and un-sewn form, and tied around the body.

(Side note: Read this blog post about how stitched clothing was not prevalent in Southeast Asia until the 1500s)

Ancient:

Photo by  Nick van den Berg  on  Unsplash  (Note: not an ancient statute, but rather a modern interpretation of ancient dress)

Photo by Nick van den Berg on Unsplash (Note: not an ancient statute, but rather a modern interpretation of ancient dress)

ETL:



(2) Use of Gathering:

Gathering is the act of bringing more fabric than necessary together at a point. Gathering is done with stitches at the top of Athena with the Sashes, and in most modern sewing. The first ETL design, Athena with the Sashes, was inspired by depictions of the Greek goddess Athena, and traditional styles of Greek clothing. Gathering, in ancient times, was done with a … rope.

ETL:

Athena with the Sashes

Athena with the Sashes

Ancient:

Gathering is done with a belt rope, as seen in these depictions of Athena in the Parthenon replica in Nashville, Tennessee, and at the Temple of Athena Nike at Parthenon!

Athena at the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee - by  Geoff Stearns , used cropping pursuant to CC Attribution 2.0 Generic  License .

Athena at the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee - by Geoff Stearns, used cropping pursuant to CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Temple of Athena Nike at Parthenon. Photo by  Luca Nicoletti  on  Unsplash

Temple of Athena Nike at Parthenon. Photo by Luca Nicoletti on Unsplash

(3) Femininity and Sensuality

Maybe it’s just the lack of sewn edges, or maybe depictions of Ancient Greco-Roman women just celebrates womanly, natural body shapes, but I think it’s awesome either way. The first ETL collection uses stretch to accommodate curves, and is designed for a shapely figure.

Ancient:

Image of Roman statute of Minerva by  rottonara  from Pixabay

Image of Roman statute of Minerva by rottonara from Pixabay

ETL:

Sustainability: Environmental Impact Achievement

I care very much about the environmental impact of this business, or its “sustainability”. I’ve written about the ambiguity of “sustainability” before, here, but nonetheless, I pursue “sustainability” in this business. This week I made an exciting, positive discovery regarding the ecological sustainability of the fabrics used in ETL’s first collection.

Sustainability of Fibers and Fabrics used by ETL

As a fashion consumer, I felt endlessly frustrated by companies making vague claims regarding “sustainability” without providing details. I want to know the type of sustainability — environmental, ecological, fair trade? I want to know what stage of production is being described as “sustainable” — fiber production? fabric creation? garment sewing? If I can’t get those details, I assume they don’t pass the sniff test.

My exciting discovery this weekend concerns the environmental sustainability of the fibers used to make the fabrics used in ETL’s first collection. (You can read more about ETL’s “societal” sustainability measures here.)

Exciting Discovery

The environmental impact of the production of the Micro-Modal and Spandex fibers that comprise the “95% Micro-Modal / 5% Spandex” fabric utilized to make Athena with the Sashes, Jane with the Chain, Morgana with the Silk Rope, Jo with the Bandolier, and the drapes in Maureen with the Drapes, scores better than 52% of other fibers on Higgs Sustainability Index, a recognized tool used by professionals in the fashion industry to estimate the sustainability of fabrics.

And now the details. What is Higgs and what kind of “sustainability” does it measure?

It’s very specific. Higgs was founded 10 years ago as part of a partnership between Wal-Mart and Patagonia, called the “Sustainable Apparel Coalition.” Higgs measures the impact of the production of fibers on:

  1. climate change (20% weight);

  2. eutrophication (artificial enrichment of bodies of water due to runoff) (20% weight);

  3. fossil fuel depletion (20% weight);

  4. water scarcity (20% weight); and

  5. chemical impact (20% weight).

Higgs does not measure the environmental impact of “downstream” practices after the yarn’s creation: fabric production, garment production, consumer care (A large portion of a garment’s environmental impact comes from consumer care — between 40 - 70% depending on who you ask.)

Why did this “fiber blend” score well?

One big reason: the Micro-Modal fiber (95%). This fiber is made exclusively by the Lenzing Group in Austria. Lenzing, as Higgs tells me, have a rare “vertically integrated” yarn plant, meaning the entire process for creating the fiber is contained within one plant: everything from harvesting wood to spinning, knitting, coloration and finishing. This is very rare in Viscose/Modal/Lyocell fiber production. In comparison to other factories, the vertically integrated Lenzing factory significantly reduces fossil energy consumption due to the re-use of excess energy recovered from pulping process in the actual fiber production process.

Using Lenzing’s Micro-Modal fiber — as opposed to regular Modal — decreases the overall environmental impact of the production of this fiber by almost 25 points on the Higgs Sustainability Index.

Finally, what can we do better?

The issue is complex. I worked really hard to find beautiful fabrics that were made in the USA for the first ETL collection. I can’t live with the idea of unfair labor practices in the development of my business. I tabled the environmental impact issue because I was still researching and I didn’t want to make un-substantiated claims. What can ETL do better?

  1. I’m on the hunt for fabrics (i) made in countries with fair labor laws, or at least made under fair labor conditions, (ii) that score even higher on the Higgs Index, and (iii) that fit my fashionable and artistic sensibilities.

  2. I’m also on the hunt for other objectively verifiable measures of “sustainability” as it relates to the environment. The Higgs Index is great, but it is not the be-all-end-all. It measures one small part in the process — the fiber production process — which ultimately culminates in an ETL garment. The other parts of the process are important as well.

xo, Emma

The History of Spandex in Fashion & ETL

Spandex is very important in ETL designs, just as it has revolutionized fashion history since its invention less than 75 years ago. I believe that fashion designers are still exploring the possibilities for Spandex in fashion, and I am certainly doing my part to invent new uses for the fiber. Read on to learn how ETL pushes spandex to new heights, using the elastic yarn in garments that are constantly being stretched, wrapped, and “re-designed.”

The Use of Spandex in ETL

The first ETL collection uses a fabulous “knit” fabric (meaning the fibers are knitted, instead of woven, together) composed of 95% “modal” fibers (made from wood pulp from beech trees) and 5% spandex fibers. Spandex fibers are basically elastic. If you rearrange the letters in spandex, you’ll find it’s an anagram for . . . expands!

I love the modal/spandex fabric used in our first collection. The spandex yarns in the fabric allow the dress to stretch, then recover, and still retain its shape. You can do a lot of twisting and turning with the designs, and the spandex makes that possible!

modal+spaghetti+strap+dress+red

Importantly, this modal/spandex fabric is Made in the USA by a fabulous New York mill specializing in knit fabrics. As you may know, I place a top priority on buying fabrics Made in the USA, so that I know the people making the fabrics have the protection of American labor laws.

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By comparison to most fabrics, Spandex is very young:

1952: Spandex Introduced To The World

A male chemist, Joseph Shivers, invented spandex in the 1950s. In 1952, Spandex was introduced to the world in Good Housekeeping magazine through its first brand name, Lycra, and quickly used to great the girdle, a sleeve of rubber depicted above. I’m sure this was as uncomfortable as it looks.

1972: Disco Jumpsuits

Walking fire hazard met the nightclub in the form of disco jumpsuits. A quick Etsy search for Vintage Disco Jumpsuits confirms that the Spandex content in these jumpsuits was around 66% (compared to the 5% used in ETL fabrics today!) [Side note: ETL is on Etsy]

1980s: Aerobics Fashion Takes On Spandex

Lycra/Spandex became a trendy gym outfit in the 80s. Lycra leotards with leg warmers were presented as the perfect Aerobic workout gear. Needless to say, this was not the most convenient or comfortable outfit for working out.

 (You’re welcome for the video.)

2001: Spandex Becomes Masculine

Outside of the athletic aerobicisers in the above video, men haven’t had access to the benefits of Spandex in fashion for very long. Stretch makes fit easier, so it was traditionally seen as something only women would be interested in. (This isn’t supposed to make sense.) In the early 2000s Banana Republic launched jeans for men with stretch (interesting Atlantic article here). Now you can buy their hilariously named “Rapid Movement” stretch denim jeans. Or, you can just buy stretchy pants actually made for movement from Nike, which I would consider a pioneer in Spandex.

2018: Kim Kardashian Embraces Spandex

You’ve likely noticed a proliferation of stretch in recent years. Spandex has been able to carve out a niche for itself within high fashion in the 2010s, as mainstream celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner are often seen wearing body-shaping Yeezy Spandex outfits such as that depicted in the above timeline.

2019: Emma the Lion Pushes the Boundaries of Spandex in Fashion

If you’re reading this, take 20% off any order from ETL (always free shipping + no sales tax if you’re outside of Texas!) this week (May 26 - June 2), using this code: SPANDEXEXPANDS

xo,

Emma

Draping and the Invention of Stitched Clothing

ETL's first collection passes on the experience of "draping" clothing to ... you. Formerly the domain of ancient peoples and fashion designers, such as Madame Gres (AKA Alix Barton) was known as Queen of the Drape, ETL's spring/summer collection includes many opportunities to "manipulate fabric" and create your own "sculpture" in cloth, like the Athena.

But thousands of years before ETL, draping wasn't just artistic -- it was a necessary alternative to sewing . . .

"Ancient" peoples used draping in clothes for thousands of years despite the availability of stitching during that time. I'm researching the Sari for ETL's winter collection (photos of my sketchbook below). Although people in (what we now know as) India stitched as early as 2700-1700 B.C., the sari, known as the national dress of Indian women, was a draped garment without stitching for thousands of years thereafter.

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Stitched garments were likely in demand in Indian society by the 1st century B.C. In the famous Ramayana, King Ravana's brother wears a "kanchuka", a long tunic with sleeves (i.e. stitching). Yet, a traveler Ibn Battuta describes the non-sewn dress of women in the southern district of Karnataka in the fourteenth century:

"The women of this town and all the coastal districts wear nothing but loose, unsewn garments, one end of which they gird round their waists and drape over their head and shoulders."

Of course, regardless of the availability of stitched clothes, not just anyone could wear them. Through the fifteenth century, Indian persons who were not of noble birth were not allowed to wear stitched clothing (among other prohibitions in dress). 

So then what happened to draping? The invention of machine sewing ensured that stitched clothing is more available than ever today. Draping is still taught at fashion schools but rarely used other than by ateliers at the highest price points. Draping is not ideal for mass-produced clothing, and draping = more fabric = more expense. 

Luckily, I'm not making mass-produced clothing. I'm draping. You are too. Try the Athena for starters.

Happy Mother's Day and a thank you to my mother, my mother's mother, and those that came before and wore draped clothing,

Emma

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ETL IRL: Our First Market!

“A whole new world…. a new fantastic point of view.”


Jasmine sang it, but I lived it.

Last night I wo-manned the booth at our first real event: the fashion collective show in Downtown Houston, at Social Graces Social Club. I recently joined the club as a way to meet other Houstonians passionate about art and fashion. This event was step one in fulfilling that goal! Houston fashion is a new and vibrant community, and I’m so excited to be a part.

My #1 Takeaway: I created this brand in order to become a fashion designer, and these clothes are all about turning you — The Pride, my customers — into fashion designers. I want you to be more than a customer — I want you to join me in the design process. Of course, I had this realization while I was talking to you all, explaining the pieces. What an amazing feeling.

Funniest Moment(s): Every time someone asked me for a free cupcake, and I asked for their email address in exchange, and they gave in. We humans are such gluttons.

MVP: My dearest partner, Salman, who carried my new mannequin, mirror, clothes and racks from (illegally parked) car, up a long escalator, and down the aisles in order to set up my splendid booth.

Outfit: The Maureen: the pants are reversed; the drapes are slung over my left shoulder, anchored to the snaps at the front (snaps are at the front because the pants are reversed); one drape is tucked into the belt loop at the waist on the blouse. See the How-To Video.

How To: Maureen with the Drapes

I’ll show you exactly how to wear “Maureen with the Drapes” and get started with those blue sashes.

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This outfit is very plug-and-play, emphasis on the play. You basically just snap the sashes onto the back of the pants (or don’t) and start experimenting.

There are belt loops on the side of the top & the sides of the pants.

Once you get going, you just can’t stop! Another experiment:

Use the blue jersey as a scarf!

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Blue jersey as overalls? Yes, please.

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How To: Jane with the Chain

This blog post will show you exactly how to wear “Jane with the Chain” and get started experimenting with that chain.

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First: the chain is not delicate. It’s small but tough. It’s more than capable of the task at hand.

Second: it’s pretty simple. To start out, I wrap the chain twice around the first button, then I wrap it twice around the second button. I make a figure eight between the buttons. When I’ve made about two figure eights, I wrap the chain once around the final button, and stop.

Now the video.

From another angle.

How To: Athena with the Sashes

This blog post will show you exactly how to wear “Athena with the Sashes” and get started experimenting with its many options.

Four easy steps:

  1. Tie the arm straps to a length that suits you. A simple knot will do. (You won’t have to redo this again for a while — the straps will stay tied).

  2. Put on the waist sash. (Or why limit it to being tied around the waist?)

  3. Put on the long sash.

  4. Decide whether to snap up the hem on the left side.

And lions…

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Now the video.

Experiment! It’s so much fun with this dress.

Sustainability in Fashion Design

One of the 3 Rules of Lions (in Fashion) is “Unique Sustainability.” But in a product based business, what does it mean to be sustainable?

I believe that sustainability in a product-based business means identifying metrics and methods by which the world will be a better place ... and implementing those methods. 

Sustainability Measure 1: Economic Growth and Influence

ETL is part of a local and national fashion economy.  

Since its inception, ETL has voted with its dollars, choosing to partner with women-owned businesses based in Houston, Texas. These businesses, in turn, are estimated to employ mostly women as seamstresses. 

ETL also votes with its dollars to purchase fabric that is made in American mills in New York state, as well as gold chain and buttons made in the USA. 

IMPACT GOAL: As ETL grows in revenue, its business partners will profit. ETL will be able to vote with its dollars to improve its performance in other measures of sustainability. 

Sustainability Measure 2: Social Activism

Most product manufacturing is a threat to the wellbeing of humans and animals worldwide. Fashion is no exception. Greed and willful blindness lead to cruelty and fortunes built on the backs of others. 

That won't be the case here. I know my business partners, and I choose to partner with manufacturers in Texas (see above), where federal laws protect workers' wellbeing. 

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Sustainability Metric 3: Influence in Garment Care Behaviors

I took a UK-based course on sustainability in luxury fashion. I learned that my own washing and drying of a garment is actually the third largest contributor to that garment's carbon footprint:

carbonfootprintgarmentlifecycle

I was surprised but thrilled! Why? Because it means I can have an impact. You too! 

I am very excited to teach everyone my effective methods of caring for these clothes which do not involve much washing or drying. See my care guide here.

Given the impact of washing and drying a garment, you will be delighted (from an ecological perspective) to know that I wash clothes once every 6 weeks, if that. I have special tricks to clean clothes without washing them! Again, care guide here.

Read summaries of the report from which the above chart was drawn here.

The 3 Rules of Lions (in Fashion)

Rule 1: Give as Much Creativity as I Get

My guiding principle in design: design clothes that allow the person wearing them to be creative when they put them on. 

I have become a fashion designer because I want to have a creative output. But, I felt that way before I became a fashion designer! I want to be creative when I put on clothes.

I want to tie the sashes, put the thing on backwards, twist it round, pin something to it, and make it mine.

Experiential dressing is my made-up phrase, intended to capture my promise to you: dressing, for customers of ETL, will be an experience that creates an opportunity for creativity. 


Rule 2: Excitement and Sparkle

I like sparkle and excitement.

Pouting and simpering, this brand will not be.

ETL is fashion...but it is excitement and fun.


I hope you will join me in this rule-breaking, exciting, fun and sparkling statement.


Rule 3: Unique Sustainable

 This brand is not selling something you can get elsewhere. This brand is selling my vision.

I care about sustainability (more about this elsewhere on this blog) but I also believe my vision is worth expressing and has a value to both you and I. 

My personal commitment to you is that everything you ever see here will be unique. I won't waste our time or our planet's resources.

I have taken concrete steps to ensure that my business aligns with my personal values. Every yard of fabric -- and each garment made from that fabric -- is made in the USA.

I will not make garments in a country without satisfactory labor laws, or partner with a business that operates outside those laws.