Destroying the Environment is Out of Fashion

This summer Changemaker Award Recipient Becca Hartlieb had the opportunity to serve as the marketing intern for YSTR, an ethical fashion company in Los Angeles, California. Becca is a senior majoring in Marketing and minoring in Management and Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship.

YSTR creates unique cut-to-order pieces to alleviate overproduction and reduce waste caused by the fashion industry. The company is also sweat-shop free and pays ethical wages. YSTR was founded on July 4, 2016, by April Liang and Garrett Gerson to tackle the waste of the fashion industry. Prior to creating YSTR April and Garrett ran a wholesale fashion company in Los Angeles but began realizing how much of a toll the company was taking on the environment and their employees. In July of 2016, Garrett and April launched YSTR, bringing along all the employees, resources, and knowledge from their previous venture. They wanted to use the past (YSTRday) as a way to pave the future.

In May, YSTR launched a club to make conscious consumption accessible to everyone and to help customers build a capsule wardrobe. Each month members choose between 3 outfits offered at a fraction of the price of typical YSTR pieces. All pieces are hand-made by our expert cutters and artisan sewers, Lalo, Elmer, and Efrain.

Within a week of my internship, I was thrown into the mix. During the first week, I coded and created emails to ask for customer feedback to help increase our customer research, with the help of the marketing manager, LaChane. I monitored the Google Analytics site to begin understanding our YSTR woman. I found, using Google Analytics, that our customers were coming from our social media pages and through our blog. One of YSTR’s missions is to educate consumers on the importance of conscious consumption. Finding that people were engaging with our blog was extremely exciting because it opened up a way for us to interact with our customers, and so began my two-month project.

Once recognizing that our blog was such a hot spot, LaChane and I began creating lists of topics that were important, difficult, and interesting to us as consumers. LaChane helped me to define different aspects of sustainability and understand why YSTR brands itself as an ethical fashion company rather than a sustainable one. There are many takes on how to create a sustainable brand, and it can be very hard for a for-profit company to be truly sustainable. While we still continue to work towards sustainability, our team decided to focus more on conscious consumption and ethical fashion as blog posts. YSTR is committed to the environment; however, we do use all types of fabrics in production. One way we work to combat the waste is by using “deadstock” or fabric discarded by other companies because of a minor error in production, allowing us to repurpose fabric.

While creating the blog we wanted to have multiple forms of media as well as multiple voices of all different ages. I would help in writing and photographing our activities in the office, but we wanted to use more video to convey our messages as well. We partnered with Maria of @Reeontherun, a local stylist and blogger, to produce Style Tip Tuesdays, a video series where Ree demonstrates how to wear YSTR pieces in as many different ways possible, by using accessories and layers. As part of the marketing team at YSTR, we want our consumers to understand that their purchases have a larger effect on the environment. We also understand that many of our consumers have fast fashion pieces, and so rather than creating more waste by throwing those away, we wanted to show how to use those pieces while continuing to shop ethically and consciously.

My absolute favorite memory in the office was during a daily meeting. April received an email from one of our YSTR club members informing April that she no longer wanted to be a part of the club because she felt that her wardrobe was complete. She had purchased all of the items needed to create a capsule wardrobe and wanted to thank us. This email was striking to us as a marketing team because it forced us to decide if we wanted to brand YSTR as a capsule wardrobe — if we succeeded, then this scenario would continue to occur. We sat for hours and discussed whether it was truly possible to operate a business if members would eventually leave. As a team, we decided that we hoped YSTR would be a starting point for conscious consumption and that our members who “graduated” out of the club would inspire others to learn more about YSTR. YSTR’s catch phrase is “Think, Love, Inspire.” During the meeting, we agreed that YSTR was a company for women wanting to grow through stages. We hope that women will begin to think about their consumption, love the clothing we produce, and finally inspire others to join the movement.

My experience at YSTR pushed me to work hard, to create my own projects, and to use my voice as an intern. I was challenged to understand my own consumption habits and reflect while blogging. Using my insights, I was able to pitch ideas for future marketing campaigns to continue to educate others on conscious consumption.