During this powerful time, each one of us is being presented with an opportunity: to compost our own extractive tendencies in an effort to move toward a more regenerative lifestyle. When we begin to see the interwoven nature of life, we will stop causing harm to those we view as being removed or unrelated to ourselves, whether it be ecosystems or communities of people.
I have had a profound need to be in harmony with Mother Earth during these uncertain times. More than ever, I have gained gratitude for my ability to be with nature. I have taken time to slow down, take long walks, spend time around the campfire with my family, and tend to our garden. As I reflect on this Spring, I realize how much my time in nature has healed me.
My work, both in and outside of the Christy Dawn brand, has always been to Honor Mother Earth. But if this Spring has taught me anything, it is that I must also create a reciprocal relationship with her. She has given me so many bountiful gifts and I want to repay her. I design dresses, but I also have the ability to design my dresses and my business mindfully, so that the work we do honors and heals Mother Earth.
This Spring, the Christy Dawn team and I have been reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She reflects on her relationship with nature and teaches us to grow our ecological consciousness. Her words resonate within me:
“We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not for us to keep. Their life is in their movement, the inhale and exhale of shared breath. Our work and our joy are to pass along the gift and trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back.”
The Christy Dawn Team
We treat every member of our team like family - and as we grow, we intend to keep it that way!
Everyone in the Christy Dawn family plays a role in the creation of our dresses. Our unique skill sets and strengths lend themselves to a community of beautiful collaboration.
This sentiment has remained especially true during the shutdown. We were flexible with our team to make sure they could meet their own needs, and that of their families. Those who were able to work from home did just that. In the factory, we shifted to mask production and ensured we met and exceeded CDC essential workplace guidelines.
We make sure we are paying all our employees above the living wage in Los Angeles. This salary meets basic needs and provides discretionary funds. For reference, this graph gives you a spectrum of the different wages for garment workers in Los Angeles.
This wage is just the start. We also provide healthcare, paid vacations, and continuous training to improve dressmakers’ skills.
There’s a lot that goes into making a Christy Dawn dress, and we want to be transparent about each and every step. Below is the price breakdown of our signature dress, The Dawn Dress. By paying fair wages, emphasizing quality production and using the minimum markup to keep our business afloat, our hope is to make slow fashion accessible to as many people as we can.
This Spring, as a result of Covid-19, we reduced the frequency of dress releases. Although unplanned, it was with open arms that we accepted the opportunity to slow our pace, breathing into and highlighting each dress we sold this Spring.
Price Breakdown of a Dawn Dress
We root through pallets of leftover fabric called deadstock to find potential in others’ excess.
Deadstock is the leftover fabric produced (but not used) by other fashion houses. For traditional brands, the cost of carrying excess fabric is substantially less than the cost of overproducing. Because of this, at the end of each season, most fashion houses end up with thousands of yards of extra fabric. They try to resell these textiles, but if there isn’t a buyer, it often gets thrown away.
We thoughtfully search through these bolts of fabric to find beauty and potential in the excess. When we take our time and choose consciously, we can give this perfectly usable fabric a new life. A majority of Christy Dawn pieces are made with deadstock we find in Los Angeles.
Amount of fabric we’ve given new life to:
The Sustainable Mask
Another source of leftover fabric is from small scraps of “waste” produced during the cutting process. With these fabric scraps, we’ve designed accessories, such as our hair bows and hair ties. And in response to Covid-19, Spring, we found an entirely new use of fabric scraps: face masks.
In late March, we shifted production in our Los Angeles factory from dresses to masks. This decision was two-fold: we wanted to provide masks to our community, as well as maintain steady work for our dressmakers.
Our masks are non-medical grade and made using sustainable deadstock fabric, including scraps from our factory floor. They’re reusable and washable.
We made, sold, and donated more masks than we could have imagined.
Masks Donated in Spring 2020:
For each 5-pack of masks sold, we donated an additional 5-pack.
We are so grateful to be able to have donated over 150,000 reusable masks to healthcare professionals, frontline workers, and nonprofits serving our most vulnerable communities through our one-for-one model. This summer we plan to continue donating masks to support healthcare workers and those in need.
Partnership with thredUp
Our pieces are designed to last a lifetime (and then some!), but we also understand that tastes change, and you might not always want to hang on to a piece of clothing forever. This Spring, we partnered with thredUP, the world’s biggest online resale market. We share a very similar goal: to keep clothing out of landfills, passing into new hands to live another lifetime. That’s what we envision for our pieces: generations of passing down that one special dress, from mother to daughter, sister to sister, or friend to friend. thredUP makes that easier than ever.
Items Reused or Recycled:
A year ago, Christy Dawn started the journey to become a farm-to-closet company. We partnered with Oshadi Collective, a group of farmers and craftspeople in southern India.
Together, we grew cotton regeneratively on a four-acre farm, which will be processed by the craftspeople using traditional methods of natural dyeing and hand weaving.
Each member of this project contributes their own piece to the whole. It is a beautiful collection of knowledge, expertise, and passion that will grow and evolve into a regenerative ecosystem. Every member of the project, including Mother Earth, reaps its benefits.
The dresses are just one byproduct of the Farm-to-Closet initiative. We are so excited to see the regeneration of our soil, ecosystems, and communities.
What is regenerative agriculture?
By caring for the soil below our feet, we revitalize the soil and environment. Regenerative farming techniques include organic inputs, water conservation methods, cover crops, pollinator strips, composting and more, all with one goal in mind: Honoring Mother Earth.
Regenerative farming actively improves the land, leading to healthier land, communities, and economies. Also, regenerative farming supplies us with nutrient-rich soil that absorbs atmospheric CO2 instead of releasing it. As the soil draws down more and more carbon from the atmosphere, Mother Earth cools.
Spring 2020 on the Farm
In fall of 2019, we leased four acres of land with Oshadi Collective and planted the first season of cotton. This Spring we harvested the cotton. Not only were the cotton plants healthy and hardy, but the flowers and other flora around the farm grew in abundance this season. This March, we began cultivating an additional 20 acres of land.
Road to Regenerative
Through our journey to becoming a Farm-to-Closet company, we are working with the farmers and craftspeople at Oshadi Collective. As we develop the regenerative farm, we are also fostering relationships with hand-weavers, natural dyers, block printers, and dressmakers.
Since there is limited raw material from the initial farm, the artisans are using alternative, sustainable raw materials, such as deadstock and organic cotton. This Spring, we released the first two styles from this collection, and Oshadi Collective has been working hard to develop many more for this Summer and Fall.
In order to become a regenerative company, we have to actively dismantle the extractive cycle of privilege and oppression by creating equitable relationships with our entire community. This idea is not just a part of regenerative practices, but rather is the basis of regenerative practices.
The killing of George Floyd in May and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement have given us time to reflect on our own biases and blindspots. Our lack of inclusivity in our imagery was reinforcing deep-seeded and racist Euro-centered colonial ideas of beauty. We are committed to unlearning and learning new ways of being that are actively anti-racist and anti-colonial. This includes a commitment to diversity in everything we do, from our imagery to staffing.
It goes beyond that. We are working to divest from all systemic and extractive structures in our business, and we’re doing so by creating intimate and reciprocal relationships with the communities we interact with. Since the start of Christy Dawn, we have paid homage to the Black and Brown individuals and communities that work with us. We start with fair compensation, but that is just a baseline. We sit down and get to know each member of our community, listen to their needs, honor their passions and give them autonomy. We do this in our Los Angeles factory. We do this with the Farm-to-Closet community in India.
Creating an equitable and just community has no end point; it is a continuous process of growth and reflection. We are constantly finding ways to better honor our community.
Our commitment to Honoring Mother Earth is steadfast, but the ways in which we come into a more intimate relationship with ourselves and our environment is an ever-unfolding path. We are excited about our work on the farm and our work as allies in the effort to upend colonialism’s extractive practices, both in introducing more inclusive imagery but also in deepening our relationships with our community. We are actively working to better understand our own footprint, both socially and environmentally.
“The work job is never over, it simply changes from one task the next. What I’m looking for, I suppose, is balance, and that is a moving target. Balance is not a passive resting place- it takes work, balancing the giving and taking.” -Robin Wall Kimmerer