One of my favorite things about slow fashion is that there are real people behind the brands. It's not some shiny corporation, with a hierarchy of employees and suppliers. More often than not, ethical brands are a "one man show" (or, one woman show, even better!) or a small team of designers and suppliers. The owners truly live and breathe slow fashion, putting their heart and soul into a cause they believe so strongly in. And I think that's something so worth supporting.
Earlier this week, I was privileged to "meet" Rachel Ferbach (I put quotations around "meet" because I'm not sure if everyone just assumes we meet people online these days or not...), the owner and founder of PonyBabe, a newly launched ethical, American made, fashion line focusing on comfort and versatility (both huge pluses in the capsule wardrobe world!).
Her first first collection is called The 24 Hour Outfit — four pieces with virtually endless possibilities. You can shop her collection here, or pledge to fund her Kickstarter campaign, which, as of now, is nearly half way there!
I was lucky enough to chat with Rachel a little bit about her background and future goals for PonyBabe. Here's what she had to say:
Can you give us a quick peek into the backstory behind Pony Babe? How did your passion for ethical fashion begin?
After studying fine arts and photography in college, I took a left turn and embarked on what became a 10+ year journey of studying, training, and practicing as a body-oriented therapist. I went to massage therapy school, earned a graduate degree in Expressive Arts Psychotherapy, and became a dedicated yogi and meditator. After a deeply challenging position as a therapist for children with Autism came to a close, I decided that I wanted to take some time off, reconnect with my creativity, and focus my energy on something a bit less emotionally intense. PonyBabe came about as a response to my need to create something special, and my desire to help women feel more comfortable in their day-to-day lives.
My interest in ethical fashion has grown over the years in a parallel line to my commitment to living a healthy, meaningful, ethical life. Caring about the origins of my food and beauty products came first, and as I began to think more about the impact of my purchases on the environment, economy, and the people involved - it was a natural progression to also begin choosing my wardrobe based on these values, too.
As a designer and entrepreneur, I bring these values with me, and PonyBabe is a way to make my small contribution to the betterment of our world.
Your 24 Hour Outfit includes four pieces that can be combined in many different ways. Why did you choose to create the pieces you did for your first collection?
The 24 Hour Outfit was inspired by an old pair of hand-me-down harem pants that I wore constantly until they fell apart. They were the perfect yoga pants, the perfect office casual pants, and the perfect throw-'em-on-under-a-dress pants. When they were totally past their sell-by date, I got the idea to design something similar, with some improvements, and the 24 Hour Outfit grew from there. Basically, I wanted to create a set of clothing that I would be able to wear for all my daily activities. I'm really into being ultra comfy all the time, and I don't want to have to change my clothes when I go from one thing to the next... so having pants, a base layer (the tank top), a top layer (the cardigan) and a multipurpose wrap pretty much solved that problem! I chose a racerback for the tank because I wanted to make sure there wouldn't be problems with straps falling down.
You're very transparent about where your materials are sourced and where your clothing is made, why do you believe this is important?
I believe in transparency because I also believe in non-competition, honesty, and self-responsibility. I want my community to know that I have worked hard to find ethically-made materials, and that PonyBabe's "behind the scenes" activity is aligned with its public claims. It's important for people to think about where the things they buy come from, and how consumerism has the potential to either harm or help. I'd like to contribute to that conversation by being straightforward about how and why I'm running my label ethically.
I also want to share better production options with designers who might be looking for them but not know where to start. Working toward a healthier world doesn't happen in isolation, and I feel that committing to transparency is a way for me to say that I'm not in this just for my own selfish gain.
Can you tell us a little bit about your dreams for the future of PonyBabe?
I'd love to see PonyBabe grow into a modestly sized business that can support me in my life goals - I'd like to have a small piece of land one day, with a cozy home, a movement studio, and an office/design space. I'd be so happy to have this project lead me there.
On a more practical note, my goal for the line over the next two years is to grow my customer base large enough to support the use of GOTS certified organic cotton and other specialty sustainable textiles. These fabrics are very expensive, and out of my reach right now. I'm also very excited to develop my own color stories, and to do vegetable-based natural dyeing... the logistics of which were not manageable for the 24 Hour Outfit.
And, just for fun, and as an avid coffee lover, I have to ask: what's in your mug every morning?
Well, this is one area where our passions diverge! I am a no-caffeine gal, so my mornings usually start with a big mug of herbal tea. I tend toward ginger, chamomile, or spicy home-blended chai. Yerba Mate is a once-in-awhile treat.