These days when it comes to fashion production, it’s not enough to simply be “green,” or boast of being American-made. While environmentally friendly practices and U.S. manufacturing are still undeniably important in the world of fashion, there’s a greater, all-encompassing movement slowly but surely taking hold. “Slow fashion”—a term coined by sustainable design consultant Kate Fletcher in 2007—is a sustainable fashion movement that centers around the entire cycle of a garment: from slowing the rate of one’s fashion consumption to choosing classic pieces that transcend trends, as well as being locally produced (or American-made), sustainable, high-quality, and transparent about its design process.
The latest name to join the movement is Mavenhaus Collective, a website and e-shop that launched earlier this month by St. Paul-based PR and marketing expert, Tara Schlosser, and her sister, well-known lifestyle blogger Traci French, whose blog Bliss has more than 4 million followers on Pinterest. Each month, Mavenhaus will feature hand-crafted, limited-edition pieces by a small group of designers. But there’s a catch: once an item launches, it needs a certain number of people to commit to it in order for the item to go into production. One week in, and the site’s already gotten some pretty high-profile press from WWD.
I chatted with Schlosser about how the site concept came about, its unique production process, and what it’s like working with her sister.
How did the idea for this project come about?
Tracy and I have been working together for a couple of years on Mavenhaus Media, a marketing company that connects the cream of the crop of pinners with brands that they naturally align with—sort of a matchmaker service for brands and pinners. One of our favorite things is working with smaller brands. We talked about how hard it was for these brands to get their name out there, and what we could help with that aspect, not only with Tracy’s reach, but through other influencers we know and work with. With Mavenhaus Collective, we’re hopefully giving these designers some new exposure.
You have a background in PR and marketing. Why start your own brand?
Working with different brands big and small, including Target and several startups, I’ve learned a ton over the years, but what’s always been a challenge is not being able to move forward with what I thought was the best approach. When you work with a client, obviously you need to answer to them, where with [Mavenhaus Collective], we can get behind an idea we created, because we know what would make this successful from a marketing standpoint, and it’s great to be able to build the brand from the bottom up.
Alexis Russell for Mavenhaus Collective Peak Sapphire Cuff, $198 @ mavenhauscollective.com
What does slow fashion mean to you? Why is it important?
The slow fashion movement designers are so dedicated to their craft—it’s about honing in on every detail. That was important to us, but also helping people change the way they approach how they dress—taking a step back and taking inventory of what you have, and realizing it makes more sense to spend a little more and in our case, wait a little bit longer but having pieces that are versatile and well-made that you’re going to have for a lifetime, and you can be proud of knowing where they came from. And eliminating waste is a huge part of it.
What is the timeline for production?
Two to four weeks is when you’ll be able to order the item, or until the item sells out—we have limited quantities available. When the sale closes, then production takes anywhere from four to six weeks. But we’ve only been around for one week and we’ve already been learning a lot about what’s working, so that could change.
Mavenhaus distinguishes itself from other slow fashion brands by, in a sense, crowd-sourcing the pieces that will eventually go into production. Why did you decide to go with this model?
We noticed in talking to the designers we’re working with that obviously a lot of them work with a wholesale model to sell to boutiques, but what happens is the items go to be discounted if they don’t sell the quantity they’re hoping to sell. This is unfortunate for designers because they’re working on such a scale and making items by hand, and we wanted them to still be able to get paid fairly for the work they put in. Instead of overproducing, it was more of, let’s get it down to avoiding the waste and avoiding the deep discount by making the pieces that are spoken for. For us it made perfect sense.
Ariana Bohling for Mavenhaus Collective Stella Leather Booties, $397 @ mavenhauscollective.com
Can you tell me more about the first batch of products and designers now available on the site?
We just launched Ariana Bohling “Stella” booties. Ariana’s one of those incredible makers who goes between Brooklyn and Peru and really has it down with the entire design process—talk about someone who pays attention to details!—from the leather she uses, to the solid wood heel, to the zipper. String Theory is a beautiful brand based out of Canada that created the scarf and shawl on our site. They pay so much attention to detail, and I could say that across the board [of our designers]. Alexis Russell is someone we’ve been working with on the Mavenhaus site for the past couple of years. We talked about what we liked, and she came up with a capsule collection of jewelry for us that includes sapphire and 14-karat gold.
Can you tell me more about what’s yet to come to the site?
Through the end of January we’ll be launching new product weekly. I can say everything we have coming up we are ecstatic about. The fact that we get to be so involved with the process, and seeing how the designs come together has been an amazing experience.
What’s it like working with your sister?
It’s been a blast and a huge learning experience. With your sister, you think you know everything you think you know, growing up together, but I can’t believe how much we’ve learned about each other. Working with each other is such a different experience than being sisters. From my point of view, it’s like, wow, I have an extremely talent and smart sister. I never thought in a million years growing up that we’d be business partners. I’m very proud of what we’re doing together.
Mavenhaus Collective’s first collection is now available for reserve at mavenhauscollective.com. Here’s a selection of some of the site’s goods:
Clare V. for Mavenhaus Collective Grey Milano Leather Foldover Clutch, $225 @ mavenhauscollective.com
Dream Collective for Mavenhaus Collective Brass Rene Cuff, $145 @ mavenhauscollective.com
Dace for Mavenhaus Collective Samantha Silk Dress, $280 @ mavenhauscollective.com
Alexis Russell for Mavenhaus Collective Peak Sapphire Stacking Ring, $148 @ mavenhauscollective.com
Dace for Mavenhaus Collective Tracey Raincoat, $380 @ mavenhauscollective.com
String Theory for Mavenhaus Collective Accent Scarf, $145 @ mavenhauscollective.com