Christy Dawn’s small-town aesthetic has not-so-small aspirations when it comes to the bigger purpose the brand strives for daily.
The California label, started and designed by Dawn and her husband and chief executive officer Aras Baskauskas, has become known for its vintage-inspired line of dreamy dresses made from deadstock fabric. Each piece serves as a nod to the small-town charm the designer grew up surrounded by in Placerville, Calif.
The brand’s headquarters and factory are in downtown Los Angeles where sewers are paid a living wage to create the garments in a business model the couple believe is in keeping with a move toward a global view on sustainability — one they believe doesn’t start and stop with fabric sourcing.
“We’ve been raised in a culture that there’s not enough. We take the long approach that there is enough and if we do things right and do it in a way that works for everybody and every being, then eventually the reward will be far greater than a larger bottom line,” Baskauskas said. “That being said, we have a beautiful bottom line. Could we make it even bigger? Of course. I think some people, the bottom line for them is profit. For us, the bottom line is all of us. There’s only one planet we get to live on.”
Deadstock challenges: “Everything right now is deadstock,” Baskauskas said. “There are absolutely limitations in terms of growing a business, even when you use deadstock.” Quantities produced can be limited and, from a sustainability standpoint, deadstock fabric doesn’t necessarily imply the fabric was produced in an ethical way, the ceo said.
What needs to change: The consumer’s becoming more conscious, but that’s not the only change required for widespread adoption of greener practices. From the ceo’s perspective, things must shift from an economic standpoint. “People who are themselves exploited in their own jobs, forced to live on super-tight budgets don’t have access to quality food. I think it’s very hard to expect somebody in those conditions to, one, have the budget to pay for a dress that was made in a sustainable way. And, two, have the energy to ask that question.”
Greatest green achievement in 2018: The company released a boot this year and faced a question at the start of the design process as to whether it should go with leather or synthetic and the question of whether deadstock options could be found with either. A synthetic sample was produced, but didn’t get the passing mark from the team. They then visited a deadstock leather supplier. “There was one skin in one colorway and another in another colorway, so there was no consistency,” Baskauskas said. “We spent three days going through all of their leathers and basically made three piles: light brown, dark brown and black. We managed to create a boot collection of all deadstock leather. It was rewarding and it reinforced that we can do this even at scale. That, for me, was a watershed moment.”
Green goal for 2019: Christy Dawn and team are now working on sourcing sustainable, ethically made cotton in addition to a method for a chemical-free dye process. “That’s a big goal for us because it opens a lot of other avenues in terms of aesthetics,” Baskauskas said. “Using deadstock, we’re limited to somebody else’s designs. We will always use deadstock, but as we grow, being able to offer something that is truly sustainable along the entire [supply] chain is important.’”