Retro Threads Co: Ethically Produced, Slow Fashion

Hello! my name is Ashley. I’m an entrepreneur and the founder of Retro Threads Co. Retro Threads is a fair trade ethical fashion brand, specializing in children’s apparel. Structure and cut are a top priority, with most of the pieces being adjustable to assure your child gets the most use out of their RT look. The designs are largely inspired by vintage cuts and silhouettes of the past but still keep with today’s trends to add that unique aspect to the product.

 

 

The story behind the heart and soul of the brand: Fashion and clothing, in general, have always been of interest to me. The design and cut of a garment make all the difference in the world on how it appears on a person or how that person may end up feeling wearing it. I’ve always felt that fashion can be artistic, architectural, and a form of expression. When I was around 16 years old, I decided to take up sewing lessons because I’m 5-foot nothin and I was spending way too much money on alterations. Coupled with that and the fact that I was super picky about how things fit (still am), it seemed like the next logical step. I’m an old soul at heart and have always loved vintage-inspired looks. My favorite eras are the 50s/60s, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie O era, but I can appreciate each era and what they have to offer.
My first project, (much to my teachers dismay) was a structured pencil dress with all kinds of intricate details. I think she was hoping I would start with an apron... sorry Anita!   Thanks to her it turned out really well, and I got inspired. Early on I would make myself various articles of clothing and of course I would have to alter about 80% of what I purchased. I enjoyed the early years of sewing and tackling many projects all the while saving money by making things myself (including my bedspread. Inspired by an anthropology duvet. It was super intricate and time-consuming but I really liked it :).  During the many years of failure and growth (and much frustration with sewing), I gained so much respect for the people that make clothing every day. It can quite literally be back-breaking labor. It was always a big dream of mine to start my own brand, however, I didn’t want to be part of the problem. If I was going to start a brand, I wanted to be an asset to the maker and not a burden.

 

 

Some of the reasons slow fashion is a good idea; Brands that care. Thrift shops or vintage stores...    I’ve always LOVED thrifting; I love the fact that it’s recycling fashion and manage to snag a true gem. Personally, I end up liking the clothes I get from a vintage shop or a brand that puts extra time into their designs and mission, much much more than the big box store that goes through styles daily. Finding that one unique piece from a thrift store, vintage shop, or a favorite brand, that you know you will appreciate for not just one season, is much more meaningful in the long run. It’s no different for children’s clothing! Many of our designs are created to adjust and grow with your child. I’ve had customers who were able to enjoy their items for a couple of years when normally with children, they grow out of their clothes within months. With classic silhouettes and high-quality fibers, each design is unique and designed with thoughtful intention.

 

     

 

 

  Clothing for the little fashionistas. I started out making children’s clothing after I had my daughter. It was fun   making her items and I got inspired to start designing cute heirloom-quality   pieces. Again, I loved the clothing eras from the past and wished there were   still options like that on the market. At the time, pinafore jumpers and vintage silhouettes weren’t that popular. You would maybe only come across them on a Pinterest page in another country etc. They’ve become a bit more mainstream now but our designs are unique and made with high-quality designer fabrics enough to stand out in the crowd. A future dream of mine is to add women’s clothing eventually. Maybe even a “mommy and me” line. My customers are constantly asking if the clothing comes in their size:)  I’m working on some ideas at the moment. Stay tuned!
 

 

  

 

 

Some challenges the business/market is facing: Just like every industry right now, the fashion world is no different and is also struggling. Fabric and supply shortages left and right, low staff in about every category you can think of, and inflation in every industry. Prices all around have really skyrocketed. Fabric by the yard is at an all-time high and so is the cost of having the items made. Thankfully right now I’m still in a place where I make about 75% of the items. But that will hopefully change soon so I can dedicate my time to other areas of the business. All this to say, when you only do small production runs, are an ethical brand, and purchase high-quality sustainable fabrics, things are not cheap! Not in the least. So naturally, we have to acclimate. The good news is in the grand scope of things, I believe it just makes the items that much more valuable. 
Opportunities the business/market is facing: This year we have made great strides towards going wholesale on a slightly larger scale (though still staying with the small production runs business model) and the good news is, people are out shopping again! They are willing to continue to support small businesses even though inflation has affected everyone. I’m super grateful for my new and long-time customers! I feel so fortunate to still be in business after the past couple of years of seeing so many businesses struggle to make it. Markets are back open and seem to be thriving again, though I’m excited about focusing on the online portion of my business as well as the wholesale side. Another opportunity or advantage I believe today’s business world has is definitely technology. It truly has grown so much even in the past 2 years. There’s absolutely no excuse these days on why something can’t get done. There’s usually an app for that:)
 

 

 

 

Any advice for small businesses? The advice I would give to small business owners or someone wanting to start is, that slow and steady really does win the race. There’s no rush to reach a certain level in a certain amount of time. Growing at your own pace and doing your best to stay debt-free is soo worth it. Don’t pay attention to others’ highlight reels of where it “seems”  like they are. Every journey is different. You do you boo! Growing too fast can cause burnout. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither should your business. Build a sturdy foundation that will last for a long time. Invest in yourself, by educating yourself on the area of expertise or field you want to be in. Stay teachable. Get to know your peers in your line of work and always treat them with respect. Relationships and communication are key. Be willing to learn from others. Ignore that pesky imposter syndrome that will try and sneak up on ya. You are right where you need to be. Remember to rest from time to time, your mind, body, and soul will thank you later. Believe me, it’s not worth to stress!  Running a small business Is not always easy but if you stay organized and aren’t afraid to delegate some of the workloads, it can be a most rewarding thing! 
 
The mission: making slow fashion cool. Fast fashion seems to tell us we need a whole new wardrobe every couple of months, and it truly doesn’t add much value to our closets or our life. with unethical work environments, toxic dyes and chemicals being used in most of our clothing (you know that strong almost gasoline smell that will sometimes be on your brand-new clothes and sometimes stays on your clothing even after you wash them multiple times? Yes, that smell), and many forgotten makers, dyers, weavers, artists, and spinners not getting fair wages. Landfills are overflowing with discarded garments that are deemed “last season’s wear” and on and on. I know this isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight, but the good news is that there is a growing community of organizations and brands that are changing the way they do fashion, and I’m so excited to take this baby brand down a path of ethical, fair-trade practices; bettering the lives of makers and adding value to our clothing choices.