Exclusive Interview by Allison Mann
Photography provided by Dani Matte | The NBP Group
Let’s chat about the concept that has been taking the industry by storm - sustainability. For decades, both high-end luxury designers and fast-fashion brands have mass-produced clothing, shoes, and accessories without a care in the world except for one main common denominator: money. Companies longed to produce as much product as fast as possible, imaginably without a grasp of the harmful impact it had on the environment.
Our wardrobes are flooded with cotton; a crop who demands mass amounts of water and pesticides to be produced, a range of colors that had been manufactured with the use of harmful chemicals and toxins, and animal fur from innocent animals who had been fed poorly and potentially experienced animal cruelty in the process. Now, we’re moving on. Companies are starting to “get it” (well, some companies, that is…). Consumers and buyers are becoming increasingly pickier. People as a whole are caring more about our environment, especially amidst a global pandemic where we are all staying inside in our sweats and Netflix-binging; we’re noticing a turn in the state of our global economy. The water in Venice, Italy has become clear and the fish have returned. Pollution has decreased astronomically. According to (https://venngage.com/blog/coronavirus-impact-on-environment-infographic/), Carbon emissions are down 50% in New York, and traffic congestion in Seattle down by 41%. This is progress, people. We are collectively making a favorable influence on our environment in the course of this chaos and we may not even be realizing it. So, what better time to focus on sustainability as an emerging designer than now? Who wants to go back to the polluted world we lived in before? Designers should be considering this a fresh slate, a blank canvas, to rewrite their manufacturing tactics and, in turn, keep our environment healthy.
Where can I buy sustainable clothing?
Designer Hilary MacMillan is doing just that! A newer designer who founded her label in 2013, is a proud cruelty-free, size-inclusive, feminist, and now, sustainable brand that we have been making major heart eyes at. We sat down (virtually, of course) with Hilary to find out more about her personal goals, why she was inspired to create a sustainable collection, and basically what possessed her to be so awesome.
BOLDBoss Question (1): Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey as a fashion designer.
“My journey as a fashion designer has been an evolution. Not many people know this but I was born just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I am a highly creative person, but as the designer and owner of a self-titled brand, I am also inevitably a businesswoman. As an individual who creates for a living, my work goes through phases of inspiration, which affect the look, feel, or vibe of our final product. I started designing womenswear in 2012 and released my first collection for sale in early 2013. That first collection was small and very structured, almost formal in construction. Over the years as trends, technology and textiles have changed; and so have my collections. Now our average season includes anywhere from about 40 - 70 styles.
Over the years my brand ethos has also evolved. In 2019 we pivoted our brand to produce only cruelty-free garments and also extended our size range on many styles. Customers can now purchase items made in sizes XS - 4X or 2-28 US on our website and with our retail partners.”
BOLDBoss Question (2): What inspired you to launch the Hilary MacMillan Sustainable Collection?
“In 2020 we re-launched our bestselling Signature Blouse as the first item under our new Sustainable line. The Sustainable label is the beginning of a bigger brand direction which we hope to execute further each season. It is a highly involved design direction as you look at everything from new fabrics, process innovation, and technique which can be both new and re-emerging; coming to the forefront of the industry. This is something that consumers are looking at and we are keen to be in on the conversation. I find the holistic nature of sustainable design very inspiring. The idea of using natural dyes and materials is exciting because creating garments that are both technically and aesthetically beautiful just feels right.”
BOLDBoss Question (3): Why do you believe it is important to be environmentally-friendly?
“I believe being environmentally-friendly is important because we have a responsibility to do our part in the fight against climate change. Fashion is predominantly one of the worst polluters on our planet, so our dedication to being both environmentally friendly and sustainable takes into consideration the animals we share our earth with and the importance of those symbiotic relationships. Sustainability means that the design and production process can be maintained or upheld through innovation with close attention to the way things are made and their positive effect on the planet when compared to traditional methods of production. We want to help be a part of the solution, as opposed to the problem, and this is one step towards that effort.”
BOLDBoss Question (4): Is sustainability a personal goal of yours? Why?
“Yes, I am a big supporter of small and local businesses. I buy eco-friendly and cruelty-free products whenever I can. I also consume a mostly organic vegan diet. These are personal choices of mine, and as a designer, these values have found their way into my work and brand ethos, as previously mentioned.”
BOLDBoss Question (5): How do you decide on fabrics and materials that will not only fit, drape, and feel comfortable on the skin, but will not compromise your promise of cruelty-free and sustainable clothing? Does this make the product development process more difficult?
“It doesn’t make the product development process more difficult; it just makes it more involved. As a designer, you have to do research and development every season and sampling is critical. Just as many focus on what things are made of, you also look at how. There are a lot of new textiles and dyes on the market and as more companies incorporate sustainable garment c practices, the options grow every season. We have to look closely at everything, and admittedly it’s a process. I would not say it is any more involved than the focus you would put on finding fine fabrics from Italy. It is the same. You are just also looking at fine sustainable fabrics as well. It is all a matter of choice and a top-down mandate. I have to say, as the designer this is a priority and the team is supportive. I think many of these shifts are active decisions and each season we are now saying - this is gorgeous can we do it using a piece of sustainable fabric and with sustainable production. I am lucky to have an amazing team who is vital in supporting this process and working with me on development.”
BOLDBoss Question (6): What do you consider the most important facet of the fashion industry?
“For me, size-inclusive fits in well-made clothing is extremely important. We can’t limit people's access to responsible and ethical clothing based on size.”
There’s plenty we as consumers, and brands as producers, can take away from someone like MacMillan who has such a fresh mindset on the fashion industry. Certainly, an industry that is ever-evolving and constantly changing at a rapid pace, the only way to climb to the top is to change with it. Shop Hilary MacMillan’s sustainable collection here. Let’s continue to support designers who have more than money at the top of their priority list.
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