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In today’s Sustainable Founder Series, we chat with Lauren, founder of the slow fashion brand Paneros.
She takes us through her thoughts and processes when designing her bespoke collections and the advice she’d give her former self.
Hello! Who are you, what brand do you run, what products do you create?
Hi, my name is Lauren DeCarli-Till and I am the founder and chief creative director of Paneros Clothing. I design beautiful slow fashion pieces that are ethically crafted with luxurious, eco-friendly fabrics by our amazing team of artisans in Bali.
Why did you start your company? What inspired you?
After being a top selling designer for a wholesale fashion company for 10 years producing a new collection every month, I set out to create a better alternative: producing beautiful slow fashion clothing made the way it should be, and designed to be worn not just for one season, but year after year so that you can look great while making a positive impact on the world.
I want to rebuild that connection to the amazing artisans who handcraft our styles, and an appreciation for the earth that provides the materials. Visiting Bali many years ago and seeing all of the incredible artisans and their work as well as cultivating a connection to the island inspired me to want to start my business there.
Can you tell us more about the materials you use and why?
At Paneros, we only use eco-friendly deadstock fabrics that come from a natural origin or natural based stock fabrics.
We pledge to never use any fully synthetic materials such as polyester, acrylic, or nylon and we use non plastic materials for trims such as real shell or coconut shell buttons. The reason for this choice is to be more environmentally friendly.
“By using existing materials, we keep them out of landfills and reduce industry waste.”
By using existing materials, we keep them out of landfills and reduce industry waste. Additionally, we have pledged to only use materials from a natural origin because we strongly believe in reducing the use of polyester and plastics to create a healthier planet and to keep plastics off of our bodies.
It is estimated that 70 million barrels of oil are used every year to produce polyester clothing and the microplastics from washing polyester clothing are now being found in our waterways, in the seafood we eat, and most recently in human blood. We pride ourselves in selecting high quality eco-friendly fabrics and trims to create long lasting clothing for our customers.
Can you tell us more about who makes Paneros clothing?
We have an incredible team that we work with in Bali who handcraft all of our amazing pieces. I have the pleasure of working hands on with two small manufacturers who have so much passion for their craft.
We spend a lot of time together getting to know each, each other’s families and they both feel like family.
Each worker sets their own wages and most of the artisans we work with are able to work from home so that they don’t have to travel far from their village and can take care of their family. We proudly share their stories on our website’s blog so that our customers can get to know who made the pieces we create.
Where does the inspiration behind your designs come from?
Because we don’t produce new materials and only use deadstock fabrics, a lot of times it’s the beautiful fabrics that inspire me. The fabric will dictate what you can and can’t do with it and I love hand selecting our fabrics.
Along with being inspired by the actual fabrics, I’m always inspired by vintage garments and details as well as all of my travels. I truly do my best to design timeless, but not basic styles with quality construction that our customers can style in many different ways and will want to wear forever.
Do you have any advice for your former self now that you wished you’d known when you first started your business?
I would tell my former self to start sooner, not to be afraid of making everything perfect, and to start building a community before launching your business.
As a small business owner, you’re competing with large brands who have a larger marketing budget so if you can start building a community of potential customers who share your values and interests, you’re already in a better place than most small businesses when they start out.
“I would tell my former self to start sooner, not to be afraid of making everything perfect!”
What do you think are the main challenges around sustainability in the fashion industry today? How do you approach these on a day-to-day basis?
That’s a great question- I think there is a desire to always have something new and have the latest trend which drives mass consumerism. I also think with fast fashion, clothing is looked at as being disposable because of it being poorly made with cheap materials and an inexpensive price tag. I believe a lot of consumers have gotten used to clothing being a certain price point and not valuing all of the work that goes into making one garment.
Everytime I design a style, I think about how I can make a great quality product that our customer will love to wear for years and that can be styled in different ways so that it can feel new in a different way without it being boring.
Using deadstock fabrics and ones that are not 100% synthetic can be limiting. Sometimes I find a beautiful fabric, but there are only 25 yards left so designing the perfect style for it that we can get a small batch of pieces is challenging.
You’re limited to your prints and colours when you use deadstock, but I always find a selection that feels on brand and that I love. It’s harder to offer products at their true price point, and I feel our prices reflect the true cost of the garment and quality that we offer.
We have received many reviews and notes from customers about the amazing quality of our pieces. When I explain the reasoning behind our price point (ie: sustainable materials, ethical manufacturing, high quality construction) they embrace and appreciate our values and mission.
Do you have a favourite piece from your new collection?
It’s hard to just pick one piece, since I love them all but I am really loving our Diana Pointelle Cardigan.
It’s an update on our more basic Diana Cardigans with the beautiful pointelle stitching.
It’s a piece I will have forever and I love knowing that it’s handmade with so much love by our amazing knitting artisans.
Have you tried a product from another sustainable brand you love?
I don’t have a specific brand that I can think of, but I love shopping at my local farmer’s markets for sustainable items such as small batches, handmade candles, all natural soaps, and natural loofahs for the shower and other home goods. Supporting other small businesses that hand make their products is important to me.
“Supporting other small businesses that hand make their products is important to me.”
What does the future look like for your brand?
We recently launched on Madewell’s Labels We Love and hope to partner with other retailers who support sustainable and ethical small businesses.
We also have some new product categories launching for Spring/ Summer which I’m very excited about. They’re all artisan made in Bali using natural materials and will compliment our current clothing pieces.
We are also happy to be working with more boutiques that share our values so that we can offer our sustainable styles to more consumers across the globe. I’m manifesting a small boutique in Bali as well which would be so exciting to have our own brick and mortar store, where the brand began.