Styling and Socializing: Moments From Our Holiday Clothing Swap Event

At the height of the holiday season, and with our enduring love for our growing designer community, we recently put together one last soirée of the year to honor the talent of our designers — and to do some good in the process! On December 12th we hosted a few of our favorite brands (and fashion editors!) at our New York Square for a morning of swapping and socializing. Each of our participating designers kindly curated a rack of clothing from their respective collections to swap with one another over coffee and croissants from our friends at Maman. We also partnered with Dress for Success to donate any of unswapped items to the organization.

Holidays aside, and since our inception, Brand Assembly has been a huge champion for emerging brands that are more socially aware and conscious of their processes. So to close out the year, we really wanted this event to engage our network of brands we love and introduce them to each other as well as invite the greater industry community into the mix to learn more about these incredible makers. And while we're known for our many panels and workshops, we love putting together more intimate gatherings with our designers (who genuinely admire each other’s work and are willing to support and promote one another). Through collaboration and events like this, we believe that our brands can create more awareness and opportunities. Furthermore, this particular event also inspired a larger conversation around the role of social good and sustainability initiatives within our designer community. To learn more, we spoke to a few of our swap participants and Camille Aponte of Dress for Success about these ideas, why these kinds of events are important, and why it's important to support emerging designers and women during the holiday season — and beyond.

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MEET OUR DESIGNER COMMUNITY

This event is all about treasuring relationships over possessions — but how do you think possessions can enhance relationships? How do you hope your brand embodies this idea this holiday season?

Wray Serna: I have a semi-unique answer to this. For me, possessions, especially ones you wear are about investing in yourself. When you do nice things for yourself, and you feel your best — whether it is an exercise class, a new cozy bed, or beautiful clothing, you tend to be more magnanimous to others. I hope that when people wear my clothing, they feel this way.

Christine Alcalay: This is a much bigger topic because there is such an over-saturation of product right now. The products that can tell a story and connect emotionally are the items that have true value. What I try to do with my brand is to create items that are meant to last while giving my customers something that is limited in the scope of production. Not only is it a special product because of the story behind the design but it is also made in small quantities to protect its uniqueness.

Whitney Pozgay: As a designer, I admire many of my friend's designs, but I don't often shop in the categories that we make. This event was a great opportunity to appreciate each other's work and leave with items we love from one another. We try to make clothing that can be layered and styled in many different ways. It was nice to see people mix them in with their own lines.

Teressa Foglia: I love walking into a friend's place and seeing their world! Whether it’s a record, an incense burning, a book, a clothing piece — “things” can also open conversations and say so much about someone. As a brand, we love creating pieces that are an extension of someone and is a reflection of their personality.

Do you have any new year's resolutions to make your brand and design process more sustainable?

Wray Serna: I do actually! We have been researching factories that have the best compliance rates to meet standards of excellence. I also would like to produce closer to where my fabric and trim is manufactured so that there is less jet fuel being used to fly everything around.

Christine Alcalay: I’m always looking for ways to improve as a designer. We don’t cut overstock, repurpose extra fabric, use deadstock fabric, and design quality garments here in NYC.

Whitney Pozgay: The last six months we have been trying to make our company more sustainable across the board. We are introducing new fabrics, printing practices and have really been diving into our supply chain. We are excited to push this even more in 2019.

Teressa Foglia: Since we started, sustainability has always been at the forefront of our business practices. In 2019 we have a huge goal to develop a vegan felt option that still allows us to create a luxury product that will last forever.

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What drew you to participate in this holiday style swap event and why do you think Brand Assembly does a good job at fostering sustainable and conscious fashion?

Wray Serna: I am a huge fan of Brand Assembly. I feel that there has been a great need for a company to foster, work with, and be involved with independent brands. Brand Assembly fulfills this space. Not everyone knows this, but by purchasing and supporting small brands, you are supporting a sustainable practice. Our focus is on quality, and the way we work is an entirely different sustainable structure than say a fast fashion brand. I think bringing people together for a holiday swap really highlights this structure. To be able to meet the maker and head of the companies face to face is quite unique. It is so rare to be able to do that with a larger company.

Christine Alcalay: I’ve never participated in a clothing swap before but it was so much fun, and it feels great to be able to wear fellow designers while sharing my designs with them as well. It not only is fostering sustainability but makes me aware of what other small designers are creating. I love that I can wear and represent their brands too! What a genius and fun idea! Thank you, Brand Assembly for organizing.

Whitney Pozgay: I love the idea of swaps like these. Brand Assembly did a great job getting us all together. It was really fun styling each other and was a nice way to do a sustainable gift exchange with things that we had. Brand Assembly does a great job of getting people to think outside of the box as a group.

Teressa Foglia: It was an amazing time to get out of the day to day and spend time with, support, and get to know other designers. Anyone that I’ve ever met at Brand Assembly is very conscious with how they make their products and operate their businesses — it’s something that I really admire.

Why is it essential for the public to support emerging and sustainable designers this holiday season and what are some ways they can do this/make informed purchasing decisions?

Wray Serna: I could write an essay just on this question alone. The best thing to do when making informed purchasing decisions is to do your research. There are actually apps that help with this! I use them. They tell you what impact different fabrics and dying methods have on the environment. At times it may seem that natural fibers like cotton, for example, are eco, but sometimes those fibers use up the most water and have a higher impact on the land. Sustainable, fair trade and eco are a lot of words that get thrown around. Manufacturing overseas, for example, gets a bad rep but people don't really know why. Buying local isn't like buying vegetables, it doesn't work that way. Small brands simply do not work with factories that are unethical. Mainly because they can't (we wouldn't even come close to meeting their minimums), and bad compliance factories work with fast fashion. We produce at such a small level that it goes hand in hand. The smaller more sustainable factories work with us along with the smaller mills, by default. The very very best thing you can do if you want to be sustainable in your buying is to buy small and independent. You can't go wrong.

Christine Alcalay: Small designers are very aware of costs, waste and every single product that we make. We don’t have the money to overcut or overspend on our products which cuts down waste to the minimum making it much more sustainable. It’s important to know where you buy your product and exactly where it comes from. That backstory should be the driving force in your decision to buy.

Whitney Pozgay: The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. We all need to be looking at our impact and how we all shop is a major part of this. Educating yourself on where and how your things are made is really important. The more customers demand transparent supply chains from designers then the more even larger brands will shift towards responsible practices.

Teressa Foglia: I think during the holiday season (or just every day) that it’s so important to support businesses who are creating consciously. I love brands that are transparent in their practices, and even if they are not local to my community, knowing they are making a difference with my purchase is important to me. Following brands on social that are often partnering with like-minded brands I often find is the best way to find out about their events. I also love to Google independent pop-ups and sustainable brand pop-ups depending on where I am and plan to travel to.

MEET CAMILLE APONTE, CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS MANAGER AT DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Thank you for joining us, Camille! Tell us more about your role at Dress for Success and how the company has evolved since its inception.

Dress for Success is an international nonprofit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence, popularly known for providing professional attire to women-in-need for job interviews that they have secured. However, celebrating our 21st year, Dress for Success offers a continuum of services to provide women with a network of support and career development tools throughout every phase of a woman’s career — from being unemployed and searching, to recently employed and adjusting, to gainfully employed and succeeding. Since Dress for Success first opened its doors in 1997, the organization has served over ONE MILLION women. Each year, Dress for Success reaches more than 70,000 women worldwide, with a network of 153 affiliates in 160 cities across 30 countries.

How do you think events like these will help enhance the conversation around using fashion as a vehicle for positive social and economic empowerment for women everywhere?

No doubt that the fashion industry’s support and donation of apparel, accessories, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, and fragrances enable women to feel beautifully self-confident to assist her to secure, retain and develop a professional career. Partnerships and events offer the opportunity to learn that Dress for Success offers a continuum of services to help women find jobs and remain employed. Dress for Success believes that “self-sufficiency” is more than just a suit or a job – it is an overall commitment to being independent in all aspects of life.

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How would you advise individuals to get involved in Dress for Success during the holiday season?

There are many ways to support Dress for Success during the holiday season and throughout the year: Individual volunteer opportunities to assist in the DFS Affiliate boutiques, gift card donations, and monetary donations to support the programs. Individuals can access our website to support women with a monetary donation.

Photos by Phoebe Cheong for Brand Assembly