Contributing Monkie G Monkie
Published on April 24, 2009
Last week I posted about how it is time to get off the Carbon Copy Wagon, in which vast majority of the green new and old media are on. It’s time to make things a little more personal and about the things we directly are part of or are inspired by. So, to begin down that path of change, we are starting a series of exclusive interviews with some of the most inspiring green architects, designers, chefs and other professionals who have drawn a line in the sand and are not looking back. Yes, they believe in a "G" future and they intend to make it happen on their terms.
Our first interview is with G/Fashion designer Sara Kirsner, principle designer and founder of the company Doie. According to Sara’s website, she named the company after her grandmother, a fashion icon, in Sara’s eyes. Her sense of style ran the gamut from vintage Calvin Klein coats to tee-shirts by the Gap. Doie is always put together in a chic, individual way. Stylish, sociable and comfortable in her clothes and in her own skin.
G Monkie: Sara, after seeing your line of clothing and how playful it was, I was wondering a few things. Before becoming a designer, what was your background and when did you get started?
Sara: After graduating from the University of Vermont and working in advertising, I decided that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had always had a strong interest in fashion (ie making barbie clothes and giving fashion makeovers to friends when I was younger) but I wasn’t sure how to get started. I then went to Parsons School of Design (in NYC). After graduating, I interned at Marc Jacobs and DKNY and then got a contract job with Ann Taylor (corporate). I left Ann Taylor in 2004 and started Doie shortly after.
G Monkie: Which designers or companies in the green fashion space have inspired you and have they influenced your business model?
Sara: I love that Loomstate was able to do a line for a high-end store like Barneys and also do a mass produced affordable collection for a chain like Target. I admire them for that. Target and Barneys are you listening? I’m available to do a collection.
G Monkie: Who are your favorite designers in the fashion industry as a whole and what makes them special?
Sara: This question should be an easy one for me, but it is always the hardest. There are certain designers that I have always and will always love, like Marc Jacobs, for his innovation and color choices, 12th Street Cynthia Vincent, for the prints and silhouettes, but to be honest, my "favorites" change from season to season. I could find a dress by a designer that I have never heard of and fall in love with it.
G Monkie: So far, what has been good about taking this path and has anything turned out to be more difficult that you expected?
Sara: When I started my business, in 2005, the Green movement wasn’t as mainstream as it is now. The movement started picking up steam just as my business was starting to grow, so having a "green" line has opened many doors for me. On the downside, It’s a lot harder to find the right fabrics when you are only using eco-friendly fabrics. It was impossible to find sample yardage of anything organic and there were times when I had to make the samples in something else to show the line, but use organics for production. It is also a lot more expensive to buy organic cotton and bamboo vs. non-organic cotton and rayon based jerseys, so my price point needs to be higher and it can be hard to compete.
G Monkie: How do you think the state of the economy will effect the green movement?
Sara: I think that the state of the economy will greatly effect the green movement. As much as people worry about global warming, most people’s first concern is feeding their families. Generally, eco-friendly clothing cost more and most people don’t have the extra cash right now. This also goes for eco-friendly cleaning products, house renovations, etc….
However, I do think that the movement is going strong right now and people are becoming very aware that they can make small changes that do not have anything to do with their cash flow, such as recycling, re-using bags, turning off lights when not in use, carpooling, etc…. A lot of green minded ideas actually save money, like public transportation, using refillable water bottles, using less energy, etc….
G Monkie: What is different about your clothing?
Sara: I’d say what makes Doie different, besides being locally made and eco-friendly, is that the designs are basic but with a twist. Not many people combine jersey with silk. The style details and the fit make an otherwise pretty straightforward top or dress, sexy and noticeable. The prints for this current collection are custom designed by Talla. Talla use to have her own line and her print designs are amazing. This season they are exclusive and custom made for Doie. You won’t find these prints anywhere else.
G Monkie: How import are the fabrics?
Sara: The fabrics are very important. I love the feel and drape of bamboo, but there are reasons why it isn’t the most eco-friendly option. It is far better than conventional cotton, but debatable if it is better than organic cotton. I like to switch it up with organic cotton, bamboo, organic wool, and silk. I have looked into hemp, coconut, milk and soy but so far I haven’t used any of those.
G Monkie: How important are the designs?
Sara: The designs are the most important part of the business. If the designs don’t appeal to people, I have no business.
G Monkie: How important is the price point for you?
Sara: As a designer who uses organic materials and produces the line locally, I am always struggling with price points. It is very expensive to produce an eco-friendly line. I want the line to be accessible to as many people as possible, but this usually means that my profit margin is very small.
G Monkie: Your company Doie is focused on sustainable and organic fashion. Does the concept of living "G" bleed over into your personal life?
Sara: I recently moved from NYC to Santa Monica, CA. It is easy to live a pretty green life in NYC because of the great public transportation and the fact that you can walk to a lot of places. However, there is a severe packaging issue in NYC- they put hot coffee in bags there! I think that people are much more aware about things like that in CA. I often find that people ask me if I "need a bag" here, rather than automatically giving me one, and that never happened in NYC.
I try to be as green as possible. I walk or share rides when I can. I drive a Prius, I use reusable bags and my Sigg bottle. I try to re-use packaging material and hangers whenever possible. I buy from the local farmer’s market. I turn off lights and water when I am not using it. I only shower once a week (just kidding). I do have indulgences that I need to work on, such as airplane travel and taking baths.
G Monkie: When creating your designs, who do you have in mind as the perfect customer for your fashion line?
Sara: I’m designing for a woman who wants to be stylish and sexy without being uncomfortable. It is hard to be confident if you can’t breathe in a dress or you are constantly having to adjust it. I’m also designing for women who care about the environment and want to shop with a conscience.
G Monkie: When you started your company, what was the objective?
Sara: I would love to grow the company while still holding fast to my main objectives- using eco-friendly fabrics, producing locally, producing stylish and comfortable clothing. I would love to be able to eventually lower the price point when volume increases.
G Monkie: With all the bad news about the economy, global warming and just the endless dramas playing out on the news, do you have anything that just makes you feel good or have a laugh?
Sara: I find humor in almost anything, but my "sure things" are: Wes Anderson and Christopher Guest movies, Mr. G and Ja’mie (Summer Heights High), Bret and Jermaine (Flight of the Concords) and always "more cowbell." Most of my friends are pretty hilarious and I also seem to crack myself up quite often. The other day I wrote and sent an email to a friend that I thought was hilarious. He called me after he got it and I was laughing really hard when I picked up the phone and he said "wow, you’re really having fun over there…all by yourself." When you work alone, you have to be able to amuse yourself.
G Monkie: Do you have a favorite place or city you love to go to?
Sara: I love Mill Valley (Marin County, CA), where I grew up. I have traveled to very far flung places and lived in several cities, but Mill Valley is always home and always amazing to me.
G Monkie: How important is traveling for you? Do you like to travel and does traveling influence your designs in anyway?
Sara: Traveling is my absolute favorite thing to do. I’m completely obsessed with Asia and have traveled around Japan, Singapore, Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Some of my favorite memories from those trips are (feel free to edit because this could get long)- hiking in Sapa (Vietnam) and sleeping in a hut with a Hill Tribe, singing Karaoke in a place that clearly doubled as a brothel in Halong Bay (Vietnam), getting clothes made in Hoi An (Vietnam), seeing Angkor Wat (Cambodia), drinking "buckets" and dancing on the beach in Thailand, looking at Kimonos in Japan and walking around Kyoto, Kecak Dance in Ubud (Bali), Lazy Days on Koh Tao (Thailand), Hawker food markets in Singapore, riding on the back of a motorcycle (Vietnam)… the list goes on.
I also lived in Paris, for a semester of college, and I was able to see a lot of Europe. That experience and trip was so amazing. There are way too many stories to even get started with that experience.