Ever wonder what it takes to start your own business during college? Better yet, could you think about what it takes to make a brand that's committed to creating comfortable, stylish, and socially conscious clothing? Well, now's your chance to find out!
Meet Germaine DeNigris, Co-Founder, and Sustainable Fashion Designer, for Arkins. The mission of Arkins is actually quite simple, to exclude the negative impacts of fashion and build a sustainable standard through design and innovation. Achieving this goal, however, has come with a few obstacles. Read on to see how this eco-friendly designer went from high school thrifting to tackling fashion industry standards, all the while creating a brand she's' proud to call her own.
What was your biggest obstacle to starting Arkins? Do you still feel this is something you're trying to overcome?
I always wanted to have a clothing line of quality goods that were priced fairly. But as we developed and learned more about the industry, it also became clear that we wanted to produce our garments locally and sustainably. I think the most challenging of all was figuring out how to make production within the US affordable enough to keep pricing attainable. We've learned that for us, factories do not make sense, and in fact, neither do retailers. So, we've transitioned to making all of our items in-house and selling directly to customers to avoid wholesale markups. It allows us to be flexible, and in hindsight, it was really more of an opportunity than an obstacle.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Sometimes it's a bit overwhelming running a business with such a small team. I have been catapulted into so many unfamiliar territories, but I've come to love, or at least appreciate aspects of it all. Ultimately, I started Arkins so that I could create and design whatever I was craving for my closet. Everything involving the process of turning a garment from an idea into reality is my very favorite part of my job. However, I’ve grown to enjoy the business side far more than I would have expected!
How do you handle setbacks - whether it be a missed opportunity, something not turning out your way, or disagreeing with a co-worker?
Setbacks are just a part of business. There will be many! Never linger on the negatives and know that it will pass as soon as you decide to let it.
Why should everyone care about eco-friendly fashion?
Fast fashion is affecting us all. It’s the second most polluting industry in the world, only behind the oil industry! The world bank estimates that 20% of global water pollution comes from the fashion industry. It’s destroying our air (pesticides) soil (fertilizers) and water (runoffs). We refuse to contribute to that negativity for a few extra bucks. And that’s just the environmental side of things! There are also so many hard working people being exploited within the chains of fast fashion and they deserve better.
What is something you wish you could tell your younger self?
Thrifting IS cool! Growing up in a beautiful, rich town while simultaneously living in poverty constantly had me feeling insecure about thrifting when I was young. Looking back, I'm so glad I wasn't supporting fast fashion even if it wasn't a conscientious choice.
What's something you wish you knew before you started your company?
I was a true rookie coming into this industry. I started my label during my first semester at FIT. There was a lot I didn’t know. Figuring it all out for yourself is really fun though, and I’m glad for all of those experiences. In the age of the internet it’s less “I wish I knew that” and more “Google that!”
Any words of advice for women who want to work in the fashion industry?
In my experience, women within the industry have been motivational, uplifting and encouraging. The fashion industry that I know is full of bright people who recognize that within art, there are no winners or losers. We all have a different voice and we all have the ability to harmonize, rather than overpower each other. My advice to other women, in any industry, is to seek out the helpers and let them teach you their ways.
So, do we have any designers in the making who are feeling inspired? How about some eco-friendly fashion questions? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
If you haven't already, be sure to check out Arkins' latest line for Spring 2016 appropriately dubbed, the Conservation Collection!