Slow Fashion with Christina Rondepierre
Posted by Jamie Maccarthy on
What began as Jared Flood's personal blog has evolved over the years into Brooklyn Tweed, a company guided by its core team members' collective passion for wool, knitting, and design. This passion continues to be nurtured, shaped, and made more nuanced by the unique perspectives that these team members — we — each bring to the table. Staying true to our voices has always been the hallmark of our strength as a company, and as we grow forward together, we always keep in mind that magic happens during the journey, not just upon arriving at a final destination. Each day at Brooklyn Tweed is filled with the beautifully mundane and the ordinarily amazing. To shed some light on how we work behind the scenes, how we think about the products we make, and how we approach the craft of making clothing as a whole, Jamie Maccarthy, our Customer and Community Relations Specialist, will be sitting down with members of our team, sharing with you why we deeply care about the work that we do, as well as more about our quirks, our humanness, where we are now, and where we’re heading. Say hello to Christina Rondepierre, the Marketing Manager here at Brooklyn Tweed. Christina — whose thoughts are never far from slow fashion conversations taking place in our making community at large — began building her slow fashion wardrobe nearly a decade ago. What started as a bubbling urge to knit and knit and make and make has, with time, simmered to a steady focus on sourcing, sustainability, and cohesion in her craft.
SourcingOf paramount importance in Christina’s slow fashion wardrobe is sourcing, both in where a garment is sourced and where the materials to make that garment are sourced. If a slow fashion wardrobe means making a conscious decision about what enters one’s closet based on the ethics of its production, it would follow that the choices around what is included should take into account where those things are coming from. During her first few years as a knitter, Christina didn’t have the context to question the roots of the materials she was working with. Instead, the desire to fill her closet with me-made garments drove her parallel desire to accumulate yarn. Christina’s exposure to Brooklyn Tweed early on in her knitting journey played a large role in her realization of the importance of known-sources wool. Each skein of Brooklyn Tweed’s woolen-spun yarn passing through her fingers encouraged a new thoughtfulness — where are the sheep who made the fiber that would become this yarn? Who are the ranchers, the millworkers, the dyers? As she learned about “new techniques, fibers, and tools, [there came] a natural response to want to dive deeper, to elevate [her] craft and to learn as much as [she could].” Given the pervasiveness of mass production, to be able to point a finger at a map and name the ranch, mill, or dyehouse where a yarn is made is truly something special. Knowing the where of a garment and its materials affords a unique ability to support the communities that continue to keep our domestic textile supply chain alive. As many of us wool lovers know, “it’s really difficult to keep a sheep’s fleece clean, and the quality of the wool is dependent on the living conditions of these majestic animals. Purchasing quality fine-wool ensures a market share for the ranchers who spend their time and effort and pour their hearts into tending to their flocks.” Christina consciously, and actively, seeks out yarns that contribute to the growth of the deeper economies inhabited by ranchers and other domestic supply chain partners.
SustainabilityIn looking at the where and how of a garment or material, inevitably the question of resources comes into play. If we can point to the location of production, as well as to the people and animals producing, we also need to consider how often the production is happening and at what costs. Succinctly put, “the goal of sustainability is to make sure that the resources you’re using are able to be replenished instead of being depleted.” Brooklyn Tweed’s ranch-specific yarn line opened up a new space for exploration in Christina’s personal making practice. In speaking with Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed, the realization that yarn can be the end product of a larger, sustainable practice was eye-opening and connected many threads that Christina had come across in her academic experience studying agriculture, permaculture, and globalization. She says, “When you start incorporating other ways that sheep can help increase the health of the land on which they are grown, those sheep add a whole new level to the sustained productivity of their landscape.” There’s an additional layer that often goes without acknowledgement in larger conversations about sustainability — whether or not something is sustainable for an individual maker to produce. When considering sustainability in her own wardrobe, in addition to considering the environmental costs of the materials being used, Christina asks herself: “Do I have the ability and am I willing to care for this item for 5 years (or more)? How much do I need?” If she were to knit 12 sweaters each year for the next 5 years, that would be 60 sweaters to wash, mend, and wear — with a full time job, a family, and other obligations, it wouldn't be sustainable to keep producing and tending to handmade garments at that rapid of a rate. Now that Christina is at the point where she’s content with the foundations of her slow fashion wardrobe, she finds herself exploring ready-to-wear garments produced by companies and artisans that share her values. We live in a moment where many ready-to-wear garments are produced in the slow fashion spirit with varying degrees of success. These companies make rounding out a wardrobe that balances the handmade and the readymade possible, and something that Christina is happy and excited to be constantly working towards.
CohesionWith the right ingredients, a capsule wardrobe hits all the right notes for Christina and invites a cohesion into her closet that would otherwise be wanting. Instead of focusing on a seasonal capsule wardrobes, Christina incorporates a few different mini capsules into her rotation throughout the year. This approach to season-less capsules not only maintains Christina’s consistent aesthetic, but also increases the affordability of a slow fashion wardrobe. With fewer pieces of high quality that mix and match well, Christina can feel good about the slow fashion wardrobe that she is creating and nurturing. Before she begins a new project, she always asks herself how she can wear it with existing items in her wardrobe, and what color choices will allow her to wear the new-to-be item throughout the year. “What I’m excited about most right now are designer specific capsules,” she says, as knitwear designers with strong points of view create garments that blend together harmoniously through the years. With a Jared Flood capsule wardrobe already in heavy rotation, Christina’s next focus is on Emily Greene's designs. In addition to her wardrobe picks below, she's currently knitting the Kaare Cardigan in Quarry (Obsidian) and the Prism Hat in Shelter (Yellowstone)! While many of us makers share common goals in regards to our making practices, Christina’s perspective welcomes us all to ponder more on sourcing, sustainability, and cohesion as we curate our own slow fashion wardrobes. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on slow fashion throughout the month of October, and can’t wait to share more perspectives from the BT team with you.