What if Fashion Could Be Zero Waste and Still Look Fantastic?
Behind tonlé, Cambodia’s first zero waste fashion brand, is Rachel Faller, who wanted to make clothes that made a difference. She decided to do just that after moving to Cambodia to better research fair trade. A process that starts with scrapped waste sourced from mass clothing manufacturers ends up as unique pieces that hold special meaning across cultures and countries. This month, Parvati Magazine spoke with her about tonlé.
Parvati Magazine: Describe the look of tonlé.
Rachel Faller: tonlé was designed to clothe the thoughtful traveler, who is always on the go but is thoughtful about the environment she lives in and the people she meets on her journey. As such, tonlé clothes are comfortable, minimalistic, long-lasting, easy to wash, but retain handmade details reminiscent of the artisans who work on our pieces. We use neutral colorways, fits with comfort in mind, while giving the wearer confidence and keeping her mind at ease.
PMAG: How was tonlé born?
RF: I went to Cambodia to do research in 2008 on artisan and fair trade production. While so many of the handicrafts being produced there were beautifully made, I couldn’t find products that fit my particular sense of style, that could be worn on a daily basis and were made to live in. So I decided to start my own label, working with the artisans I had met while doing my research. That started a ten-year journey which included living in Cambodia for seven of those years.
PMAG: How long does it take to make a collection, given your unique techniques?
RF: We usually work around colors and textures that we know will always be available, such as black t-shirt jersey. So while creating a new collection, we keep in mind the limits of the materials that we have on hand. It usually takes about a month to design and produce the samples for a new collection, and we’ll produce those items on a rolling basis for six months to a year.
PMAG: What is the hardest part of the process?
RF: Our unique, zero-waste process is very counterintuitive to the way the garment industry typically works. We start from materials and process to create a final design, whereas a typical design house will create a design and then find people (usually in factories all around the world) to make it. This results in complex supply chains and excessive amounts of waste. We do things “backwards” but doing it this way forces our whole design process to be more creative in many ways.
PMAG: What will your summer 2018 collection entail?
RF: Our summer collection is made up of breezy silhouettes, comfortable plants-based fabrics, light tropically inspired touches of color and print, and garments naturally dyed with indigo.
Rachel Faller is an entrepreneur and creator who has worked in ethical fashion for over nine years. After earning a BFA in fiber from the Maryland Institute College of Art, she started her first ethical fashion brand in 2008, later rebranded as tonlé. Rachel is recognized internationally as an industry leader and her work has been featured in a number of press outlets.