The Effortless Confidence of tonlé’s Zero-Waste Fashion
One of the world’s first zero-waste fashion companies, tonlé creates clothing and accessories that put people and the planet first. Fairness and transparency are woven into every detail—from thread to production to employment practices. Behind this fashionable and conscious Cambodian brand is Rachel Faller. Be inspired this month as she gives Parvati Magazine insight into tonlé’s waste-free practices and unique production process.
Parvati Magazine: Describe the look of tonlé.
Rachel Faller: tonlé was designed to clothe the 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 and fits with comfort in mind, while giving the wearer confidence and keeping her mind at ease.
Parvati Magazine: How was tonlé born?
Rachel Faller: 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.
Parvati Magazine: How long does it take to make a collection, given your unique techniques?
Rachel Faller: 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.
Parvati Magazine: What is the hardest part of the process?
Rachel Faller: 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.
Rachel Faller is an entrepreneur and creator who has worked in ethical fashion for over ten 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 an industry leader, with work featured in numerous press outlets.