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Fashion And Beauty Industries Have A Huge, Invisible Environmental Cost

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Fashion And Beauty Industries Have A Huge, Invisible Environmental Cost

When you pull on that T-shirt or pair of shoes, you probably don’t think about where the cotton or leather to make them came from. The same is likely true when you apply lotion or spritz your favorite fragrance. 

Many of the raw materials in your clothes and beauty products come from farms and forests (or more specifically deforested areas) — and the environmental costs can be huge. The fashion and beauty industries are big drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss. But a handful of big brands are trying to change that.

Natura &Co, the Brazilian beauty group that counts Avon, Body Shop and Aesop among its brands, announced ambitious goals in June to halt any deforestation of the Amazon rainforest associated with production of its cosmetics by 2030. The counterintuitive plan? Take more from the forest than ever before.

The company currently uses 38 ingredients derived from Amazonian plants for its lotions, soaps and fragrances. It plans to add an additional 55 ingredients from the area and nearly double its forest footprint. The strategy is to help preserve the forest by paying local communities more for continuing to harvest seeds and fruits from trees than they would make cutting the trees down to sell.

Natural ingredients for cosmetics can be worth hundreds of times the value of the tree they grow on. Buriti oil from the fruit of the moriche palm, for instance, which Natura uses in hair oils and soaps, can command as much as $200 per kilogram in Europe. By buying the fruit, brands save the trees, protect wildlife and keep important carbon-sequestering land intact.

The moriche palm growing in the Amazon river basin in Brazil. Buriti oil from the fruit of the palm sells for as much as



The moriche palm growing in the Amazon river basin in Brazil. Buriti oil from the fruit of the palm sells for as much as $200 per kilogram in Europe.

“The Amazon is one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth,” said Silvia Lagnado, sustainable growth officer at Natura &Co. “With more than three million species living in the rainforest — more than 2,500 tree species, and one-third of all tropical trees that exist on earth — it should be important to us all.”

The beauty group, which has been working to protect biodiversity in the Amazon for 16 years, is one of a number of fashion and cosmetics companies digging deep into their supply chains to investigate the impact of their products on biodiversity and making bold promises to change their practices to protect the Earth’s species.

Damage to wildlife is often invisible to consumers.

“Nature loss is a planetary emergency,” said Samantha Deacon, senior management consultant at Ramboll, a Danish engineering consultancy with a focus on sustainable change. Human activity has caused the loss of more than 80% of wild land animals and half of plants and threatens some one million species with extinction. 

From wildlife loss to deforestation, the decrease in biodiversity weakens ecosystems. That in turn threatens food security, fresh water supplies and soil fertility, as well as increasing the risk of infectious diseases and diminishing the natural storage of carbon, exacerbating the climate crisis. 

What’s more, it’s bad for business. “Fashion and cosmetics industries rely directly on natural resources for their products,” Deacon said. Globally, $44 trillion — over half of the world’s gross domestic product — depends on thriving natural ecosystems. 

While overconsumption and garment workers’ rights have rightly captured public attention in recent years, the way raw materials for clothing are obtained and the biodiversity harmed in the process is often “invisible to consumers,” said Julie Stein, co-founder and executive director of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN). “Consumers don’t intuitively think, ‘What’s happening to wildlife?’” 

But it’s a question that needs asking. The land- and water-intensive growing of cotton uses more pesticides and insecticides than almost any other major crop, threatening soil biodiversity, toxifying rivers and lakes, and leading to declines in pollinator populations. To make viscose, rayon and other “cellulosic” fabrics ― very popular alternatives to cotton, polyester and silk ― the world cuts down 150 million trees a year. High demand for skin and hair care ingredients has led to illegal logging and deforestation in the already-threatened Amazon. 

Rusting ships around the Aral Sea, which lies between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It was once the world's fourth-largest lake,



Rusting ships around the Aral Sea, which lies between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It was once the world’s fourth-largest lake, but overextraction of water to irrigate cotton crops has shrunk the Aral Sea by more than 90%.

“The connection between fashion and agriculture is often overlooked,” said Katrina ole-MoiYoi, sustainable sourcing specialist at Kering, the fashion group that owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, among other high-end retail brands. “Yet because the materials in our clothing come from farms, rangelands and forests, our core business is dependent on the health of those ecosystems.”

How to tackle a problem like biodiversity. 

Kering has been publicly tracking the environmental impacts of its supply chain since 2012. Following the path of clothing items from raw material to processing, manufacturing, assembly and finally stocking stores and warehouses, the company figured out how much each step contributes to total emissions, water use, pollution and waste. 

It identified the sourcing of raw materials as the biggest factor in nearly every impact category. Around the globe, from Mongolia to New Zealand to Sweden, the company tallied some 330,000 hectares of farmland, rangeland, mining sites, and other areas used to produce its raw materials, including sheep’s wool, cashmere, viscose, gold and gemstones.

In July, Kering set out a strategy to reverse its negative effects on plant and animal species in those regions and beyond. Among its targets is a commitment to have a “net positive” impact on biodiversity by 2025 by “regenerating and protecting an area around six times the total land footprint of [its] entire supply chain.” 

Working with academics and conservation organizations, the company developed plans that involve reforesting; monitoring soil health, tree development and carbon sequestration levels; reducing the use of agro-chemicals; restoring former gold mining sites; and planting species with high nitrogen-fixation, which helps fertilize soil.

The strategy also commits Kering to convert one million hectares of farms and rangeland to regenerative agriculture by 2025. This means working with farmers around the world to cultivate with a focus on soil health, water management, crop rotation, plant diversity and improving natural resources rather than depleting them. 

How exactly these plans will affect operations is not yet clear. The next step is to “develop an operational plan” and publicly report on key areas of progress, the company says in its report.

We ignore the interconnected nature of biodiversity and human life at our peril.
Lee Holdstock of Soil Association Certification

“This kind of attention to biodiversity is really important,” said Ray Victurine, also a WFEN co-founder and a director at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We need brands to commit to supporting sustainable production approaches and actively committing to purchase materials that are produced to the highest standards ― ecologically and socially.”

For efforts like these to have a truly meaningful effect, they have to be replicated across the industry, which is why Kering spearheaded the 2019 Fashion Pact, a promise by 250 global fashion and textile brands to fight global warming, protect the oceans and restore biodiversity. 

“Collaborating with our peers to promote good practices and goals around biodiversity is vital,” ole-MoiYoi said. 

Victurine agrees: “If we get too focused on one brand, it’s not going to be sustainable.” He added that it’s crucial to enlist the cooperation of non-governmental organizations and governments to set and enforce sustainability standards on national scales.

Like Natura &Co, Kering plans to protect biodiversity by expanding the “basket of materials” used by its brands, meaning that it will manufacture with a wider range of materials and rely less on those now heavily used. 

“There is a need to vary the product materials, alleviating the pressure on resources,” said Lee Holdstock of Soil Association Certification, a leading U.K.-based provider of organic certification services. 

Strategies aimed at preserving natural habitats often have the added benefits of preserving traditional trades and supporting local economies. For the soles of all of its sneakers, the organic and fair trade French shoe brand Veja buys Amazonian rubber from the far western corner of Brazil, where seringueiros, or rubber tappers, bleed latex (rubber in its liquid form) from trees according to Indigenous traditions dating back hundreds of years. 

When synthetic rubber made from petroleum came on the market in the 1980s, the price of natural rubber dropped, said Sebastian Kopp, co-founder of Veja. “Many seringueiros abandoned this work, too tiring for the financial reward, and turned to cattle breeding.”

But raising cattle is a leading cause of deforestation. To help support Indigenous communities that carry on rubber tapping and to preserve trees, Veja pays seringueiros double the market rate for their rubber. 

“By economically valuing the alive forest, we show them that bleeding the trees and collecting the latex will enable them to earn more money than by raising cattle,” Kopp said. It’s exactly the same approach as that of Natura &Co: Protect the forest by creating sustainable economic opportunities for those who live there.

This link between preservation and livelihood is vital, said Holdstock. “We ignore the interconnected nature of biodiversity and human life at our peril,” he said. “Whilst organizations may want to promote biodiversity, if they do not ensure fair pay and treatment of the people within their supply chains then this may be at risk.”

None of this is a straightforward journey and the fashion and beauty industries have a long way to go. 

Veja still uses leather ― which is another driver of deforestation. Kopp said the brand makes sure the material doesn’t come from deforested areas but admits it is hard to track leather supply chains. “It can be very opaque and have many suppliers from the farms to the tanneries,” where hide is processed into leather, he said, adding that Veja plans to post a full report on its website soon.

The company works with the Leather Working Group, a sustainability nonprofit, to ensure the chemicals used in its tanning processes don’t negatively affect the environment.

Kering, which also uses leather, states in its biodiversity strategy that it too does not work with suppliers that source from farms involved in deforestation of the Amazon. The company has managed to trace 90% of its leather to the countries where the cows were raised and to the individual slaughterhouses; ole-MoiYoi said it is working toward 100% traceability to the farm by 2025. 

For its watch straps, shoes and bags, Kering also continues to use crocodilian skins — those from crocodiles, alligators and caimans. They come from areas such as Madagascar and the U.S., and are processed in the company’s own tannery in Normandy.

Killing animals may seem counter to preservation goals, but some conservation experts say that raising animals in a carefully managed way can have net benefits for biodiversity. A species that is highly valued by humans can lead to habitat protection, explained Daniel Natusch, a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) specialist groups on crocodiles, boas and pythons, and lizards. For example, in Louisiana, a popular spot for alligator farming, just 20 nests can earn tens of thousands of dollars each year. That makes it worthwhile for landowners to spend the $150,000 per acre needed to restore native wetlands degraded by years of oil drilling and keep them healthy enough to sustain new generations of animals.

Natusch admits that for animal lovers like him, it’s unsettling “that a beautiful animal might get taken … and made into a handbag.” But he noted that while farmers may take up to 80% of eggs, the mortality rate for alligator young in the wild is actually as high as 90%. 

A lower rate of mortality and renewed habitat is “great for the alligators,” he said, “but it’s also phenomenal for the snapping turtles and fish and all the other biodiversity that calls the habitat home. The reason IUCN supports it is … wetlands sequester about 50 times more carbon than your average Amazon rainforest.”

The time to act is now.

While starting points, focuses and targets may differ, everyone that HuffPost spoke to agreed on the importance of the fashion and beauty industries taking action to save biodiversity. “I never thought I’d see it happen in my lifetime, frankly,” Stein said. 

She pointed to the Kering strategy as being particularly pioneering thanks, in part, to the wildlife experts on its staff.

Stein also noted potential challenges and oversights among brand biodiversity strategies as a whole: Corporate plans often lack detail on how targets are defined and set, do not “drill down deep enough” into issues such as endangered species needing rapid interventions, and do not actively incorporate the recommendations of global experts. 

But what we’re seeing so far from fashion and beauty is a good start, she emphasized.

“We all have to do what we can right now,” Deacon said. “If we do it in five or 10 years, it’s going to be too late. This is nature’s moment.”

HuffPost’s “Work In Progress” series focuses on the impact of business on society and the environment and is funded by Porticus. It is part of the “This New World” series. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from Porticus. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to thisnewworld@huffpost.com.

Fashion

The young designers shattering stereotypes around Indian fashion

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The young designers shattering stereotypes around Indian fashion

In a country of 1.3 billion, diversity in dress is a given. Still, perceptions of Indian fashion — both within and beyond the country’s borders — remain bound by stale visions of saris in blinding hues, traditional clothing and elephant, peacock and tiger motifs. These lazy assumptions are compounded by the fact that some of the largest players in the luxury fashion industry quietly contract thousands of the country’s artisans to embroider eyewateringly-expensive products in factories that fail to meet basic safety standards, as reported by GFN. And while outside of India, members of the diaspora such as Supriya Lele, Kaushik Velendra, Priya Ahluwalia, and Ashish Gupta are among the names known for helping to dismantle stereotypes attached to ‘Indian dress’, it’s time for the fashion world to acknowledge the young, India-based designers doing so, too.

These non-conformist minds deliberately refrain from dipping their feet into the nation’s lucrative $50 billion wedding market (in India nuptials are typically extravagant affairs spread over multiple days, and the quest for the perfect bridal outfit stokes high demand for full-time couturiers). By refusing to jump on the bandwagon and taking the path less trodden, the designers behind AKHL Studio, Bloni, Bodice and Aroka are consciously bypassing staid exoticist perceptions of India to celebrate how far we’ve come. Rooted in tradition but not restricted by it, their clothes are proudly ‘Made in India’ but globally relevant.

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

AKHL Studio

“We need to stop turning our craft into clichés just because we feel like the West will lap it up”, is Akhil Nagpal’s immediate response when asked to explain the premise of his Delhi-based avant-garde label. At first glance, AKHL Studio’s iridescent, sculptural silhouettes may not seem like an average Indian fashion consumer’s cup of chai (tea), but that’s precisely the point – the CSM alum’s driving motivation is to rewrite the narrative of what the global fashion community expects from the country’s fashion designers; to “push the envelope with what can be achieved with the Indian hand”.

With its metallic tulle dresses spliced with vivid lurex tapes, gradient-dyed silk organza tops and robust bustiers embellished with hand-embroidered glass yarn fringes, AKHL Studio’s latest collection, ‘Reflektor’, embodies this vision. A clue for what makes the collection so appealing is right there in its title. “The key garments in this collection have first been handwoven on the loom and then interlaced with upcycled yarn to achieve interesting shapes. Some of the biodegradable materials used such as thermoplastic polyurethane are light-sensitive and thus the title Reflektor seemed apt”, Akhil reveals.

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

The designer’s desire to create multidimensional pieces of wearable art was further consolidated by the support of his atelier, a group of weavers and artisans from villages across India, who shared a similar zeal for delivering the unexpected. “Our artisans can execute modern patterns and styles, however, it’s up to designers to push them in that direction and lead the way in contemporising Indian craft”, he says. What makes his practice yet more impressive is that he’s able to do that without succumbing to the “hamster wheel” of the seasonal fashion calendar. Instead, Akhil has opted to preserve the value of slow, ethical Indian craft which his tight-knit community cherishes. An important guiding principle for the designer is “creating something new and letting it find its people”, he notes.  It’s safe to say that AKHL Studio found theirs.

A model wearing a vinly outfit from Bloni

Image courtesy of Bloni

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Bloni

While boys his age spent their days playing gully (street) cricket and football, Akshat Bansal pored over yards and yards of intricately printed fabrics in the back of his father’s sari store. He wasn’t just a mesmerised kid in a sartorial candy shop, however. Instead, the interest in textiles he demonstrated back then was an indication of things to come.

After completing a formal fashion education at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Mumbai, before heading on to Central Saint Martins, he then landed a coveted apprenticeship at Cad & the Dandy on Savile Row. It was there that he received a year-long fastidious schooling in tailoring, learning to appreciate the importance of consistency, discipline and the accuracy of every stitch. Akshat then flew back to India only to realise the absence of homegrown brands catering to something other than the country’s booming wedding and occasion-wear market.

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And so, in Delhi in 2017, Bloni was born – a demi-couture brand that questions fashion’s norms through free-spirited storytelling and futuristic, genderless designs. “It’s all about cross-pollination and fluidity right now. Thanks to social media, we are all hybrids of sorts who aren’t limited by borders – our wardrobe needs to reflect that too,” Akshat says. A quick look at the brand’s previous collections – think jet black leather finished satin saris, flouncy skirts, fun tie-and-dye and cutout bodysuits made with nylon from ocean waste –is all it takes to confirm that.

If you’re after further proof of the brand’s sustainability credentials, step into Bloni’s flagship store in Delhi’s Dhan Mill compound. While you’ll find plenty of peppy clothing on the rails, these aren’t pieces you can pick up at whim. Be it their fluorescent tie-dye overcoats (hand-dyed by Akshat himself) or sequinned hoodie dresses, every garment is made-to-measure, and fitted to the body like a second skin. “I think the future of fashion comes down to this – if it’s more personal, it’s more sustainable,” he says. “If it feels special to you, then you want to cherish it regardless of the trend cycle.”

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

Bodice

“If I knew as much as I know today, there’s no chance I would have started Bodice back in 2011. It takes a certain naivety to plunge into a completely new space”, Delhi-based designer Ruchika Sachdeva admits. With the aim of challenging externally imposed distinctions between Indian and Western fashion, the London College of Fashion alum drew up the blueprint for her textile-driven contemporary label within a year of graduating. This line of thought may not be perceived as radical today, but it certainly was 10 years ago when Ruchika arrived back home to find a lack of options that celebrated India’s wealth of craftsmanship without succumbing to conventions of flamboyance, colours and bling galore.

Armed with enthusiasm for offering minimalist ensembles for the modern Indian woman, Ruchika built Bodice to highlight the nuances of Indian fashion that often get buried beneath all the glitz. “It might look pared down on the outside, but there’s so much going on inside – the seams, the cut and the fall need to come together perfectly so that a dress is tucked in just the right places and highlights a woman’s curves”, she says.

Just as crucial to Ruchika as the construction of her garments is minimising the environmental impact involved in making them and forming long-lasting relationships with artisans in different corners of the country. Bodice’s garments are made exclusively using locally procured natural fibres such as recycled cotton from Kolkata, silk and wool directly sourced from Bhutti weavers in the Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh, all in a bid to support India’s fibre producers. “Being in Delhi, the air you breathe is a constant reminder of the fact that you’ve got to be conscious and do your bit – if not now, then when?”, Ruchika says. Keeping in mind that India’s capital tops the list in having the worst air quality in the world and recently went into lockdown, not because of coronavirus, but because of the toxic smog that engulfed the city – it’s imperative for brands, now more than ever, to be mindful about the environment.

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

Apart from having a strong focus on sustainability and versatility, there’s another defining feature of Bodice’s trans-seasonal apparel – pleats. Giving fluid silhouettes a “powerful” structure, she says, her yen for the technique was a reactionary result to her daily environment. “Being born and brought up in India, I’m used to an overload of sensory experiences; there’s a million things happening and it’s so chaotic. Sometimes I think my love for pleating stems as an innate response to that, almost like a need to streamline things and indulge in some sort of repetitive practice.”

Despite it being a time-consuming technique that requires mathematical precision, Ruchika relishes the challenge. What helps? Visualising the woman she designs for: “I like the fact that my customer is me – in her early 30s, independent and finally able to put her foot down. At Bodice, we are always striving to help this woman occupy space quietly but with a steadfast attitude. I believe that clothes are the first conversation you have with anybody without even opening your mouth; it’s a form of art that’s the closest to your body”, she says. Who knew pleats could be the new pillar of power-dressing?

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

Aroka

Āroka’s (a Sanskrit word that translates to light shining through woven threads) debut collection of vibrant pieces interspersed with traditional silhouettes like the lehenga and sari played it safe and won hearts.  However, it wasn’t close to the paradigm shift that its co-founders Karan Ahuja and Shweta Aggarwal wanted to accomplish. The duo yearned to cut through the existing noise and experiment with Indian textiles to present them in a globally relevant light. Despite the looming risk of losing its existing customer base and entering uncharted territory, they decided to push ahead with a complete revamp of Āroka’s design philosophy in 2019.

“I enjoy challenging the usual use of local fabrics. For example, we have re-introduced handwoven muslin with ruching techniques to create slinky halter necks and crop tops. India is well-known for its khadi (handloom cotton), but I give it a textural treatment by incorporating raw, frayed edges”, says Shweta, an Instituto Marangoni graduate who is also Āroka’s creative director. The Mumbai-based label’s repository now consists of understated jewel-toned slip dresses, funky asymmetrical outerwear they tag as ‘half and half jackets’, sultry bandeau tops and easy-breezy kaftans that gained a cult following which continued to grow even during the pandemic.

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

Shedding light on social issues that plague today’s society is the foundation upon which they built their proposal. Inducing conversations around sustainability, fair trade and mental health, where Āroka’s garments do all the talking, is pivotal to its DNA. Notice the subtle yet hopeful messaging embroidered onto the sleeves of its linen tops, belts and bomber jackets such as ‘This too shall pass’, ‘Still, I rise’, and ‘It’s okay to not be okay’.

When the nation was hit by a devastating second wave of the pandemic in April earlier this year, Āroka launched ‘Quote Your Price’, an initiative to recognize the unwavering efforts of its artisanal community. “Our karigars (artisans) can create something no one else can anywhere in the world. Yet, most of them are severely underpaid, exploited by middlemen and subjected to unethical working conditions – even more so during the pandemic. Through this initiative, we wanted consumers to become conscious of the handiwork and attention to detail our artisans pour into the making of each garment and then quote the amount they wished to pay for the same”, the duo explains. Proceeds from those sales were donated to Dastkar – a non-profit organization supporting Indian craftspeople.

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Fashion

Ducks: the future of the fashion industry

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Ducks: the future of the fashion industry

A typical day in the life of UO sophomore Christopher Kiyota consists of checking his Instagram direct messages for new orders to his sneaker resale business, going through his inventory list and making a trip to the post office for new shipments — all between classes and study sessions. This is the ordinary routine of a young college business owner living out his dream with ambitions of taking his passion to new heights.

Running and managing a business is no easy feat as a full-time college student, but these four UO students have channeled their love for fashion into self-made brands and career ventures. They each hope to express their creativity and inspire others by making an impact on the world through their own fashion outlet.

The vintage connoisseur: Alexandra Webster

@approachvintage

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and UO’s track season was cancelled, student athlete Alexandra Webster had a lot of free time on her hands. Already known by friends and family for her unique curation of vintage outfits, she started developing her skill for thrifting and personal styling.

“I started to get motivated because you don’t have anything else to do,” Webster said. “I started getting into fashion and clothing to try to keep myself busy.”

Noticing her newfound interest in fashion and thrifting, her mom suggested the idea of turning what was a quarantine hobby into a monetary opportunity by opening her own store. With thrifting rising in popularity amid the pandemic, Webster realized her knack for hand selecting thrifted items could become her own business that could help others with their style too.






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Alexa talks about how she eventually wants to bringing Approach Vintage online one day. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Ali Watson/Emerald)


She took the leap and opened up her own clothing store: Approach Vintage.

A resale store of unique vintage pieces and popular trendy items, Approach Vintage is located at The Woodlands Mall in her hometown of Houston, Texas, serving as a way to share her love of fashion with others. The store offers all kinds of original pieces, such as oversized jeans, bomber jackets, graphic tees, bucket hats and more. In the nearly two years since the start of her business, Webster has already seen massive success and growth, reaching six figures in sales within her first year of opening the store, she said.

Webster described how truly blessed she was to have that opportunity fall in her lap and be able to get her vintage store started right down the street from where she lived.

“People have been so supportive,” Webster said. “All my friends are always walking by, showing me when they’re at the store; they’ll take a photo and tell me that they’re there. It’s amazing.”

As a new small business owner, it can be difficult to promote your business and gain a wider customer base. Starting out, Approach Vintage was no exception to those challenges.

“The hardest thing was getting my name out there, because I’ve never really known what to do with marketing and promoting myself and a small business that just started out,” Webster said. “But once people started hearing about it, I saw that people love it, and they’re posting about it.”

In the future, Webster wants to expand her brand and branch out into other lines and chains under the same name, broadening her product line as well as her customer base. She plans to start Approach Athletics, a new business with a focus on athletic wear, in the near future.

“I like the idea of not being afraid to do something,” Webster said. “Life’s pretty short, so just do it.”

The ultimate sneaker plug: Christopher Kiyota

@whasiankicks

Christopher Kiyota started out with $180 in his pocket and one pair of used shoes to scrub, clean and resell. Then, one pair turned into two. With consistency, dedication and curiosity about the sneaker resale business, the UO sophomore built his business, WhasianKicks, from the ground up, figuring out how to run and manage a reselling business all on his own.

“I feel like for once I was able to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself,” Kiyota said. “Growing up in San Diego, you don’t really see a lot of opportunities to grow as something different than just a student or an athlete.”






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Christopher built his successful business all on his own from the ground up. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Kiyota)


In the fashion world, nothing can quite compare to the competitive demand and almost religious reverence some people have for sneakers. Entrepreneurs like Kiyota have taken advantage of the thriving culture of sneaker reselling, which allows sneakerheads to make a profit from buying and reselling high-demand or rare sneakers.

With over 18,000 followers on Instagram, Kiyota has taken his love for sneakers to new heights by becoming an in-demand sneaker reseller and supplier in Eugene. Drawing in hundreds of customers per day through his social media, Kiyota said he has sold sneakers to countless customers, including fellow UO students and some major names and athletes as well, such as Deebo Samuel and Noah Beck.

His sneakers are kept in a storage unit where customers can set up a reservation to shop in person, but high customer demand can make it overwhelming to manage, he said.

“As it got bigger and bigger, it started to get harder to maintain these people,” Kiyota said. “When you’re getting 120 DM requests per day about shopping, you get so flooded.”

Kiyota plans to open a storefront for WhasianKicks in the downtown Eugene area by January so he can reach more people and provide better customer service.

“I want to have an optimistic influence on people and make sure I create an atmosphere surrounding my business of happiness and memories,” Kiyota said. “Just something along the lines of you’re going to remember it for years to come. It’s not going to be like you remember my name just because of the shoes I sold you, but you remember it because of how it made you feel.”

The bling buff: Emily Roberts

BlackCatsSparkle on etsy

Emily Roberts grew up in the tiny town of Big Bear, California, and spent most of her life there. She moved up to Oregon during the peak of the pandemic, which was a somewhat difficult experience, she said. She had a hard time finding a job in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as well as making friends during a completely remote first year at the university. Soon enough, Roberts began making jewelry.

She decided to make some earrings with her friend one day for her birthday, and that friend was quick to suggest Roberts start her own Etsy shop with original jewelry pieces. Despite the immediate support for this potential small business venture, she was originally skeptical of the idea.






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Emily has been making artistic pieces since a young age. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started.(Photo courtesy of Emily Roberts.)


“Slowly over time, my family and my friends here and everyone I knew were basically pressuring me to open an Etsy, and I was just like ‘It’s not going to do well guys,’” Roberts said. “But I opened it anyway, and it’s been doing better than I thought.”

Pursuing creative projects and making artsy pieces since she was young, the UO sophomore has used her artistic roots to create her own small business of handcrafted crystal jewelry. She primarily sells her pieces from her online shop on Etsy, BlackCatsSparkle, but also recently began setting up her own stand to sell her creations in person in Salem.

Crafting everything from earrings and bracelets to necklaces and even wreaths, she has seen success with her business in the UO community. She caters to students with fun crystal, skull and mushroom designs, keeps prices inexpensive and delivers to local customers. She has even reached beyond her Etsy shop and sold some of her pieces in the Halicuna Bay Mall in Salem, selling over $60 worth of products on her first day.

“I just really love seeing people wearing my product,” Roberts said. “I adore seeing people around campus and my friends wearing my stuff in their photos. It’s just really rewarding and makes me really happy.”

Her goal is to inspire students and all people to shop locally and from small businesses, a more sustainable, cheaper option that supports good people with good causes.

“If I can make jewelry forever as like a secondary job, that would be fantastic,” Roberts said. “It’s really nice to have that creative outlet; it’s something I can see myself doing for a long time.”

The game day aficionado: Noah Gould

@boxenautzen

A typical Oregon Duck football game is electrified with the energy of thousands of die-hard Duck fans. If you’ve been to a home game recently, especially in the student section, you might have noticed the word Autzen in a green, Supreme-like box logo plastered on the shirts, hoodies and beanies of many students and other fans. If so, you have witnessed the work of UO 2019 graduate Noah Gould and his revitalized game day clothing brand BoxenAutzen.

With a focus on providing gear for football games, Gould was inspired to create his brand when he noticed the large price margin of common game day gear while studying abroad in Italy in the fall of 2017. Being the first time he had interacted with game day outside of Eugene, he had an epiphany.

“Something I noticed quickly was that everyone was wearing the same things,” Gould said. “It was pretty much Nike jerseys and a couple beat tees sprinkled here and there. You’re looking at a beat tee, which they’re giving out for free, and you look at a Nike jersey and they retail for $150.”

Gould realized the majority of game day attire fell on either end of this cost spectrum with no real middle ground. That was the moment he was inspired to fill this gap.

After his time in Italy, his newfound inspiration led him to design some shirts intended to only be worn by his friends. Through the fall of 2018, the orders simply kept coming in, eventually passing 500, Gould said. It was not long before he received backlash from the university’s brand management, claiming he was making a profit by infringing on their word: Autzen. By early 2019, Gould said he received a cease and desist letter from the university to stop his business, and he did.






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Noah Gould, a UO graduate, sports gameday apparel from his Autzen-inspired clothing brand, BoxenAutzen. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Photo courtesy of Henry Ammann)


With a dwindling sense of spirit for the university amid this legal turmoil, he eventually connected with a local manufacturer that had an existing pipeline to get products licensed and to work directly with the university.

“I figured out a way to get my products through this licensing funnel where I can sell products and the university can make royalties off of them,” Gould said.

By the middle of 2020, he finally had UO’s support to sell his product and was receiving sales orders from the Duck Store. Designing from his home in Los Angeles with his production and shipping teams based in Eugene, his business came back in full swing, and Gould has been amazed by the success he’s seen for this season.

“Going into Autzen the night of Nov. 13, I was blown away at how much BoxenAutzen I saw around the stadium,” Gould said. “It’s really rewarding to see it where it’s supposed to be seen — in its natural habitat on a Saturday.”

With plans to grow the business and reach beyond a football focus and branch out into gear for all sports all year round, Gould said he wants his brand to be something that will stick around in five to 10 years. Being immersed in such a large market of Duck fans pouring in year after year motivates him to want to make a bigger impact on UO culture and future generations to come.

“I want to share my love for the Ducks with the world,” Gould said. “I want to make you feel or at least remember what it was to be a student and to be in Autzen with all your best friends on a Saturday.”

A creative spirit, a consistent dedication and a passion for their craft is what set these students apart as individuals who have been making waves in their community and establishing their mark on the world one sale at a time.

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