Meet April Liang & Garrett Gerson, Founders Of YSTR
April Liang and Garrett Gerson both had successful careers in the fashion industry before they co-founded YSTR. Frustrated by the excessive waste of the traditional production model, they built a line of LA-made clothing that is made to order. Blending their environmental ethics, industry experience, and passion for fashion, YSTR is striving to enable women to minimize their impact without breaking their budget.
In our conversation with the founders, April and Garrett shared their criticism of the fast fashion industry, the inspiration behind their line, and their goals to educate the conscious consumer.
You both had careers in the fashion industry before deciding to partner and launch YSTR. What were your criticisms of the traditional processes? What impact does fast fashion have socially and environmentally?
The biggest criticism that we both have would be would be the amount of waste that’s produced in the current retail and manufacturing model, from inventory to disposable fashion. Fashion is the second largest contributor to environmental pollution and an average American tosses about 80 pounds of clothing away a year. Creating off-the-runway pieces that are cheaply made and that are easily disposed of is a huge contributor to this waste and through this, workers are mistreated, not paid well and undervalued for their work. The way the manufacturing model was producing and the demand it was creating seemed outdated and there was room for improvement.
Together you launched a line that was based on ethical production with minimal waste. Tell us more about your unique made-to-order production model. How do you manage to minimize the environmental impact of YSTR clothing?
We believe that quality should never compromised. Our artisan sewers have worked with the top tier brands such as Raquel Allegra, Elizabeth and James, Rory Beca, Velvet and Sky, therefore they understand the true craftsmanship of a garment. We make sure that they are well treated, well paid and enjoy what they do. With this we create a strong team that can build something beautiful together. We manage to minimize waste by utilizing technology that streamlines our orders from cut to finish and allowing us to produce as orders come in.
With the cut-to-order model, we eradicate any chances of excess waste and producing only what is sold. We have also been incorporating some deadstock materials into the line as well; we repurpose some of these fabrics and give them new life. There are many schools of thought on what the most environmentally friendly practices are, but at YSTR, we as a team have decided that our way to tackle this massive environmental problem is to only make what we sell.
On top of innovating to minimize your environmental footprint, you’ve chosen to keep production right here at home. All of your clothing is produced in LA. What does that mean for your consumers? Why should they care?
Being LA made is a big deal for us, it’s where we live, our community, and our culture. It’s where we draw inspiration, influence and where we’re building a community of like-minded individuals. We care where, who, and how our clothes are made, and by being made in LA we can ensure our core values are carried throughout the process.
Ethical and environmental is only valuable if you’ve got a design that sells. Your designs are clean with a twist, soft fabrics with sexy cuts. I’d love to know more about the inspiration behind your design direction.
Our designer Nico worked closely with our late creative director Katharina Pretl to design a unique style for YSTR.
Nico: We put a lot of thought into designing silhouettes that are classic with just a little bit of a twist, yet easy and comfortable to wear. Every piece deserves a little something to make it special, whether it be a small construction detail, a trim, or a print. Every piece makes sense and is dreamed up with a purpose. They are classic but diverse, which naturally means that they can be effortlessly styled with different items and accessories to create looks that fit your fancy. After all, these are pieces that should last in the closet for a long, long time. That's something that we vouch for, in style, and in quality. And it's something that goes hand in hand with our no-waste model. We strive for our garments to become statements in our customer's capsule wardrobe.
How are you innovating to bring these designs - and conscious consumerism, in general - to a wider market?
We understand that LA-made + ethical + eco-conscious brands can be expensive, so when we launched the line we saw that there was an interest but it was hard for people to commit and there was still price hesitation because we were a new brand. Once we built our following, we decided to implement the YSTR club membership, making it more affordable for others to purchase our clothes. With the membership program - which offers monthly outfits at reduced rates - we are able to accurately estimate how much we need to produce each month, which significantly reduces our cost that we pass onto our customers.
You’re leveraging the YSTR line to build a community and to educate your consumers about slow fashion. What do you see as the future of the industry? Where are we headed?
This is an exciting time and there’s a slow shift in the industry right now that is starting to gain momentum. People are opening their eyes to what they’re buying and how it’s made, very similar to the food industry.
Our goal is to not necessarily get everyone to purchase our products but rather to educate around conscious consumerism. If someone comes onto our website and we even light a tiny spark of change in them, then I say we are doing our part. There are so many great brands out there sparking change already that it will soon be a necessity that consumers are looking for. Once that happens, the big retailers will follow. Together we can build a movement to give fashion a new face.