I’m With Earth: An interview with our Co-founder April Liang.

As the co-founder of YSTR, April Liang is dedicated to combatting fast fashion waste by implementing sustainable production practices for her locally made brand. Liang worked in wholesale, mass-market fashion for years, and the ethos of YSTR serves as an antithesis to the amoral, quantity-driven way the fashion industry tends to be run. 

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What sparked your interest-creating an ethically made no-waste production model?

Overseeing the production of my previous wholesale business is what started it all and sparked a thought and room for change. The amount of excess clothing we produced to allocate for damages, returns, reorders, forecasted units & exchanges along with the slim timeline to sell the product before markdowns, created an overwhelming cycle of waste and frustration.

Our wholesale production model was outdated and there was a lot of room for improvement. My partner Garrett and I decided to radically change our business from traditional wholesale fashion brand to a locally made, cut to order,  vertically produced no-fashion-waste brand, aka YSTR. 

How has your willingness to combat fast fashion and go against the traditional production model benefited the growth of the business?

When YSTR came to fruition, our goal was to marry ethics with aesthetics, not just for the final product but throughout our entire production process. We created our founding core values to honor the process of slow fashion and implement our new no-waste production model.

We design our pieces with a trans-seasonal mindset, meaning, the pieces can be worn yearly making them timeless whereas fast fashion knocks off the latest trends that go out of style. Every piece shipped is cut-to-order, made by fairly paid artisan sewers, transparently priced and made in our DTLA Headquarters.

Curating a conscious closet with locally made + ethical + eco-conscious brands can be expensive and overwhelming for the modern woman, so we launched the YSTR club membership. The YSTR Club is a subscription tailored for women on a budget to build an ethically made wardrobe affordably.  The membership subscription model, allows us to accurately estimate how much we need to produce each month, thus significantly reducing our cost. We pass those savings onto our members. The YSTR Club has allowed us to cast a wider net and build a community of like-minded eco-conscious women.

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What was the first sustainable lifestyle switch you made? Did you start shopping less, did you buy reusable straws or silverware, etc.?

I’ll openly admit, I used to be a frequent shopper and a fast fashion consumer. It was too easy and I immediately got a rush after every purchase. Chasing that “retail therapy fix” created a closet full of runway knockoffs I only wore a few times a year. I literally “cleaned” out my closet nearly every 2 months (someone how I managed to stuff over 100 outfits in my tiny closet).  Shifting from a wasteful wholesale business to a wasteless fashion brand helped me to become aware of how much I was truly spending and how much fashion waste I personally produced. I noticed I kept my core quality pieces while tossing out all the fast fashion pieces to replace them new styles.

Now, I exclusively purchase from independent brands/labels I love like Intentionally Blank and Soko Designs. I rarely buy new clothing as I am building out my capsule wardrobe with YSTR through the membership (yes, I’m a member of my own club) while incorporating a few styles from like-minded brands every so often. I made a conscious shift with my shopping habits, and am now slowly incorporated into other aspects of lifestyle.

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What advice would you offer other business owners or consumers who feel they have to choose between affordable and ethically made goods?

The truth is, we’re bombarded with so many “great deals” every day, that at times we don’t even realize that we are participating and contributing to the growing landfills on our Planet. I feel that having a conscious mindset is just as important, as a conscious closet. As long as the purchase is a conscious decision then you are doing your part as being a conscious consumer.

Of course, just as every business, we have sales goals but our primary goal is to educate and spread awareness in our community and industry. If someone visits our site and we 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.

What do you think is the scariest thing/fact about (the environmental effects of the fashion industry, the impact of consumers, etc.)?

The two things that shock me the most about the traditional fashion industry, are the way garment workers are poorly treated and the massive amount of waste that occurs from pre and post-consumer purchases. Fashion is the second largest contributor to environmental pollution and an average American tosses about 80lbs 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 because of this workers are mistreated, not paid well and undervalued for their work.

The consumer has the power to change all of this. It’s an exciting time and although there’s a slow shift in the industry right now it’s starting to gain momentum. Consumers are opening their eyes to what they’re buying and educating themselves on how it’s made, which is creating a demand for more transparency in the industry.

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If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?

Five is a lot a lot for me! If I would have to choose five items they would be:

  • A ring that I have from my mom that she bought for my sisters and me
  • A pearl necklace I got from my aunt that I got when I graduated high school
  • My boyfriend’s sister is a chef and got us this awesome chefs knife plus I love to cook, so I’ll definitely keep that!
  • My bed because it seriously is the best bed
  • Dozer! If he was a thing, I would keep him forever!

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