Sustainable fashion creates an opportunity for consumers to bring environmental consciousness into our lives as we consider what we put on our bodies each and every day. These standards of living are what inspired Chrissy Fogerty to create her own local brand of sustainable fashion. After being passionate about the environment and fashion in college, Chrissy set out to create her first all vegan, faux leather, moto jacket, the jacket that kick-started Fauxgerty. As a young entrepreneur, she was able to create a team to work towards expanding her jackets into a full collection of clothing, and to eventually open a showroom in the Central West End. Armour found that Chrissy’s fashion innovation pushed towards a more sustainable and consumption conscious world noteworthy for all young sustainable consumers, and decided to chat with her about the experience of creating Fauxgerty. Check out her webstore here.
When did you first get interested in sustainable fashion, and when did that turn into Fauxgerty?
When I was in college, I was studying communications and women’s and gender studies, and I was always really interested in interpersonal relationships and communication. I was always going to be in fashion; I loved fashion, it just didn’t have as much depth as I wanted my job to have. I did a lot of internships, worked at fashion week by my college and with some designers there, and at a boutique. I loved the aesthetic of it, but I always wanted to have something that had more of a purpose to it. Luckily, it came about at a time when fashion was starting to have a little bit more of a backbone of people gravitating towards things that have meaning rather than just things they’re aesthetically attracted to. I’ve always loved to work, and I’ve always been attracted to having a career in something that I’m really dedicated to, and I knew that if I wanted to do that I wanted it to be something that I could be transparent in, and I wondered what that would look like. So when I graduated I worked at a graphic design studio and met our art director who does all the branding and painting, and Fauxgerty just kind of came about. I loved outer wear and wanted to see if I could perfect it. It’s complex, its something that people could invest in and wear for a long period of time. For me, making the most progressive form of a jacket meant that it was cruelty free, sustainable, and made in the U.S.
Do you think jackets are what you’re going to specialize in forever?
I like that its our signature. It took us a few years to research the fabrics and its not as simple as faux leather or faux suede; there’s a lot of elements that go into it. Fashion fabrics are not typically sustainable, they’re usually mass produced in China for less than a dollar, and that doesn’t align with our ethos. Jackets I enjoy, I think it’s a cool thing to really specialize in because we can elevate it so much, but we are expanding our collection for this spring; we have a collection coming out in about a month. It’ll have dresses, sweaters, tops, and skirts made with vintage deadstock fabric which really reduced our footprint since its already been created. However, jackets will always be our heart and soul.
Handpainted leather is also a signature of your brand. Was that also part of your initial vision?
When I met my art director she was a graphic designer, but she had painted before and had pained this huge mural in her hometown that was the dam at their river and I had no idea. Her work is a mixed media abstract style with symbolism, and so it was always very layered. It was just too cool and talented to not have her paint on the back of the jackets. Sometimes in our process jackets get ruined or a machine snags and so we paint on those to be a visual piece for us, so we can do something with them. She also does commissioned pieces, and some of her jackets are for sale and some of them we just like to have in the store. It’s a good way to add color.
Can you talk a little bit about the process of making and painting these jackets? Is it harder to work with sustainable materials?
Yeah, I would say if you look at how many brands you have in your closet, from whatever range it is, there are very few that have a focus in sustainability. Even though sustainable fashion is on the rise, it’s generally a minority in comparison. The fashion industry is a really old industry; there’s a lot of change happening with it, with factories especially. People can’t get their pricing low enough with doing things ethically. You have the people who make the clothing, the people who sell it for them, whether it’s a show room or a wholesale distributor, and everybody has to make money on it, so your 100 dollar jacket cost 10 dollars to make. That makes it almost impossible to invest in sustainable materials because it’s so much more expensive. They’re cultivated, it’s more of a development rather than choosing a print you like. When you invest in that, your price climbs substantially, and to counterbalance that you have to make sure that your aesthetic is good, and your marketing and branding has this new pressure on it as a luxury brand. It’s a challenge because fashion fabrics are far behind the times, so we go outside that world in general and just look for materials, and then figure out how can we sew that, and how can we make the material work as a jacket. Our fabrics work with jackets because they have more structure than another article of clothing. There’s not a lot on the market with that kind of material.
What was the vision you had with the showroom?
It was a challenge to make it, because before this, Meg and I were the first two team members. I quit my job and Meg came on the team about six months later. We had both been working from home or in the evenings after our old jobs. This was the first space that was going to be a representation of the brand, and it was hard because we hadn’t gotten there yet. We were designing clothes, just jackets back then, and our website always felt really minimal. However, when you create a space, you have to have people walk in and know who you are without necessarily telling them. we had to be an environmentally aware store without telling people. We knew we wanted it to be pretty simple. We have color in our garments so we didn’t want to have a lot of color, and we wanted to have plants and lots of live things around. My mom is an interior designer so she helped us with getting a good floor, painting, vaulting the ceilings. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
How is it seeing your work in a showroom? Does seeing your work in a space change how you view it?
It makes it feel more official for sure, it’s weird. If you don’t have anywhere to show people what you’re doing it’s really hard to share the entire story. Things online can be such a sensory overload most of the time that it’s hard to take into account how much effort goes into a single piece. A showroom lets people have a tactile experience with the jackets. When we first opened it felt like wow, we were a real brand now.
Where would you see Fauxgerty in 5 years?
So this year we’re expanding our collections to have full ready to wear lines. Our jackets are starting to branch into some independent retailers because we want to help facilitate the conversation that faux leather can be a luxury piece, and that you’re not sacrificing that genuine aesthetic. Its breaking that norm of faux not being luxurious. We also want to carry a lot of different styles so that our website and our showroom can become a place that people can shop if they are more of a conscious consumer in general. In the next 5 years I think that we’ll continue to do that and continue to make more jackets. I’d like to see our jackets represented more outside of St. Louis, whether its another Fauxgerty shop or us working with other retailers. Just in general I’d like to be continue our understanding of what it means to be sustainable, which keeps evolving. It’s never as easy as something just being recycled, many things go into that. That conversation will keep molding. I’d like to see how we can push that forward and fine tune our pieces even more.
Making light of the stereotype of faux leather not being a luxury is extremely interesting, I had never really thought about how problematic that thought process was.
Exactly. I mean 90’s pleather was a huge thing. There’s still a lot of people coming through here who just assume everything is real leather and suede, like we’re just an outerwear company. I enjoy that perspective because faux leather is never going to be real leather, so if that’s your goal, you’re not going to achieve it. If people feel like they’re getting the same quality of product then we have reached a new goal. We’re not trying to make it something it’s not, but if we can have people who gravitate towards it for a different number of reasons, whether it’s for an ethical reason or not, then we’ve hit our mark. We definitely get more questions online about our product, when in store most of those questions are answered. You can only show so much on a webstore.
Do you have any advice for students trying to start an independent business, especially with fashion and sustainable fashion in particular?
Well I started my business when I was 23, so I was really young, which is weird now to think about. But I had another job, and I think that my family has a lot of entrepreneurs, so that was a big part of it. I was never taught to have the mentality that starting my own business was something I shouldn’t do, or that was out of my realm. I’ve learned that every fashion company doesn’t have to come out of New York. I like living here, St. Louis is a purposeful place to me, and I had to keep learning that you don’t have to identify yourself by what other people are doing. For me I just started young, it was just by nature, but whether you come by young or come by older, if there is something you gravitate towards like a concept or mission and you feel compelled to explore it, a lot of times entrepreneurial communities are really tight. Especially in St. Louis. Any event that’s happening that’s fashion related or start up related, it’s always the same people who are always invited. They keep trying to grow that circle, because everyone knows how challenging starting a business can be, and a built-in support system where everyone gets it is invaluable. I think fashion in general I’ve learned that there’s always so many more jobs that exist than we realize. When I was younger, I always thought that I wanted to work at a fashion magazine. I always thought that if I wanted to work in fashion it would be at a magazine, because that’s what was big when I was in high school. Then when I started to have my first internships I wasn’t sure if it felt like a fit for me. I didn’t want to be a writer, so why would a fashion magazine be where I work? You start to figure out how many people it takes to move a ship forward, and how many personalities and jobs there are within that, and exploring that and doing a lot of odd jobs, internships, or whatever you can find can help expand your understanding of what that is, is super helpful. The more you know, the more you can figure out exactly where you want to end up. My dad told me once that people who own their own businesses or people who have a career that they’re really invested in like talking about it, because it means something to them, which is why they work at it, so we shouldn’t feel intimidated by wanting to talk to them because they like to talk about it. If they’re impactful, they’re just creating more people who will spread the word.