“We don’t believe in having a sustainability program,” explains Mariano deGuzman, co-founder of heritage-inspired outdoor apparel label Appalatch. Somehow this wasn’t at all surprising. From the first glance at their line of domestically produced garments and accessories, it’s immediately apparent that there is more to the brand than buzzword marketing.
My inaugural interaction with Appalatch took place at this year’s Northern Grade pop-up market in Chicago just over a month ago. Since then, I’ve continually revisited and reexamined their work to get a holistic understanding of what they do and why I’m so energized by it. It’s relatively simple: in every facet, the label both exudes and epitomizes the tenets of sustainable fashion.
Then again, perhaps what I find so amazing about Appalatch is that their model actually works…
It’s difficult to say with certainty whether the proliferation of ‘ethically driven’ fashion labels wields a positive or negative effect on the apparel industry. It all boils down to intent. To draw an analogy, a Big Mac is made with 100% beef, but that meat patty contains additional dubious ingredients that are left out of that advertising campaign. The same goes for sustainable fashion. An organic cotton tee shirt doesn’t accomplish a thing if it is made abroad in a sweatshop and dyed with abrasive chemicals.
Luckily despite Appalatch’s relatively small size, their scope as both a business model and creative outlet has global implications. Operating on a three-pronged approach, the label champions local production, ethical manufacturing, and of course environmental responsibility with the hopes of inspiring other labels to adopt similar values.
It all starts at home. Based out of Asheville, NC, Appalatch relies on a carefully curated network of American producers, from organic cotton fields in Texas to wool farmers in Montana. Every aspect of the label and their materials (from ‘dirt to shirt’ as they say) is a product of American labor.
On a larger scale, Appalatch is likewise as uncompromising when it comes to maintaining their environmental standards. This underlies their particular interest in wool fiber. As they put it, “wool fibers consist only of grass, water, and the sun, offering a truly recyclable and bio-degradable material,” on which to build their collections. Supplementing the natural characteristics of these materials with high quality production practices, Appalatch ultimately hopes that consumers will buy less while enjoying garments that last longer.
Yet of their line of socks, shirts, bags, and other basics, perhaps the most progressive outlet for Appalatch lies in their current campaign centering on custom fit 100% wool sweaters. Using 3D printing technology, they are able to produce perfectly fitting pullovers made to specific customer measurements, all while reducing material waste from 20-30% in traditional knitting methods to virtually 0%. It’s well worth checking out their Kickstarter video above to learn more about this process and how it can change the face of the apparel industry. Also, be sure to visit Appalatch’s Kickstarter page to help fund the project and to order a custom-fit sweater of your very own.
You can also check out Appalatch’s main website for more information about their mission, their products, and to stay informed on new developments.