Did you know that fashion is the second highest polluting industry in the world, only behind the oil industry? Creating fabric requires a lot of chemicals, which not only harm the workers in the factories that make the fabric and/or clothing, but then those same chemicals are on your skin while you wear those clothes — makes you think twice about what you put on your body. It should make fashion designers think twice about the materials they are using in their collections, too.
Meet Amanda Dare Dougherty. She is someone who has thought twice about the fashion industry. A little bit of history about her: she was a theater major at the University of Louisville and taught herself how to sew and design clothing when she was involved in production and costume design for various plays. While still in college, she opened up her first shop and studio at a space in the Mellwood Art Center selling small-batch clothing, all of which she designed and made herself. After graduation, she closed her space at Mellwood and opened up a boutique on Bardstown Road, The Hanger, featuring all handmade clothing, some made by her, some made by other makers. However, it is nearly impossible to simultaneously run and operate a boutique while creating all the inventory from scratch. This business model was not sustainable and Amanda closed that business, but she learned a valuable lesson about fashion design and business operations in the process.
After closing her business, Amanda got married and took a break from the fashion design business. But after seeing a documentary called The True Cost, which shows the “true costs” involved in making fashion, her break was over. The film alarmed Amanda so much that she started researching how to ethically and sustainably create fashion from scratch. After much trial and error over six months, she found a company that sold a sustainable and viable cotton fabric for her to use. In March 2015, after lining up a fabric company and a manufacturer to create her designs, she launched a Kickstarter campaign. She named her business “The New Blak,” with the “c” purposefully left out of the word “black.” She wanted to turn this trendy fashion phrase on its head and challenge it. She wanted to be different and minimal, taking the word and the collection to the purest form.
Here’s her explanation of her company:
The New Blak wants to help consumers understand where their fashion is coming from, with a seed-to-garment mentality. We believe that every step of the process is important, from growing the cotton organically and without pesticides to working with women seamstresses and empowering a girl boss mentality. It is time for the fashion industry to go through an evolution … one Little Blak Dress at a time.
She was inspired to create a timeless piece as part of her first collection, and what could be more timeless than the Little Black Dress? It was this LBD that became the cornerstone of her business. She only designed black dresses during her first year in business.
As part of the graphic design for The New Blak, the “a” letter is a trapezoid, intended to resemble a skirt or the symbol for girl.
By November of 2015, she had opened up The New Blak boutique on Frankfort Avenue in a space that she shared with Art & Soul Beads. A few months after that, in April 2016, The New Blak went on the road, literally, in a shuttle bus affectionately named “Betty.” This mobile boutique traveled all over Louisville and the surrounding area. Basically, anywhere there was a crowd of people and food trucks, Betty would be there as well. Amanda noticed that Betty did four times the business that the boutique did, so in May of 2016, she left the brick-and-mortar boutique and now sells her wares online and in the mobile boutique (Betty), and she has a small inventory at 5-0-Lou on Frankfort Avenue.
Amanda expanded her repertoire that first year to include dresses, tops, outerwear and accessories. Now she is working on releasing the Spring collection for 2017 in February, so the inventory from the Fall 2016 collection is low. The Charlotte and Sophia dresses are on sale now, and it takes about two weeks to turn them around since each dress is made to order. Be sure to stay tuned for the latest collection, where she will introduce more colors into the fashion vocabulary besides black. She will also be introducing more bamboo-based fabric into this latest collection. For now, though, let’s take a look at the basics of her collection:
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