I just made a cross country move from Florida to Austin, Texas! I uprooted my life to give The Peahen a better place to grow in a city that’s become a hotbed for creativity and innovation.
How do I explain the Austin vibe to you? It feels like a cop out to compare it to Brooklyn because cities are a really nuanced thing. But in the sake of simplification, it makes for a valid metaphor. So here it goes: Austin is like Brooklyn circa 2001 – diverse, progressive, and on the cusp of an economic boom – but subtract the ‘artisanal everything’ and add the great outdoors.
Okay, here’s the part where I tell you scroll down to the bottom of this post if you’re looking for my list of Austin fashion brands. If you’re with me for the long haul, I’ll tell you what makes Austin fashion unique and how it’s contributing to the ethical fashion movement.
Why I Moved to Austin
This city has an in-your-face green culture that embraces ideas like conscious shopping, minimal living, and sustainable manufacturing. When I talk about The Peahen here and explain how I’m trying to make ethical fashion mainstream – the message really resonates. Austinites are curious and they channel their passions into action. Are you catching on that I love it here already?
The bottom line: my move means big things for you as a reader. I’m going to connect with homegrown brands and designers, learn about their manufacturing processes, and – most importantly – I’ll show them to you first. In addition to my guides, interviews, and opinions, I’m going to cover the Austin fashion beat [muscial pun intended].
I also moved here to begin consulting part-time for The Peahen. So if you’re an Austin fashion brand, publication, or simply a shopper who wants to be more conscious – I can help!
Here’s what I offer:
Freelance writing & marketing for ethical brands
Freelance ethical styling
Advocacy for sustainable and fair fashion practices
A local brand platform for global recognition
There are a few reasons why I compared Austin to Brooklyn. Tech is booming here, entrepreneur-led business run the show, and counterculture is the norm; but it’s the distincions that excite me most because they influence fashion. Think of it like making the perfect taco. First, you need authentic roots: a traditional masa tortilla with Mexican heritage. Then, you need the special sauce: a vegan cashew mole seems to be a thing here.
It’s this blend of ‘authentic meets experimental’ culture that makes Austin amicable to ethical fashion. Sure, Brooklyn has its established manufacturing warehouses and large-scale incubators, but there are a few things that set Austin apart:
Proximity to handcraft and artisan tradition
Mexican tradition runs deep here, and it shows up in much more than the tacos. There is stunning craftsmanship preserved in Austin’s backyard and the city seems to support artisan production through retail channels. Most of the design comes from Oaxaca and Mexico State where artisans use backstrap and foot pedal looms to produce textiles in time-preserved patterns.
I’m excited to learn more about artisan production being so close to it, especially how it can be applied to modern, slow fashion.
Access to venture capital
The spillover from the Silicon Valley tech sector into Austin is a real thing, and with it came venture investors. The difference, or so it seems, is that Austin is a more approachable place to start a business than the Valley. I’m sure it still requires serious hustle, but maybe it’s more accessible and amicable here? I need to learn more about the culture before I can say more, but my hope is that this means more capital to support ethical fashion.
Friendly tech culture
This is similar to the point above. Every other article I read lately is about the intersections of fashion + tech. I think it can only help having tech here to push brands to innovate and compete. It doesn’t have the funding that its counterparts in LA or NY do, but it’s burgeoning nonetheless.
Ethical Fashion in Austin
I’ve been here for two weeks and discovered a few standout brands that I can give my stamp of approval. They fall predominately into three camps – minimalist, artisan, and hip. Good news: they’re all shapable online!
Well-made classics designed in Austin and manufactured in Dallas and New Orleans. Buy online or at multiple stockists nationwide.
A little brand that does it all – artisan production, made in the USA, plant dyed, seasonless. Textiles are natural – although not vegan – and two capsule collections are produced in limited runs per year.
A multi-range brand with a penchant for alleviating poverty. They’re doing it by partnering with artisan women in developing nations to create modern interpretations of their designs. My favorite thing about R+L are their artisan profiles that tell you a little bit about who made your item.
A brand that brings the craft traditions of Mexico to life and helps to empower artisans. I love that their price points are accessable too.
If you’re okay with leather, Teysha will custom-make you boots or flats by way of its mercadito in Guatemala. They support supports direct to consumer sales from local artisans.
Small, made-to-order shop spearheaded by local creative and go-getter Ashlee Pryor. Here’s the best part: she put a hiatus on sales to focus on developing her new line, which launches in September. This is exactly they type of approach I’m talking about when I advocate #SlowDownMyClothes.
Go here for ethical styles with an edge. They source adhering to fair trade principles and focus on production in Tanzania. This is also the only brand I’ve found with ethical menswear.
All photos in this post were sourced from the brands’ websites or social media accounts. Feature image is Rave + Lily’s new flagship store.
See an ethical brand I missed? This list is continually evolving so send me suggestions and help me get acclimated to Austin!