I’m constantly on the hunt for distinct ethical lines, especially in the capsule wardrobe marketplace, where it seems like a new collection launches every day on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Enter Two Fold clothing: an indie, woman-owned newcomer that’s defying the notion that utilitarian is boring.
I caught up with the founder, Morgan Wagstaff, about why she started her line, what sets it apart and the slow fashion movement in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This interview has been abridged from the original version. It was kindly sponsored by Two Fold. Your support of Two Fold and The Peahen helps bring ethical fashion to the forefront of mainstream conversation and creates positive change.
I often tell my readers to challenge conventional fashion with the phrase “slow down my clothes.” You recently wrote a piece on Slow Fashion that discussed the same idea. What struck you about ethical fashion?
While I was in school, I had to keep up with the industry and trends. A buzzword I found in many of the articles we were assigned was “ethical fashion.” This quickly became a topic of conversation in our classes and it really peaked my interest. I was drawn to ethical fashion’s goal to be good to the environment and its people through intentional purchasing.
In my research, I stumbled upon minimalism and it changed my mindset about many things. I started reading The Minimalists blog. It has articles about living intentionally, writing and paring down belongings, in addition to their personal stories about minimalism. While most of their articles weren’t about fashion, I clung to the idea that I could simplify and be intentional in every area of my life.
Soon after I changed my habits and simplified my wardrobe, I started working on Two Fold, bringing these same values to the brand.
Do you have a background in fashion that helped you start your line?
I studied apparel design and merchandising at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Then, I worked in retail at J.Crew and Madewell for about 4 years. When I left retail, I began working for a large apparel company in their design department and have been there for about a year and a half.
It sounds like you made a brave jump from a secure company. What gave you the guts to go at it alone?
While working at the apparel company, I quickly realized I didn’t believe in their practices. For instance, they were working with factories overseas in Bangladesh, India, Hong Kong etc., that were overworking their employees for little to no pay and using fabrics that were detrimental to the environment, such as polyester, rayon, acrylic and nylon. This, along with my desire to do something I believed in, pushed me to start designing. Over time, I decided to get more serious about it and create an independent line.
Your first collection has a definitive point of view. Who are you designing for?
Two Fold is simple, utilitarian and works into anyone’s closet. I am designing for someone who wants to simplify their closet to their favorite pieces.
Two Fold is for women who are striving for long lasting, quality pieces and want to be more intentional about their purchases.
It seems like every time I come across a new capsule collection it’s rendered in black and white, but you use this beautiful dusty rose color that’s really refreshing. How did you choose it?
I feel the same way! There is so much on the market right now for minimalist wardrobes – basics, capsule collections, you name it. My collection is a rendition of those concepts, but I don’t think basics have to be boring. We don’t have to only buy neutrals (although I do love them!). We can still have fun with a well-curated wardrobe.
I just happened upon the dusty rose when I was looking for a raw silk to use in the collection (because it’s the dreamiest, most lush fabric ever) and it spoke to me. So I worked the collection around it, adding in a Marsh (greenish-brown) colored tencel and, of course, blacks and neutrals.
Sometimes a project tells you what it wants to be and it comes together so naturally that you just have to sit back and let it take shape. That’s what happened here. My first collection really has a life of it’s own.
The marketplace for minimal and capsule wardrobes is really strong right now. How do you stand out and stay relevant with the competition?
This is something that is a struggle right now. Because there are so many small design studios popping up, it can be difficult to be unique. Two Fold stands apart because every piece is handmade in my studio. Every garment sold is designed, tested, sewn and shipped under one roof. This lets me focus on quality, maintain a healthy work environment, pay fair wages and ensure each piece is created with care and attention to the finest detail.
I kept the silhouettes simple, taking away anything unnecessary. While it may be a basic tee, or simple pull on pant, I inspect every aspect of the garment. By adding topstitching to reinforce seams, shortening stitch lengths for added support and using handwoven fabric; I’ve taken the garment to the next level of quality and intriguing design.
Sustainability is a big part of the Two Fold DNA. That’s a tall order, especially as a one-woman shop. How have you managed this?
Sustainability is at the forefront of Two Fold’s values, but it certainly hasn’t been easy. I’ve spent lots of time preparing for the launch. I’ve been busy reaching out to fabric suppliers, label sources and packaging manufacturers to ensure each piece has as little harmful impact on our planet as possible.
This is why the process has taken as long as it has. But because I’m so passionate about ethical fashion, it’s been an enjoyable process. And I’ve learned so much along the way.
The textiles you’re using are organic, correct? Have they been hard to source?
Every fabric in this collection is either certified organic or has been manufactured in a more eco-friendly way than conventional standards require. For example, I use Tencel, a fast-growing renewable resource from wood pulp (usually eucalyptus trees) that doesn’t require replanting, pesticides or fertilizer. The fabric processing involves dissolving wood pulp with a non-toxic solvent. When finished, the solution is evaporated, thereby removing the water, and the remainder is reused in the next cycle. Pretty cool, right?! The other fibers I use are organic cotton and raw silk.
These fabrics are not readily available or easy to find. Sourcing wholesale fabrics alone is difficult, but finding eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics is exponentially more difficult. I found a few suppliers in the U.S. who are dedicated to sustainable practices and am happy with the fabrics I’ve found. It’s definitely been a tedious research process though.
Online you say your garments are made to order. What type of size ranges will you offer?
For now, I’m offering XS-XL in tops, dresses and pants. I hope to be able to expand this range as Two Fold grows. Also, the coat comes in S/M and L/XL because this design allows for more room depending on how tight or loose you want it to fit.
In addition to producing small-batch, sustainable clothing you also have a giving model. Can you tell me a little about the organization?
I am dedicated to giving 10% of Two Fold’s profits to a community in Kargoto, Kenya. My partner organization is 410 Bridge. They go into communities in the developing world, assess their needs and implement programs to bring them into economic stability. I’m working with their small business program to help a group of women with their knitting business. Right now, they are sustaining themselves by making scarves and the sweaters for their children’s school uniforms.
Two Fold is more than just another clothing brand. It stands for sustainability and social consciousness.
When people think of garment manufacturing they assume it happens in NY or LA, but Charlotte, where you’re based, used to be another major garment contributor when the textile industry took off after the Civil War. The city became the cotton capital of the South but died down as U.S. manufacturing went offshore. Is it starting to thrive there again?
Yes. North and South Carolina used to be two of the largest apparel manufacturers in the U.S. after the war. There are still remnants of it in a few towns on the outskirts of Charlotte! At this time, it isn’t quite “thriving” yet, but I am seeing more of it than I’ve ever seen (in my short 23 year life). There are a few manufacturing facilities and pattern makers and designers. I hope it thrives once again, but it’s a long road ahead. This has been a big help to Two Fold. If I tried to start my brand even 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have access to the manufacturing resources that are here now (again).
My generation has grown up with instant gratification, so consumers aren’t as concerned with where and how their pieces are made. But this is starting to change, and it’s very apparent in Charlotte. But it’s still an uphill climb.
When I read your profile I couldn’t believe you were only 23 and starting a line! Kudos. How has your age impacted your outlook and your business?
Age is just a number. I’ve always stood by the mantra that you’re never too young to follow your dreams. I’m not saying it isn’t difficult doing this at such a young age without the wisdom of decades of experience, but anyone, whether you’re 18 or 85, can make something of themselves. Plus, I’m learning about myself and business along the way.
Also, being a millennial (and I roll my eyes as I type that) has definitely had an impact on both the brand and me. My generation is interested in change. We’re known for forging our own paths and, because of it, have quickly become a generation of entrepreneurs.
What’s been the most challenging part of starting Two Fold?
Something that I learned along the way was to put aside my desires and do things solely for my brand. I made a goal at the beginning of 2016 that I was going to launch within the year. I wanted so badly to launch Two Fold in November. But in the process of chasing my goal, I lost sight of the reason I was doing it.
Initially, I set out to bring beautiful, ethical clothes to women and to use my clothes as a catalyst for good. I’m not doing this to further my ego. And I had to learn this to re-center myself. So, I decided to postpone the launch. I decided to stop looking at things from my wants and desires and start looking at what’s best for the business, and for the fashion industry.
The best part: when and how can my readers buy the collection?
You can preorder the collection on my Kickstarter starting February 6. The campaign will be live for 30 days and after production, will be available on my website, www.twofoldclothing.com.