Find a way that your background and skillset offers a unique edge to address some specific part of the problem you identified — a lot of times I think it could just be an incremental or partial solution and you don’t have to aim to solve the entire problem yourself. For me, I knew that my background uniquely qualified me to create a sustainable and ethical fashion company from the ground up that would do things the right way — not just as an ancillary initiative. We’re not perfect, but we promise to be transparent and strive to do better each day.
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren DeCarli.
Lauren DeCarli is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Paneros Clothing. After designing in the wholesale fashion industry for 10 years, she saw firsthand how wasteful, polluting, and unsustainable the fashion industry truly is. Frustrated by the low quality, poor fit, and unsustainable and unethical practices of the fast fashion industry, she set out to create a better alternative. She started Paneros Clothing in 2019, with a mission to produce beautiful, slow fashion clothing designed to be worn not just for one season, but year after year.
Lauren graduated from FIDM with an AA in Fashion Design and a BS in Business Management. She lives in Los Angeles with her fiancé and dog and loves to spend time at the beach.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/ba82a638fa333c407af94fae8433395c
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
I grew up in East Northport, Long Island and was always interested in fashion and being on trend; I was even voted best dressed in my 8th grade class. I remember loving to play dress up and going into my mom’s closet to try on her jackets and silk slips and would dance around the house in them. Art was always encouraged in my house, whether it was doing crafts at home, going to summer camp at Hecksher Museum of Art, or taking majority art classes in school. I was lucky enough that my high school had an amazing art department and really valued the arts. I signed up for fashion design classes starting my sophomore year and also attended a summer program at FIT. I grew up in a very artistic family, with my dad having an architect background, my mom loving crafts, and my older brother also pursuing a career in the arts. Growing up, my brother only thrifted his clothes and would often mend them himself or make changes to them. Being around a creative atmosphere really nurtured my love for fashion and for art. My parents really gave both my brother and I the freedom to be who we wanted to be and to pursue what we loved.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I was a member of Students for 60,000, a club at my high school that tackles global and local humanitarian issues and works to aid the needy and homeless. With this organization, I traveled to Nicaragua as a freshman during my spring break to help build homes and schools, provide meals to students, and provide aid to the town of Chacraseca. Not only was this trip meant for us students and staff to provide aid, but it was to open our eyes and our minds about the world around us. On one of the days, we visited a landfill. I’ll never forget driving up to this massive hill of trash, getting out of the truck and stepping on years and years of garbage that would never go away. Seeing the local children and people digging through the trash is an image I cannot erase. I truly think this subconsciously is part of the reason why I created my brand. I was definitely a different teenager when I returned home after being away for 9 days and experiencing a completely different world. A world where people who had nothing were so happy with the little things in life; there were so many things I had taken for granted. Wanting to make a difference in the world never left me after that trip.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
There is so much consumption in the world today, and the pressure from brands to constantly buy more every single week is higher than ever. I founded Paneros to disrupt the fashion industry, to slow things down, to encourage conscious consumption, to encourage sustainable and ethical practices and to create a brand that was authentic and transparent. I believe the fashion industry as a whole promotes consumption at a level that is truly unsustainable and prices that promote cheap labor, poor quality, poor fit, and disposable clothing. At Paneros, we only design a few collections a year with each style ethically produced in small batches. We promote the use of smarter fibers, not using any fully synthetic materials, partnering with ethical manufacturers, promoting quality over quantity, limiting the pollution, and decreasing our waste.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
I think it’s a combination of my life experiences and also working in the industry. I always wanted to have my own brand, but also had a strong desire to make a difference in the world, and creative a positive change. After designing and working in the wholesale industry for so long, I definitely reached a point where I felt burnt out and felt that I needed to make a change not only for myself but to promote a more sustainable option for others.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
To create my ethical and responsible ready to wear collection, I traveled in the fall of 2019 to Indonesia to meet with some manufacturers and suppliers that I had previously worked with. On this trip I also traveled to Bali to meet with potential new manufacturing partners and found a new (well, ancient really) business model, called “home industry”, where the garment industry workers are able to complete their work at home or in a small workshop nearby. This allows them to easily take care of their families as they do not have to travel far outside of their village and can stay at home or close to home while still providing for their family. I really loved this concept and wanted to help the local Balinese artisans sustain this way of life and sustain their skillsets and craftsmanship. Traveling to Bali and experiencing the amazing culture that values keeping traditional hand craftsmanship alive was very inspiring and I knew I wanted to help sustain many of the traditional skills these artisans have, such as hand-knitting, hand beading, and hand crochet.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I believe that part of the slow fashion mission is to raise awareness about the stories that go in to creating the clothing we all wear. In that spirit, we feature the stories of the individual artisans in the Balinese workshops on our website. For example, Dadang is a part of a father-son knitting workshop who hand knits clothing using an old fashion machine with traditional techniques. He has been hand knitting using these techniques for over 20 years and is very proud that our company’s mission helps to keep the tradition alive. Plus, he has 2 kids, and he loves to spend time with them and the workshop model enables him to do that, which means a lot.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define “making a difference” as creating a positive change that effects not only yourself, but others around you as well as the planet and inspires others to do the same. For example, I believe that by creating a brand that promotes ethical manufacturing, smaller consumption, reducing pollution and waste, we are positively impacting the lives of our partners, our customers, and the planet. We work with manufacturers that pay fair living wages, that allow work to be done at home so that they don’t have to travel out of their village and can take care of their families and that don’t impose unrealistic and unsustainable deadlines. We use the leftover fabrics that would have otherwise gone to waste in a landfill or incinerated; we are using natural dyes which are friendly to the environment and also to our bodies. We also try to educate our followers and customers about the negative effects of the fashion industry and offer ways to help.I’ve heard from numerous customers that they have learned something new, that they are going to shop more consciously, and change some of their habits.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Recognize a specific tangible problem that you are passionate about changing. After working in the wholesale fashion industry for 10 years and learning and experiencing first hand how wasteful, polluting and unsustainable it can be, I knew I wanted to make an impact.
- Find a way that your background and skillset offers a unique edge to address some specific part of the problem you identified — a lot of times I think it could just be an incremental or partial solution and you don’t have to aim to solve the entire problem yourself. For me, I knew that my background uniquely qualified me to create a sustainable and ethical fashion company from the ground up that would do things the right way — not just as an ancillary initiative. We’re not perfect, but we promise to be transparent and strive to do better each day.
- Once you have identified a specific problem and your proposed solution, the next step would be to create a business plan and go to market strategy. This could be a simple write up, a small pitch book type framework, or any way you feel most comfortable. This holds true whether it is a for profit company like mine, or a non profit — every project needs a business plan. For me, I made a brand bible and mood book laying out what I wanted to create and how I wanted to go to market with my first product, which wound up being one-of-a-kind, upcycled unisex vintage Hawaiian shirts and bucket hats created in Los Angeles.
- I do think you should tell your idea to some of the people you respect and ideally that have some expertise in the field, and ask them what they think of your plan and if they know anyone else you should talk to. I think that having a sanity check from someone you trust could be very helpful early on, just in case there is something you missed. Perhaps, this process could even help you uncover a mentor, or at least think about something you hadn’t thought of before. For me, I kept working at my full time job for months while I was formalizing my business plan and sourcing materials and development work at night and weekends. I talked to my family as well as friends and contacts in the industry about what I was doing before I finally took the leap to pursue it full time.
- I recommend trying out your idea as soon as you have done steps 1–4! Once you have identified a problem, a solution, and created a plan and got some constructive feedback, go out and find a way to create a minimum viable product to test, or prototype, or design to market with. Don’t invest everything into this — the whole point is to have the minimum threshold to take to try with. For me, with my initial products I mentioned, I created a simple website on Shopify and bought some ads online and attended some in person events to try it out.
My video is here
What are the values that drive your work?
Authenticity, honesty, and compassion
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centered in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
Some tools I would suggest are to journal everyday, get your thoughts and feelings down- there’s something about writing them down and getting them out of your head that is really freeing. Something I need to be more consistent with is meditating; I noticed whenever I do meditate even for 10 minutes, my mind is clearer, more focused, and I have a sense of calm about myself throughout the day. You can easily loose sight of why you started something, so I recommend telling yourself everyday why you are doing what you’re doing, reminding yourself why you started, why you’re so passionate about it; I think it’s important to keep that daily reminder to yourself.
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
I would love to see a world where there is less judgment, and more compassion and inclusive love. In my ideal world, everyone does theIr part to take care of our planet and each other. There is clean air and clean drinking water for everyone, clean oceans without micro plastics and waste, and all companies are committed to a more sustainable planet and ethical practices not only for their products but for all of the people involved.
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
I would find a sustainable alternative to plastic. This includes plastic based fibers like polyester, nylon, acrylic as well as plastic based trims such as buttons. I would invest in research and engineering to develop this new sustainable material across a variety of use cases.
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
I would like to see more financial literacy taught from a young age. I believe people are empowered when they can budget for themselves which would help them overcome fear. I believe that when you are knowledgeable about finances and have a budget and plan in place, it will give you confidence and free you from any fear of having to rely on someone else or something else for money and support. I think finances can be a big stressor for people and learning early on in life how to manage your own finances could alleviate a lot of future stresses.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I think a lot of people say they focus on building wealth for their family and children, but there won’t be a world that those children will want to live in if we can’t as a society create the change that needs to happen for the world to sustain everyone peacefully.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with Emma Watson because she has taken a stand against fast fashion and greatly promotes and supports creating an ethical and environmentally friendly fashion industry. She could easily wear any designer or any brand, but she has made a choice to only support brands that share the same beliefs as her including ones with zero-waste factories, ethically sourced materials, and those who are committed to being cruelty free.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can sign up for our newsletter on our website at panerosclothing.com, follow us on Instagram @panerosclothing, connect with us on Facebook @PanerosClothing, twitter @panerosclothing, Pinterest: PanerosClothing, and tiktok: PanerosClothing
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!