Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Christy Dawn Baskauskas, a Los Angeles-based sustainable fashion designer. To produce her vintage-inspired women’s clothing line, Christy uses deadstock fabric — residual materials left over from major fashion houses. Instead of ending up in landfills, these fabrics are repurposed for her collection. Christy pays a premium for the most talented dressmakers in Los Angeles, all of whom receive a competitive wage, health benefits, and paid vacation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in Placerville, California, where little has changed in the past hundred years. The town is timeless, and that timeless, ethereal magic is what drew me to design vintage-inspired clothing. There is something honest about vintage, something that reminds me of home. It’s the dress you long for when you stumble upon that box of old photographs of your grandmother. The lines and fabric tell a story; there’s a history there that can’t be recreated with new pieces.
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that all of this clicked for me, and I realized the full of extent of the impact my hometown had on me. I worked as a model for many years, and in doing so, I got to peek behind the curtain of so many brands. It was a unique opportunity to learn firsthand why some brands were successful and some weren’t. I began to realize, through this experience, that there was no one making the dresses I really wanted to wear. I was getting all of this incredible knowledge about the fashion industry and suddenly it all fell into place — it was up to me to make those pieces!
In this way, modeling truly served as my fashion education, while my hometown is what drew me to design the vintage-inspired clothing I loved so much.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Our mission is always the same — to Honor Mother Earth in everything we do.
When deciding how to source our fabric, we were confronted by an alarming truth: 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution is caused by the fashion industry. Over 8000 toxic chemicals are used worldwide to turn raw materials into the textiles we all end up wearing. And to make matters worse, in America alone, we send over 11 million tons of textiles to landfills each year.
We were determined not to be a part of the problem. But how? Enter deadstock fabrics.
Deadstock fabrics are the leftover fabrics of other fashion houses. In general, larger brands who are manufacturing their own fabrics overorder by about 10%. Traditionally, brands hold on to this excess fabric for a few seasons, then send it to the landfills. We rescue these deadstock fabrics before they are thrown away, and give them new life as beautiful dresses.
Because we use deadstock, we rarely find large quantities of any one fabric. Small rolls mean small production runs. Often times, we make only one or two dresses in a specific fabric or print. It’s the perfect win/win. We get beautiful fabrics without polluting the planet, the landfills aren’t quite as packed, and you get a one-of-a-kind Christy Dawn dress that was handmade in Los Angeles.
But textile sustainability is only one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is human sustainability — making sure the people who create our dresses are taken care of, first and foremost. That’s why we pay a premium for the most talented seamstresses in Los Angeles — all of whom are paid a competitive wage and receive health benefits. We treat every member of our team like family — and as we grow, we intend to keep it that way.
More than anything, we’re hoping to influence the way people think about fashion. We’re hoping people consider Mother Earth before they buy another fast fashion dress. We’re hoping they see the same value in sustainability as we do.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Aside from our use of deadstock fabric and our devotion to our dressmakers, we also just launched our new initiative in regenerative cotton farming — it is the first step in our journey to becoming a Farm-to-Closet company! Together with a community of traditional farmers and craftspeople in southern India, we are working to nourish a depleted plot of land back to health, sowing and cultivating our own cotton with regenerative techniques that honor Mother Earth.
This is a time of great change. Humanity is awakening to our connection with Mother Nature. As humans, we have lived long enough at odds with the rest of the planet, pretending to be something separate and distinct from Nature. This separation has allowed us to exploit Mother Earth — taking, taking, taking without giving anything back in return. And in doing so, we’ve robbed ourselves of the innate harmony that Mother Earth offers. Ease and beauty were forfeited for profits — but with those profits have come struggle, war, lack, fear, disharmony and the ecological disaster of climate change.
So, how do we change? How do we live in harmony with our brothers and sisters, and with our plant and animal friends? It starts with our relationship to the soil. It is the soil — the Earth herself — that has the capacity to heal us. The soil can absorb our traumas and transform them into something beautiful. Through regenerative practices, the soil has the capacity to draw down billions of tons of carbon, the very same element that is considered a greenhouse gas when released into the air via fire. When respected properly, the soil can serve as a sponge, soaking up and storing thousands of gallons of rainwater, reforesting lands that were previously the victims of desertification.
For the soil to work in our favor, we have to work in her favor. It requires a reciprocal relationship, known to farmers as regenerative agriculture, which draws on traditional, Indigenous methods of relating to the Earth. Climate change scientists are beginning to call out regenerative farming as the only thing that will possibly reverse climate change, and we want to be at the forefront of this ecological revelation. We have to heal the earth. She’s the only one we have.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
We believe in doing the right thing, and we also believe that doing the right thing will lead to profitability in the long term. It might be a slower approach, but now more than ever, consumers are conscious and educated. They’re voting with their dollar, and they’re choosing sustainability over the cheaper, easier solution. We’re confident things will continue to shift in a way that favors companies doing the right thing.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
There is so much! But the great thing about this is you can make small changes, and those small changes will lead to big change eventually!
– Get your kids out in nature. Hike, swim in rivers, introduce them to the ocean — if they have a solid understanding of the beauty in nature, they will be more invested in protecting nature’s bounty!
– Teach them how to take care of a plant. This is in line with understanding nature and what she needs! We bought our sons avocado trees for Christmas, and it’s so fun helping them water and care for their new “babies.”
– Compost with your kids! It’s so easy to set up a super simple compost system at home. Our kids get really excited about throwing apple cores in the compost bin!
– Encourage a deep respect for food. Grow your own food, even if it’s something very easy, like lettuce or a tomato plant or herbs. Visit a farm. And at every meal, acknowledge in gratitude the Earth, the rain, the ancestors who carried those seeds. It’s so important to acknowledge where our food comes from, and the journey it’s taken to reach our plates.
– Be the change. Lead by example! Kids are sponges and they pick up on everything (River will bury dead insects in the soil and say a little prayer!).
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
– Just start! You’ll make a lot of mistakes, and each mistake is an opportunity to learn.
– There’s no “there,” there’s no arrival point. It’s an ever-winding road — so don’t anchor your happiness to a specific goal, be it a financial figure or otherwise.
– The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.
– The people on your team are everything ❤
– Sometimes I wish I hadn’t used my own name for my company, haha 😉
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband, Aras, founded Christy Dawn with me, and he has taken on the bulk of the administrative side of the company. Having him work behind the scenes has really given me the freedom to focus on the creative parts of the business.
Early on, we recognized the importance of finding the right production partner, and that’s where
Pedro, the head of our production and factory side of things, comes into play. I have immense gratitude knowing he watches over every step of the production. He cares as much about the quality of pieces as we do, and he ensures that every Christy Dawn piece is made slowly, with great care and attention to detail.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d really just want to inspire people to deepen their relationship to Mother Earth, in whatever way feels authentic to them.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Right here. Right now. You’re free.” We have the power to create the life we want to live, and when we tap into that deep truth, life becomes easier, more joyful, and more expansive — and the possibilities to create are endless. ❤
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
We’re very active on our Instagram — @christydawn!