Monday, September 25, 2017

interview with emma & mary from lady farmer

The lovely ladies, Mary and Emma, from Lady Farmer know a thing or two about farming and the necessity of comfortable, but ethically made clothing. Which is why they are launching their own clothing line! In their own words: "We strive to cultivate a community for those seeking independence from existing food and fashion systems that are harmful to the planet and its people. We offer functional, fashionable, sustainable clothing and products for the homesteading lifestyle, and we are a resource for the modern woman of all ages who yearns for a simpler way of life." Photos by Amber Breitenberg

What was the first experience that made you more aware of your clothing?  

(Mary) - After living out at the farm for a while and being outside a lot in various kinds of weather, I realized there were there was no clothing that fit my needs with any sense of style. The only options were work clothes (made to fit men) or athletic/yoga wear. I began to think about what I would wear if I could design my own.  I liked the idea of having something to put on in the morning for garden and animal chores that I’d also wear to go run errands, something besides jeans, t-shirts and exercise clothes. When Emma (living in Boston at the time) introduced me to the idea of sustainable clothing, I shared what I’d been thinking. We both immediately felt that something was there and Lady Farmer was born!  

(Emma) - To go way back, I honestly think it was the experience of moving out of my freshman year dorm at college. As anyone who has had the experience of moving out of dorm rooms would understand, it always ends up being SO MUCH MORE stuff than you think it is! That experience of having to touch each of those garments that I had lugged all the way to college and *never wore* made me think about my relationship with my clothes and with shopping. Each year of college, my trunk would dwindle. I finally began to connect the dots between my own relationship with my wardrobe and my wardrobe’s relationship with the world sometime after college. It was when I watched “The True Cost” documentary that many of these ideas were solidified for me as very real social and environmental problems that are literally sewn into the very fabric of our clothes. 

Often, it is discouraged to start a business with family members. What made you decide to work together as a mother/daughter team? 

(Mary) - I honestly didn’t even think about it. The idea was so compelling to both of us we just jumped right in. 

(Emma) - Didn’t even think about it. My mom and I have a pretty solid relationship and are always bouncing ideas off of each other (don’t get me wrong, we aren’t always in total agreement), but honestly it just seemed like something fun and natural. We have such different skillsets that it works mostly to our advantage. 

What areas of the business do each of you individually enjoy the most?  

(Mary) - I’m a writer, so I enjoy writing content for the website and blogs. I am also very hands-on with the farming, gardening, natural dyeing, food preserving, etc. We feel strongly that our brand represents not only sustainability in our product but in our efforts to create and model a more intentional lifestyle as well. That means that the way we live needs to be true to the values we uphold as a business. 

(Emma) - My favorite thing about the business is conveniently also my favorite thing in life: connecting with other like-minded folk. It’s so fun, natural, inspiring, and amazing that we can consider it "work"! We’ve cultivated some incredible friendships over the last year as a direct result of Lady Farmer and I know it is something we will continue to do as the business grows. The Lady Farmer community seemed like something far-off and made up when we talked about it at first, but it has really become it’s own thing. It’s pretty cool. 

What design elements make an ideal piece of clothing for each of you? 

(Mary) - Pockets, always pockets! Since I spend lots of time outside, I like some arm cover for sun and bug protection. I love a loose dress dress but I will wear leggings underneath because of ticks, poison ivy, etc. OR light, roomy pants. Breathable and soft fabrics such as linen, hemp and tencel are favorites. Since transitioning my own wardrobe over to organic and sustainable fabrics whenever possible, I have noticed that the clothing really does feel lovely against my skin and it just feels good to wear.

(Emma) - Pockets and one-pieces. By one-pieces, I mean anything that I don’t have to think about what to wear with it. Sundresses are my best friend, as are jumpers and rompers. They’re just easy, and usually cute so it looks like you’ve really put yourself together even if it was probably less work than picking out sweatpants and a t-shirt. 

Do you still live close to each other? Or will you be operation the company from different locations?

(Mary) - We live in the same house! But Emma is often in DC (a 45 minute drive away) at a shared workspace when there is a lot of internet work to do (we don’t get good service out at the farm) so we are often working from different locations.  

(Emma) - Living and working together for now! We’re based in DC because that’s where we live and where the farm is. I have a workspace in the city which makes it easy to connect with people there & the high-speed internet doesn’t hurt either! 

Can you describe the products you are creating and how they are different from what is currently available in the marketplace? 

(Mary) - Currently we have five pieces in our “Essential Collection” ready for manufacturing. These include 1) a tunic, 2) a short sleeve dress, 3) a sleeveless dress, 4) pants, and 5) overalls. All of our clothing is organic and sustainably sourced and will be manufactured in the U.S. using fair labor practices. What is unique about our line is the full transparency of the entire production process.  Anyone wearing Lady Farmer will know the whole story behind each and every garment, from seed to sewn to sold! 

(Emma) - While it is not yet quite mainstream, conscious fashion is wonderfully more common and popular these days. We are happy to share the stage with any and all conscious fashion brands since we have a shared mission of transforming the entire market, and that just can’t be done with one brand alone. What makes us different, however, is our angle as farmers - we see clothing as an agricultural product, just as we do our produce in the grocery store, and we link our clothes to all other necessities of life. We’ve entered a phase where we really care about the full life cycle of each and every product we use (especially those that we put on or in our bodies) since we’ve become acutely aware of the role we have played in the decline of our own and our planet’s health simply by what we’ve been buying the past few decades. 

What are your long-term goals for the company? 

(Mary) - In addition to continuing our apparel line, we hope to expand our production to include textiles made from fibers grown in our own agricultural community in Maryland. In addition to flax for linen, we hope to be cultivating hemp for fiber in the near future, as soon as the laws change! It’s been illegal to grow hemp in the US for several decades now, but that is beginning to change as many people  (including us!) are encouraging legislators to change the outdated laws and allow this fabulous renewable resource into the marketplace. 

(Emma) - Having our own fiber farm! And for me, I just want the company to be a big, expansive community of amazing Lady Farmers who all bring to the table their own gifts and power, and we have workshops, classes & retreats, we write books & we live as an example for all as to how to lead a more sustainable and fulfilling life. Way early on I envisioned all of my best friends involved in some aspect, and it’s amazing how that has already played out. Several of my good friends from college and many women from our community are just as much a part of Lady Farmer as we are because of the way they’ve stepped in and helped us get from point to point so far. It’s so gratifying. 

If you could work with one company or organization, who would that be?  

(Mary) - My number one top employer is Lady Farmer! I love the creativity and autonomy of having our own company. 

(Emma) - If you mean for Lady Farmer, what company we’d want to partner with, I would say Eileen Fisher or Patagonia. Those are the two big dogs that we really look up to and are huge corporations that are actually doing things right. If you mean personally, I would probably want to work for a publication or production company. Maybe one day that will be Lady Farmer Publication Co.! I love creating media content (writing, videos) to tell stories. 

As farmers, what is your favorite thing to grow? 

(Mary) - We have chickens and sheep and we grown lots of our own produce for our own purposes, so it’s hard to pick just one thing. We are, however, looking forward to growing hemp as soon as we can legally do so!

(Emma) - Flowers, for sure! I love arranging them. 

What exciting news do you have coming up that you would like to share with our readers?

(Mary) - Our Kickstarter Campaign goes live on September 28th! We encourage anyone who would like to support slow fashion and sustainable apparel to sign up for our mailing list so they can be there right when we go live! 

(Emma) - Yes, our Kickstarter campaign! We have a lot hinging on this since we’ve already invested so much in R&D and pre-production. We want to go ahead and make some things already so our Lady Farmers can know what we’re talking about! For the kickstarter campaigns to work, we need as many people as possible to know about us and to contribute as early as they can as soon as we launch so that we can gain traction and get attention from the wider Kickstarter community. We’ll have great rewards levels for those who contribute (it will act as a pre-order!) and you’ll be a part of something really important. 

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