Due to the increasing use of fast fashion, Americans dumps 12.8 million tons of textiles in to our landfills annually, according to Daily Jstor. When fast fashion companies like H&M, Forever 21, and Zara produce and sell cheap clothing, it prevents small, local designers from making it in the fashion industry. With no way of competing with larger companies, small businesses that promote sustainably tend to shut down quickly. As a result, two Las Lomas allumnis, Valerie Friedman and Laila Amro, are seeking out a way to make clothes that are both sustainable and affordable through their clothing brand, Femina.
Femina redesigns second-hand clothing. While Amro alters pieces with a sewing machine, Friedman adds the embellishments. Friedman says, “Instead of simply reselling thrifted items, we give them a new life by sewing, embellishing, painting, and styling the item.” Their clothes are uniquely expressive–whether it be through a Hello Kitty patch on a pair of jeans, or changing the shape of an item entirely. “Our main message… is that fashion and expression can be sustainable,” Friedman says.
When asked about Femina’s design process, Friedman says, “We don’t really have a specific process to creating the pieces…Each item has its own path.” Not surprisingly, most of Femina’s pieces are put through trial and error. “It’s spending an hour pulling stitches out because you sewed the fur on too tight, or having to throw clips away because you used the wrong rhinestones,” she describes. When Friedman and Amro work on new pieces, they create vision boards, make photo albums, and visit fabric stores. Their shopping process is much of the same—tedious and slow. Friedman and Amro each visit dozens of thrift stores and contact local stores for new shipments and donations.
Despite the difficulties, Friedman encourages those who are interested in designing and selling their own clothing. “We have the privilege of being exposed to so many creative outlets through social media. Some of my favorites are Pinterest and Instagram,” she says. Friedman concludes, “Use people’s discouragement and hate as fuel to make something beautiful.”
In addition, Friedman and her partner hope that Femina (which means “woman” in Latin) empowers women to stand out. “I remember constantly being told that I was ‘overdressed’ or ‘tried too hard,’ and took it as an insult. I hope that my brand gives women enough confidence to take that statement as a compliment,” says Friedman.
Femina can be found on Instagram @feminaco and on Depop at feminaclothing. Femina is constantly producing pieces ranging from scrunchies, handbags, and dresses, all for under twenty-five dollars. In the future, Femina plans on releasing a line of custom-altered pantsuits, and skirt and blazer sets with fur and rhinestones.
“We started this business when we were taking seventeen units, two jobs, and a million other things on our plate,” says Friedman, who is currently attending DVC along with Amro in hopes of transferring to UC Berkeley. When Femina wasn’t selling, adding to their individual stress, the two co-partners were told to give up. She continues, “At our age, it’s hard to do something so long-term.” Regardless, “I guess the moral of the story is: don’t listen,” she says.