HFS Collective is a Made In LA brand that we at Remake discovered in LA’s heartbeat of an ethical fashion shop, Galerie.LA. Loving the materials they use and styles they bring to our closets and our lives, we simply had to go behind the brand that’s helping women free themselves of baggage.
Using hands-free design from sustainable materials and in factories that treat their workers well, mother-and-daughter duo Rachel and Debra Denniston bring us a new and everlasting accessory that frees our space, and ensures that the fashion we rock is conflict free. We sat down with Rachel and talked about being a sustainable fashion entrepreneur, how she winds down, and what’s ahead for the fashion cycle.
Tell me more about HFS Collective. What inspired you to start your own label?
HFS Collective was born out of our own personal need for a stylish fanny pack out there on the market. My business partner (and mom), Debra, first fell in love with the fanny pack when my sister and I were in diapers. She loved them so much she wore them everywhere.
The freedom was so addictive she couldn’t stop wearing them–the only problem was that the fanny packs available then weren’t the cutest.
In fact, they were so unattractive my sister and I asked our mom to leave them at home when she picked us up from school. She eventually stopped wearing them and allowed herself to wear big, heavy bags again. Many years and trips to the chiropractor later, she realized she wasn’t going to let big bags wear her out and finally decided to re-design the fanny pack. I joined her and together we’ve created stylish fanny packs that we actually want to wear.
As a brand, we’ve always led with this mission of liberating women from not only physical baggage, but emotional baggage–we give 2% of the purchase price of every bag to women’s organizations in the U.S. We’ve donated to shelters for victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, help funded the first ever national girls’ chess tournament, as well as organizations that help change the perception of women in the media.
What would you describe your brand’s aesthetic and personal design style as?
Our aesthetic is clean and classically minimal yet grounded.
What were you doing before you started HFS?
My background is in Art History and museum studies. Debra was a fine artist and made these immensely gorgeous, larger than life paintings. She also has her law degree which proves helpful from time to time.
When did you first become interested in sustainability?
We first became interested in sustainability once we started investigating what materials to use. We were vegetarian at the time we started our business and using leather wasn’t feasible for us, so we looked at vegan leathers and then educated ourselves on what types were sustainable and which were not. Since then, we have been doing our best to continue to learn, explore and choose only the most sustainable and responsible materials currently on the market, including Pinatex (made from the waste of the pineapple industry), eco-suedes made from entirely recycled plastic bottles and/or recycled polyester fibers, and natural fibers like cork, organic cotton, and hemp.
What has your journey been like as a designer – from both an aesthetic and social responsibility standpoint?
As our knowledge concerning the environmental impact of the fashion industry grew, so did our responsibility. Now, instead of creating new styles for every season, as is customary in the industry, we create classic styles that can be worn season to season and year to year. We also allow the sustainability of our textiles to inform our designs and seek to keep progressing toward a totally sustainable bag line.
Can you describe your daily routine? What’s a typical day for you like?
Each day is different and that’s what makes doing what we do so exciting! It’s usually some mix of meetings, researching new fabrics, playing with designs, testing out prototypes, exploring new collaborations, re-stocking our wholesale accounts, running over to our sewing contractors to check on production, preparing for pop-ups, as well as attending fashion or educational events.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Letting your authentic voice carry through your business is the best thing you could ever do for it.
Do you feel like marketing yourself as sustainable has helped or hindered you?
A little of both. Marketing ourselves as a sustainable company has of course benefited us, because I think it’s the future. However, we also have the added responsibility of educating consumers as well.
With everyone’s addiction to fast fashion, it has been a bit of a challenge for people to change and rethink their habits.
It is still much harder to find beautiful, sustainable clothing and accessories at a reasonable price and people sometimes just give up, but at least they are starting to care more about where their clothes come from, how they’re made, who made them..etc. Now, the supply chain has to match the interest.
What are your thoughts on today’s fashion cycle?
It needs to slow down a whole lot. We are making too many things too fast. The average consumer buys 60% more garments than they did in 2000 but keeps each one for half as long. Most of this excess ends up in landfills, not thrift stores. Our planet can’t continue to sustain the level of waste created by the fast fashion industry.
How do you believe the fast fashion industry can begin to fix itself?
They need to stop producing so many things–having so many seasons. We need to go back to making quality products designed to last for years, not weeks. This is one of the reasons we decided to stop making seasonal bags and only make classics that can be worn for many years, rather than a few months.
How can brands manage their waste?
We take the time to carefully cut the our fabric by hand rather than by machine to reduce textile waste. It’s like a puzzle, trying to cut the patterns on the fabric to minimize scrap. Additionally, we produce our bags in small quantities which gives us flexibility if something doesn’t sell as well as we’d hoped. Instead of continuing to waste materials we can use those fabrics for another design in the future.
What brands do you look up to?
We try not to look at anyone else although Eileen Fisher has been a real pioneer in terms of sustainability.
What advice do you have for other designers interested in sustainability?
Do your research on fabrics. “Deadstock” is sometimes a cheap cop out.
And now for some fun stuff. If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
An artist living in a hippie colony in New Mexico.
What are some of your hobbies/things you do for fun?
Yoga, hikes with my dog Freddy, flea markets, travel and getting inspiration from art books, museums, galleries..etc.
What is something nobody knows about you?
I unwind best while watching period drama t.v. shows with English subtitles. Thanks, Netflix.
Who would you love to see in your brand?
Where do you like to shop?
Galerie LA, OZMA of California, Backbeat Rags, Par en Par, Susi Studio and anywhere that sells vintage.
What is your most favorite thing to wear?
My mom’s black jumpsuit from OZMA of California.
How do you wear your values?
I love supporting small brands–especially ones that invest in sustainable materials and responsible manufacturing. I do this because I know what it feels like to be one! I know how much thought and love and intention we put into our products and how much we appreciate each and every order we receive and I’m sure other small brands feel the same way.
Love HFS As much as we do? Head to their shop and use the code “remake” for 20% off!
Photos: HFS Collective