Story by Rachel Schwartzmann in collaboration with Ava Darnell – Revisit Ava, Stephanie and Shonagh’s stories – Photos by Katie Jameson for The Style Line
“When we see something broken, we should try to fix
it,” Ava Darnell, ethical fashion designer remarked in our interview below, “I made the commitment from then on to only buy from ethical and sustainable companies and help encourage, educate, and equip others to do the same. I know my impact is small, but it’s a start.” Speaking of which, you may remember our Neighborhood Story featuring Ava at the start of this year, where she kindly gave us a tour of her studio space along with a few spots around town that inspire her work and life. With a focus on sustainability, small business and personal style we’ve amassed even more incredible stories like Ava’s (with huge thanks to our fabulous Austin contributor Katie Jameson) that really hone in on what it’s like for creative people to live in this emerging city. So with that same collaborative spirit and nearly a year later we were thrilled to reconnect with Ava who proposed bringing our community of Austin interviewees a little closer together.
Today we’re thrilled to unveil an Austin Ethical Fashion Guide featuring Ava along with our interviewees Stephanie Beard of esby and Shonagh Speirs of Being Apparel. Together they styled one another in looks featuring pieces from their respective brands against a new (but according to them an essential) Austin backdrop, Fresa’s, which features exclusive moments captured by Katie Jameson for The Style Line. Enjoy our initial stories with each of these talented makers, shop the pieces featured in this story and discover their thoughts on ethical fashion’s growing prominence in Austin and around the world.
My name is Ava Darnell
and I am the founder of Slumlove Sweater Company – an ethical clothing line based out of Austin, Texas. It’s so hard to separate myself from my profession, because it’s so much more than just a job to me. My career involves a community very dear to my heart and is a combination of two of my biggest passions – fashion and Africa! Aside from Slumlove, I love traveling and eating! Austin has SUCH a great food scene, it seems like a new restaurant is opening every week. And the backdrop for our shoot, Fresa’s, is one of my new favorites! Since it’s less than a mile from my house, my husband and I find ourselves here at least twice a week. They have the most amazing grilled vegetables, it’s pretty much all I order. As long as I’m with people I love, I could be anywhere, doing just about anything, and be insanely happy. Our community of friends, in Austin and all over the world, is one of the things I treasure most. Whether we’re just chilling in someone’s backyard or out at a fun event, being surrounded by dear friends is my favorite thing.
We touched on this in our initial story together but why is it important to you to champion the ethical design community in Austin and abroad?
Why was it important for you to put this guide together and to lead the charge in empowering your fellow community of Austin designers?
But with that, the “high-fashion” scene in Austin has hasn’t exploded. Everyone is willing to help out when someone needs a hand or help celebrate when something awesome happens. In addition to producing clothing for Slumlove, I also produce knitwear for a couple other ethical-fashion brands in Austin and want to see this number grow. Ultimately, my mission is to help provide a better life for our knitters living in Kenya, and the more companies I have behind me, the more good we can do. Community over competition is my motto.
“More designers are starting to emerge, and because the industry isn’t over-saturated yet, you have a chance to get to know each other.”
Hi, I’m Stephanie.
I moved to Austin 4 years ago by way of NYC. my husband and I were just dating at the time, and living in different states, so I basically followed him here and took a risk to follow my dream of starting my own collection. I always wanted to start my own line, and Austin seemed like the perfect place to take the leap. Nick and I now live in Southeast Austin and have two old dogs – a boston terrier and a beagle mix. Our condo is across from the boardwalk and we enjoy riding our bikes to happy hour. I work a lot, and lately have been traveling for work a lot, so my husband and I have been making a point to go out for dinner and drinks to relax.
Esby’s known for it’s simple silhouettes and neutral palettes. Being that the pieces are so timeless, we’re curious to know if seasons/timing play a role in your design process?
What is your advice for first-time Austin visitors?
As a designer what is your favorite element of designing for/dressing for the Fall?
“In the Fall we make a gorgeous, comfortable piece. It’s a busy time of year for making memories and I’m thrilled that esby gets to be a part of them.”
I am a mother, wife, sister,
daughter, friend, dreamer, optimist, artist, hippy at heart. I value the simple things in life, family, friends, nature and being outdoors. Travel and culture are also incredibly important to me as it keeps me motivated and inspired. I love Asia, Thailand in particular, the people are lovely and the culture is vibrant. I also love to explore the USA and have found that I love the desert. Integrity, kindness and respect are values that are important to me… and I strive for this in my business and personal life.
How have things been going since our initial chat and how would you say Austin has taken to the athleisure market since Being Apparel’s launch?
Being Apparel really prides itself on flexibility, fashion and an active lifestyle. How do you hope to see your customers engage with these ideas in a busy season like Fall?
“Diversity in terms of how we celebrate people is also fundamental to our brand. We want to celebrate all walks of life and celebrate personal achievements and strengths, not just appearances.”
[CLICK EACH THUMBNAIL IN THESE GALLERIES TO EXPAND IMAGE]
Shop The Edit:
“As always, I’m sticking to a very neutral color palette this Fall. As I’ve grown as a designer and woman, I’ve really honed in on what my true style is. Over the years, I’ve taken notice of the pieces I gravitate towards and tend to wear more regularly, and have built my wardrobe around those themes. Since I keep my colors consistent, I incorporate other elements into my clothing to provide some variety. I’m really into materials and textures this fall. Silk has been my go-to fabric for Fall pieces, like this beautiful silk dress I’m wearing from Esby Apparel! And the jacket from Being Apparel has such wonderful texture and shape, it takes the outfit in an unexpected direction. And what makes this look what it is is that every piece is ethically and sustainably made. Nothing expresses my style more than products that are making the world a better place. I love that I can show what I value through my clothing choices.” – Ava
Shop Ava’s Look: Esby Apparel Banks Kimono Dress $288, Being Apparel Kimono Sports Jacket $175
Shop Stephanie’s Look: Esby Alex Pant $228, Esby Ramona Knit Duster $365, Slumlove Sweater Company Knit Tank $49