12/12/2018

Inspiring Women x Miranda Bennett

As the year comes to a close it seemed fitting to share my last interview for 2018 with sustainable fashion designer Miranda Bennett. December has always been a month where I like to step up my gratitude by celebrating and engaging in the spirit of giving. One of my favorite ways to do that is by supporting small, women owned businesses that actively participate in making our environment and communities better.

When I was first introduced to the concept of naturally dyed clothing it made so much sense to me. In the wellness space there is a great deal of talk about what we put into our bodies with the foods that we eat as well as the body care/make up products that we use. What hasn’t become as mainstream is the concept that what we put on our bodies, that the clothing we wear matters too and in many cases has even farther reaching implications for the health of our planet.

Thankfully, Miranda Bennett and her women run creative studio based in Austin, Texas are leading the way in making beautiful, modern, pieces that make you feel good from the inside out. Every time I wear one of her dresses or tops I feel a sense of ease and grace. I also feel like I am connected to something so much larger than myself as her clothing is made in partnership with several different organizations who implement Zero Waste initiatives, employ refugees with fair wages and are rooted in local permaculture. When you shop with Miranda Bennett you support an entire chain of sustainability and look effortlessly chic at the same time. As a new mom who doesn’t have lots of time to get ready, I love being able to put on one of her dresses with a sweater or coat and head out the door quickly!

I had the pleasure of having tea with Miranda a couple of years ago in Los Angeles and I was thrilled that she took the time to share some of what inspires her, working with the non-profit Open Arms, how she gets unstuck, and what it is like running an ethical, sustainable business. And, big news, if you’re in or near Austin, she just opened her first brick and mortar location and it looks incredible! Be sure to follow along on Instagram too. Oh and one last thing for all my mamas out there, her nursing dresses are everything. Putting it on my wish list for 2019, it’s going to be perfect for traveling with babe in tow x

I read in your Garmentory interview that you have been sewing since the age of 14, why were you so drawn to making your own clothes?
It honestly stemmed from a lot of factors. I remember being on my own a lot as a kid, and
from an early age I sought allies in my clothing. I would name individual garments and
change several times a day, partly to assuage loneliness, to create and define a space for
myself, or to support a strung together narrative of these garments as actors in my day.

Once I was a teen, I think there was still that element of companionship, coupled with a real
need for an outlet, a form of self expression, and the practical reality that there wasn’t the
money to purchase a whole lot of new clothes, or much access to clothing that I related to.

How do aesthetics influence your life and work?
Honestly, this is the area in my life and my work where I am OCD to the max. I am so
sensitive to aesthetics, and always have been, but didn’t have the language for that impulse
until fairly recently. It’s taken a lot for me to feel valid in this need, to not minimize it in
favor of more practical decision making. What I like about where I find myself now is that it
has led to the creation of this larger entity that others can benefit from, whether it’s my team
working in an environment that feels good, or the women purchasing MBS clothing that
makes them feel good, presenting our world in all manners of visual content, or the just-so
layout that defines our online shopping experience.

What do you love most about working with sustainable fabrics and running a mindful, ethical business?
The amount of meaning in the everyday.

I had hit a wall working in a traditional format within fashion. In my first clothing line,
after I had gotten through each of those first establishing steps and challenges, watched the
idea become a tangible reality, I found myself wondering, what now? I started to feel a
spiritual emptiness. I knew creating a product – designing it, out sourcing the production of
it, marketing it and selling it, with the depth of the process ending there, was not enough for
me anymore. I needed more, I needed to feel that the work was accomplishing something
greater than the singular item of clothing.

In the beginning of this project, the use of natural dyes and bringing my hands back to the
process were the initial nourishment. As the studio has grown and begun to hit its stride, we
have been able to move through each of our processes in a more systematic way to try and dig
deeper. Now, we are in a position to try to cultivate the most impact with each choice that we
make. From our natural dye practice, to our manufacturing partners, to the sourcing of our
dyes – now finding as many as possible that are by-products of other industries or cultivating
our own dye-stuff through transparent and empowering partnerships, composting our
studio waste, our pre & post recycled packaging, to circularity in materials – whether that be
creating new items with the remnants from the production process, taking back discarded
garments from our customers through our rebate program, or recycling and donating our
remaining textile waste – we are constantly seeking new layers that deepen the reach or our
process and products.

I love that Miranda Bennett Studio is run by women, was this an intentional choice or did it happen organically?
It happened quite organically. Being surrounded by women is natural for me, I grew up
primarily with my mom and two older sisters. My undergraduate and professional
experiences were equally steeped in feminine energy. It is incredibly fulfilling to create a
space for women to work, connect and thrive. That being said, we welcome men to work with
us at the studio.

How did you get involved with Open Arms, the Austin non-profit that seeks to create fair wage employment for recent refugees to the USA?
We had been working exclusively with an independent contractor named Amy who is a long
term refugee to Austin from Vietnam, but her workload was at capacity. We were looking for
additional production help as our demand grew, when we discovered Open Arms. It felt like
the biggest gift. Knowing that we stand with their mission as an organization has also been
wonderful, because we can approach our relationship with the understanding that we are
committed to working with them for years to come. It has allowed us to be able to grow with
them in a symbiotic way. The great thing is that we have also been able continue to work
with Amy, who now manages all our Zero Waste production initiatives.

Open Arms has established a new agricultural initiative called New Leaf that we are
currently working on a pilot program with. They are cultivating a flower called Pericon that
has beautiful dye properties. My hope is that this can become an equally fruitful, long-term
endeavor.

Do you have any suggestions for women starting their own creative business?
Trust yourself, start where you are, ask for help, know that you belong, ask yourself what is
special or unique about what you have to offer and focus on that.

On tough days what keeps you motivated? How do you get unstuck?
I have a few strategies. One is to step away and unplug completely for 24 hours. I try to take
that time to be with my boyfriend, walk the dogs, be outside, eat good food, work in the
garden or nest in our home.

Or, on the other side, leaning in and digging in even deeper by naming then talking a
problem through with the women at the studio – this usually bears the fruit of collaborating
on solutions through rich dialogue and fresh perspectives.

What is your self care philosophy?
Remembering that what I need will not always be the same; sheet masks/serums/scrubs/exfoliating/slathering all the oils/stretching and moving; trying not to get entrenched in any habits; remembering to connect with and be grateful for my body through breathing, walking, running, movement and exercise; to allow for indulgences (as long as they do not weigh me down or encumber me).

Three books on your nightstand.
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (coming a little late to the party)
Many Moons, Modern Woman Press
Writing Down to the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

Something about you that will surprise us.
That the studio has grown slow and steady without any outside financial help. I have been
working since my mid-teens and on my own financially my entire adult life. It has been
important to me to create something within my own means, at my own pace, and without
being beholden to anyone else.

When are you the best version of yourself?
When I’ve had enough sleep, enough time outdoors and enough time to myself.

Who would you love to meet for tea?
My friend Pam who we lost almost 3 years ago to cancer. I would give anything to see her
and talk with her again. I think of things daily that I wish I could share with her, so we
would need a lot of tea.

What are you most grateful for?
My health. I think often of how lucky I am to have been able to move through my life in a
healthy body. I never want to take that for granted.

 

photos x Leah Muse Photography + Dagny Piasecki

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