Fashion with Heart: Q&A with Fair Trade Fashion Designer, Liz Alig

Liz Alig, with some of the women she employs
I am so excited to be able to catch up with Liz and her fair trade fashion line Liz Alig!

We carry her line at Change Boutique, and love her brand! Everything is so unique and carefully crafted using recycled materials or hand woven materials. Read more from our interview:

How did you start Liz Alig? Was it a work trip or vacationing in other countries and seeing the way the locals lived?

Liz Alig: I started Liz Alig just as a very small collection of dresses I made one Summer – to see if it was possible to make a whole collection out of recycled materials.  Then after a local store sold out of them and wanted more – I approached a small not for profit in Honduras I had interned for about producing 100 dresses for me.  Slowly, it has grown from there.

Do you have a background in Fashion Design or Social work?

Liz Alig: I have a background in fashion design.

What was the hardest part of starting Liz Alig? (ex. sourcing vendors who could supply recycled fabric? Securing labor? Importing?)

Liz Alig: I have a background in design and have had to learn everything about owning a business along the way – so that has been a lot of fun and a huge challenge.  I would say that the hardest challenge though about this is being in the middle between fair trade groups and high end boutiques.  These are two completely different worlds and I find myself in the middle a lot!  Things like quality control – the small little group who has never left their village that has no electricity or running water does not understand the kind of quality expected by a high end store in the States.  Also, the stores appreciate the story of the clothing, but it can be difficult if they don’t understand the difference between handmade and factory made clothing.  It can be difficult to help these groups to meet in the middle and understand the challenges of both.  It is a huge learning curb for both ends and it is sometimes overwhelming to be in the middle.

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What are your design inspirations?

Liz Alig: I find design inspiration everywhere.  I am currently in Northern Michigan and am getting a lot of inspiration for next Fall – I also get inspiration from traveling in colorful countries like India and Africa.

How do you find ethical and fair trade producers for your line?

Liz Alig: It is a pretty small network of ethical producers of clothing, so after being in it for a few years – I have heard of a lot of different groups.  I try to focus on groups that are not only producing ethical clothing, but are also using that to make a difference in their community and in the lives of their employees.  A lot of the organizations we work with use the profits to give technical training to women who otherwise do not have a lot of help finding a job outside of their homes.

Liz Alig has chosen to follow a few standards as outlined by global fair trade organizations.

How do you ensure that the production is ethical and fairly made?

Liz Alig: Most of the places I work with – I have a friend who either started it or works closely with them – so before we even think about a new partner we have a pretty good relationship with them.  Then, it is super helpful to visit them before we start the production to not only see how they are producing stuff, but to see what fabrics and equipment they have to work with.  One reason we use a lot of recycled and hand-woven fabric in the first place is to ensure the ethics of the clothing.  Each country has textiles, or recycled materials, that we know we can source from that country in an ethical way.

How big is your team/company at Liz Alig?

Liz Alig: Liz Alig is still pretty small – we have about 10 brand reps all over the country.  Myself and a part time wholesale manager.  I also have a whole lot of really great volunteers.

Any suggestions/advice for young designers who want to do their own fair trade fashion line?

Liz Alig:  Honestly, it is really hard!  As I said before you are kind of in the middle between two groups who don’t really understand each other.  I would say it is important to understand it takes time – my rule is it will take about five years for a group to be at a place to produce large orders at a good quality.

What are some fair trade ethical brands that you love that we should also check out?

Liz Alig: I really love Ace and Jig

Love her line?

You can order direct from her website or stop in at Change Boutique <3

 

Liz Truong

Liz Truong

A newbie to Madison, Liz graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science in Apparel/Fashion Design and has worked extensively in the greater New York and Philadelphia fashion industry in product development and technical design at brands such as Elie Tahari, Donna Karan, and Marchesa. Currently, she facilitates the collaborative projects at Change Boutique, a Fair Trade women’s clothier with the UW Textile & Fashion design students. In her spare time, she also is a massage therapist, novice knitter, dog mommy to her adorable chi-weenie and rat terrier and avid consumer of fine chocolates, cheeses and apple fritters.
Liz Truong

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