Nowadays, with the advent of social media and the internet, accessing haute couture is easier than ever. But ease of access doesn’t mean ethical.
One local option for sustainable, home-grown high fashion is Coral Marie, at the Coral Marie Studio Shop, 4367 OH-681 N, in Albany, Ohio.
Coral Wedel, founder and designer of Coral Marie, has a passion for clothing design that is more than just making garments. Wedel creates fashion that is ethical and planet-friendly.
Wedel is a native of Southeast Ohio. She started Coral Marie in 2011 as a way to keep a professional practice going.
“It was a solution to balancing my professional life, my creative life and my life as a parent,” she said. “It’s a framework to do what I love.”
The past few years have been full of tremendous growth for Coral Marie, Wedel said. Sustainability has always been a goal for her business, but it hasn’t been until recently that she’s seeing it be achieved.
“I have a sustainable vision that’s become more clear over the years,” Wedel said.
To Wedel, sustainability isn’t just a business mission. It’s about the big picture and how an individual’s actions affect the planet.
“[Sustainability] is imperative,” Wedel added. “It is a must. All businesses should be.”
Wedel recognizes that sustainability is talked about a lot. But she thinks it’s more than just a word or “catchphrase.” For her, it’s a way of life.
“It should just be that way,” Wedel said. “It’s my lifestyle. It’s how we should be, and how we should support people and the planet.”
One way Coral Marie is sustainable is in its participation in Rural Action’s Zero Waste Pledge Program, a program that encourages the use of reusable products, recycled products, and environmentally-friendly product disposal.
Coral Marie also uses textiles that can be composted or recycled.
Another part of being an ethical designer is giving back, Wedel said. Wedel donates 10% of her profits to local organizations. Wedel has donated to the Survivor Advocacy Program, My Sister’s Place, The Gathering Place and other local nonprofits.
Coral Marie’s fall and winter collection, “Residual Accumulation,” is currently being released.
The first half, “Residual,” came out Oct. 1. The second half, “Accumulation,” comes out Nov. 2. The collection is about collecting material things over time, Wedel said. The collection is personal for Wedel — but also something everyone can relate to — about how everyone creates residue.
“The collection is thinking about my own opportunities to build from my own interests and skills in my material bank, looking at patterns and the resources I have at hand,” Wedel said.
To Wedel, in a way, that is sustainability — the build-up of items, only to be repurposed.
Wedel thinks buying locally-made products is one way consumers can make sustainable choices.
“What I do is localized and honest,” Wedel said. “[When you don’t buy locally] you can have no vision of it. It’s easy to ignore environmental impact.”
Wedel is also a vendor for other sustainable artists and makers in the region. Junk Party Jewelry, a Cleveland-based jewelry maker, is one of them. Junk Party Jewelry makes waste into art, from discarded objects like computer cords, cables and wires.
“The backbone [of my mission] is how can I reuse things, how can I reduce waste,” Marseille Markham Collins, creator of Junk Party Jewelry, said. “The parts of my mission are to reduce waste and have fun with it.”
Markham Collins is from Southeast Ohio as well. She grew up in Athens, making her own jewelry at Beads & Things. The idea for Junk Party Jewelry came from a pair of earrings she made out of old computer cable her husband had discarded.
“I hope that (my art) can inspire other people about reducing waste and keep things out of landfills,” Markham Collins said.
Lisa Williams, an associate lecturer and program coordinator for the retail merchandising and fashion product development program, believes consumers should be conscious of where their discarded items go.
“Consumers can educate themselves on the social responsibility of buying,” Williams said.
A plus of buying sustainable garments is that sometimes they last beyond initial use and can be upcycled, even after donation. Otherwise, items just end up in a landfill.
People should also avoid purchasing clothing that will break or be thrown away quickly, Williams said.
“We should look at how we care for items, how to keep them and repair, and extend the life of items,” Williams said. “We can upcycle things and use them for something else.”
It isn’t always cheap or easy for consumers to make a sustainable choice. Clothing that is labeled “sustainable” often runs a bit more expensive than seasonal fashion from a retailer. Williams knows consumers have to be prepared for the cost increase of environmentally friendly choices, but believes they’re ultimately paying for better quality items.
Consumers can do their own research on companies they buy from.
“People can buy from transparent companies, look at retailer’s code of conduct, its vision and mission and where the clothing and materials are being sourced,” Williams said.