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Behind The Scenes

Study Sustainability

Spend five minutes with Tara St James, the designer behind Study, and you quickly learn two things: She’s Canadian, and she cares deeply about making clothes that are good for the planet. Ok, maybe three: Those clothes have to be awesome-looking, too. Here’s a peek at some of the directives she’s adopted to deliver her brand of eco magic. —jessie pascoe An Indigo Handloom weaver. (Photo by Susan Bowlus.) “Study is made in NYC. If I can’t do it in NYC, then I will do it somewhere where there is a culture and history of doing that kind of production.” A dress for fall 2012 made of hand-woven cotton crafted by Indigo Handloom. “I found Indigo Handloom in India through Source4Style, a sourcing website for sustainable textiles that has been crucial to the development of my fall 2012 collection.” An alpaca sweater hand-knit in Peru paired with skirt made from Indigo Handloom cotton—both among Tara’s fall designs. “These knits for my fall 2012 collection are done by home-knitters in Peru. A friend of mine also works with these knitters, and she introduced me to them. The sustainable-design community is a lot more transparent than the traditional fashion community, and colleagues share good vendors in an effort to pool our resources and keep the small factories in business.” Tara’s very versatile four-way dress. “No-waste pattern-making is something I started doing with my first 2009 collection. The entire collection was done with zero waste, so it was all squares cut out of fabrics and then manipulated in a certain way. The first piece was really simple—I still produce that piece, called the four-way dress. Every time I give it out to stylists, they find a new way to put it on. People are a little apprehensive at first, but it has lasted five seasons. And I just keep on finding good fabrics for it.” To see what Tara made just for us, click here: As with everything the Study designer creates, our shibori-dyed tee is eco-cool.
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Meet Study

Eco-fashion has come along way since the days of hemp beanies and undyed gypsy skirts, and Tara St James is one designer helping vanquish such atrocities, focusing on sustainability minus the crunch. Originally a menswear designer with a tailoring obsession, Tara switched to women’s when she became the creative director of Covet, a line founded in 2004 to give that whole eco realm a lift. Five years later, Tara left to do her own thing with her label Study—a move that’s let her focus more on the ethical aspects of production by experimenting with no-waste patternmaking and by hunting down artisan-made fabrics. This search for super-cool and fair-trade materials has led Tara to work with silk workers in India and home knitters in Peru—pursuits that contributed to her Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award win in 2011. As if all this hasn’t keep her busy enough, Tara has found time to teach sportswear at Pratt and  to head up Study Hall, her aptly named intern design program. Oh, and to rock climb: “It gets my mind out of fashion!” she explains. —jessie pascoe Tara made a hand-dyed, organic cotton T-shirt just for us. Get on that!
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Dip Into Tara St James’s Shibori Dyeing Technique

No surprise here: Tara St James, one of sustainability’s coolest designers, is super into shibori, a time-tested Japanese dyeing style that’s been getting a lot of love in the fashion world lately. She rarely has the time to apply the technique, but for her Of a Kind edition, something extra-special was in order. Behold: a look at all the pleats and folds that go into Study’s exclusive tee. —jessie pascoe Now’s your chance to score Tara’s shibori-ed Of a Kind edition! Right this way… “The Of a Kind shirt is our classic T-shirt body. It is a classic, one-pocket, boxy T-shirt that we have done for a couple of seasons now, but this one we are hand-dying with a special process called shibori.” “There are hundreds and hundreds of different shibori techniques—the one I am doing is fairly simplistic and appropriate for this project. It is just a question of folding and pleating the garment a certain way before you dye it.” “Shibori is almost like a resist dye, where you are only dying part of the garment.” “When I was visiting Japan several years ago, I went into a vintage kimono shop and saw some of the indigo-dyed cotton kimonos with shibori dye patterns. They blew my mind!  I bought a how-to book and have been testing the technique ever since. “ “Because it’s a black dye, we are unable to use vegetable or plant dyes, as black is nearly impossible to achieve naturally. So we used a low-impact fiber-reactive dye.” “The technique is difficult to incorporate into the regular collection because it’s so labor-intensive, but I try when I can.” “The T-shirt is 100-percent cotton, and the dye has been set so the T-shirt can be machine-washed in cold water—with eco-friendly detergents, preferably.”
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