Fashion

Starting a sustainable business: Big dreams vs reality. | A Guest Blog by Arielle Toelke of Four Rabbit

Hey, friends! Many of us have dreamed of starting our own business, and if you’re reading this blog, it’s quite likely that you’ve hoped that business would be sustainable, fairly made, eco-friendly, or at least made under some sort of ethical ideal.

But starting a sustainable business, while exciting and rewarding, can also be intimidating. Luckily, my friend Arielle from Four Rabbit is here to tell her story of starting her business, along with a bit of saje advice. Read on to find out more!


Let’s start with a little backstory…and how Four Rabbit came about. I have been a makeup artist for over a decade, and I still love it — and yes, I try to use organic and natural products when I can! As fulfilling as it is to work on a tv show, it can be at times, creatively limiting. I am an artist and the need to make and create is what gets me going every day.

I’m able to utilize my bits and pieces of downtime at work to be creative and take care of daily business. I never go anywhere without my sketchbook. I’m constantly “doodling” and working out ideas. Whether it’s a pattern, thematic ideas for artwork, or the functionality of a piece of clothing. This is where Four Rabbit started.

 

The “Staring at the Sun” multifunctional scarf, and Tsunami jacket.

At work, I was getting positive feedback on my drawings, so I thought, why not create something with them? This materialized into my first two multi-function scarves. Then I thought, how can I stand out and do something greater than just make scarves? I’ve always been into sustainability, so it was easy to imbue those sensibilities into my collection.

Here was the dream big vs reality part. I don’t have a fashion background, and figuring out where to get my designs printed was a huge challenge. I wanted EVERYTHING to begin with, eco/ organic everything, ethical production, minimal impact fabrication. After a bit of research, I had to scale back some of my expectations in order to manufacture within budget and time parameters.

I found a local digital p

rinting house. While I was able to use local ethical labor, and printing on cotton, my budget didn’t allow for organic cotton. I was however able to dye the entire collection by hand using natural and organic dyes with minimal water consumption and no harmful chemicals .

While my dreams are big I had to be realistic about getting my first products made. I believe doing the best we can to be more sustainable is ok. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Being conscious in both manufacturing and production is a huge step.

With each item made moving forward, more sustainable fabrication and construction will be used. For example, using zero-waste pattern techniques as used with our Tsunami Jacket. The dreaming gets bigger and making those dreams a reality becomes possible. From actual products to educating our buyers about the slow fashion movement, and the negative environmental impact fast fashion is creating.

Since starting Four Rabbit , I’ve learned and continue to learn about my own limitations, and how to balance a career and a small business.

– Arielle Toelke


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