Austin Eye View: Stylish Brands That Focus on Sustainability
As savvy consumers pay more attention to the ecological impact of products, these Texas-based companies provide “greener” choices
By Britni Rachal
Photos by Brian Fitzsimmons
Elevé photos by Weston Carls
Three quarters of today’s consumers are adamant that companies do more to act sustainably. In fact, according to the 2021 Global Sustainability Study, 85% of consumers are choosing greener purchases. From makeup and skincare products that infuse antioxidants into the skin — to options for new and comfy, ethically made shoes — opportunities are growing for Austin and Texas-based companies to enhance business by providing healthier options for shoppers.
Controlling frizz, detangling curls and stimulating hair follicles to add shine to dull and limp hair is the passion of LaTashia Mitchell, who launched Something Natural Hair products in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Turning some unfortunate situations into something positive, Mitchell specializes in eight core products for black women with natural curly hair.
What is your inspiration for this organic hair care line?
“COVID-19 forced me to temporarily close Something Natural Hair. I was inspired to come up with a creative way to support my family and help my clients manage their natural hair when they were away from the salon. I decided to specifically create products that would be healthy for their hair and products that actually work.”
What are some of your favorite products and why?
“I would have to say I love them all, and as my hair grows so does my favorite products. At this moment my favorite products of choice are our Deep Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner along with the Moisturizer and the Defining Curl Foam. Something Natural Hair products smell amazing leaving my hair soft and my curls bouncy and curly. The Defining Curl Foam helps prevent frizzy hair giving me a light hold and helps to create curl definition when used together with the Moisturizer.”
What is your #1 tip for people looking to enhance their hair care?
“My #1 tip for people looking to enhance their hair care would be to first find out what your hair needs are and learn about the ingredients in the products you choose to use on your hair. Ask your hair care professional for help.”
Tell us about the services you developed during the height of the pandemic?
“One of our new added services is a steam treatment with Infrared lights that adds moisture to your hair, helping to penetrate the hair cuticles and strengthen the hair strands. Infrared lights can effectively enhance hair keratin activity, effectively reduce hair damage, improve the hair quality and enhance hair elasticity — making the hair moist and smooth.”
What are you most inspired by?
“I’m inspired by my daughter Kennedy and my clients. Kennedy has natural curly hair, and she is always finding new styles, trends and different ways to use our products. Servicing different clients from many places, I get to meet people who have different textures of hair and clients with different lifestyles. My clients help to keep me on my toes helping me learn more and more each day.”
What types of hair appointments are you currently offering?
“We offer curly haircuts, braids and braided styles, two strand twists, natural hair styles, loc retwists, wash and go’s, hair steaming treatments, blowouts for curly hair and natural hair textures.”
What types of results can people see by using your organic products?
“Our product’s results are AMAZING. Clients love their clean lightweight and shiny curls with a refreshing smell. Here in Texas, every client needs moisture in their hair, which our products have. Their hair is always left soft and clean with a natural shine.”
Do you currently have any giving back initiatives?
“I love to give back by choosing random children going back to school and giving them hair services at the salon.”
Fashion made from flowers is the inspiration of Soul Studio co-founder Melissa Hargus Pierce. Nature-inspired goods that are sustainable help meet the needs of the shop’s customers. Part of the secret to Soul Studio’s success is selecting organic sources to help create non-toxic dyes that leave less of an environmental footprint in clothing.
What sparked the idea for “fashion made from flowers?”
“We have always been interested in dyeing our own fabrics and discovered how terrible conventional dyes were for the environment. After playing around with a natural dye technique called eco-printing which is a steaming technique utilizing flowers/leaves, we fell in love with the results. The prints are often abstract and kaleidoscopic and always one of a kind. Another big piece of the puzzle is that we’re able to add an additional layer to our sustainability commitment by upcycling flowers (which have a huge carbon footprint) into our clothing designs. It’s a beautiful artform that promotes sustainability.”
How has your style been influenced over the years?
“I would say my style has stayed the same for the last decade but has been refined a bit as I’ve gotten older. I love unique prints, natural fibers and vibrant colors in sophisticated silhouettes and am drawn to details. My sense of style has always been very personal and I try not to pay too much attention to trends, which are apparent in Soul Studio’s designs.”
You also offer workshops and classes.
“Workshops are a huge part of our mission to educate the community about natural dyes. Through these fun and easygoing classes, we can share our love for the art of natural dye and the environmental impact of choosing these sustainable options over conventional dyes that pollute our waterways. We offer beginner friendly options to more advanced — including private options and one on one opportunities.”
We noticed your bridal collection. Can you tell us more about the inspiration surrounding that?
“The bridal collection was born from our bouquet preservation service. (We take the flowers from your wedding and dye a custom piece to wear or display in your home.) When I got married last year, I wanted to wear Soul Studio designs, and offering the bridal collection just made sense. Our clothing designs are all silk and feminine, so they make a great modern bridal option undyed (white), and the dyed dresses are perfect for the bridal party/guest looks.”
What are some suggestions for dye projects people might try to enhance a wardrobe?
“Upcycling stained/older pieces by dyeing them is an incredible way to work with the clothing you already have. The upcycling movement is a huge part of the sustainable fashion puzzle, and we love providing this service for our clients, but we also have a kit that people can purchase to dye their own pieces at home.”
How do you go about being “zero waste?”
“Our Zero Waste Program is one of my favorite initiatives at Soul Studio. We utilize every scrap of fabric in our designs to create unique pieces that don’t create textile waste. On average, 14 million tons of fabric are thrown out every year; our goal is not to not add to that problem.”
What are some upcoming products/projects you might have coming?
“We have quite a few exciting projects in the works. For the summer, we are co-producing a fashion show at Native Hostel on July 23rd called Surreal Summer, which will feature us and six other indie fashion lines. Additionally we just released some special summer designs and now we are working on our fall/winter collection.”
What is your favorite/product service?
“I’m really in love with our new dress, The Chloe Slip, which we dyed using an ice dyeing technique that combines frozen cubes of natural dyes (from roots, bark, bugs and other natural materials) with flowers. They’re a really beautiful silhouette, and the print is so vibrant.”
Do you currently have any giving back initiatives?
“Giving back is really important to us; we partner with different brands/non-profits for specific projects throughout the year, so our initiatives are always changing. During Covid, we hosted auctions to raise funds on Instagram for different organizations. Right now we are partnering with Tega Collective (a non-profit working to preserve Indigenous crafts) to donate 50% of our profits from a limited edition scarf we designed for Earth Day.”
Living freely and being ready for anything is the philosophy behind Monxi Garza’s SUAVS shoes. Simple and lightweight, SUAVS prioritizes a smart design that focuses on comfort and versatility.
Tell us what sparked your passion to create lightweight shoes that people can wear anywhere?
“I was working as a designer in Spain and found myself worried about painful, blistering, sweaty feet too often. I wanted a comfortable pair of shoes that were also stylish — that I could wear to work and then out to run errands or dinner with friends, while staying fresh and comfy all day, every day. While shopping around, I couldn’t find something that catered to everything I was looking for. I thought, if I need this shoe, others might need this shoe as well.”
We’d love to hear more about your plastic bottles initiative.
“SUAVS did not start off as a sustainable brand. However, I found myself becoming more careful about my choices in my personal life. I wanted the brand to reflect that. I felt responsible for the product we were putting out there and thought SUAVS wearers would also appreciate their shoes to be made sustainably. After years of research, we found that the most sustainable option was to reuse post-consumer plastics, in order to prevent these from ending up in landfills or our oceans.”
What else sets SUAVS apart?
“SUAVS’ major goal is to create shoes you can wear any time, anywhere. With every style we launch, we’ve put in months of work to ensure they’re not only the most comfortable, but also the most versatile in design so you can wear them with any outfit on occasion.”
What inspires your own personal style?
“My main objective when choosing what to wear is to be comfortable. I typically like to choose soft, breathable materials and will feel the fabric first. After that, it’s mainly about wearing something fun or something that will allow me to perform all the activities I have planned for my day.”
What trends can we look forward to for this fall?
“Although SUAVS focuses more on timeless design, I still like following trends. We’re seeing a return to late 90s and early 2000’s fashion — small, strappy tops, slip-on dresses and platform shoes. We are seeing a drop in waistlines, more wide-legged jeans and pants, and more fitted tops to counterbalance the wider bottoms. I’m also seeing a return to the 90s preppy look — grey crewneck sweatshirts, long maxi coats and blazers, short denim or tennis skirts, polo shirts and cardigans.”
What features make it easy for SUAVS to go straight from the gym to a night out?
“Their sweat-wicking and washable properties. You can wear them with or without socks and keep your feet feeling fresh all day long.”
What is one of your best SUAVS success stories?
“We have a few; however, one of our goals was always to be in Nordstrom and Zappos. So when they reached out to us in 2020, I was ecstatic. Also, every time I see someone wearing their SUAVS out in the wild, it continues to be a truly amazing feeling.”
A clean, conscious beauty line is helping others glow up thanks to the work of Gertie Wilson and her sister Ginger Averitt. The duo is inspired by the ability to use skincare products and makeup to pack the skin with antioxidants and active anti-aging ingredients. No longer are the days of harmful additives under the Elevé Cosmetics line. Also, the name Elevé is inspired by the concept of rising up high onto the balls of one’s feet — with the hopes of helping women “rise up” and feel confident and beautiful in their own skin.
What is one of your favorite products?
“It is so hard to choose just one, but I definitely love our Bombshell Beauty Balm. I use it every single day, because it’s light, moisturizing, and looks like my skin, only better.”
How did you choose the specific ingredients for your line?
“We are constantly innovating to ensure that we utilize the most effective ingredients that are not harmful to people or the planet. We wanted our cosmetics to do double-duty and act as skincare whenever possible, so that goal was definitely a guiding principle. We also wanted to create a cosmetics line that everyone could use, regardless of needs or preferences. Everything is made in small batches, is gluten free, GMO free, soy free, phthalate and paraben free, and ALWAYS cruelty free. Many of our products are also vegan-friendly.”
How do the products work to enhance antioxidants?
“Many of our products feature antioxidants which help fight premature aging and promote skin health, including our Organic Golden Beauty Oil. In fact, it includes extracts of three different tea extracts and the super fruit Kakadu Plum, which contains the highest known concentration of Vitamin C of any single natural food source in the world.”
What is the easiest and quickest way to get your skin glowing?
“Step one: cleanse and exfoliate with Skin BUFF. Step two: moisturize with Skin LUV. Step three: apply three drops of Organic Golden Beauty Oil.”
What would you say to someone who is hoping to maybe reverse some effects of aging?
“A consistent skincare routine is very important, and the earlier you start, the better. With that said, aging is a natural process that we all go through, and we have created several products that can help you do so gracefully. Our TEN Night Cream is an anti-aging powerhouse that helps fade fine lines, dark spots, and rejuvenate dry, lackluster skin. Also, I always recommend wearing an SPF, every day, even during the winter.”
Do you have any tips for combating the Texas sun?
“Definitely wear sunscreen every day and use a zinc oxide-based sunscreen on days you will be exposed to the sun’s intense rays, like when gardening, boating on the lake or lounging at the pool. The higher the concentration of zinc, the more you will protect your face from the sun’s harmful and damaging rays. Our Vitamin Sea contains 20% zinc oxide, along with the antioxidants Vitamin C and turmeric for added benefits.”
You are sisters. What is it like working together?
“It’s been really wonderful. We each have different talents, and those come together well when running a business. I have always been creative and artsy, as well as a makeup artist for over a decade. My sister, Ginger, is much more analytical and takes care of the business side of things.”
Tell us about your two giving back projects.
“Ginger is on the board of the Texas Advocacy Project — an amazing organization that provides FREE legal services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. She is currently the Chair of the Government Affairs Committee and also serves on the Strategic Planning Committee. As a former ballet dancer, Gertie is focused on providing access to arts education to underprivileged students. She is a member of the Ballet Fête Committee, which sets a goal to have a minimum of 70% of all revenue from annual galas benefit Ballet Austin’s mission to provide exceptional artistic programming, arts education and access for the entire Central Texas Community.”
Versatile and responsible production is a priority for shoe brand, Fortress. Evan Streusand formed the family-owned business in 2010, ensuring safe working conditions for workers and fair wages since day one.
You first started developing Fortress while in Peru. Can you tell us about that?
“In 2004, I was backpacking around South America. Toward the end of my trip, I bought a pair of handmade boots from a shop in Cusco, Peru. The boots were unlike anything I’d seen before — utilizing traditional woven textiles mixed with leather. In 2010, these boots were still on my mind (and often on my feet), so I decided to go back to Peru, in order to start importing them to Austin
and selling them. While the shoes we sell today look nothing like the boots I bought back then, we still make everything by hand in Peru.”
Tell us about your shoemakers and responsible production processes.
“We primarily work with three shoemakers (and their teams). Two would be considered ateliers, and another is the largest handmade factory in Peru. At this point, we’ve worked with these shoemakers for anywhere between three to eight years and have developed strong relationships with each of them. With the larger factory, we even partnered on another brand, called Huma Blanco. All the leather we use is sourced locally in Lima, and we focus on using natural materials, creating shoes that are built to last. The labor laws in Peru are very strong — ensuring paid leave, social security and health care.”
What are some of your favorite shoe trends?
“One beautiful thing about Fortress is that we don’t pay attention to trends. We want to create styles that are versatile enough to be worn at work, on a date, running errands, etc., and we aim to create styles that stand the test of time.”
What are some things people can look forward to for the fall?
“We’ll be releasing mules and oxfords in a very cool braided leather, which is new for us. We have new colors for our sneakers in the works, as well as our usual assortment of clogs, slides and unique heels.”
Do you currently have any giving back initiatives?
“We plant trees for every purchase made on our site, but primarily we reinvest our money into the people who make our shoes. Something we truly believe is that the people who make our shoes are just as important as the people who buy them.”
Tell us more about the natural materials in your shoes.
“We primarily stick to leather, rubber and wood, all sourced locally in Peru.”
Let’s talk about comfort. How do the shoes feel for those who wear them?
“We get rave reviews on comfort. People can’t seem to believe that our shoes are as comfortable as they are. Walk all day in them and you’ll feel no worse for wear.”