Austin Style Scene Embraces Sustainable Fashion and Socially Conscious Brands
Reformation, Suavs, Ubuntu Life lead the way – responsibly – among the city’s stylish tastemakers
By Vanessa Blankenship
International sustainable fashion hero Yael Aflalo recently opened the first Austin location of her women’s clothing line, Reformation. From floral dresses to silk blouses and high-waisted jeans, the founder and CEO proves that fast fashion and sustainability can coexist. The brand specializes in creating stylish pieces made out of recycled materials in a wide range of sizes.
Located in South Congress’ Music Lane development, the light and inviting gallery-like space features Reformation’s new tech-driven retail concept. Touch-screen monitors are placed throughout the store so customers can easily choose the looks they would like to try on, and selections are sent directly to the fitting rooms for ease. Once inside, features include customizable lighting that can go from “cool” and “golden” to “sexy time,” plus phone plug-ins so guests can try on clothes to their own music. “Our effortless styles are perfect for the Texas heat. We can’t wait to see more of Austin in Reformation,” says Aflalo. thereformation.com
Founded in Austin in 2015, Suavs is a travel-friendly, comfortable footwear line that features a breathable design and sweat-wicking technology constructed out of a 3D-printed knit. This year, Suavs went green by debuting one of its most popular styles, The Legacy, in a new, 100 percent-recycled knit fabric. The versatile footwear brand is committed to expanding its sustainable practices by announcing that all new and current Suavs shoes will be made with vegan materials. Plus, all unsold Suavs footwear will be donated to charity, including Soles4Souls and LifeWorks. “We’re trying to solve that decision-making fatigue by providing shoes that you can wear anywhere, whether you’re going to work, running errands or traveling,” says Suavs founder Monxi Garza. suavshoes.com
Alabama-based fashion designer Billy Reid is known for his effortlessly cool style. Described as “lived-in luxury,” his collection consists of classic American styles with a Southern twist. From pieces like washed denim shirts to peacoats, cardigans and even eyewear, Billy Reid is all about the laid-back look and famous for the hidden details in his clothing. “We want those pieces that people buy to be wearable and usable—not just precious, luxury pieces but an investment piece that will be with you forever,” says Reid.
In mid-March, Billy Reid opened another storefront in the oldest commercial building on South Congress. The new store will sell men’s and women’s apparel, including leather shoes, accessories and bags. Shoppers can also browse the recently released eyewear collaboration between Billy Reid and KREWE’s Stirling Barrett. The collection features six exclusive styles that are classic, everyday frames inspired by their Southern heritage. billyreid.com
Designed in Austin and handmade in Kenya, Ubuntu Made is the accessory line of the African nonprofit Ubuntu Life, which helps provide employment, education, economic growth and health care initiatives to people in the community of Maai Mahiu and throughout Kenya. Founder Zane Wilemon and his Austin-based team believe “the deepest and most permanent way to empower our community is through sustainable enterprises producing high-quality products and experiences.” The core products include the Afridrilles, a fully customizable espadrille shoe, and handmade beaded bracelets with vibrant patterns, colors and embedded words like “amore” and “love.” This spring, Ubuntu Life will be launching a new woven bracelet that’s 100 percent vegan, and it will come in multiple patterns and with new words. Plus, you can find new colors in the latest addition to its footwear line, the Lamu Mule. Handmade with locally sourced leather, the Lamu Mule will come in colors like chestnut brown and sand. ubuntu.life
Self-proclaimed as a “new type of department store,” Neighborhood Goods offers a constantly rotating lineup of products ranging from skin care, fitness, apparel, home goods, décor, pet commodities and beauty. The Austin location will be launching with more than 40 brands and introduce all-new partnerships with brands like Tribe Alive, Illesteva, Alex Crane, Aesop, Olive + M, Kühn Jewelry, Uprise Art and more.
Neighborhood Goods will also bring its Prim and Proper in-house restaurant concept to the South Congress location. Shoppers are encouraged to merge the collaborative restaurant with the retail experience by grabbing a drink while browsing products or ordering items like “millennial toast” or a “backyard salad.” neighborhoodgoods.com
Fortress of Inca
Fortress of Inca founder Evan Streusand bought his first pair of Peruvian boots in Cusco during a backpacking trip through South America. He was impressed by the quality and craftsmanship that went into making these shoes and decided to start his own collection. With the help of designers and shoemakers in Peru, Streusand and his Austin-based team collaborate to design versatile, beautifully made leather shoes that are timeless and can be worn year-round. Sold at the Austin flagship store and in select boutiques, each pair of shoes is made by hand with natural materials in family-owned workshops and factories in Lima, Peru. This year, Fortress of Inca is celebrating its 10-year anniversary by launching throwback styles that feature Peruvian textiles as a nod to its original collection. Three sandals will be released in the spring collection, while five more textile styles will come out in the fall. fortressofinca.com