As you’ve probably heard over the past couple of years, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions- that’s more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The world has thankfully been making a conscious effort to step away from fast fashion in order to limit its impact on the planet. We’ve turned towards thrifting or shopping from small brands focused on ethically-made clothing.
Paneros Clothing is everything you would hope slow fashion to be. The Los Angeles-based sustainable clothing brand focuses on quality and ethical styles. They launched their small batch women’s ready-to-wear collection this past June which is entirely designed in Los Angeles and handmade by artisans in Indonesia. Paneros prides itself on producing beautiful slow fashion clothing designed to be worn not just for one season, but year after year so that you can look great while making a positive impact on the world. Founder, Lauren DeCarli says, their designs are “on-trend but not trendy, timeless but not basic”.
Originally from New York, Lauren moved to California to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. After working for 10 years at a wholesale women’s fashion brand, she launched Paneros believing that you can have the clothes you really want, made responsibly. Since, they’ve been featured in publications such as The Zoe Report, and worn by celebrities such as Madison Bailey. Starting January 1st, they will be joining the 1% for the Planet pledge to help ensure that our environment stays safe for years to come.
As 2020 comes to an end, we spoke to Lauren about her brand, her experience as a female entrepreneur, her tips to navigating particularly challenging times, and becoming a successful business owner.
Honne: Why did you decide to start a business?
Lauren DeCarli: There is so much consumption in the world today, and the pressure from brands to constantly buy more is higher than ever. I founded Paneros to disrupt the fashion industry, to slow things down, to encourage conscious consumption, to encourage sustainable and ethical practices, and to create a brand that was authentic and transparent.
At Paneros, we only design a few collections a year with each style ethically produced in small batches. We use smarter fibers, no fully synthetic materials, partner with ethical manufacturers, promote quality over quantity, and reduce our waste.
After being a top-selling designer for a wholesale fashion company, producing a new collection every month, I know how wasteful, polluting, and unsustainable the fashion industry can be. I always knew I wanted to have my own brand one day, but it really wasn’t until I had worked in the fashion industry for so long that I really felt like it was the right time.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Each day is very different especially when you're a new, small brand because you have to wear a lot of different hats. I wake up around 7, walk my dog, drink coffee, journal and go over my to-do list. I do a morning check-in with my fiancé and business partner to go over any calls or meetings we have. I then answer emails and check on our social media.
If I have proto samples-- the first samples from our manufacturers-- coming in, I'll work on fitting those and getting the comments back to them. Every day I try to include marketing work as well as design research for upcoming collections. I usually work until 7 or 8; as an entrepreneur, there's always so much to do.
Specifically, as a female entrepreneur, have you faced any obstacles since starting Paneros?
To my surprise, I sought out and found a ton of resources devoted to helping female founders succeed rather than obstacles to keep them down. I joined the Female Founder Collective and signed up on Girlboss, which are both full of encouraging women and resources for people just like me. I have found other female entrepreneurs to collaborate with and have received a lot of help. All of it has really made me really feel like I can succeed at this.
How has COVID-19 impacted you and your business?
Not only was the launch of our women’s collection delayed by 3 months, but all of our live events that we had planned were canceled. As a new small business, we were really looking forward to meeting customers in person, telling our story, and having them see, feel and try on our products. Additionally, our products were designed to be worn out and to be seen in. With everyone staying home and switching up their wardrobe to sweats and t-shirts, COVID-19 has definitely hurt our business.
What were some of the biggest difficulties you faced this year?
Relying on solely our social media presence as opposed to a live presence was difficult. In today’s world, your follower count, engagement, and social presence plays such an important part in the trust between us and consumers. There’s a lot of competition on social media these days, everyone is demanding your attention. Larger companies spend so much money to build their social media presence so it’s hard for smaller brands like us to compete.
What has helped you get through this year?
Definitely my fiancé, my friends and family, and the community we started to build. All of the orders we have received, the positive feedback from media, influencers, celebrities, and stylists reassures us that we have a great brand and we have great products and what we’re doing is important. I’ve also been listening to a lot of podcasts that feature entrepreneurs and hearing their stories and the challenges they’ve faced is inspiring and keeps me going.
What mindset have you had since the beginning of the pandemic? Has it changed throughout the year?
At first, I didn’t really know what to expect. We had delays from our manufacturers but it wasn’t clear what the future would be like. After launching our initial products which were designed to be worn out and then realizing that everyone would be staying home for a while, I had to change my mindset to adapt to the new reality. I redesigned our fall collection to incorporate more knits and sweaters. While some pieces were delayed and pushed back to the next collection, I am constantly working on providing the best products for our customers. We operate on a slower calendar because I don’t want to rush anything and end up not have the quality and fit be up to standard. With everything going on, the last thing I wanted to do was put more pressure on our manufacturing partners who have taken such a hit from the pandemic. I constantly remind myself that everything will always work out; even when it seems like everything that could go wrong is going wrong, things always end up working their way out.
Has anything good come out of this year for you?
This year, we were forced to switch up our strategies and test things out. It has taught us to be extremely nimble, to pivot when you need to and not to be so rigid in your plans. Not putting all your eggs in one basket is a really important lesson for any business to learn.
What does the future look like for Paneros? Any plans?
I truly think the future looks bright. It has been a tough year, but I feel optimistic about this new year not only for everyone but for our brand. We have plans to partake in pop-ups again as well as live events. We’re hoping to grow our team, to keep getting our message out there, to encourage other brands to take a slower approach to fashion, and to encourage consumers to do the same.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?
I would advise them not to get so caught up with having everything be perfect. I know first-hand how hard that can be since it’s your name on the line. However, the imperfections are important. Make mistakes and just get yourself and your company out there. I also think people will relate to you and appreciate the authenticity.