We welcome Green Entrepreneur Rachel Fernbach, founder & head designer of eco-fashion label Ponybabe for an exclusive chat with UrbanMeisters. We introduced you to the green leisure wear brand PonyBabe from New York making extremely comfortable, super sexy and sustainable everyday wear. So let’s MEET THE FOUNDER for an exclusive chat on this innovative sustainable business idea & other green things…
Welcome on UrbanMeisters.com Rachel. Tell us about you and why you decided to have a green start-up & specifically arrived at this idea- eco leisure wear.
RACHEL: Thank you for having me here. It’s great to collaborate with like minded greenies trying to make everyday life sustainable. I have a background in fine arts, massage therapy, expressive arts therapy, yoga, and meditation. Upon ending a particularly difficult position as a therapist for young children with Autism, I decided to take some time off, focus my energies on a creative project, and re-connect with the part of me that loves to design and make things.
PonyBabe developed as an extension of my personal lifestyle. Health and ethics are the foundation of how I choose to spend my time, and guide the ways I wish to contribute to our world. Because I love to feel comfy, and I spend a lot of time doing yoga, dancing, and moving, I decided to create a clothing collection that would support women in feeling at ease, while also feeling stylish. Being « green » was never a question – PonyBabe encapsulates my personal values, so it had to be a sustainable endeavor.
What is your take on the current situation in eco fashion? Are we on the right track? Where do you think we lack momentum?
RACHEL: It seems that eco-fashion is a rapidly growing movement, with many people beginning to understand the negative environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. I think it’s important to encourage consumers to buy less/buy better, and to learn more about who makes their clothes, and where.
Right now it seems that eco fashion is buzzing within a closed loop community – that is, people who are already interested are excited, but outside of the ethical fashion movement, most shoppers are doing fast fashion as usual. One area to build momentum is definitely spreading the eco-fashion excitement to a bigger audience.
So how did PonyBabe come about? What kind of research went into it? What were the success & failures?
RACHEL: I spent a good two years just thinking about PonyBabe! Brainstorming and coming up with ideas… When I was ready to take the leap and begin the actual design and preproduction process, I joined the Factory45 sustainable fashion incubator, and used their roadmap to begin sourcing fabric, having patterns and samples made, and building my social media presence. Living in New York City has been a great help, as it’s been easy to visit suppliers and check out factories.
I’d say the whole experience so far has been a great success! I went from knowing almost nothing about the garment industry, to launching a Kickstarter that will fund my first production run, all in the space of one year. I’ve made some wonderful connections with people in the field, and I’ve learned an immense amount which is personally very satisfying.
The greatest challenge is forging ahead and learning while I’m doing it. Sometimes I make the best decision I can with the information I have available, and later realize I should have done something differently.
Having the support of my close friends and family really kept me going in difficult moments. It’s so important to have people who want to see me succeed, and tell me so.
Why is the product special?
RACHEL: PonyBabe’s clothes are special because they truly are so soft and comfortable, while also looking smart and stylish. It’s a tough combination to achieve, and I’m proud of how the 24 Hour does both!
Why choose organic cotton & bamboo?
RACHEL: I’m committed to using sustainable and eco-friendly textiles. Within those parameters, I search for the softest, most snuggly fabrics I can find, and this particular blend was perfect for the 24 Hour Outfit. It is incredibly cozy, while also being lightweight and warm.
Where are you currently established and how is that going? What are the biggest challenges you face?
RACHEL: I live in Brooklyn, NY, USA. It’s an exciting, creative, and fast paced place to be working on a clothing label. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! The greatest challenge of living in New York City is trying to find quiet moments away from the grind. It’s also very expensive, so finding ways to earn money while launching a start-up can require some creativity!
What are the future plans for PonyBabe?
RACHEL: 2017 will be a year for focusing on growth. I’m planning marketing collaborations with a wonderful assortment of ethical influencers, and look forward to seeing how they interpret the collection. Within the next couple years, I aim to transition to GOTS certified organic cottons and vegetable dyes, both of which are outside my budget right now.
Are there any collaborations you are working on? Or intend to in the future?
RACHEL: At the moment, PonyBabe is a one-woman show, but in the future I would love to collaborate with natural dye specialists to create one-of-a-kind color palettes for the collection.
We always like to ask entrepreneurs what is your piece of advice for somebody starting a green company?
RACHEL: A green company should be a true expression of your personal values. Make sure your business and personal goals are in alignment. And ask for help, because it’s a lot of work and there are many great people out there who want to support you. We’re all in this together, and collaboration with like-minded individuals is such an important part of this movement.
Apart from this amazing invention, what other green steps you take in personal life? Any tips for our readers?
RACHEL: I buy my groceries at a local co-op, and try to purchase as much in bulk as possible. Simple things like always bringing a shopping bag with me, carrying a metal fork in my backpack, and bringing my own water bottle everywhere help me cut down on waste. I also buy as little new stuff as possible, trying instead to make do/do well with what I have, borrow what I don’t, and do without when possible. When I need new clothes, I buy secondhand or from other ethical designers.
Thank you Rachel for this exclusive peek into the world of PonyBabe.