KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The fashion industry has, historically, been dependent upon trends—anticipating and delivering popular styles, lifestyles and perceptions.
Over time, the frequency with which those trends change has increased, leading to shorter fashion cycles, cheap and quickly made products, and increased consumption and waste. The resulting environmental, social and economic consequences have prompted some consumers and apparel companies to call for change.
At the forefront of this change is Western Michigan University undergraduate student Avery Green. His fashion startup, House of Pariah, goes against the grain, selling nonconformity and placing an emphasis on sustainability and inclusion.
Green hopes to reduce the impact the fashion industry has on the planet by being a leader in the sustainable fashion movement. He strives for complete transparency when it comes to his supply chain, and he partners with other companies that have similar goals.
"We want to provide clothing that is made ethically and sustainably—cruelty-free clothing that is truly cruelty-free," he says. "We also strive to make sure everyone who is passionate about our movement is represented, not only in our marketing campaigns, but in everything that we do."
House of Pariah currently offers stylish, environmentally friendly underwear, and Green is in the process of developing a line of basics using an award he received for his social entrepreneurship through Starting Gate, WMU's student business accelerator.
Green, a senior from Eau Claire who is double majoring in fashion design and electronic business marketing, credits much of his company's growth to WMU and Starting Gate.
"From my professors to my peers, I had a really great environment to dream and to grow these dreams into a reality," he says. "Without this support system, I doubt I would have gotten as far as I have."
Green says his mentor, Kori Jock, was also key to his success, and he encourages other aspiring entrepreneurs to seek such support.
"I was so lucky to have found someone who had gone through the entrepreneurial process before and had a business that was in the same industry as mine," he says.
One thing Green learned from his mentors and experiences was to know the financials early on.
"Know what the profit margin is," he says. "This number is the one investors will be looking at."