Sustainability has become an important topic within the fashion industry in recent years. But the only way to expand the sustainability conversation to more people across the globe is to promote it and take action.
That’s exactly why esa is here. Esa New York, otherwise known as simply esa (sic), is a company dedicated to promoting sustainable and ethical practices within the fashion industry by holding events that educate and spread awareness. The creators of esa share a strong passion for sustainability and fashion, and the team has worked hard to turn the company into what it is today. Events include do + brews, shopping tours and esabitchin’.
Esa’s do + brew events promote upcycling, i.e. taking materials and recycling them into something “new.” Do + brews are DIY parties, accompanied by drinks and music, that invite people to come and transform their old clothes or accessories into something new.
Esa’s shopping tours speak to the consumers. Sustainability is a two-person effort. Anyone involved in the creating and selling process holds only half of the responsibility. The consumers and the choices they make hold the other half of the responsibility. The shopping tours introduce consumers to sustainable and ethical shops within the city, all the while offering styling advice and responsible shopping tips.
Esabitchin’ promotes sustainable brands and designers. The exhibition displays clothing on live models for its guests and accompanies each event with music, art and drinks. In the company’s words, it’s a place “where sustainability meets art and music.”
The most recent esabitchin’ event, held Sept. 9, was a night to remember. This event featured the following sustainable designers: AMA NWOKE, A.Bernadette, Cope Customs, Spratters and Jayne, Rosina Mae and zero waste daniel. Alongside these designers’ clothing, there was artwork from various artists, live music, drinks and the wonderful esa team walking around and enjoying the event like everyone else.
In the big scheme of things, companies like esa really help push the sustainability agenda forward. Every little bit of help counts. Simply by promoting sustainability, esa is making the fashion industry a more environmentally friendly place. If you want to explore esa yourself or buy tickets to its events, you can go to esanewyork.com.
Blush recently reached out to esa for an exclusive interview.
Blush: Can you give a brief description of what esa is? What can people find on your website?
Esa: Esa is a company dedicated to promoting sustainability in the fashion industry, and we do this by throwing fun, innovative and creative events. We want to educate people in a way that both opens their eyes and compels them to purchase fashion consciously. Understanding sustainability is complicated. There are many pieces. Different aspects speak to different people. Maybe your passion is zero waste, or maybe it’s women’s empowerment. All of those are connected, and we’re interested in leading people to connect the dots in their own way.
You can learn about our upcoming events and view our past signature events on our website. Don’t be shy. Take a look at the fun and exciting things we have in the works.
Blush: Can you tell the readers a little bit about you and your co-workers?
Esa: Well, esa operates as a team that is empowered by each other. We’re all about transparency in fashion. We want consumers to understand where their clothes come from and demand they be created ethically and with the environment in mind. We all know the process from fiber to sales rack is a complicated one. What esa is about as a team is constantly practicing that with one another and with everyone with whom we work. Our goal is to always leave one another with value and respect from any interaction.
We have a core team that includes Willa Tsokanis, co-founder and CEO; Julia Valencikova, co-founder and COO; Abril Carranza, co-founder and sustainable event analyst; and newly added Amanda Farr as social media manager.
We are all big sustainability nerds who are crazy enough to create esa. We also have an extensive pool of volunteers who fill important leadership and supporting roles at times of our events. Nothing would be possible without them. If you’re interested in joining our volunteer team, shoot us an email at email@example.com.
Blush: What made you want to start esa? Is there anything in your life that made you want to pursue this path?
Esa: We all met in FIT at a point of our lives where we loved fashion but hated what it was doing to the environment and people making it. Julia and Willa were attending FIT when Rana Plaza happened, and that really opened our eyes. We started as a nerdy school project with over 20 students. Slowly sized down to four and with lots of brainstorming we came to the conclusion that the power of changing the fashion industry is in the hands of the consumer and education was key to empower us all to demand change.
Blush: Esa holds events called do + brews, where people can come and upcycle their old clothes. What made you come up with an idea like this?
Esa: This one is a funny story. After our first event, esabitchin’, we all were given the task of brainstorming other fun event ideas, and when we all sat down to share the ideas, we all had different elements and variations of do + brew, so by combining all the ideas together, do + brew was born. Each of us loves to DIY, hates buying new when you don’t have to and never seems to “have the time” to finish passion projects on our own, so the idea seemed like a no brainer — a party where we can learn to DIY our old clothing and save clothing from hitting landfill. Not your mama’s sewing circle.
Blush: Another thing esa holds are shopping tours where you combine your knowledge of fashion and sustainability. Can you give us some advice about how to find sustainable, ethical shops? What do you think people should look for if they’re looking for these kinds of shops (any telltale signs)?
Esa: Well, first, we like to get to know the people running the shop. It really helps when there’s a human associated in your shopping experience of whom you can ask questions and make suggestions. Willa’s background is textile development, so a lot of the greenwashing that occurs in marketing fabric innovation — she can pretty easily decipher and call it out. We have a list of criteria we use, and each shop must fit at least one. They’re copied below:
— Local sourcing.
— Local production.
— Ensuring workers receive a living wage.
— Actively employing a marginalized group of people and ensuring the cycle of oppression is broken.
— Thoughtful material sourcing.
— Using materials in new and innovative ways to solve an environmental problem caused by fashion.
— Factoring impact of human/environmental health into design decisions.
— Using innovative materials.
— Using methods to measure environmental impact of clothing.
— Minimizes or eliminates waste.
Blush: One of your goals as a company is to promote sustainable designers through esabitchin’. What is one of the most challenging things about putting this kind of event together? What is the most enjoyable part of putting this kind of event together?
Esa: Hmm, I think Julia and Willa can both agree that the most challenging part is planning for something so big with so many moving parts. Esabitchin’ not only showcases designers, but it also showcases artists from all over New York. Then there is the exhibition curation, drinks and music — the list goes on and on. But the most enjoyable part is the fact that we don’t do it alone. We work with amazing people such as PoMeCo Art and Souhair Kenas to put together the artists and exhibitions, and we connect with all kinds of musicians and DJs to put together the sound. Casey Pyle created her first original cocktail for our event. All the moving parts involve a huge network of people, and it makes us so happy to work together toward a goal while doing and showcasing what we love to do.
Blush: You’ve brought together a plethora of artists and designers through esabitchin’. Who are some sustainable designers in the Sept. 9 event whose collections especially stood out to you?
Esa: We can’t choose favorites. We’re so sorry. Every single designer blew us out of the water. We showcased AMA NWOKE, A.Bernadette, Cope Customs, Spratters and Jayne, Rosina Mae and zero waste daniel. They all are doing such amazing things for the planet, and it was so exciting to see them all under one roof changing the narrative of the fashion industry.
Blush: How do you think we should continue promoting sustainability within the fashion industry? Is there anything more we can do?
Esa: Our mission at esa is to mobilize consumers to shop consciously. We find that once people know their impact and are given a sustainable and ethical choice to step into, they’ll take it, especially when they understand the value of their choice to themselves and others. What there is to do is to keep the conversation alive. Continue to tell people about the impact of fast fashion and the difference quality, sustainable fashion can make in their lives. The most effective message is delivered without judgement, but with interest in the other person. All of us are connected to our environment. We just don’t always see it. See where you can make connections. For instance, if someone is all about women’s empowerment but shopping at H&M, do they understand 85 percent of garment workers are women? Do they realize people making H&M garments are being paid slave wages? Further, this isn’t a problem for faraway lands. It impacts all of us in our peace of mind, confidence and landfills.
Blush: You (Tsokanis) are an FIT alumna, and now here you are running your own company. A company is a hard thing to start up, let alone to continue doing. Can you give some advice to current FIT students who hope to own their own company someday while still maintaining sustainable practices?
Esa: Yes, my entire team and I are FIT alumnae or attending FIT now. It would be absolutely impossible for me to do this alone. I’ve found my worst enemy can often be that doubtful voice inside of my head. Without Julia, Abril and Amanda plus our volunteer network, this would not be possible. If you’re looking to start a company, the first bit of advice I would give is to get real and get vulnerable with people around you. Let them know what you care about, and don’t be sorry about it. The ones who get it will hold that vision and pull you to carry it forward.
Blush: Any last words for us?
Esa: Thank you for being interested about what we do and willing to share. We love to build our community and want each and every reader to be a part of it. For more information, hit our website, esanewyork.com, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.