Stand Up

A Clothing Brand for Every Body and the World, Made by Everybody World

The New York Times dubbed American Apparel alum Iris Alonzo as "the most influential former senior creative director you have never heard of." (Thank her for the early aughts resurgence of v-neck tees, disco pants, high-waisted jeans, and tube socks.) After she and fellow influential American Apparel alum Carolina Crespo left the brand in 2015, they started an equally game-changing venture, Everybody World.

The new apparel brand's concept is totally unique; they ask everyday people they admire—like Prakash, a man they saw playing chess in the park for 10 years—to design a single item of clothing or product they think should exist. They produce the item, then they split portions of every sale with the designer. If that wasn't cool enough, they also created the world's first-ever 100% recycled cotton, something they were told could never be done by the world's biggest yarn company. It's a brand for every body, made by everybody, created with the world in mind.

They currently have a pop-up shop open in the lobby of The Standard, Downtown LA, which will be open until February 25, 2018. We chatted with Iris and Carolina all about the brand (mostly Iris, as Carolina was running around working at one of the large manufacturing factories they work with, but she was listening in!) and learned how they've found this awesome way to Stand Up

And finally, a quick shout out to our pal Shaniqwa Jarvis for these amazing images of Everybody World's world. 
THE STANDARD: You two were at American Apparel before Everybody World. What did you learn about the fashion industry during your time there?
IRIS ALONZO: We learned all about manufacturing and really how skilled these people are who are a part of the process. It's really about the value of people who know how to make these things and treating them with respect.
CAROLINA CRESPO: There’s really something to be said about coming up with great styles and then sticking to them and letting them be something that your customers can access for years and years. We hear people say all the time, “I used to have the most amazing thing and then they just stopped making it out of the blue and now I can't find anything like that anywhere.” So, for us it was really about developing these basics and silhouettes with these interesting tastemakers and then sticking to them, but evolving color stories and textiles.
Your clothes are gender neutral. Was that a conscious choice?
IRIS: Yeah, we both wear whatever fits. I think a lot of people do. It really comes down to making things that many different body types can feel good in. Gender really doesn’t matter. Right off the bat we realized all those [gender] rules go out the window. In 2017 and 2018, no one is really defined by gender lines in terms of what they're buying, it's really about what fits them, and I think that’s totally the way things should be.
How did American Apparel lead to Everybody World?
IRIS: After we left American Apparel in 2015, a lot of our friends started hitting us up and saying, “Hey, where do we get T-shirts these days?” And we realized we know how to make stuff—we’ve got all these factories we know, we know all the knitting people in LA, we know all the dye houses, we know all the sewing factories, we’ve got all this time on our hands, why not make some T-shirts? We knew how to make a lot of stuff, but we're not designers, so we invited others to design things and then we just split the sales with them. 
How did the election and this current political climate affect your business?
IRIS: After the election, it was a time to look around and say, “If I can't vote with my actual vote, I'll vote with my dollar. Maybe I should really think about investing my money not into the Amazons of the world but the Everybody Worlds of the world, the smaller businesses that have the values that align with my own?”
One of the coolest aspects of your brand is that you getevery day, extraordinarypeople to design one-off pieces. Where did that idea come from?
IRIS: Neither of us are designers. We’ve come up with a few pieces here and there, but we didn't have this desire to sit down and design a collection with our name on it. Something that stuck with us from American Apparel is that everyone has these ideas. Once people find out you work at a place that makes things, people are like, “Oh, you know what you’ve got to make?” We wanted to tap into those people that really think about what they put on every day, but we didn’t want this to be a who’s-who of it-girls and it-guys—that gets kind of boring. We thought that if this company is really about everybody, let’s tap into the people that inspire us on a daily basis.
This is where someone like Prakash comes in. We met him in the park in front of my house but also where our offices are. He’s someone I’ve seen personally every day twice a day for ten years when I’m walking my dog. Every day I would say, “God, that guy is so cool.” And lo and behold, we finally got the nerve to talk to Prakash and he did have an idea: Why do shirts always have to have an extra little button on the wrist? They’re meant to be rolled up.
All of our contributors have very little in common on the surface, but they actually have so much in common because they all have such great spirits—they're really warm, kind people that also have great taste. 
How did you meet some of your other contributors?
IRIS: Paloma, whose collection is launching this Sunday—she’s 13 and about to turn 14 and we’re throwing her a birthday party slash collection launch at The Standard, Downtown LA. This is the crazy part—I was standing in line for the bathroom at an event and there's this kid in front of me in line. She is so cool. She has on patent leather platforms sandals, mint green trousers, and this red-striped mock neck, and her hair’s bleached blonde with bobby pins. I was admiring her look and then she said, “I love your jumpsuit,” and I said, “I love your look!” And then later I saw her before we left, told her about the whole thing, talked her mom, and her mom said, “Carolina, do you remember Paloma?” Carolina ran the kid’s department at American Apparel and Paloma was a model for American Apparel when she was five.
And then Delores, who did the wrap skirt and top—Carolina and I know her from the gym. Her and her husband come in and she’s in her 80s and he’s in the 90s and they just own it. She's got this bright, colorful color block tracksuit and he's got his Adidas and little duffle bag and everybody knows them.
How does the profit-sharing work?
IRIS: We make something and sell it. We cover all the production costs involved, and then if we sell an item for one-hundred dollars, they get ten dollars from each sale, so it’s 10 percent of the total sale.
What has working with these people in such a unique way brought to your life?
IRIS: In this generation, it's all about like-like-like, we’re all around the same types of people all the time. With our contributors that we wouldn’t hang out with on a regular basis, it's really meaningful to have these exchanges with people from different backgrounds and different generations. And in the reverse, they’re doing things in the creative world. Dolores was a nurse and a teacher. She thought about clothes a lot but she probably never thought she’d design clothes, so I think there’s a real mutual exchange there.

Could you explain how your Trash Tee came about?
IRIS: We've all heard that statistic that apparel is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil. We didn’t need to put more stuff on the planet, so we decided to figure out how to do it so we were not negatively impacting anybody, including Mother Earth. So, we said let’s do recycled 100% cotton, but we found out it didn’t exist yet. All the people we knew in the industry that were using recycled cotton blended it with polyester to strengthen the yarn. They said 100% recycled cotton wouldn't be strong enough, it wouldn't work. We became obsessed with it and went down the rabbit hole figuring out why couldn’t it work, asking, “Are you sure it doesn’t work?” and “Have you actually tried it or you just think it won’t work?” We went to the very beginning of the supply chain which was a cotton farm and from there the cotton goes to a yarn mill. There we decided to ask, “Hey, how much waste you have a month?” and they said, “Well, a month? Try 500,000 pounds a week. And that’s at one plant. We have 45 plants.” A T-shirt is a half-pound of cotton. They literally have the waste stream that could make a million T-shirts a week. At our peak at American Apparel, we were making a million T-shirts a week.

So, we thought, let’s look at the waste. What is it? It’s just dirty cotton that comes out of the yarn-making process. They sweep it all up, put it in bales, and then they dispose of it. We said what if we took those bales and reprocessed it just pretend that it's fresh, virgin cotton. So, we did it, and lo and behold, it looked like yarn. We took the yarn to LA, took it to a knitter that we work with, we didn’t tell him what it was, and he says, “Yeah, it's a little clunky in the machine but it works.” Everntually we got it to a place where we were like, “Actually, this is a really good T-shirt.”
Did you always have that tenacity?
IRIS: I think Carolina and I were born like that. We don’t take no very lightly. We’re both like, “Why not? What do you mean ‘no’?” [Laughs.]
I don't know if this was your goal but your company encompasses pretty much every political issue going on right now.
IRIS: I don’t think that was our goal, but I do think all these issues are so pervasive. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and says they want to exploit people or exploit the planet. If you have a choice the start a business today, especially in apparel or any industry where you're making something that will live on the earth—we know too much now to do it in the shittiest way possible. I don't know, why bother?
Whats coming up for Everybody World?
IRIS: We're talking about doing a “perfectly imperfect” collection. Five to ten percent of everything you make is either a overrun or damaged, so we were going to work with interesting creative people that are doing silk screening and embroidery to enhance [the damaged products] even more and just try to make a micro business out of it. We want to be the first company in the world to have a completely sustainable wholesale collection that people can customize. 
Check out Everybody Worlds Informal Shop in the lobby of The Standard, Downtown LA, open until February 25, 2018. 


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