Looking back on 6 years as a sustainable fashion brand

by Jenny Fong May 17, 2021

Looking back on 6 years as a sustainable fashion brand

Modern Shibori an eco-brand created by Jenny Fong in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jenny uses only the best organic fabrics and hand dyes all her garments using natural dyes. Every piece is dyed one at a time.

If you want to see what a sustainable fashion brand is, read on. This is a look back on the 6 years of sustainable business practices of Modern Shibori. If you ever wondered what is the benefit of slow fashion, the story is all here. Slow fashion is hand made clothing on beautiful organic fabrics, in small batches by local people.

Photo collage of shibori retreats, tools and Jenny's booth

Photo credits: All taken by Jenny Fong in 2016 except for the shibori tools, taken by Andrea of ecologiquefashion

This first photo collage is from 2016, the year Jenny started working on her company full-time. She is a self-taught indigo dyer and shibori artist. She first started to teach shibori at the Handcraft Studio School located in the Bay Area and later at Johnson's Beach in Guerneville, CA. See more inspiration from the Johnson's Beach Shibori Retreat here

Shibori is a great way to upcycle old linens, shirts, and pillow cases, basically anything that needs a refresh.

Shibori is a great way to upcycle old linens, shirts, and pillow cases, basically anything that needs a refresh. Jenny often taught students who wanted to revamp their wardrobes or kitchen linens without buying new pieces.

2016 also saw Jenny vending at different craft shows in the Bay Area. She created a line of pillows, home decor and accessories using all natural dyes such as indigo, marigold and walnut.

Photo collage of 2017 totebag, product and wooden sign

Photos: All by Jenny Fong, 2017. Totebags designed and made by Jenny Fong. Hand painting a wood sign, end cap of products at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA.

Jenny is a trained fashion designer and these activities are what a sustainable fashion designer does day to day. On a daily basis,Jenny sketched, made a pattern and created a leather bottom totebag. These sold out quickly when she vended at craft shows. She also sold silk scarves and linen pillows, focusing on creating fresh shibori patterns using simple tools such as craft sticks and rubberbands.

Her collection really took off in 2017 when she was accepted to vend at the American Craft Council's Emerging Artist program, a fine craft show. There she made an important connection with the Asian Art Museum. The last photo in the collage above is an end cap of pillows, bags and scarves at the Asian Art Museum store.

Customers loved the story of the shibori patterns and also the fact that organic fabrics are better for the body, planet and workers who grow and mill the fabric.

Another sustainable practice that Jenny is proud of is, she designed a reusable wooden sign that's laser cut and hand painted for a beautiful 3D natural effect. She continues to use this sign to this day.

Photo collage of upcycled jacket, new plant dye experiments, friend Alicia of Lingua Nigra, Jenny teaching shibori

Photos by Jenny Fong, 2018: Upcycled hand dyed and sashiko embroidered jacket, Alicia of Lingua Nigra at the ACC St. Paul show, new plant dye experimentation. Photo credit: Nicola Parisi. Jenny in her backyard teaching shibori.

Wellness is also a concern for Jenny Fong. She started incorporating organic fabrics into her line the same time she started designing her own garments. In 2018, she designed an oversized organic linen smock pictured on Alicia of Lingua Nigra above. This smock became her best selling piece. Customers loved the story of the shibori patterns and also the fact that organic fabrics are better for the body, planet and workers who grow and mill the fabric. Read more about the benefits of organic fabrics here. https://modernshibori.com/blogs/news/what-is-organic-clothing-and-why-is-it-better-for-me

The jacket with embroidery pictured above was an old army jacket that Jenny bought at a vintage clothing store. She unpicked all the seams, saving all the buttons and labels. Then she overdyed the pieces indigo and restitched the jacket back together adding a lining. She embroidered the back yoke using traditional Japanese sashiko thread. This jacket sold at the American Craft Council show in Baltimore. Jenny was ecstatic to see her upcycled creation go to a happy customer. It fit her beautifully.

 

Photo collage of 2019 Teaching shibori at the Asian Art Museum, photo shoot at her backyard

Photos by the Asian Art Museum staff, anonymous and Jenny Fong, 2019. Photo shoot in pink smock by Andrea Plell of @ecologiquefashion.

By 2019, Jenny was starting to limit her shibori workshops to bigger groups and fewer sessions. The Asian Art Museum contacted her and asked her to teach a group of interns and a public group of parents and kids in April. Shibori is such a fun easy to learn activity for people of all ages.

She was also traveling to about 10 shows a year, a few being in New York. Above left, Jenny is pictured with her friend Emiko Shinozaki, a jewelry artist. They were heading to the prestigious Lincoln Center to vend. At this point, Jenny was incorporating new fabrics such as hemp and organic cotton into her line with great success.

Her booth was very lean and mean as she traveled alone with 3 giant bags that held all her inventory and booth supplies. See the center photo. Her wooden sign also acted as a "back room" for packaging supplies and her email list.

The last photo is from a photo shoot done in her backyard. Jenny launched new colors but also lamented the fact that she never had enough time to work on all the ideas for new colors and silhouettes that she wanted in her collection. The talented Andrea Olmstead (Plell) took all the shots over the period of one afternoon.

Photo collage of 2020. Photo shoot in Emeryville, walnut linen scarf, masks, Jenny in grey sweatsuit

Photo credits: Jenny Fong, 2020. Photo shoot, new walnut and indigo linen scarf, masks, Jenny in grey sweats dyed with plant dyes.

Then came the pandemic. Everything shut down and all we had was all the time in the world. Jenny took full advantage of this and began exploring new natural dye colors, and new products. She found a beautiful organic cotton flannel to work with, made masks, and launched a beautiful grey hue that she always wanted in her line, see photos above.

One creative challenge for Jenny was to do a photo shoot to create newness on her website. While she'd never taken fashion photos before, she knew how the clothes move and what types of shots she wanted. Read more about the photo shoot

Collage of 2021. Photo shoot in Berkeley, hemp cotton pants suit, detail of embroidery and new colors

Photo credit: Jenny Fong, 2021.

With 2020 behind her, Jenny began working on combining natural dye colors in 2021. She found a beautiful organic cotton that's grown in Texas, milled in the Carolinas and sewn and dyed in California, see the lower left photo. This tunic is so super soft, easy to wear and takes up dye beautifully. The tunic pictured is mordanted, dyed with a mixture of lac and madder root, then dyed with walnut. Walnut is a very interesting dye. It's a bit fussy to work with but is so luminous on natural fibers.

Connection is an important component of Modern Shibori's sustainable brand DNA.

Embroidery details continue to add a handmade touch to her garments. Sashiko is embroidered on the collar and at the back pleat detail. It's these special touches that allow the customer to feel connected to the artist. Connection is an important part of Modern Shibori's sustainable brand DNA. Garments are built to last with the customer in mind.

Now with one photo shoot behind her, Jenny decided to take her own photos for her next collection. Her sister-in-law mentioned she knew of a model in the same city. Jenny scouted out a location on the UC Berkeley campus where there happened to be a cherry blossom grove that was in bloom! The other coincidence was the cherry blossom (or sakura in Japanese) is Jenny's design motif inspiration for the season. So this ended up being a perfect place to shoot the next collection. See the main photo. Check out some of the shots

And finally, half way through the year, Jenny has returned to launching new silhouettes from her sketches. It's taken a year and a half to get back to this, with great success. See the grey pants suit. This outfit came from a sketch that Jenny did in 2019. She recontacted her pattern maker and picked up where they left off. In the near future, Jenny will write a blog post on the process of going from sketch to pattern to sample and finally garments ready to wear. Stay tuned for that post. You'll see the people involved in making the clothes on the website. This is truly slow fashion!

Do you have slow fashion, sustainably made clothing in your wardrobe? If you do, let us know why you love these pieces in the comments below. If you don't, let us know what intrigues you about slow fashion.


Jenny Fong

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