Amy Voloshin, founder and head designer of Printfresh, had been designing prints for the fashion industry for 14 years when she decided to create her own lifestyle collection of sustainable and size inclusive sleepwear, a.k.a pajamas. Why PJs? For one thing, while all clothes should be comfortable, pajamas just have to be comfortable, so that is where this graduate of the of the Rhode Island School of Design (her degree is in textiles) decided to focus. We asked Voloshin what makes clothing sustainable, how the pandemic affected her business, and what can be done about “fast fashion,” which is anything but sustainable.
What makes Printfresh “sustainable” fashion? Is there a third party verification, like there is for organic produce?
Sustainability in fashion is such a complex and intersectional topic. At Printfresh, we started our journey of sustainability by focusing on the areas in which we have the most control and feel we can make the biggest impact. It took us a year of research and development to figure out how to convert our line to organic cotton. We began weaving our own organic fabrics and determined the proper certification to make sure it was totally responsible, both ethically and environmentally. We use GOTS-Certified cotton, so yes, it’s essentially like a verification, like with organic produce. We also use an auditing system called Sedex, which audits factories for ethical and responsible labor practices. It’s a great way for companies like ours to see detailed reports of everything happening within the factories regarding labor practices and pay for the workers.
Greenwashing is very common in the fashion space since some aspects of sustainability are really hard to quantify, but by using these auditing and certification systems we can substantiate our efforts. Other areas are more objective, like size inclusion and racial diversity, and are easier for consumers to see and evaluate in marketing and brand partnerships.
Why, in particular, did you come out with a line of sleepwear as opposed to some other line of products, such as dresses and blouses?
Before starting Printfresh’s pajama line, I had been designing a line of dresses and blouses. During the pandemic we actually ended up closing that company, and decided to put all of our energy into Printfresh. I love pajamas for so many reasons – I’m really passionate about size inclusion and whimsical patterns and it’s been the perfect product for bringing those two aspects together.
The fashion industry seems to have recognized in the past few years that not every person is skinny. Is there a rethinking going on about the plus-size market?
I’ve been thrilled to see, over the years, more companies starting to expand their size offerings. I think it’s absurd in the year 2021 to not go up to at least 2X, which is a size 20 and a very popular size for us. I think all brands should start to add in some sort of offering in larger sizes, at least in their best selling styles. I don’t think that anyone expects brands to carry all things in all sizes, but I’d love to see the major retailers out there adding in a few sizes. Some styles at companies, like Free People who make free flowing clothing, could easily be sized up with little to no work to adjust the fit.
There has been a lot of reporting and discussion in recent years about “fast” fashion, with it’s very inexpensive clothing and the true costs to the workers who make that clothing. Should the fashion industry be held accountable, and if so, how?
I think both companies and consumers are part of the cycle. As long as people keep buying from large fast fashion companies like Forever21, FashionNova, Shein, and Zara, there will always be an incentive for those companies to keep pumping out non-sustainable garments made with unethical labor practices. I personally would love to see stronger restrictions barring publicly traded fashion companies from using forced labor and to pay at least minimum wage to workers. I find it unconscionable that there is not actual accountability around this on a governmental and global level.
In terms of what consumers can do to shop affordably, shopping through resale platforms, like Poshmark. It’s a great way to shop brands at very discounted prices. Capsule wardrobes, shopping vintage, and thrift, and swapping with friends, are great ways to stop putting money in the hands of non-sustainable corporations.
How did the pandemic affect business at Printfresh, both in terms of workplace routine and sales?
Our business was really challenged during the pandemic. During quarantine we had to switch to shipping everything from our home for a while, and our small team all began working remotely. At the same time, our sales completely switched from selling in-person through boutiques to almost exclusively online through our website, so things really grew quickly for us.