Emerging Designer Spotlight - Tabii Just: a ZeroWaste, Sustainable Womenswear Label Manufactured in NYC

We love Twitter! Thanks to Twitter we connected with Tabitha St. Barnard, co-owner and head designer of newly established sustainable fashion line - Tabii Just (New York City, NY). At age 25 Tabitha decided to change paths and joined the fashion industry with a purpose - launching a sustainable fashion brand. She was first introduced to the industry when she interned with Vivienne Tam and was inspired by Vivienne’s infusion of her culture and passion into her line.

Following her first internship, Tabitha joined Tahari ASL knitwear team and gained valuable experience and knowledge about industry logistics, such as how to keep records and how to make orders under a strict deadline. While working with Tahari ASL, Tabitha also learned how to create clothing for a target market rather than what she believed to be beautiful. She gained an understanding of how to make women feel comfortable when they put on the clothes she designed. In the last 12 months she and her sister set out on their own and established an awesome womenswear line, Tabii Just - a sustainable, zero waste collection.

A few weeks ago we had a chance to interview Tabitha over the phone and learn more about her collection. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Tabitha is proud of her origins and describes herself as a Trinidadian/American designer. 

Spring 2013 Collection - Layla Dress RR: How do you choose the colors and patterns for your collection?
Tabitha: My eyes are always open to what trends are really resonating with people and what colors they wear. I have books of pictures I’ve collected from magazines and when it’s time to focus on a seasonal collection, I revisit these books and pull out what I’ve already seen on the streets. I also continue sketching new designs though I try to start from fabric because that inspires me the most. If I see a print that I really like I’ll design around that print or color. It has to mean something to me... I want to design clothes that can transcend time and be beautiful and trendy 5 years from today.

RR: Where do you source your material and how does this influence your design process?
Tabitha: These days I work with one fabric vendor in the city who I’ve built a good relationship with -- at this stage, it’s important for me to work with people who I can really depend on. It has been a process to find someone who could supply within my bounds. I reached out to a few suppliers but they wanted orders of thousands of yards. Since I’m just now starting out I had to look for scraps and trim vendors.

When I attended DG Expo - small quantity fabric vendors - I met my knit vendor and my relationship with him has developed nicely since we first connected. Then I discovered Preview Textile Group by chance and was introduced to my current fabric vendor who lets me look through a room full of excess fabric from larger fashion lines who didn’t use all of their fabric. So I go there and browse and sometimes I’ll find 50 yards of fabric, and if I need more, my vendor is happy to order more for me.

I create a minimum quantity at the moment and then sell that to the stores as opposed to getting an order from the stores. My vendor is responsive and excited about my work and that’s important to me. I get excited when people get excited about my Zero Waste collection!

RR: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Tabitha: Brooklyn! I love this city. Walking down the street people are so expressive with what they wear. I see many different body shapes and I see how they all dress themselves to look so good. I also draw inspiration from Trinidad’s vibrant colors of the ocean, natural surroundings, and traditional garments individuals there wear to express themselves culturally.

RR: Zero Waste design is no easy task. How do you go about visualizing your Zero Waste garments?
Tabitha: It is a challenge to do Zero Waste... when I was first introduced to the concept it resonated with me and I knew I wanted to do that! I look forward to making clothes within those guidelines. I usually start out with a yard of fabric and drape it in such a way that allows me to use as much of the fabric as possible - I experiment with the shapes on the body form. Simultaneously, I look at how clothes are made and search for opportunities to reduce waste or ways to divert excess fabric from landfills. If I can’t use a yard of fabric in its entirety, I do my best to create “waste” shapes that can be used to make bags. For the scraps of fabric that can’t be used in making bags, we collaborate with individuals such as toy makers who are able to use smaller pieces in various ways.

RR: Describe the Tabii Just girl:
Tabitha: The Tabii Just girl has a mix of urban edge and sophistication. She’s not your typical girly girl! This girl loves making a statement with  her looks and she doesn’t mind being the center of attention. She’s a fashionista who takes fashion seriously but has fun with it! She’s okay with not always getting fashion ‘right’ because for her, it’s all about experimenting with statement prints and vibrant colors. 

Spring 2013 Collection - Arielle Dress is Tabitha's favorite design from her most recent collection. RR: Congratulations on a successful RocketHub campaign! What’s your next move?
Tabitha: It’s pretty amazing. Three months ago we didn’t have any money and now we have seed funding for the next collection.

RR: What are you most excited about for the coming year?
Tabitha: Oh wow -- there’s a couple of things that are in the works. We’re going to be a part of Princeton’s Sustainable Fashion Week which will be the first show for Tabii Just. This will be a chance to spread the word about the line. We’re excited to sell the line and get the word out on how we see fashion. The more people I talk to about Tabii Just, the more I can inspire people to do fashion differently -- an expression of who we are doesn’t need to be wasteful and we can work locally and not compromise a look!

Spring 2013 Collection - The Sarah Dress Tabii Just will be joining Redress Raleigh for the Eco Fashion & Textiles Conference and will be selling her collection at the Marketplace. We are excited to work with Tabitha - watching her grow as a sustainable designer and seeing her collections transform from season to season. Tabitha is full of passion and determination to create sustainable fashion that reduces textile waste, which aligns perfectly with Redress Raleigh’s vision of an eco and ethical future. We are can’t wait to see her incredible designs in person!