Appalatch: Custom Fit Sweaters, Ethically Made in America

Our friends at Appalatch (Grace Gouin and Mariano deGuzman)  recently kicked off their Kickstarter campaign and they’re off to a great start! Using Stoll full-fashion knitting technology, Appalatch can produce custom fit sweaters while reducing leftover knit fabric that often ends up being waste. The company sources its wool from Montana, has it processed and spun in South Carolina, dyed in North Carolina, and finished and sewed in Asheville, NC. We are so excited to see their latest fall collection on the runway during the Fall Fashion Expo happening Saturday, November 16th at the Durham Armory. But before we get the show on the road, we wanted to learn more about Appalatch’s vision and plans for the future.

Redress: Describe the moment you realized you wanted to design?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: I don’t know that there was any specific moment where I decided to start designing. Sewing and making clothing has been a lifelong pursuit as my mother and grandmother taught me to sew when I was young, both being very tolerant with me “borrowing” their fabric without asking. I ended up splitting my time in college between the studies of anthropology and studio art – archaeology lab and textile studio. I love studying the history and background of a fiber, a style or fashion, or the different ways that people interact with their clothing. Designing and making are my way of sharing the amazing things I learn with others in a form that they can wear and use.

Redress: How do you hope individuals connect with your products?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: I hope that in this age where we are faced with a million choices and have access to limitless information, people will start to see the importance of having a long-term-relationship with their clothes. There are different ways for people to connect with Appalatch’s clothing; they could love the way it looks, love the fabric, love the durability, or love that they can connect with its backstory. If people have more ways to connect with their clothing, then maybe we can help put the brakes on the notion of disposable fashion. I want people to explore how it feels to own a garment that they can learn the history of, use for years, and feel really good in.

Redress: What current event, music, artist, etc. is fueling your creativity and direction of your upcoming collection?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: I can’t believe how corny this sounds, but I really do draw inspiration from nature. I love living in the mountains and each time I spend a day exploring these mountains I feel like I have just plugged into something magical. The history of incredible craftsmanship that floods this area is also 100% inspiring, and there are artists and teachers everywhere that can show you how to take a pile of twigs and make a piece of art. The collection is made to outfit you as you get outside and explore!

What have I been listening to? Jessica Pratt, Pink Floyd, and the “Mists of Avalon” on audiobook.

 

Photo by Appalatch

Photo by Appalatch

Redress: How do you use sustainable practices as inspiration in your work?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: Though there are so many different aspects of sustainability that someone can take on in their work, the most inspiring part for me is in fabric selection! When I first realized that I could dictate the raw materials that go into yarn for sweaters or fabric, I felt like a mad scientist. There are so many amazing fibers out there that fall outside the norm but within the realm of possibility… alpaca, angora, Rambouillet wool, and flax being luxurious and sustainable fibers that can be grown right here in the southeast! It’s intoxicating.

Photo by Appalatch

Photo by Appalatch

Redress: What can we expect to see on the runway?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: You can expect to see a lot of knits! We are focused on our knits and expanding our fiber pallet because we are launching a kickstarter campaign that will help us raise money to start a really unique sweater project. We are going to invest in technology that will allow us to make sweaters that are custom fit to someone’s unique measurements. Because the machine will allow us to work making small batches of knitwear we can make use of some of the really unique fibers in our region. For now, I am hand knitting with these yarns, which gives me a lot more time to fall in love with them. I’m pairing the knits with garments in our line, locally made clothing or vintage pieces, and a few handmade accessories to help round out the looks.

Photo by Appalatch

Photo by Appalatch

 Redress: What is your go-to quote when you need to get your head back in the game?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: My sweetheart’s mom always says “Visualize and Materialize” – used to drive me nuts until I tried it! If you really want to make something happen, it helps to picture it first.

Redress: How do you reward yourself after a long day of work?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: I like to spend time with my sweetie and our friends, but if it’s been a really really long day, sleep is the best reward. I love to dream.

Redress: What are your thoughts about the current fashion scene in the South?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: I think that the fashion scene in the south is at a special time right now because it is growing out of the remnants of the textile industry and the creative independence I see in so many artists here. We are far away enough from the fashion behemoth cities, New York and LA, that designers can craft a style that embodies life in the south which is both rugged and refined.

Redress: Which of your personal idols would you like to see in your clothes and why?

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: The list is long.. but I would totally flip out if I got an order from Jane Goodall. She is a smart, beautiful, and revolutionary woman who literally put herself out into the wild and followed her passion. What a babe…

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Redress: Looking at the global fashion industry, what is one aspect you would like to see improved? 

Grace Gouin of Appalatch: Transparency. It’s almost impossible for me to pick just one, but that seems like the best place to start. I think that most people inherently make ethical decisions when presented with a choice and enough information.