Interview with PERENNIAL's Amelia Haney
Recently I worked with seasonless brand Perennial, I styled and photographed their beautiful Lelia Boucle Sweater (see post) and had the privilege of interviewing the lovely Amelia - founder of Perennial. The interview speaks for itself and I encourage you to take time reading it as Amelia discusses in great detail about not only her conscious brand but sustainability in the fashion industry and advises how you can be more thoughtful in your fashion choices!
Firstly, when did Perennial begin and how did it all come about?
Perennial began with a simple mission to create something beautiful with the intention of initiating positive change. After beginning my first semester in Parsons BFA program with every intention of pursuing studies in fine art, I found myself fascinated by Manhattan’s whirlwind of fast fashion and constant, overwhelming consumption. Less than six months into school I changed my major to pursue a BBA in Strategic Design and began studying the social, political, economic and environmental impacts the fashion industry has on our world. I spent the following two years completely immersed in reading about every element of sustainable design, from innovative materials and technologies to manufacturing and product design, and emerged my junior year to attend London College of Fashion’s semester program where I began designing the silhouettes that would become my first collection.
After leaving LCF I moved to Paris where I continued my Strategic Design major and took garment construction courses in an effort to learn about the fundamental creation process of building my designs. I returned to New York my senior year with a mission to pursue this idea as my final capstone and spent the year working with a sustainable design accelerator called BFDA where I created my first samples and learned about the production process.
In February 2018, two months after graduating, I founded Perennial.
Where does the name Perennial come from?
Perennial means ‘lasting or existing for an apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring’ and is a perfect embodiment of the brand. Perennial’s collection of silhouettes is comprised of seasonless garments, designed to transcend time and place and intended to inspire thoughtful consumer behavior.
Your garments are made in limited quantities, would you care to elaborate on this?
Absolutely. A crucial element of building a sustainable brand is a deep consideration of social, environmental and economic impact. I have just moved all my manufacturing from New York City to Portland, Oregon, where my collection is now being made in a zero-waste factory entirely run by women that is intricately involved in Portland’s sustainability practices. Smaller factories like these provide sustainable employment for local communities and have the time and resources to recycle and repurpose scrap and waste materials. By building Perennial with these priorities in mind and remaining DTC I can continue to manage Perennial’s online store operations myself and have the privilege of interacting with each and every customer.
Your pieces are timeless, both in quality and style, do you have any advice for people who want to create a timeless wardrobe?
I think the most valuable thing you can do is start thinking critically about your consumption habits and evaluate each purchase as an investment. Take a look in your closet and find the pieces that you’ve held on to forever, worn season after season, and build your wardrobe around those. Perhaps this means you shop less frequently but spend on higher quality pieces, or perhaps this just inspires you to take better care of your existing favorites.
What are you views on sustainability and how it fits (or not) into fashion?
I think sustainability plays an underlying role in all fashion, whether it’s a whisper or scream, and believe it’s a responsibility for the fashion industry (one of the most wasteful industries in the world) to not only be aware of, but actively prioritize. Each and every decision made has impact, from the fabric you source to the people you hire to the recycling practices you use, so there are countless opportunities every day to create positive change. I believe it’s inexcusable to ignore the role we all play, both companies and consumers, and urge everyone to take part in whatever way they can.
Do you think consumers are becoming more aware of the impacts that their clothing purchases have on the environment?
I think consumers are drowning in optionality at the moment, bombarded everyday by social marketing and completely overwhelmed by choice and a constant push to purchase. The benefit to this growing optionality is an increased awareness in brand story and mission, but the result is what we’ve seen with greenwashing. The increased acceptance and trendiness of companies with sustainable ethos’ seems to only be resulting in bigger marketing campaigns and little progress in actually improving the company practices and materials. Forbes recently reported that ‘Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing’, a fiber that takes over 200 years to decompose. There are countless brands that are heavily marketing their sustainable practices while making clothes that last a single wash composed entirely of polyester and these are responsible for the consumers lack of awareness.
I think the most effective method of spreading awareness of the impact this industry has on the environment is through honest reporting and storytelling. Documentaries, like ‘The True Cost’, are the best method to breaking down that barrier and educating the consumer on the life-altering impact their decision have and I am hopeful that we’ll be seeing more efforts like these to draw attention to the untold story of the industry.
What item of clothing sums up Perennial the most and why?
The Ophelia Wrap. The wrap was designed as a take on the kimono, the first piece of clothing that fascinated me as a child (my mother was born in Japan and inspired my love for Japanese design) and is a versatile, effortless and elegant piece. The fabric is Alpaca wool, an astoundingly complex and sustainable fiber that is natural, renewable, biodegradable and incredibly durable. I traveled to Prato, Italy last summer to tour the family mill that makes this fabric with fiber purchased from Peru and purchased the last remaining off-cuts, enough fabric to make three of these wraps.
Quick fire questions:
Cashmere or wool? Wool
Paris or New York? Paris
Less or more? Less
Winter or summer? Winter
Find more about Perennial here!