Monthly Maker Spotlight: Rachel Faller of tonle'
Recently, we have started carrying a few clothing brands that are based in the US, but then do their production abroad using fair labor practices and ensuring their company keeps the environment in mind.. Rachel Faller is the founder and creative director behind tonle' and lives in San Francisco. Tonle''s factories are based in Cambodia and they have a huge commitment to the environment as well as their workers. Her company's entire production leaves 0% waste, as compared to a typical factory, which can average up to 40%. Their design team can often be found combing through tons of fabric cast aside by large manufacturers to find the highest quality remnant fabrics and their designers work side by side with the production team to create collections that incorporate even the smallest scraps of their own textile waste. We wanted to see what inspires Rachel and what drives her passion for sustainable fashion.
What inspires your creative process? I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always found inspiration in taking things that others have looked over and giving them a second life, and showing the story behind them. Much of my art making has to do with reuse and recycling, and that of course carries into tonlé, my fashion label. Tonlé takes remnant materials left from garment factories and transforms them into new garments. We also make an effort to use every single scrap of our own waste in a unique, zero-waste process. For some people this might be limiting, but the challenge of working this way (starting with materials first to come up with designs, rather than the other way around) I believe actually forces us to think more creatively.
How long have you been making clothing? How did you start out? I was taught how to sew by my grandmother and mother. I also loved to paint, which I think inspired the integration of screen printing into tonlé’s designs. At art school I learned to fuse these two passions together. Because of all the problems surrounding the fashion industry, I couldn’t see a way to work in fashion that I felt good about. But when I visited Cambodia in 2007 for the first time, I met a number of people working in fair trade, and I was inspired that things could be done differently. Eventually, this led me to start my business in Cambodia.
Why do you believe in sustainable fashion and what drives you? The fashion industry is one of the most devastating – environmentally and to human and animal welfare – in the world. It especially impacts the lives of women – (80% of garment workers worldwide are women) and often in developing economies, fast-paced, unsafe jobs in assembly lines are the only option for women trying to take their first steps out of poverty. These jobs are critically important to those involved, and the fashion industry is not going away any time soon, so we as a society must find a way to change this situation. As an entrepreneur running a small company, we employ 50 people (96% of our staff our women) and that seems like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the 500,000 garment workers in Cambodia alone. However, through our brand tonlé, we have a voice. And because of that, I hope that we can not only change our tiny part of the industry, but also be an example that there is a better way to do things. If customers get that, and start to demand that things be done differently, hopefully we’ll see some change in the large companies too.
Why do you like living in San Francisco? The main upside for me about living in the bay area is the accessibility of the outdoors – it’s so incredible that you can get outside into beautiful natural spots so easily. I also love the culture of the city that celebrates that; that people are constantly taking advantage of and appreciating that aspect of life. I also think there’s a hopefulness about people here, that they believe that things can be different and are looking to make a positive impact on the world in whatever way they can.
We currently have a small collection of tonle' designs at Resurrect and will be getting in many great pieces for Spring.! In the meantime, check out tonle's website to see a sneak peak of the Spring collection, meet the tonle' team, and learn more about how their design process works.