Fall is the perfect time for layered sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, and love. Many of the greatest ideas or collaborations are discovered during every day activities such as lunch, daily commutes, or in Lily Chehrazi and Benedict Barrett's case: on their first date. About three years ago, the pair started exchanging ideas about how they could collaborate creatively and how they could make a difference in the fashion industry while combining their love and mutual respect for humanity and planet earth. The two met while Chehrazi was attending school in NYC at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Barrett was living in the San Francisco Bay area. Very shortly after that first date, Chehrazi packed up her tiny East Village apartment and moved to California. While living in Sonoma wine country, the two decided to utilize Barrret's rich photography skills and combine it with Chehrazi's love of Japanese culture and street style to create glamorous fashion that would combine high fashion and high tech. All Together California clothing is made in Downtown Los Angeles and is composed of 84% recycled PET (recycled bottles) and 16% spandex.
All Together California products are created with the safest and most sustainable manufacturing techniques available without sacrificing style. The founders believe that "Together we can do more, be more and create more. Together we can shop responsibly and live colorfully." Together California products are available at select stores from New York to Los Angeles, but are always available for purchase online. Products range from $76-$125 USD and up. Together California launched a unique collaboration over the Summer with Grateful Dead drummer, Bill Kreutzmann, that helped revolutionize the merchandise with a modern spin on design through conscious production practices.
Read on below to find out more on how Together California's brand is sustainable, responsible, and made with love in DTLA.
How did the idea of Together CA come about?
That’s a loaded question, as it has been a life long quest and vision for me to be a fashion designer. But, essentially it started on my first date with Benedict. We had lunch outside at the ferry building in San Francisco and got to know each other by sort of asking lots of questions about each other’s creative endeavors. Being that Benedict is a trained photographer since the age of 12, who has always been drawn to alternative processes, it was almost immediately that ideas started blasting off in my head about collaborations. It just felt right. I remember seeing all these new ideas in my head and telling him that I was going to make his photography more popular, as he was living on a ranch by himself and just creating amazing stuff that almost nobody got to see. After that first date, we took some time to just utterly get swept away in love for a while before we really got down to the brass tacks of Together.
After we decided to dedicate ourselves full time to this vision in the beginning of 2013, I asked Ben what we should name the line. He said, “I don’t know, but we should name it Together.” I responded, “Great! I love that name!” It was sort of an accident that way; he meant let's agree on a name together, but what I thought I heard was, it should be named Together. We laughed, but then realized it was the perfect name for the sustainability movement we wished to represent and spark.
Can you tell me about your time in NYC and in Japan? What/who inspired you?
I am from NY and went to school for fashion design and merchandising at FIT. I had many demanding internships that taught me about the process of having a fashion business. I have always had a strong connection with Japanese culture, so I went there while in college and fell in love with Japanese street fashion along with its traditional customs. When I met my partner, Benedict, he was living up in the SF Bay area. I packed up my tiny East Village apartment to be with him and make art, and I haven’t looked back since! We started designing textiles together and wanted to focus on restoring antique furniture until my pursuit became selfish, as I decided wearing the art is more fulfilling than sitting on it! We began brainstorming while living in Sonoma wine country and created Together California. We are very inspired by nature. After we shot our first look book, we knew it was time to relocate where we could be near production and connect with others. Within one week of living in downtown LA, we were invited to show our debut capsule collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tokyo. This was one of the most exciting experiences of my life! I had always dreamed of showing there, and that became reality.
I’d love to hear more about the process of making the Together CA garments. Can you tell me about how it works?
First, it took about two years of visioning, planning, saving up, practicing and honing in on what the world needs. People need to know about how harmful the apparel industry is. Unfortunately, most of the toxicities are out of sight and out of mind to Americans. We do all of our designing, cutting, and sewing within walking distance of our headquarters. We know every person who touches our garments.
I’ve heard that the fashion and textile industry is one of the more wasteful industries, and I think it’s great that Together CA is doing something to take action. Why is it important to create apparel that is safer for the environment through newer technologies?
Once our little company was able to make our own fabric, we realized the entire clothing market in general could easily make the switch to sustainability, but the greed of keeping uninformed customers in the dark is what is holding back this fossilized industry. I don’t think people realize the effects of the fashion and clothing industry has on global warming, human rights, and consuming of natural resources. The fashion industry is the third most polluting industry IN THE WORLD besides oil and agriculture. Yet, there has been no push for a healthier system like in the automotive, energy, and food industries. I mean the lack of transparency and sly PR campaigns that corporations spend millions on to keep people in the dark about the fashion industry’s underbelly is breathtaking. So, we will carry the torch until people understand that there is a stylish AND conscious alternative to fast fashion. We will keep developing new textiles and raising awareness until sustainability is the norm.
I love the pantaloni pants! How does their makeup with 84% recycled RPET and 16% spandex compare to that of other brands/manufacturers’ active wear apparel?
Our unique custom blended fabric is made of recycled water bottles, so each pair of Pantaloni is made of at least 10 bottles. What makes our fabric the most special is that its touch has the most luxurious polyester I’ve ever felt, at any price point. We went through over a year of research and development to create that particular fabric. It is made by melting recycled water bottles down, pulling the liquid into a yarn, which is then milled into our custom fabric via traditional mills.
Currently you have a variety of TC styles available: crop tops, pantaloni, turtlenecks, miniskirts, dresses pocket squares/scarves, and now swimwear. I love the swimwear! But, I’d like to focus more about the “active” aspect of the entire line. Today’s society is so “on the go” with our smart phones, iPads, iPods, Macbooks, Google watches- all that good stuff, but in terms of apparel, how did you decide to choose the styles you made and also the designs that are created? Why active wear of all types of apparel?
When I moved to California from NYC, I was disappointed by how casual everyone dressed, which in turn made me look out of place in wine country wearing sort of conceptual fashions. After a few months of getting used to everyone wearing very basic and casual clothing, I decided I needed to raise the bar myself. I needed something my NYC self would look at and love, but remained “California” enough so that I could wear it to yoga, running errands, to work at the winery, or going out with friends. So, we call it Active Glam Wear, because you can sweat it up at the gym or wear it out on a date and be absolutely fabulous. We refrain heavily from being type cast as a strictly active label as we represent sort of the modern day renaissance women who wear many hats every day.
Beyond my own selfish reasons of why we started by making these more basic items, this is some background; we were looking for a fabric that could carry the fine details of Benedict’s photographic prints. As synthetic fibers print the best, we decided we could only use polyester if we could source it sustainably, so we set about on that behind the scenes journey. Once we had invested a year and all of our money into developing this high tech process, we had to think in terms of what women actually buy and wear the most. Ben and I knew we couldn’t just come out and make the wildest, fashion designs that we could think of because a lot of those ideas aren’t as wearable for most ladies. We had to make something that we could actually sell and see some return on, and that’s why our very first product was our Pantaloni.
What is the best part of founding the Together CA brand and designing these beautiful pieces? Where do you get your day-to-day inspiration?
The best part is sharing this process with my partner, Ben. While working in tandem with your significant other makes some people seem to want to claw their eyes out, there is nothing more rewarding then going through this process, Together. The concept of Together is that we are setting out to change the apparel industry as a whole, and to do so we need the help of our supporters and customers. Together we can do this. So, what is really rewarding about working for Together is not only getting to create something out of nothing with Ben, but also to really feel like we are in service to the earth and our customers in a deeper sense then simply selling clothes. Being in service to the bigger movement of conscious consumerism and helping to heal the world is what gets us up every morning.
What does Together CA have in store for the rest of 2015?
Together CA has a bunch of new prints and solid colors coming soon! Our A/W15 collection features new products, including riding pants, hemp/organic cotton sweat suits with printed trim, sports bras, and boxing shorts too! We are very excited about our recent collaboration with Bill Kreutzmann, drummer of the Grateful Dead. He reached out to us to create “elevated merchandise” featuring his groovy artwork on our signature recycled pantaloni. He thought the band merch industry needs an overhaul, since the majority is mass-produced in China, which conflicts with the band’s spirit and identity. The pantaloni is available for purchase on our website, and we are thrilled to see where that leads. Being huge fans of the Grateful Dead, it is an overwhelming honor to have one of your creative role models come to your studio and bless your creations; it’s actually probably one of the things that we are most proud of since starting. Like “WOW, one of our role models totally just gave us the thumbs up and great encouragement!!”
There really is no greater reward for an artist of any sort then to win the approval of those that molded their style, working with Billy has just been a blessing that really has kept wind in our sails as our little company seemed to always have to paddle upstream. The fact that now we are working with the Grateful Dead is truly humbling, and we will cherish it forever.
For more information on Together California, visit www.togethercalifornia.com, and follow Lily and Benedict's beautiful journey on Facebook and Instagram.