Turning recycled fabrics into employment for women entrepreneurs, Meet Elizabeth Roney, Founder & Designer at Liz Alig

Elizabeth Roney

I love Elizabeth’s no-nonsense style.  She has a heart full of passion, but she’s cool, calm and collected.  What’s not to love?!  Meet Elizabeth Roney.

Hi Liz!  Yours is our first story that focuses on turning recycled fabrics into employment for female entrepreneurs around the world.  I’m so excited to get to share it!  
What were you doing before you started Liz Alig?

I had just graduated college the year before in 2008, so it was a little hard to find a job in fashion – or really anywhere as a recent college grad. I traveled to India for a few months, did several jobs that I didn’t really enjoy.

It made me ask myself what I really wanted to do.

After previous travels to developing countries I started to ask more questions about where my clothing was made, so I knew I wanted to do something that made a positive impact in clothing production.

Tell us about the moment you knew for sure you had to do something. How did you muster the courage to actually do it?

Frankly, it was not one magical moment when I decided this is what I want to do – and even now the company is evolving every day. I think taking those small steps is how I got where I am now….deciding I was not going to personally buy any clothing that was not made ethically, taking a couple of dresses to a local boutique to see if they would be interested in selling them… traveling to NGO’s oversees to see if they would be a good fit for production…doing my first trade show and the list goes on and on.

But it always starts with small steps.

How did you get started?  Where did you get the funding?

I started by making only a very small line of about 10 dresses and showing them to local boutiques to see if they would be interested in selling them. It was really more an experiment to see if it was possible to make a garment out of 100% recycled materials.

When people liked them and they sold – I went on from there. I started producing them with a group I had worked with in Honduras called Mi Esperanza.

My family owns an apple orchard outside of Indianapolis – there is an old house there that no one was using so I slowly took it over as an office. It’s a cozy little house and the apples are a great perk.

How did you decide on the specific products you have now?

Everything I design is something that I would want to wear myself – even if it doesn’t end up that way : ) Things like pockets, small details of fit, and rich eclectic textiles are a large part of my designs.

I believe strongly in the importance of ensuring the ethics of each garment starting with the fabric we source.  Because of this, many of our garments are made from 100% recycled materials. This means that the fabric for the garment was previously anything from t-shirts to vintage dresses. We upcycle these garments and give them a new life by deconstructing them and making a completely new, fashion forward garment.

Tell us about your give-back model.  How do you do good through Liz Alig?   Liz Alig, Casey Top, recycled cotton top | heartstories

I started Liz Alig before ethical or sustainable fashion was so popular. Because of this producing clothing ethically is engrained into who we are. Even 5 years ago it was so much harder to find the origin of raw materials. This is the main reason I started designing with recycled fabrics – it was almost impossible to source a lot of fabrics that were produced ethically.

All this to say making clothing ethically from fabric to sewing is what we do : )

We also give a portion of our sales back to NGOs in developing countries to promote skills training of women.  It is really hard measure the impact – I think the stories I hear of the women we work with who are able to go back to school or buy a bigger house or pay for medical care. These are real impacts.

Have there been moments you second-guessed that you made the right decision?

There are a million moments when I wonder why I am still doing this, but I do think it is important to separate yourself from this thing you’ve created.

Long vacations are such good medicine : )

What is the hardest negative soundtrack in your mind to overcome?

The fashion industry is kind of a hopeless industry to be in sometimes. Watch True Cost Movie and you will know what I am talking about.

What’s something you learned the hard way?

There are a lot of things I learned the hard way, but I think that is part of starting a business. Sometimes it is better to just try things and fail then never start anything.

Have you experienced negative feedback along the way? Were there people who didn’t see the vision along the way?  

The divide in the two different groups of people I am working with can be a challenge.

The women in developing countries who are sewing the clothing sometimes don’t even have electricity let alone can they image the kind of stores the clothing they are making is sold in. On the other hand boutique owners easily back this kind of positive story, but it can be a challenge to get them to understand the whole picture –just how poor most of these women are, their different aesthetics, and the production restraints they have, etc.

 What would you say sitting across the table from another woman who says, “Sure. But you had money saved up, a spouse who can support you, a business degree, a support system, a platform, etc... You’re brave. You’re fearless and I’m risk averse, I’m … fill in the blank.” 

Well I would probably laugh… It can be daunting if you are comparing yourself to Angelina, but really it’s more about making small risks every day.

Try something small that is in the direction of where you want to be.

What advice would you give to someone, like me, who feels guilty about not buying everything from socially responsible companies? 

I really like this question because honestly, I think there is a reason for that guilt. Sometimes it is easy to let ourselves off and say it is too hard to buy consciously. On the other hand you can drive yourself crazy buying only organic food, fair trade clothing, and only buying things that are sustainable.

The truth is I think our culture has kind of screwed us up. The fast fashion mentality and our consumer culture has made us think we need to buy all new things all the time.

Maybe it is more a mix of not buying as much stuff and buying quality items that we know will last.

I think this is a little easier for me – when you have lived in the poorest places in the world and realize most of these people are happier than we are in the Western World, you start to understand how our culture has confused us about what is important. I have gone about five years without buying any clothing that is not made in the US, fair trade or second hand. It is possible and I do think it is important.

Is there a quote you have on your desk, your wall, or just stored in your heart that keeps you going or lifts your spirits when you’re down?

“Choose courage over comfort!”

What are you most passionate about regarding Liz Alig?

 I think it is important for us to start asking where our clothing comes from – that is why I started Liz Alig. The world is a much smaller place than we realize and our purchase choices do have a significant impact on women around the world.

So, even if it is as small as reading the tag to see where something is made before you buy it – start with that small step.

How can we support you?

Buy my clothes. : )

We can do that!  I am SO thrilled that we get to debut our partnership at our pop-up shop at Fashioned for Freedom in less than 3 weeks!  

Thank you so much for opening your heart to share your story Elizabeth. We are rooting for you and will support you any way we can, especially by purchasing your clothes!

To more love,

Crystal

Check out some of the darling recycled styles we’ll have in the pop-up shop from Liz Alig below.  If you’re local, get your tickets for the show to buy them in person!  Her styles will not last long!

Purchase with Purpose today.

Liz Alig Recycled Tunic | HeartStories Liz Alig Recycled Dress | HeartStories Liz Alig recycled dress Janaye | HeartStories IMG_8801_3__96712.1423187700.1280.1280

I have this one and I’m kind of obsessed with wearing it.  Just sayin’.

Turning recycled fabrics into employment for women entrepreneurs, Meet Elizabeth Roney, Founder & Designer at Liz Alig written by Crystal Gornto

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