JUNE / Good Company with Minor - tortoise general store

JUNE / Good Company with Minor

Posted by Emma Tsuchida on

When Diana Evans founded the sustainable fashion brand Minor in 2020, it arose from a feeling of responsibility—not only to the planet, but also to the end user of her garments as a professional children's licensed apparel designer.  With fashion being consumed and discarded at record speed these days, Minor humbly presents an alternative to parents and kids seeking slower fashion that matches their consciousness, and one that encourages us to choose heirlooms over landfills when it comes to our wardrobe.  Inspired by her bi-cultural background of Japanese festivals in the summertime and mending clothes on a military base in Hawaii, Diana translates traditional Japanese silhouettes from her childhood into timeless designs for present day kiddos, with garments that will be wearable for their younger siblings or cousins to enjoy down the line.  We're excited to welcome Diana Evans, designer and founder of Minor, to share her thoughts on responsible fashion and how she sees Minor being part of a major shift towards raising a healthier planet.

ET: When did you first get the idea for Minor?  How did it come about?

DE:   Working in the mass market, fast fashion industry, I was inspired to try and use my skills and experience for good. I worked as a kid’s apparel designer, and started to really think about what that meant for kids by virtue of the planet that we were leaving for them.  As a consumer, I was already switching over my shopping habits, looking towards vintage and buying more quality goods made by designers who were choosing materials and methods that were more sustainable and eco friendly. I began Minor by selling kid's vintage, and wasn't quite sure if I'd end up designing my own line.  Naturally, exploring kid’s vintage brought me closer to parents who cared about sustainability and their existence ultimately gave me the confidence that maybe I could make a sustainable product they'd enjoy  –  for their kids. I was also at a place in my life where I was appreciating the culture I came from, and the traditions and language I was raised with, and it became important to me that I share that culture with people in a way that felt honest and authentic.  So I melded those two passions within me together and came up with Minor.

ET: How did your Japanese heritage directly influence you as a designer?  Do you feel you can express that side of yourself more as an independent designer?

DE: Definitely.  To start, the values that I hold are rooted in my family’s socio-economic background.  We weren't wealthy people, we kind of made do with what we had. My mom couldn't buy me a large wardrobe growing up, so she wanted me to figure out a way to work with what I had on my own. She bought me a sewing machine at a young age, and I was raised to figure it out.  When I got pants that were too big, hand me downs from my brother for example, it meant I had to take the sewing machine out and either lengthen the hem or cinch in my waist, so that I could fit in my clothes better. I think it’s part of our Japanese culture to try and take care of the things you have. A lot of families in similar situations as me, I think they developed skills to do that, whether it’s the art of kintsugi for example, or just mending clothing.  That’s kind of what I hope to share with the world, the beauty of valuing our belongings.  

ET: You currently have two styles offered in your collection at Minor.  The jinbei style and now the noragi.  For those people who may not be familiar with these traditional types of clothing, could you describe what these two styles are like?

DE: The jinbei is definitely more of a summertime style. This style evokes a lot of fond memories from my childhood living in Japan during festival time, begging my mom to let me wear what my brother was wearing, then dancing and watching the fireworks with my obasan.  The jinbei has a really soft silhouette made for fun. You can relax and hang out at home in it, or wear it outside and play.  It’s multi-functional.  The noragi style is kind of a minimalist, staple piece in menswear, but it's functional silhouette makes it versatile and unisex. It's great for the outdoors, it's durable and it goes with everything. The intention behind it was to create a piece that was wearable year round and could be mixed and matched with anything in your closet, hopefully lasting as long as it can in your wardrobe.

ET: In addition to these meaningful Japanese influences, what would you say is the design philosophy behind Minor? 

DE: It’s really important to me that while my pieces may not necessarily be accessible to everybody as far as price point goes, I hope that what I am able to communicate to people through my designs is that my pieces are meant to be long lasting and passed down. This idea that we can have multifunctional pieces in our closet that can work together, even for young children, means that there’s less waste that goes in our landfill, and also we're consuming less to begin with. Because these pieces are meant to be passed down–if you have multiple children, you can see my clothing live multiple lives in a single household.

ET: It does seem like people have their consciousness piqued about the fast fashion industry and what it means for our planet. Why do you think sustainability is so important to address in the fashion industry? And do you think big name brands can do more to act sustainably? Or do you think it’s up to the consumer to act more sustainably instead?

DE: That's a great question.  I would say that it's the responsibility of the people in power, the large companies that are providing these goods.  There is a way to shift the industry to be more sustainable, and to think about the end use of their products, or at least think about consumerism in fashion less from a linear perspective and more as a circular process.  So if we’re creating hundreds of thousands of pieces, in the fast fashion industry, can we consider what materials we use? Can we make pieces that won’t fall apart after one single use? And if we’re considering materials, once a garment ends its lifecycle with one person, how can it be put back into the cycle of production? This kind of thinking can’t be just the responsibility of the consumer.  There’s a mindset that after something is worn I'll take it to Goodwill, but we’re forgetting that after goodwill, only 20% of what goes on the floor finds a new home.  And then the rest of it gets shipped overseas to end up in landfills in countries like Ghana, and its pollution spills into water systems causing even greater damage. We can always educate the consumers on how to be better and how to participate in sustainability, but unless companies create products that last after they’ve been worn or can somehow go back into the cycle of production, consumers are left with little options to be better.

ET:  Young kids grow so quickly, it really makes it difficult to keep clothing in rotation. Plus parents face pressure to dress their kids in something new and follow the latest trends. Do you have advice for parents who want to live more sustainably for their kids as someone who's worked in the fashion world?

DE: Having worked in the license industry where I designed Disney and Marvel T shirts constantly, I understand the psychology behind these kinds of clothes.  With that said, kids don't have a whole lot of say when it comes to what they wear, and I think parents have the power to curate their wardrobe.  Curation means pulling together pieces that are intentionally going to work with each other, and giving kids a high quality wardrobe that makes sense for them. So if your child needs two pairs of jeans, a pair of shorts, and, you know, five tops, that’s a minimal wardrobe where it will probably be more important to get pieces of  higher quality so they can be worn when your kid is playing, but still hold up when they’re washed repeatedly. So my first advice is to create a minimal wardrobe that works with everything else you have. I have friends that do this, so I know it works.  And then the second part to this is to consider the brands that you're supporting when you’re curating that wardrobe.  Learn about what that brand is doing to help solve our climate change crisis because the fashion industry really does a tremendous amount of harm when it comes to things like our water waste, from the growing of crops to the dyeing process of fabrics.  Supporting companies that are trying to help solve the problem is important because right now making clothes in the way that Minor does it (smaller batches and using materials that already exist) is highly expensive.  But if there were more companies like us with the support of consumers, maybe we could someday see more factories out there that could support these kind of brands that care about environmental issues and would offer us ways to produce at a lower cost.  And eventually, the choice to buy from a large company manufacturing in China versus a small business producing locally wouldn’t have to be such an expensive lifestyle choice that parents had to make.  

ET: What is the age range of your clothes and what is the manufacturing process for the clothes at Minor?

DE: Our age range is 18 months to around six years old, but that really just depends on an individual child’s size and growth. Sometimes a five year old can wear a seven year old’s clothing. The reasoning behind this range is purely cost.  Fabric consumption is very expensive. For the manufacturing process, I personally go out and find fabric from a warehouse that specifically houses deadstock fabric, which is basically surplus fabric rolls that come from design houses and big brands because it was deemed obsolete or out of season or maybe even just the wrong color.  Instead of sending those fabrics to a landfill, there are warehouses where they house pallets of these fabrics.  I go and search these massive warehouses, going through pallets and pallets of fabric by hand.  I pick the fabric and then I have a pattern maker who works with me on what the designs are going to be.  Once I get the right fit through her sample making, I take these patterns to my grader who then takes my samples and she creates the other sizes within my size range.  After that I have all of the patterns on one sheet with all the size ranges and all the pattern pieces I'm going to need to construct the line, and the entire process takes about four to six weeks.


ET: Given the strong Japanese influence in your designs, how does your family in Japan feel about Minor and your work as a designer?

DE: Everybody in my family is supportive, but I think my mom especially.  She always asks me, how did you think of this? Or, where did this come from? And I think she's proud of how indirectly the lessons she taught me stuck, and influenced me.  Something that I've heard through other people in my family is they're surprised to see me going in the direction of pulling inspiration from traditional garments instead of creating more trendy silhouettes.  I view my designs as an interpretation of Japanese traditional garments that feels true to my upbringing, but still accessible to someone who didn't grow up like me.


ET:  I can remember these styles as foundational pieces growing up in Japan, so they do feel natsukashi (nostalgic) to childhood. What do you hope for the future of Minor?

DE: I try not to make plans that are too restricting because I love the natural evolution of things.  As long as there are parents in this world that might learn something from this brand, and it maybe helps to change the way they look at things and how they shop for their kids, Minor will be a success. Secondly, my hope is for connection – specifically, connecting with my community. Originally this was one of my biggest reasons for wanting to create a brand centered around my heritage and my hope is that I can remain connected to it with this business, even from a distance.  


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