Working in corporate fashion as a buyer, designer, and textile developer–jobs many aspiring couturiers only dream of—was eye-opening for One Imaginary Girl founder, Sarah Donofrio. Not in a good way.
“I hated the thought of not being in control of where my garments were made,” she tells us. The idea of cheaply-produced clothing being sold at luxury prices was, in a word, disturbing. She admits “I was just turned off by all of that greed.” The industry’s fast fashion mindset helped inspire this designer to take her sustainable side hustle and turn it into her own special collection.
“I couldn’t at all afford to employ anyone in the beginning. On top of designing, I did my own pattern-drafting, grading, sample-making…I would even do my own printing with ink; there weren’t a lot of fabric printers available at the time. I also connected with a great textile agent who helped me source the lowest minimums on fabrics like organic cottons and silks when no one else could,” Sarah explains.
She adds, “What I’m saying is that when I started my line ten years ago as a side business, I worked with what I had access to, not necessarily realizing I was practicing sustainability. But these practices and that mindset readied me to actually get serious about committing full time. When I started One Imaginary Girl 3 ½ years ago, I was scaling my line and also keeping up with my sustainability practices. It’s been a slow process, but I am finally figuring out what works best for me, my costs, and the planet.”
For the award-winning One Imaginary Girl brand, it boils down to a simple shift in awareness and a practical approach: keep inventory low, employ women (a good bet in any industry!), make everything in North America, and get as much information and as many certificates as possible from overseas fabric vendors. These standards ensure that the brand, her contractors, and the planet all thrive.
Fundamental to this mindful approach are two other factors: inclusivity and transparency, the centerpiece to the One Imaginary Girl mission.
“My prices have always been inclusive, and the first coat I ever sold was actually to a man. I have personally, along with my brand and the stores I hang in, always maintained a more welcoming, inclusive vibe and brand ethos. I’ve also always offered custom sizing for my apparel at no additional cost.”
We further spent a good amount of time discussing the importance of community and nurturing one’s creativity, but what we left with was Sarah’s final sentiment; sound advice for entrepreneurs everywhere. Don’t worry too much about being “ready.”
“I’ve learned that you have to just dive in, especially when you’re working within sustainable parameters. It might take time to feel “ready”, but if you just dive in and have those aspirations in your pocket, you’ll find you’re really ready for anything!”