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Beru Kids: Repurposing Materials Into Stylish Children's Clothing
Written by Lanni Lantto - Friday, 03 June 2016
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I love all things upcycled and now that I’m a Mom, I’ve been looking more into upcycled children’s clothing.  If you’re like me, you asked for all second hand clothing on your baby registry practically begging people, “It’s okay please don’t buy it new, go to the thrift/consignment store, wash it, and I’ll think you’re even cooler, trust me!”  You want to continue that mindset as your child grows and luckily brands are making it easier for us.

Beru Kids is an ethical children's clothing brand repurposing deadstock materials into original styles for kids. Styles like harem pants, bomber jackets and breezy dresses from soft, durable fabrics in playful prints are designed and crafted locally in a partner factory implementing sustainable practices in downtown Los Angeles.
 Beru prides itself on being a “social impact brand,” which means that their business model is equally, if not more, focused on operating ethically and going well above and beyond the low standards of the fashion industry. It means not cutting corners for the sake of margins, but rather upholding high ethical standards.

I was curious how they sourced their deadstock materials, what their creative process was and if they were finding success in a burgeoning closed-loop fashion industry.

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7 Questions with Sofia Melograno, Founder of Beru Kids


Eco Fashion World:  How did it get started, how did it come to be?

 

Sofia Melograno:  I was studying public health, poverty alleviation and development in Sub-Saharan Africa (mainly South Africa and northern Tanzania) when I met a woman who established a sewing cooperative for HIV+ mothers (who would otherwise be jobless), and simultaneously started a school for their children. Seeing how this woman transformed workers' lives was so impactful and inspiring.


When I came back to the States, I knew I wanted to build an ethical brand, but I had no fashion industry experience whatsoever. I got in touch with an acquaintance from elementary school—literally, second grade—knowing he knew the LA fashion scene, and soon contracted a factory in DTLA. Shortly after taking trips to the factories, I realized the enormous amount of poverty in "my own backyard," in downtown LA. I committed to working with local factories implementing sustainable practices (i.e. paying employees above minimum wage, as opposed to 'per garment') and using surplus materials from other brands, so that Beru didn't create any additional waste, and began creating styles for kids that were SoCal and African inspired.


EFW:  Why was upcycling/reuse aspect an important part of your business mission?

 

SM:  There is so much waste in the fashion industry, so Beru is dedicated to not creating any more. We are making use of what's already available, and repurposing those resources into beautiful clothing for kids.

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EFW:  Has it been a challenge to find good quality second hand materials?

 

SM:  So, deadstock material is surplus fabric that has been dumped by large scale manufacturers. Let's say, a big brand purchases 10k yards of a rayon challis from a mill, but only uses 8k in production. They have no use for the excess 2k yards, so they sell it at a very low cost to a "jobber." We, at Beru, have relationships with these jobbers around Los Angeles who we will reach out to us when they get new fabrics in or they know we are looking for a fabric in a specific weight, color, print, etc.


It’s really not as hard as you think it would be. You may have to spend a little more time looking for it, but it’s really not difficult. Once you find a good jobber (there’s a huge one in LA that we use), it’s just a matter of having the patience to search for what you like out of what’s available. I never have an issue finding good quality fabrics. It just takes that little bit of extra time and effort.


EFW:  Have you found it more difficult or easier to make a profit by upcycling materials?

 

SM:  As a young company, making a profit in this industry, regardless of what materials you use, is a challenge. I will say that what makes it more difficult is that we cannot produce in large quantities because all of our fabric is surplus. We can’t reorder fabric that is doing well because it probably doesn’t exist anymore, especially fabric with prints. When we’re sold out, we're sold out. Now, there are ways around that. For example, we can recreate a similar print and print that on a solid surplus fabric. However, that is quite costly and we’re making an effort to move away from that process.  

 

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EFW:  Do you have advice for young designers who would like to source more second hand materials and who are trying to move in this direction?

 

SM:  When I started in this industry, I literally knew nothing. I didn’t even know what a pattern was and I definitely had no idea where to get fabric or what the overall process looked like. Surplus materials are a great place to start as the minimum quantities required for purchase are significantly smaller. One of the places I purchase from has a 20-yard minimum versus a 100-yard minimum at other places.

My connections developed by walking into fabric stores in the LA fashion district and asking who sold deadstock and where I could find it. It’s all word of mouth.


EFW:  What has been the greatest success for Beru so far and what do you hope the future brings?

 

SM:  It’s so hard to choose just one thing as I feel everyday I’m celebrating a small achievement. The greatest success so far has been the positive feedback. When I first started I had so many doubts. Can I do this on my own? Is this good? Am I the only person who likes this? Am I as competent as I think I am? I still feel so new to the industry and know that I have so much more to learn, but knowing that I’m moving in a direction that people are responding positively to has been what keeps me going everyday. Beru is still so young that this year will be a pivotal year for us. We have a lot of exciting things on the horizon.

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EFW:  Why is the sourcing of ‘materials which would otherwise be thrown away' important in terms of our environmental impact and the fashion industry?


SM:  The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries, only second to the oil industry. When I first started working in fashion that was completely mind-boggling to me. The overall environmental impact from the fashion industry is very harsh. Most people don’t think that a t-shirt would have a large carbon footprint, but that one t-shirt has not-so-obvious pollutants. There were likely pesticides used in growing the cotton used for making the shirt and toxic dyes used when manufacturing. By using materials that would have otherwise been thrown away, we aren’t creating anymore waste, but using what’s already out there to fill a need for parents and their kids. The fashion industry isn’t going anywhere and parents will always need to buy clothing for their kids. The last thing that we want to do is add to the waste. We’re not only trying to be more sustainable in our practices, but our aim is to help inspire further change in the industry as a whole. 


To learn more about Beru Kids, visit their website.

 

 
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