Sassafras: What inspired you to start This Then That?
This Then That: We (Martha Lucas and Janelle Abbott) met at a fashion event on Earth Day in 2013. We found a connection through fashion, but also shared a love of thrift, upcycling, and art making. We soon began collaborating on art exhibitions at the gallery Martha was running in Ballard.
Martha moved to Tacoma in 2015 and was struggling to find work in fashion. It was then that we learned about the Spaceworks program in Tacoma, which incubates small creative businesses by matching them with property owners and storefronts to help get off on the right foot. What an amazing opportunity! We sent in our application, and got accepted to the program.
Janelle dreamed up the concept of transforming t-shirts into other garments, because white t-shirts are the most mutable and readily available thrift store find. Furthermore, there is a serious epidemic of textile and garment waste in our country thanks to the current obsession with fast fashion. We wanted to make clothes without making more waste, so why not take clothes already in the marketplace and transform them into something fresh and new?
We make unique, sustainable, and innovative garments that are engaging both in experience and concept.
We want to play an active role in educating consumers, and to ultimately change the way clothing is worn, consumed, and recycled.
Sassafras: Why is the zero waste concept such a crucial aspect in fashion design?
This Then That: The industry has grown stagnant under the weight of the ‘fast fashion’ craze. We cannot continue to produce and consume at this same rate, as we have already begun to notice severe repercussions on the environment and workers.
15% of all material is scrapped in the current method of garment production. For every positive cut there is a negative that gets sent to a landfill somewhere. Zero waste is driven by necessity and fueled by innovation; and yet, it is resonant of ancient traditions of garment construction such as the Japanese kimono or Guatemalan huipil. Zero waste is a part of the solution. Reducing virgin materials, reducing water use and pollution, and eliminating waste during the garment production process are all necessary measures in transforming the fashion industry from the second dirtiest industry next to big oil, to the foremost in sustainability and environmental positivity.
We like zero waste for all these reasons, but also because of the challenge of the pattern making process. Every garment is a puzzle that if disassembled, could be reconstructed into a t-shirt once again. There is a strong element of engineering and ingenuity necessary in the zero waste pattern cutting process.
We like the focus on creative reuse of materials that we have an abundance of (such as white t-shirts). By looking at the world in a different way, anything can become a source of inspiration or be transformed into something new.
In consideration of collaborating within the zero waste methodology: working together with manufacturers of other garments and goods, we can find ways to turn one designer’s leftover scraps into another’s new collection, and build a stronger network of artists, designers, and makers. That’s sort of a big picture idea, though. For right now we’re keeping our scale small and turning fast fashion into handmade, one of a kind, never to be seen again, masterpieces of zero waste design.
Sassafras: What do you love most about Seattle fashion?
This Then That:
Utility – always prepared for the bipolar weather patterns from day to day, or hour to hour. We end up dressing in layers and technical fabrics year round, which can bring out some interesting street style.
Historical Remnants – how all the dudes like to think they descend from the hearty lumberjacks and longshoremen who once populated this mudflat.
Selfishness – people don’t really dress outlandishly around here, and if they do, no one else really minds. People dress for themselves, and we really appreciate the honesty. I have a co-worker who has the same t-shirt in seven different colors and she practically wears one each day of the week. It’s not creative, it’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s real, it’s satisfying for her, and it’s cool with us! That means that we can dress for ourselves too; as crazy and wacked out as we want. No one really cares.
Sassafras: How do you see the Seattle fashion scene evolving?
This Then That: As wearable technology advances, we will definitely be seeing more of it, though with a casual style that fits a more active and outdoors lifestyle, rather than a high fashion aesthetic. 3D-printed heels aren’t the most practical shoe choice if you're traversing the uneven, and often steep Seattle landscape.
At the same time, a resistance to the takeover of technology will become stronger and create a larger market for more unique items that are local, handmade, and limited edition pieces (in keeping with the general trend of ‘buy local’).
For the most part, Seattle is either put together, practical, or slob. Sometimes a creative mixture of all three, but the city doesn’t have a strong movement towards superfluous innovation of expression through fashion. Functionality often runs the show.
Sassafras: What do you envision for the future of This Then That?
This Then That: We want to heighten our sustainability game by moving towards the use of natural dyes created from materials sourced within our local area.
We seek to build relationships with organizations and businesses that are pioneering the sustainable movement through upcycled textiles. For example, Thread International, which creates textiles from reclaimed plastic bottles collected within impoverished regions, and in one fell swoop they provide jobs to those in need and reduce the pollution and the size oflandfills! Another example would be Evrnu, a Seattle based reclaimed textile laboratory.
We desire to collaborate with non-profits and organizations that are fighting human trafficking and slavery, advocating for women’s rights in the developing world, and promoting sustainability, and environmental accountability. We would like to collaborate through either raising money for their cause with our work, creating product specific for events to promote to said non-profits, or otherwise. We want to use our brand, platform, and personal convictions to elevate the causes of others, and have a direct and positive impact on the lives of individuals worldwide.