M.I.A. FOUND: Portland’s Printed, Post-Consumer Polyester

For Make It Good’s co-founders Leah Stovel and Avery Bloom, fashion is love. In its honeymoon days, it was nothing more than a couple of clotheshorses who shared a desire to create. The company grew organically from Avery’s insatiable need to print and Leah’s eye for garment construction. When the time was right, they fell in fashion and made sweet, sweet clothing together. What makes Make It Good special is the love that goes into it; with some help, Stovel and Bloom produce the pieces with their own hands in Portland, Oregon. They take in the fabric scraps that were thrown out by less compassionate garment factories and treat the Earth well by using organic, sustainable materials. The products that result are like grandma’s cookies – the care that goes into them makes them so much better than the mass-produced. We got the chance to chat with Leah about love, fashion and the trials and tribulations of running a sustainable clothing business. Make It Good started as collaboration between you and Avery within a month of meeting each other. What led you to go full-force into this business so quickly? Avery had been screen printing on vintage clothing and American Apparel in Seattle for a couple of years when we met. He was feeling the limitations of what he could do with pre-constructed clothing and pre-designed silhouettes. We started cutting and sewing clothing together, and then we fell in love. Five years later, we are now planning our wedding. Make It Good’s clothing is organic, eco-friendly and made in the USA, which is hard to do inexpensively. Why did you choose this difficult route? Deciding to make our products from sustainable materials and manufacture entirely in-house was easy for two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to do everything we could to minimize the environmental impact of our business. That's why all of our materials are either rescued from industry overproduction or created from sustainable materials. It was an easy choice to make, deciding to be environmentally responsible rather than opting to use toxic materials and high-impact production methods. Secondly, when we first started designing, we realized if we wanted to integrate graphic elements into our clothing in unconventional ways, our manufacturing process was going to have to be unconventional as well. We had to design our silhouettes, cut our fabric and then print the cut pieces before sewing them. We have honed and improved our process over the course of the last several years to the point where our design and manufacturing processes have come together, and it's a lot of fun. You recently started Nell & Mary, a home goods company that runs very similarly to Make It Good. What inspired you to get into home goods? Branching out into home goods was a very natural progression for us. It came as the result of collaborating with my sister Krista on print designs for Make It Good. She has a strong eye and a background in interior design, and we simply wanted to start seeing some of the prints she was designing around us in our homes. She has since joined as a partner in both lines, which has helped bring us to a whole new level of polish and sophistication. Once we started the home line, we just got hooked and realized how seamlessly the manufacturing processes we'd pioneered for clothing applied to other textile products. We've had a lot of fun designing for the home, and thinking of each piece as a canvas. How are the denizens of Portland reacting to your unique ventures into fashion and décor? The response has been fantastic. There are a very limited number of companies that produce in the United States using sustainable materials and methods, and we're thrilled to push things in that direction. Is there any advice you would give to other small fashion houses who might want to take a similar sustainable path? It's really difficult work, but the flexibility and control you have over your products makes it worth the extra effort.  Also, there are tons of resources out there for scrappy designer/manufacturers. Check out Make It Good and Nell & Mary to see why we’ve fallen head-over-heels for these principled Portlanders. Story by Melissa Hebin.