CONSCIOUS COMMERCE. Those two words summarize StyleSaint Co-Founder, CEO, and designer Allison Beal’s fashion philosophy.
StyleSaint is a revolutionary company in e-commerce that provides direct-to-consumer clothing. Believing in the age-old adage “quality over quantity,” StyleSaint provides small collections of sustainable styles for eco-friendly fashionistas. These timeless pieces are well worth the investment. They’re meant to be worn year-round and will never go out of style. Beal designs all of the pieces, which are manufactured in Los Angeles and then sold directly to the consumer via their website, thus eliminating those pesky retail markups we all know and hate. Beal spoke with Lady Clever and shared her inspiration for StyleSaint and what it takes to run the company she hopes will change the fashion industry and the way we update our wardrobes.
What inspired you to start StyleSaint?
Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, the second largest user of water, and one of the most exploitative of the workers it employs — but it doesn’t have to be. I wanted to build a company that mattered, that could, by prioritizing better materials and better working conditions, change this industry for the better.
My hope is to create another option for customers. There are currently only two choices in retail — high-quality, high-priced apparel or disposable fast-fashion, and neither share transparency around their manufacturing. I want to create a global lifestyle brand that leads the charge for change — a change that, if widely emulated, has the power to revolutionize an industry.
What sets you apart from similar companies in the fashion industry?
A strong commitment to sustainable, ethical manufacturing practices – one that I’ve stuck to from StyleSaint’s inception. Personally, it’s important to me that I feel good about what I spend 100% of my work life and 99% of my personal time doing. I didn’t realize anyone else would care, and it’s been amazing for me to see that customers do care, that it is important to them that we’re making things that matter and trying to make a difference in the world through a commitment to conscious commerce.
What does StyleSaint do to incorporate and prioritize sustainability and ethics into its manufacturing process?
When I started StyleSaint, sustainability and ethics were a personal priority for me, so I was sourcing up-cycled and natural fabrics from the start (as well as producing everything locally in LA by workers paid over 2000% times what fast fashion workers are paid). We’re just bringing those facts of our business to the forefront and letting our customers know that we’re making things that matter.
One of the ways we’re doing this is with the launch of Project: Impact, an initiative that will track three distinct measures of responsibility with each garment – the water saved, the yards of sustainable fabric created, and the hours of ethical work paid – so that customers can track their impact one StyleSaint purchase at a time.
Is StyleSaint’s clothing eco-friendly? Do you use certain materials?
13 billion tons of textile trash is being discarded annually, and with the rise of fast fashion, these mostly synthetic textiles take 250 years to break down. We invest in luxe textiles — gorgeous silks and linens — because the highest quality fabrics in the world are naturally sustainable, biodegradable, and Earth-friendly, meaning that they will never be trash. I also design versatile silhouettes that can go from season to season and year to year, enabling our customers to do more with less and invest in pieces made for a lifetime of wear.
So is StyleSaint your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
StyleSaint is technically my first entrepreneurial venture, but most fashion companies are pretty bootstrapped so I’ve grown businesses with a startup mindset/budget for most of my career.
What would you consider your biggest challenge starting and running StyleSaint to have been?
Because we exist in the tech start-up space, which is sort of known for its boom-or-bust mentality, at times it’s been challenging to stick to our conviction that there are no shortcuts to building an authentic brand with longevity. Not to sound trite, but in our minds, “slow and steady wins the race.”
What’s it like being a businesswoman in the tech start-up world? Do you feel like you experience challenges men wouldn’t necessarily face?
It’s a double-edged sword. At the first tech event I ever attended, people thought I was a cocktail waitress. People always ask me if I have kids because they think it’s relevant to my ability to be successful whereas no one asks my business partner Brian, who has three. I once showed up to what I thought was an investor meeting only to discover that the investor thought it was a date.
All that said, it’s also been advantageous. There aren’t very many women in the tech space, so because of that there’s a lot of female-to-female and general support.
Is it a challenge to keep prices for StyleSaint’s clothing affordable, since everything is manufactured in Los Angeles?
We’ve managed to leverage technology to eliminate middlemen and retail markups. Our silk maxi dresses, for example, would cost upwards of $600 at a brick-and-mortar store, but we’re able to sell them directly to customers online at wholesale prices, or 1/3 of the retail prices you would normally see.
Do you find it difficult to balance your creative duties with the business side of your company? Does one side tend to overtake the other?
Luckily, I do my best creative work at night. And by night, I mean, middle of the night — I rarely get to bed before 4 a.m. So, the balance happens pretty naturally — daytime is for business and nighttime is for creative experimentation and ideation.
And what about balancing your professional life and personal life?
Personal life… what’s that? Ha! I definitely try to prioritize my marriage — my husband, a film score composer, built his studio into the StyleSaint offices so we can see each other as much as possible through hectic workdays. I’ve also always felt it’s important to include your significant other in what you’re doing work-wise — I always ask my husband for advice and input on StyleSaint and include him in my process. He does the same — we write music together all the time. This transforms our independent projects into collaborative projects — so we’re both going the same direction on the same path.
What is the best piece of advice you received as a woman starting her own business?
It’s not gender-specific advice, but the words “innovate or die” have always stuck with me. Business is very Darwinian!
What is one piece of advice you would give to women starting their own business?
Starting a business is about gathering people around your mission without being able to compensate them for their involvement. You accomplish this by being a resource for people, allowing them to use your knowledge or skill set so you can in turn tap into theirs.
Looking back on your journey so far, what’s one thing you wish you had known before you started StyleSaint?
I really felt that there was a clock on starting my own business, because I felt that if I didn’t do it before I had kids, it would become impossible. Having launched StyleSaint in the midst of getting married, and now planning for the future with my husband, I’m starting to see that you can have both. There are always going to be sacrifices, but I no longer feel that I have to wait for this phase of my life to be “complete” before I start the next.
Who said shopping had to be a guilty pleasure?
To take your style to a whole level, check out all the eco-friendly creations StyleSaint has to offer on their website. You can also stay up-to-date on their latest by following their Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.