A Zero Waste Destination That All Women Can Come To For Realness
TABII JUST, founded in 2012 by Trinidadian gem Tabitha St. Bernard, is a zero waste fashion brand based in New York City. After questioning then leaving the industry, Tabitha started blogging and researching sustainable fashion when she stumbled on a New York Times article about professor Timo Rissanen and his work in the area of Zero Waste. She was instantly intrigued and felt like this could be an ongoing challenge for her. After searching for zero waste labels and not being able to find any, Tabii Just was born!
What is your cultural background and how does that influence your design inspiration?
I'm Trinidadian. I moved to New York at age 19 and have been here since. Trinidad is a very vibrant culture that is rich in diversity and expression. Every year, there is a Carnival where people dress up in bikinis adorned with feathers and jewels. It's an amazing sight on Carnival Tuesday to see all these people dancing as one, united by color and music. It is a pretty good representation of why I love my country so much. Elements of the Caribbean can be seen in my easy, comfortable silhouettes and in the use of prints.
How do you define sustainability? Why a zero waste philosophy?
I like to refer to what I do as responsible fashion. I was on a panel with a fellow designer some time ago and he made that distinction and I find it accurate. Sustainability has become a chosen lifestyle and I worry at times that it is not inclusive enough. Responsibility is something that everyone can relate to. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to the planet, to our family. We all can identify with that need to step up and do better, whatever that means according to the knowledge that is available to us at that time.
15% of the fabric used to make clothing is usually tossed out and ends up in landfills. Annually, about 65 lbs of clothes are thrown away by the average consumer. Textile waste is a really major problem. My goal is to not waste fabric in the production of the garment and also to make clothes that are "seasonless" and can live in someone's wardrobe for decades to come.
Is it important for you to encourage people of color (promote diversity) to participate in ethical/conscious/fair trade fashion? If so, why?
I encourage everyone to participate in responsible living. There is a need for diversity in all aspects of fashion but my goal with Tabii Just is to reach the everyday woman who just wants to feel good about looking good.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women/men of color to support sustainable fashion brands?
I'm not really sure if supporting responsible fashion brands is something that is race-specific. I think the biggest challenge is getting the word out there. For the most part, people want to shop better. They want to make an impact with their purchases. The challenge is showing them ways to integrate it into their lives. It's so much easier to shop at the fast fashion brand that has 5 stores in a 20 block radius. The challenge is in teaching the consumer that it is worth it to take the time to research the clothes they want to buy and make sure they are supporting brands that are making a difference.
What has inspired you the most?
My son has inspired me the most. In just a few months, I'll be hitting the reset button on the brand and making some major changes. I don't want to give everything away but one of the biggest changes is the creation of a Women's Collective. We hand-picked 11 dynamic tastemakers with distinct voices to show the real side of fashion. These women address issues like finding a uniform when you struggle with anxiety and shopping for ethical fashion as a full-figured woman. They range in age from 20s to 60s and bring their different perspectives to the online journal. One is a teacher, another is a soul stylist but we all connected because we love beautiful clothing. I was inspired to create this collective when my son was born. I wanted to invite customers into a deeper relationship with my clothes and with fashion. My son made me think about my contributions to this world and whether I wanted to just encourage people to shop or if I wanted to encourage them to shop and talk and connect and delve deeper into themselves through this act of dressing oneself.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career thus far?
My biggest challenge has been staying true to myself and what I envision Tabii Just being and evolving into.
What has been your greatest achievement thus far?
Can I pick two? The first one was when a customer messaged me to say that she was pregnant and wearing her dress all through the pregnancy because it just accommodated her growing self. As a designer, that is my ultimate goal. I want women to continuously feel connected with their Tabii Just piece in new ways and to enjoy it more with time. My second greatest achievement was when Danielle Brooks of The Color Purple and Orange is The New Black wore custom Tabii Just on the red carpet.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
As I mentioned before, there are some exciting changes coming up in the next few months. Look out for the revamping of our online store. Email subscribers will get the chance to pre-order the next collection at exclusive pricing before it is made available to the public. Be sure to get on the mailing list so you don't miss out. I'm super excited about the Collective and the conversations we've been having that we will be journalling on the site. My hope is for Tabii Just to be an online destination for women to come to for realness. We're peeling back the muslin and what's underneath is so beautiful.