Anna Lecat, the founder of sustainable clothing line Les Lunes, is hoping her global brand can help take down the idea that Chinese-produced fashion is cheaply made and low-quality. The brand’s factory, which it opened in 2012, is located in Shanghai and makes all of Les Lunes’ collections, from lingerie to evening gowns.
“We fell in love with a fabric made from bamboo,” said Lecat, of her decision to manufacture her brand in China. Since bamboo is a local resource, materials didn’t have to be shipped back and forth. “But we also [chose China] because of the legacy and craftsmanship that exists.”
Les Lunes has global roots: Its headquarters are in San Francisco, and it also has a pattern-making and design office in Paris. But it’s vocal about where its production takes place because many brands, especially luxury ones, often hide it when they work in China. A direct-to-consumer brand, Les Lunes practices transparency in its supply chain and only sells through its e-commerce site and four stores, all based in California.
Lecat joined us on the Glossy Podcast to discuss slow fashion, the complicated relationship between American companies and Chinese manufacturers, and the fact that a sustainable fashion brand can work on a 12-week production cycle. Edited highlights, below.
The origins of the “Made in China” stigma
Lecat, who lived and worked in China for 16 years before starting her company, said American companies including the likes of Walmart are — at least, in part — responsible for pushing China’s mass manufacturing industry to a point of razor-thin margins, resulting in poor work conditions and low-quality, cheaply made items.
“[Americans] are kind of responsible for the stigma that ‘Made in China’ means low quality,” said Lecat. “If we step back and we look at what’s been happening with manufacturing there, they have a very long history of product innovation and producing excellent products.”
A lack of progress
The resurgence of American manufacturing in today’s political discourse is only making matters worse, and brands that market themselves on the idea that “‘made in America’ is good, made anywhere else is bad” are stalling progress to reverse the idea that Chinese production is cheap and unskilled.
“The ‘Made in China’ stigma is not getting better, it’s getting worse,” she said. “Especially when brands are using ‘Made in America’ as a marketing tool. Rather than focusing on what they do well, they’re focusing on ‘not Made in China or India.'”
An innovative use for Slack
In its four stores, Les Lunes’ staff constantly seeks customer feedback to inform the next round of production. Things like size and color preference are taken into consideration for categories including basics and athletic apparel. To feed the information they’re getting back to the design team, the staff heads to the Les Lunes’ internal Slack channel to provide updates in real time.
“We use Slack in all of our stores, so our stylists can immediately record requests that customers make and send that to our Paris design office,” said Lecat. “That’s checked daily, and feedback is immediately taken into consideration.”
Just don’t call it fast fashion
Despite its quick production pace, Les Lunes has established itself as part of the “slow fashion” movement, an industry effort to get customers to slow down the way they churn through cheap, low-quality, trend-driven items.
“We’re that core wardrobe the customer is looking for: more classic colors, items that will stay in the wardrobe for many years,” she said. “We want people to stop throwing things out.”