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Episode 95: Zero Waste Is the New Black (Transcript)

TAGS: Textile Waste

[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.


[00:00:26] Liz: Hi everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 and I'm with Daniel Silverstein, Designer and Owner of Zero Waste Daniel. Welcome, Daniel, and thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:37] Daniel Silverstein: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

[00:00:40] Liz: We normally start at the beginning on this show. I'd love to hear more about your background and how you found your passion for sustainability.

[00:00:49] Daniel: My background it's really in design. I studied Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I specialized in women's sportswear, which actually is not sport, it's activewear but sportswear as in day-to-day wear. I had a concentration in tailoring and I spent some time studying abroad in Italy, where I learned a more global perspective on fashion, sourcing, and how the world approaches wearing clothes, which was really interesting.

I also grew up in Pennsylvania where my parents were the leaders of a recycling house. It wasn't any major effort towards conservation, but it was certainly a mindful place where we made sure to source our bottles, cans, and things. As I grew into adulthood and studied more and more about my passion for making clothing, textiles, and the craft of design, I saw [unintelligible 00:01:58] a fundamental lack of circularity in the process. I felt like someone has to be doing something about it.

[00:02:09] Liz: Definitely. Well, have you done that. I just loved the way that you were living your life and your business. I know you do this personally and professionally, what does living zero-waste mean to you? After that, if you could just tell me, what does that mean in your business exactly?

[00:02:27] Daniel: Sure. Living zero-waste in my mind is less of a rule book and more of a practice. I liken it oftentimes to something like yoga, where the more you practice it, the stronger you get at it and the deeper you get into it, the more you'll learn. It's something that anyone, even at a beginner level, can practice and participate in. It's certainly not about perfection or performance. It's really about connecting with something.

Going with that yoga metaphor, every yoga class I've ever taken has been all about connecting with your breath and honoring where you are in your practice. Maybe your shoulder hurts and you want to do something to stretch it or rest it. Maybe you're feeling really strong and you want to try a headstand that day. With zero-waste, there are little things that I like to connect with. It's my personal belief that nothing needs to be wasted.

Wasted is a design flaw, but I can't control everything around me.

On days when I'm feeling really strong, I try new things. I make things from scratch, or I go out of my way to recycle something that's hard to recycle. On days when I'm not feeling as strong, I, maybe just collect things in a trash bin in my house and let them go because that is where I'm at that day. In my business, it's a really different approach towards materials and sourcing specifically.

I feel really connected to the idea of potential, and I want to make sure that I've never taken on more than I can really store and use. I see so much potential in the materials that come through my studio from big bulks of fabric to thread scraps, there's only waste if we choose to see it as waste. I'm constantly innovating on new textile designs and ways of joining fabric together of all different sizes to create new marketable, wearable pieces that can turn what some people see as waste into beautiful wearable fashion.

My main goal with my work is to take these pieces that the industry at large sees as unusable and oftentimes take the smallest and most insignificant pieces and turn them into my most valuable, and precious works of art.

[00:05:08] Liz: That's amazing. I applaud you because fashion is normally so waste and resource-intensive, so you're really attacking this on a holistic level and I love it.

[00:05:17] Daniel: I'm trying to. One of my main materials is what I call hard-to-recycle fabric. Any fabric that has man-made additives like Lycra and Spandex blended into it, can't be broken down with traditional textile recycling like shredding. It's really important to find a different end of life for those scraps other than the landfill.

I'm constantly racking my brain and asking, "Is it more sustainable to be using what we have or developing a more sustainable future?" The answer is it's a little bit of both. There needs to be more of a demand for these more organic and environmentally friendly practices, but also there needs to be a better choice for end of life for these hard to recycle materials.

[00:06:07] Liz: Absolutely. I know our industry is researching that and thinking very hard about that, because it's just what we all need to do right now to get to where we need to go considering how much of the textile waste does go to landfills today.

[00:06:23] Daniel: Yes. Being someone who's inspired by the idea of potential, I think there's a lot of opportunity out there for aspiring entrepreneurs of all kinds. Yes, in the fashion space, but also in the recycling space, in the farming phase, in the chemical space, in all of these different areas that right now are a little bit siloed and we hope that in the future we'll start to work together more.

[00:06:51] Liz: Definitely. I think that's what's great about bringing this conversation forward because until we're all at the table, we're not going to find those sustainable solutions. Right?

[00:07:01] Daniel: That is the goal. I started talking in a more interdisciplinary way and when I started Zero Waste Daniel, I had already been creating passion with a zero-waste concept for about five years. This line of Fletchers, joggers, and hoodies was really about inviting more people to the table. It wasn't just for people who were interested in fashion, it was for anyone who wears clothes.

I don't know anyone, even people who love fashion, who don't wear hoodies. Everyone wears hoodies. It's about opening up the conversation to people who don't necessarily think of themselves as interested in fashion or style, but who can share in our demand for resources and clothes.

[00:07:50] Liz: Absolutely. That leads me to what I found fantastic, something that you said is how you embrace copy-cats because it helps that more people come to the table, and more people think about sustainable fashion. Can you tell me a little bit about your thoughts there?

[00:08:07] Daniel: Yes. In many aspects of my life, whether it's the zero-waste approach to passion or zero-waste approach to life, there are a lot of people making a lot of noise on the internet, Instagram, blogs. What I always try and remind people is that sustainability is not a talent. It's something that we should all be entitled to. We want to live on a healthy planet and embrace each other in a harmonious way.

The idea that I should be the only designer doing a zero-waste practice is insane. What I would encourage anyone who's inspired by this concept to do is make it their own. What is your special way of expressing yourself, the way you see materials, the way you see color that makes your line your line? Because anyone can go to Canal Street and get that Louis Vuitton knockoff but you do know it's a knockoff. What's so exciting is when a new designer makes a new bag, like Telfar, that everybody wants.

I think handbags are handbags, hoddies are hoodies, but how do you make your line you? For aspiring designers, I say, I'm already doing the style I'm doing. No one in business needs more competition, so how do you take that and then innovate on it? I think that's something that's really missing from the fashion industry. People are very secretive about their resources, their contractors, and production facilities. I think that a more cooperative approach towards production would be really beneficial for a more sustainable future.

[00:09:52] Liz: Absolutely. I feel like you hit the nail on the head and you've done collaborations. How did your ThredUP collab come about?

[00:10:03] Daniel: The ThredUP collab came about super organically. It was just one of those things where, I guess, they knew they were trying to upcycle some hard to recycle materials, and they did a little research on who's working with that kind of stuff and reached out. It fits so naturally and it's a funny thing because there's the natural fit of, "Wow, I'd be a great partner." Then the natural fit of, "Hey, isn't that model on your website someone I went to college with and how do you know them?"

It turns out that we're all so much more connected than we think we are. There were personal ties and connections, as well as a seamless fit into just making it happen. Another thing that we really thought about in that collaboration was that I don't often work with post-consumer waste. A lot of times I work with what I call pre-consumer post-production waste. After a factory has cut and sewn something or after designers have made their samples, but before that fabric has been washed or worn. Those are little leftovers from production.

With ThredUP, we actually worked with post-consumer waste. Old clothing that was actually in condition that deemed it no longer failable. Maybe something was ripped or a button was missing, or there was a big stain on part of the garment. What we did was we deconstructed those garments and use the textiles to make new things. We actually brought in another resource to think about our scraps from that and what we were going to do. We partnered with FABSCRAP, an amazing textile recycling organization here in Brooklyn, that hook on the waste of our waste, and then had that recycled, which was really cool.

[00:11:52] Liz: That's so cool. Are you still working with FABSCRAP now?

[00:11:56] Daniel: I work with FABSCRAP constantly. I am an early adopter of that concept and a huge supporter of that business. I have been to FABSCRAP, at least, once a quarter since I can remember. I love that business. I'm constantly so impressed with all of the different barriers they're breaking down. Their non-profit approach towards recycling, their data collection, the way that they have envisioned everything. Not to mention the fact that it is two really impressive female entrepreneurs leading the team and doing this really gritty, heavy lifting, which I think is pretty badass.

[00:12:40] Liz: That is badass. I think that's awesome. It's great. I love that you found them and that you're working with them regularly. What they're doing is amazing. I'll put a link for our listeners so they can learn more about them as well. I read about a standout piece that you did, and this will intrigue our listeners for sure. It was a bright orange coat design from the remnants from the New York City Department of Sanitation. I'd love to hear more about that and love to see that as well.

[00:13:11] Daniel: Yes. I have one left in my personal closet, but it was a limited edition collection made from upcycled materials from the Department of Sanitation. I think what some people don't realize is that with a giant New York City Team of Sanitation workers from administrators, to actual garbage collectors, to the people who fix the trucks, there's a lot going on in just that one department that is so crucial to the way we live here.

The New York City Department of Sanitation Foundation for New York's Strongest, which is their in-house foundation that supports the sanitation workers when they have needs, reached out about collaborating. What we found was that, whether it came from a collection site that are now weathered and worn and needs to be upcycled, or a few extra t-shirts leftovers from their uniform that now have misinformation printed on them, or the color scheme of the pattern has changed or something.

Whatever those couple of odds and ends in leftover materials all the way down to something called lug nut indicators, that are meant to fall off the truck to let you know that the lug nuts on the wheels need to be tightened. Those things are all different takes on waste that we don't normally think about. Normally, we just think about like, "I opened my string cheese and throw away the wrapper", but what about all of those weird odds and ends?

I designed the collection out of those pieces and really the standout, and feature a piece of that with a coat made from the tent that the New York City Department of Sanitation was using as a site for information, and collection at different events. Once their program ended, and the tent had been used, and used, and used, and the edges were starting to wear, all of those things. The centers of them still have these incredible logos, really great graphics, and really interesting information, so I cut them apart, and piece them back together to make these posts.

What I think is so interesting is that we see a tent, we think waterproof, we think sun-proof, we think all of those things, but we don't necessarily think, "That would be great for a coat also because I want my coat to have all of those properties." What I did was I took the tents that there were, I cut them up, I made as many coats as possible, and we created this limited run. What I love to do with these types of collaborations and materials is make things that feel evergreen.

It's not trend-driven, it's not seasonal, it's just a piece that you can love and have in your wardrobe to do something that feels a little out there, a little special, but also feels like an investment piece. I know, for anyone shopping, whether you're buying a big major brand or just a staple piece you always want to have in your wardrobe, selling out that cash that you worked so hard for to buy something, it's hard. You're [unintelligible 00:16:30] with that money, what are you getting in exchange for it? I never want Zero Waste Daniel customers to feel like they're getting something that's going to go out of style.

[00:16:39] Liz: I love that, you can certainly see that in your collections, even in your Instagram posts and stories. I love that, what a great way to do this.

[00:16:49] Daniel: Thank you. Yes, I think that the approach that the industry takes it and pushes on us is to saturate the market with trends, and then force things out of style so that you want to buy new things. That is proving to be a bubble that's bursting. I think the new approach is going to be to own things and love them for a long time, which is the way our grandparents, great-grandparents, and their parents were doing things for a long time.

Going back to that way of treating our wardrobe, our clothes, and our visual communication as self-expression, your style, your look, it's supposed to be something that's enduring. At this point, we want people to buy new things, we want to upcycle, make a living, and sell a lot of pieces, but at what cost? Looking for innovative new materials, looking for potential in materials that are being cast aside, and then turning them into things that can last a lifetime is really the goal.

[00:18:05] Liz: I love it. You're so creative, where do you find your inspiration?

[00:18:09] Daniel: That's a great question. I'm definitely the kid who was staring at the clouds looking for shapes, I find a lot of inspiration just in the materials themselves. I see a small piece of something and I can't stop myself from wondering, "Is that the iris of an eye? Is that the statement of a flower? Is it the root of a plant?" It could be so many things, and I love looking for shapes and things, but I also find a lot of creativity in optimism.

I just think that getting bogged down by the negative thoughts isn't helping, even if it's just sewing a couple of scraps together, making that physical change, adding time and energy to those materials to create something is so much power. I feel like I have that power inside of me, we all have that power inside of us. Even just adding flour and water together, you're making change turning something into something else.

Especially when I'm feeling like I'm not inspired, I don't know where to start, or I'm missing some part of creativity on any given day, I usually just start drawing, or just start seeing what comes out because there's something really electrifying and energizing about making change.

[00:19:34] Liz: Absolutely. I love the way that you described that because I think you do share optimism, and I think it is a gift. Especially with the pandemic, it's really great to see people who are innovating during it. Yes, some days are hard, but it's really perception as well, isn't it? It's how we tackle the day.

[00:19:56] Daniel: Yes. I think perception is all of it because from the inside out, all of my days are hard and all of my days are blessed. It's just how you choose to frame it, and what you use as your comparison. We can't say that our problems aren't real or that are not our problems, but if you've got a roof over your head and food in the cupboard, then you're doing a lot better than a lot of people. That's something to be really grateful for.

I think in this 2021, COVID Insta world, it's really easy to get bogged down by, "I want more followers. I want to go out. I want more money. I want these things", but I think that we really should all take this opportunity to look at the simple things in our lives as huge wins. If you've got your health, if you've got your future ahead of you, you're doing amazing right now.

[00:21:00] Liz: Exactly, I love that. We're talking about COVID-19 right now, how did that affect your business?

[00:21:09] Daniel: COVID-19 has been the weirdest, most unexpected experience for me and this business. I'm an optimist, as we were talking about, I really look for the silver lining in everything, and it can be really hard to see. This year has been transformative in a lot of different ways, I found myself closing my store, which I didn't think was going to happen, but here we are. I found myself closing it for really unexpected reasons, I thought that it was, "The shutdown, how will we reopen?" But as COVID unfolded, what it really gave way to was an opportunity to get off my own hamster wheel.

I was going to be shutting down for two weeks, and once I was shut down for two weeks, I was able to look at everything in my life differently, "Do I need to have this store open?" I shift my focus elsewhere, "What am I going to be doing with my time?" Our plan became to cut our overhead, see what happens, and ride things out for a couple of weeks. As weeks turned into months, growing our production and our business back to where it was when we shut down, was a challenge because most of New York's garment industry is at a third of its capacity at best, and our normal production channels are not what they were.

I relish the opportunity to sit in front of the sewing machine and make things myself, but I can only make so many things a day. If I'm going to be our main production, I can't have the store open for the public because if someone comes in and I catch COVID, or if people come in and I spread COVID, then my whole business is going to go under.

It became this moment where I really have to start looking critically at what's the most important thing, how do I do more of what's important and do less of what I don't need to be doing. I found myself in this work-from-home situation that so many people have, and I found it really working for me. I found more time to focus on updating my website, developing new designs, working on my social media posts, and we've really hit a new group that I'm thoroughly enjoying.

The downside of it is that to get from A to B was like walking through a [unintelligible 00:24:02]. As our production shut down, different facilities-- we weren't able to get there, we weren't able to travel, they weren't able to take the capacity, buildings were padlocked, people were ill. As all of these things were happening, we basically sat in our studio, sewed everything ourselves, packed everything ourselves, and shipped everything ourselves. When I say that, it was just me and my husband Mario, we really made almost everything.

We worked with a couple of contractors who were able to work from home, and safely social distance. Other than that, I sewed like 600 garments or something in COVID. I just didn't see myself doing that. I thought that, "At this point, I built a little bit of a brand and I have name for myself. I think I can have things only produced by other people at this point", but I'm realizing as I grow in my business that things always come back to the beginning, that full 360 cycle happens all the time. I started this way, I've made many projects and rounds of production on my own before, and I think it's something that for many different reasons will happen again in my life.

Feeling blessed, but also stress, was a very real thing for me during COVID-19. I felt, personally, very fortunate to have my health and the ability to make those pieces, because that meant that I was able to keep my business going and not have to suffer in so many different ways that other people are. Talking about practicing what you preach, it was really having some very hard days, and really looking for ways to be thankful for them.

[00:26:09] Liz: Definitely. You really live that small business, how were you coping. What a story. That's amazing.

[00:26:18] Daniel: I think a lot of people can really relate to it, and what I want anyone listening to understand is that just because things seem to be going amazing for a designer, or a brand, or an entrepreneur, or a business, it doesn't mean it's easy, it's just happening, and it's happening because you don't let it stop happening. On those really stressful days, it's still happening because we fought for it, we sat, put the pedal to the metal and did it ourselves.

There is a lot of pride that comes along with that, but it's also very humbling because, as the business grows, it reconnects me to the work that we have other people doing helping us grow our business. I love to be an entrepreneur who can say, "I never have someone do something that I wouldn't do myself." I make these garments, I know how to make them, I make them from scratch. If you buy from zerowastedaniel.com, you actually are getting maybe a 30% chance that I physically sewed the garment that you're receiving.

If I didn't sew the whole thing, there's pretty much a 100% chance I sewed part of it. I love putting that energy into each one of the pieces. I'm a big energy person, I think that people can feel the love. It's like when your grandma cooks cookies or something, you can taste the love. I feel I love this work so much; you can feel it when you put on the garment. 

[00:27:54] Liz: Absolutely, I love that. Another thing that I think you've done a great job with is just showing people who you are, and you saw the need to do that. I don't know if it was because of just who you are or the fact that you knew showing your prospective customers and larger audience that they needed to see how to live a zero-waste life or build a zero-waste fashion business, but I think that's a huge part of your success. Was that something that just came to you one day? Tell me about that.

[00:28:31] Daniel: I had a really interesting experience after about five years of creating cocktail and evening dresses and selling them on different hot sale platforms through boutiques online, and doing the whole passion circuit. I was doing paid shows at the Javits Center, working with a showroom and models, just doing it, "The way you're supposed to." I found that I was not being myself, and that my values didn't matter inside that system.

After making a very difficult and painful decision to close down that business, in the process of doing that, I ended up taking the scraps that I had collected over the first five years of experimenting with zero waste and turning them into a sweatshirt for myself. I posted that sweatshirt on my Instagram, and instantly got about double the engagement that I had ever gotten posting all of the things I thought I was supposed to be posting.

What I learned from that experience was that it's not engaging for people to follow someone's accomplishments, it's engaging to be able to relate to someone. That's what social media is for, that's what we look for as humans in each other. We're looking for meaningful and deep connections. In that moment, I learned that I needed to be shifting the way I communicated with people, away from what I thought I should be doing and into what I wanted for myself. "I want a sweatshirt", so I made one. "I want to do this collaboration", so I'm making it happen. "I want to have a store", please come to it.

"I want these things, and I want to take you on this journey with me" became my main way of communicating versus, "Look what I did." That really just opened up a whole world for me, where I realized that not only could I communicate with people in a genuine and authentic way, but I could really get behind my own values and go to bed for them, and people were here for it. I think something we have all seen through different social media channels is the trolls, the haters, the doubters, and all of that. I have to say, on Zero Waste Daniel there's almost none of that because the way we go about communicating, it's just really authentic.

We show you what we're making. I show you what I'm doing. I talk to people directly and it's more than that. It's even in the DMs, on the customer service. If someone has a question or a doubt, I'm often sending them a personal video message saying, "Hey, it's me, this is what I think. Hey, it's me. it's not a bot. I'm a real person and I will send you your X, Y, Z. It's just stuck in production right now." I think that that kind of transparency is something that no marketing plan can create for someone. It's just something you have to have and it's something that anyone can have if they're willing to be authentic and truthful.

[00:32:02] Liz: Absolutely. That shines through in what you do. Also, you're very honest too, and it's the real deal. For example, what you were saying before about how you've likened living zero-waste and living a sustainable life. It's like yoga, it's a practice. You're not going to have naysayers waiting for you to make a mistake at the store in your business because they know that you say, "The next day, get up and try it again." I just think that honestly [crosstalk] gets through.

[00:32:33] Daniel: Exactly. Yes, I am not a perfect person. I'm not a perfect zero-waste person. We moved studios, there have been so many times in the last year where I've just said, "I don't know what to do with this thing. This is waste that came into my life." But there are so many times when I have the opportunity to avoid making more waste. That's really what I look for, things that I can control and I make my best effort.

The reason that I'm so honest is because doing the wrong thing keeps me up at night. It's something that I feel like I need to be honest about. It's not a selling point that I am more perfect than anyone else. I think the selling point is that I really have these bags of scraps and I'm really trying to use them all, and I'm honest about that. People say, "What do you do with your thread scraps? What do you do with the lint? What do you do with this? What do you do with that?"

A lot of times the answer is, "I don't know." You need a lot of something before you can sell any quantity of it, so oftentimes I'm just amassing a material until I have enough of it to produce something, and that's okay too. You have to be careful about how much you're willing to collect. I think anyone in waste management and upcycling dabbles with that fear of like, "Am I a hoarder? How much of this can I hang on to before it's crazy?"

At some point, you have to say, "This is my art, this is my business, this is my process and I'm just collecting right now." Then, once you see that pile of thread scrapped, weird pieces that are leftover, whatever it is, and you feel inspired to make something with it, that's when you start.

[00:34:29] Liz: That's fantastic. Like you said it, is a process and there's creativity behind it. There's a ton of thought, so it always turns into something good.

[00:34:38] Daniel: It has to. I tell a lot of people who ask, "What do I do about this? What do I do about that?" You don't have to have an answer for everything. Sometimes the answer is, "Can you find someone who wants it?" That can be enough. Snap a photo of what's leftover, throw it on a Craigslist ad, or on a Facebook marketplace, "Hey, I'm getting rid of this thing. Does anybody want it?" That's a great way to get rid of stuff. You don't have to be the most zero-waste person in the world to live totally zero-waste. You can just think about things differently. It's that simple.

[00:35:18] Liz: Definitely. I agree with that. You started a series called Sustainable Fashion is Hilarious, can you tell me more about that? 

[00:35:29] Daniel: Sure. That's a good question. Sustainable Fashion is Hilarious is my answer to the fashion show. Fashion shows are something that I got an insane amount of pleasure from growing up. I love them. The supermodels of the world and the drama of being in clothing, walking down a runway, and the wind that's created. It's just something that really speaks to me, but from my personal experience, fashion shows have been some of the most stressful and wasteful things that I've ever gotten through.

Making samples that are never going to be worn, perpetuating unrealistic standards of beauty, spending tons of money just to basically have a birthday party for your clothes. It's a very weird proposition to feel like you have to have a fashion show. It's also something that I think puts a lot of emphasis on the work, but doesn't really let you speak about the work.

Of course, there's something to be said for work speaking for itself, but if you hire a model, so you don't really know that well because you think they look great in their clothes and then they don't do exactly what you had in mind on the runway, that's how your clothes get seen. That's it. I think in the Insta world, when people are hiring Gigi and Bella so that people will look at the collection, nothing wrong with Gigi and Bella, but I can't afford them. That's certainly not what's going to be plugging my line.

After years and years and years of trying to keep up with that rat race of doing fashion shows, and at the end of every season being like, "All I have left is some pictures and a lot of bills." I don't know why I would do this one more time. I was running the store, I was working in the store every day, I'm meeting with customers and on a regular basis, people would say, "That's so funny. You should do stand up. Oh my God, that's so funny. You could put that in an act. You're hilarious".

I just thought to myself, "I have stuff to say and I enjoy the witty repartee that goes along with a lot of these questions and conversations about sustainability." One season, a venue reached out and said, "Hey, we're looking for something to do for fashion week. We're a sustainable venue. We'd love to have you and do a fashion show. Would you be interested?" I was like, "Absolutely not. Thank you so much".

They were like, "What would you want to do? We really want to work with you." I said, "Got a mic? Because I have some stuff I'd like to say." And like that, Sustainable Fashion is Hilarious was born. It was a one-night engagement during fashion week, a 45-minute stand-up comedy act where I did impressions of Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum, and talked about how everyone I've ever met has told me I should go on Project Runway as if it's some kind of ride that you can stand in line for and go on.

We talked about all the different ways that going grocery shopping can make you sad and all those silly things inside of sustainability that I think people who are interested in fashion and people who are interested in the environment all can really relate to. What I didn't expect was that people really laughed. People really bought tickets and we ended up doing it again and again. As of last year, because of COVID, I turned it into something digital.

I put out my first digital episode of Sustainable Fashion is Hilarious last season during fashion week. It's actually something you can buy a ticket too and stream right on my website. Much like my collection, my intention was to make this more evergreen than a fashion show. You're definitely seeing a lot of clothing, but it also is like a conversation with me where I get to talk about what I'm thinking and feeling and what's going on.

If you miss one of the first ones, you might want to check that out. If you like the first episode on my website, I'm working on more that will come out on no timeline, but when they're ready.

[00:39:54] Liz: This is great. I will definitely check this out. I can't wait.

[00:39:58] Daniel: Thank you. Yes, I think it's fun, it's a little bit different. I think that any entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur can relate to the epidemic of you should. People will tell you, "You should do this. You should do that." One of the shoulds that I got a lot was, "You should have a YouTube channel." I don't have a YouTube channel, really. I'm not really a YouTuber, but this is the kind of thing that I think answers that, "You Should." If I had a YouTube channel, this is what I'd put on there.

[00:40:34] Liz: Perfect. Fantastic. [laughs] Daniel, you were really ahead of your time with pursuing sustainable fashion in general, and then everything that you've rolled out since, do you think that the drive toward a more sustainable fashion industry is real right now and it's not greenwashing? Do you think it's hit a tipping point?

[00:40:57] Daniel: I think the only part of it that hasn't hit the tipping point is the actual industry. I think that the consumer is ready to tip the scales. What we're seeing more and more in the annual reports that come out, the trend reports, but also the financial reports that consumers are ready for sustainable goods and that market share is being diverted away from larger and larger brands, and into one of a kind handmade goods.

We're seeing all of these incredible inspiring designers come up on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. We're seeing all kinds of exciting personalities that are emerging as part of the makers' revolution. I think that the consumer is really ready. I don't think the industry is quite caught out yet, but I don't know that they'll catch up in time. I think that this new industry is burgeoning in a very exciting way.

I tried to explain this to someone last year. I was very affected by the closing of Barneys. It was just something I couldn't fathom. This New York institution that I aspired to sell to was out of money, how is that possible? What I explained to a friend of mine, I said, "Let's just forget about the real numbers for a second. Let's say that four small brands, Zero Waste Daniel and three other brands, who cares, each made a quarter of a million dollars. That's a million dollars.

If 10 small brands do the same and then a hundred small brands do the same, that puts a giant like Barneys out of business. All of that market share is going directly into those people's pockets and with platforms like Etsy, all of these ways of communicating directly with makers increase in visibility and popularity. Old school ways of doing things shut down. I think that the consumer is really who's in the driver's seat right now. I don't know if the industry will catch up or shut down.

[00:43:27] Liz: That's such an interesting way to look at it, and so true. Barneys hit me hard and some of the other closings as well, because they are institutions and you do respect them. It's hard to see too because the writing's on the wall too, so how much can these big companies--? It's more than a pivot, really, to change what they're doing. It'll be interesting to watch, but that's a great perspective. I hadn't thought of it that way, Daniel.

[00:43:59] Daniel: Yes. I'm a big believer in personal power, and we've touched on it a little bit. I think that for listeners, it's important to remember that in every aspect, if you're not the entrepreneur, you can be the consumer, and your consumer dollars ange the shape of the global landscape. It just really has that much power.

I'm one of those, "We have to buy it from a local maker. We have to get it second-hand" kind of people.

Probably 95% of the time we're able to. Those consumer dollars add up, so even if it's not something I'm designing or making, it's something I can still contribute to the narrative of changing.

[00:44:52] Liz: Definitely can. I think that's great. While we've talked about a lot, tell me, what's next for Zero Waste Daniel?

[00:45:01] Daniel: There are a couple of things that just keep coming up over, and over, and over for me. I'm looking at some new projects, as sustainable fashion is hilarious has really wet my appetite for media, I'm just so enthralled by that medium. It's funny because growing up we look at things like whether you're into sports and it's the Olympics or the Super Bowl, or you're into entertainment and it's the Oscars, or the Emmys, or you're into fashion and it's the CFDA Awards. We look at those people who give out those awards as the tastemakers, gatekeepers, and almighty beings.

I met this funny point with fashion where I feel like the gatekeepers haven't caught up, so I'm no longer looking for their approval. I'm not sure if that means that I'm going to focus my energy outside of the fashion industry or on building something new inside of the fashion industry, but I think that what has happened for me in the last year has been a release of needing to please the powers that [unintelligible 00:46:30].

I'm feeling very free and very excited to experiment. I'm really reconnecting with my love of what I call narrative fashion, pieces that tell a story and that have a deeper meaning than just a shirt, or a pair of pants. I'm a huge lover of theater, cinema, and performance, so I think whatever comes next is going to have a goal of entertaining, whoever sees it.

[00:47:11] Liz: That sounds great. Now I'm curious. How liberating for you to get to that point at such a young age to just be at a point where you aren't waiting for approval from anyone. That's amazing.

[00:47:24] Daniel: It was really challenging to get there. I think we all want that, whether it's the likes, the prize, or the pat on the head, we're all looking for that kind of thing. It definitely was a challenge to let go of a lot of those traditional metrics of success, but I'm finding myself very inspired by not knowing what I want next.

[00:47:52] Liz: I can't wait to see. I'm going to follow and watch. It's just fantastic.

[00:47:56] Daniel: Thank you so much.

[00:47:57] Liz: [laughs] Is there anything else you want to share before I let you go about your busy day?

[00:48:03] Daniel: I think just the main thing to share is that it's about a collective effort and about those small changes because they really do add up. For anyone feeling bogged down by the state of the world or the idea of trying to transition their life into a sustainable lifestyle. Don't think about it in such broad terms. Look right in front of you. What's in your hands? What's in your garbage can? What can you stop throwing out so much of, or start recycling more?

Think is one thing. It's not easy because that one thing, over a year, adds up. That's something you can feel really good about. You can't take on the weight of the world's problems, so just one thing that you can change.

[00:48:59] Liz: Yes. Like you said, it all adds up just individually and then collectively. Then real change can happen.

[00:49:05] Daniel: Yes, that's what I think.

[00:49:07] Liz: That's awesome. Thank you so much for spending so much time with me today. I loved hearing your story. I can't wait to get myself a hoodie and share this with our listeners as well.

[00:49:20] Daniel: I'm so glad. Thank you so much for having me, and for your thoughtful questions and this great conversation. It's been really inspiring.

[00:49:29] Liz: Thank you, keep doing what you're doing. You're an inspiration to so many more people than I think you even are aware of.

[00:49:35] Daniel: That's really, really kind of you. Can't stop, won't stop, so don't worry.

[00:49:40] Liz: [laughs] Love it. Good. Have a great rest of the day. Stay warm and I'll be in touch soon.

[00:49:48] Daniel: All right, we'll talk soon.

[00:49:50] Liz: Okay. Bye, Daniel. Thanks.

[00:49:53] Daniel: All right.


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