Kristin Glenn

"The language around what I do is always evolving."

Kristin wearing the Seamly.co summer wrap in teal.

INTRO: Kristin Glenn is a sustainable clothing designer and small business owner based in New York. I first became familiar with her work through {R}evolution Apparel, a joint venture with fellow entrepreneur Shannon Whitehead. I was fascinated by their endeavor: two twenty-something women traversing the United States, raising awareness about sustainable manufacturing practices through their signature piece, the Versalette. After a profitable year in production, the duo decided to part ways and pursue individual projects. Kristin took some time to reflect on what she learned and plot her next steps. And then became Seamly.co. In celebration of her company’s two year anniversary, Kristin wrote this blog post about how it all began, backtracking to a New Orleans bartending gig from her early twenties.

Environment + Geography

She made the move from Denver to New York in January of this year. The biggest challenge is finding a sense of pattern and routine in a city famous for sensory overload. “Everything is so visually stimulating. I didn’t realize that I was missing that so much. There’s so much diversity in everything. Being around that has given me a lot of energy."

Now that she’s settled into a shared studio space in Williamsburg, her creative output has increased significantly. Two of the key elements of her current workspace are a standing desk and a photo studio. Her studio mate, Jesse, is a fellow sustainable clothing designer and they enjoy the opportunities to bounce ideas and share resources.

Kristin is extremely grateful for the community that continues to support her from Colorado. In fact, all of the garments are still made there. When writing about the beginnings of Seamly.co, she describes Boulder as, “...the best place on Earth for people in transition. It’s crunchy and thoughtful and supportive.”

New York is a change of pace, but Kristin sees it as the explorer she is: “I feel like I’m expanding my learning experiences so much. It feels like there’s an expectation that if you’re doing your own thing or starting something, there is a social impact behind it."

Media + Motivation

Kristin primarily listens to instrumental “study” and “focus” Spotify playlists while she’s working. She finds podcasts are too distracting. Electronic, ESM and other low key genres are her go-tos.

For the time being, her workload is shifting into more of a marketing and selling mode. “I’m in this strange place where I’m not totally a maker at the moment.” If it was up to her, she would constantly be making things and posting snapshots to Instagram. What a dream!

“Sometimes when I see what other people are doing, I get inspired to start making again. If I go long enough without making something new, I will implode. I feel that way about writing, too. I can go for a while without writing and then have a sudden desire to write. It’s random and sporadic, like on a bus or a plane.”

Current Work + Process

When asked how she describes her work to other people, Kristin shared some really interesting thoughts:

“I always tell them that I own a clothing company and then explain that I use fabrics made in the U.S. and all pieces are handmade made in Denver. I don’t use the words ‘fashion’ or ‘designer.’ I prefer ‘small business owner.’ Fashion can be a little alienating because people assume high fashion. 

The language around what I do is always evolving. I think people would be more interested in where their clothes come from if it wasn’t presented as ‘luxury.’ There’s some pretentiousness around those words. When I tell people what I do, I want to connect with them. And when you tell them you’re a designer or writer, they usually can’t connect with that."

Being a small business owner means that her responsibilities are always in flux and the work changes week-by-week. She uses written to-do lists and enjoys the physical act of writing things down on paper. “There’s so much work and it will never end. Most days are driven by what I feel I need to get done.”

She didn’t go to fashion school and she takes an autodidact approach to anything she pursues. When asked about the biggest challenges, surprises and learnings from her pursuits in the sustainable fashion industry:

"Challenge and adventure: time to collect all of the information and figure out the best way to make my products. Locations, techniques, fabrics. The toughest thing about sustainable fashion is figuring out the best way to make products that are good for people and the planet. There isn't a lot of hard information because it's new industry. There are a lot of learning curves along the way."

“Once I figure out a price that I'm pretty comfortable with, the next challenge is education-based. Making sure customers know what I'm doing, why I'm making certain decisions and being transparent." Check out this "how it's made" video for a glimpse of this transparency.

This year's primary challenge is adding a jacket to the line. It will be the first garment that she’s making out of woven fabric. Aside from that, exploring New York and finding her place will continue to be the biggest adventure of 2015. “I never thought that I’d be interested in New York. I’m realizing that I could live here forever and still never totally grasp what the city’s about."

Check out more of Kristin's work on her website, Instagram, Pinterest and Vimeo.