When people hear “eco fashion” or “sustainable fashion”, often times what comes to mind is “drab”, but Shanti Sutra is changing that stereotype. Shantell Harpster is the designer/owner of Shanti Sutra, an environmentally conscious street-wear brand here in Denver. Being an emerging designer and self-starter is no easy feat, but Shantell is making it work and creating bold, every day looks that are anything but boring.
In 2011 Shantell moved in with a friend who sewed a lot. She had a machine and taught Shantell how to use it, and together they would go to thrift stores, find a variety of cool fabrics or prints and sew up outfits for festivals, or make patchwork and custom pieces. After learning the basics and some practice Shantell was making custom pieces for friends and giving them away for free. Her roommate and friend, Kelly (Calico Alchemy), was just getting into herbal dyeing and sewing with organic fabrics, and eventually moved to California. Shantell then moved to South Dakota, saved up for her first serger and began sewing with stretchier materials, making customs for festivals and selling those. Before she knew it she was full on designing. After some more encouragement to start working with organic and hemp materials, Shantell started to work with local environmental textile mills. Since most eco fabrics come in limited color options, she began reading up on hand dyeing and started dyeing batches of clothes herself. Now back in Colorado, she has a full line of different garments from jackets, to skirts to dresses to pants, she has screen-printed, hand dyed, and still does one of a kind up-cycled garments. “I’ll still cut up something cool that I found and sew it up into a one of a kind outfit for someone that nobody else has”. And who doesn’t want that?
The fashion industry is so destructive, one of the biggest culprits being fast fashion. These are the companies that produce trendy looks multiple seasons a year that are of mediocre quality that do eventually fall apart, end up in the land fills and then you come back for more. These garments are affordable, which is why we as consumers love them and go back for them, but then you have to think about why they are so cheap, what makes them so cheap is cheap labor. The working conditions for these people over seas are terrible and we are ruining the environment as well. For Shantell the biggest point she makes with her brand is the push for slow fashion. You should know where your clothes come from, and feel confident that they are going to last and not fall apart or stretch out after one, five or even twenty washes. Organic and natural fabrics also play a big roll in health. One thing that many of us don’t think of is how the chemicals in clothing can affect us, but for people like Shantell who has suffered from eczema, certain clothing can make people break out into rashes and allergic reactions. Once Shantell started switching from polyesters to hemp fabrics, she noticed a big difference in how it affected her skin. A friend of hers had a similar problem, and always had issues particularly with swimsuits. Having broken out all her life every time she wore a swimsuit, Shantell made her a custom, hemp suit, and she no longer was breaking out.
There really is a lot to think about when it comes to our clothes, from environmental impact, social impact, and even health. This is why as a generation it is so important that we start to change the way we consume. It is designers like Shantell that are paving the way to a brighter future and still keeping aesthetics in the forefront. Shanti Sutra produces high quality, comfortable, well fitting clothing, made to fit you. Check out her amazing work. Do you know who makes your clothes?
To read Shantell’s bio and check out more of her work, visit www.shantisutra.com.