Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellice Ruiz.
Ellice, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m trying to be the opposite of everything I hate about fashion. I’ve always wanted to be a fashion entrepreneur but I didn’t have the confidence or point of view to start my own business until I was about to turn 30. I dropped out of fashion school to study art history. It seemed like a safer bet. Sometimes I fall into the trap of wishing I had done things differently or the “right way.” In retrospect, I was becoming a multifaceted creative with experience in retail, wholesale fashion, and art. After I graduated from Pepperdine University, I became a gallery director at Mr. Musichead Gallery, where I learned how to manage a business, develop marketing plans, and build a clientele.
When I was working in a gallery, I looked for a sustainable and ethical fashion brand that designed professional yet modern clothes for someone like me with an artsy aesthetic. I wasn’t able to find one at my price point. I saw my opportunity to build a sustainable brand that catered to creative professionals like myself. I quit my job as a gallery director so I could finally start my own business.
I want to create a brand that is authentic, personal, and ethical. I spent about a year writing my business plan and code of ethics. I try to be as personal and honest as I can about building a sustainable fashion business. I’m transparent about who makes my clothes and where I source my materials. I also want my brand to be about more than just clothes. I’m obsessed with art, music, film, nature, and helping others so I share my interests as much as I promote my latest designs.
I am endlessly inspired by this quote from Daphne Guinness, “We need better things, not more. We should not pollute the world with meaningless, unused things when we can support things of rare and precious beauty.” In my opinion, we don’t need more – we need better.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The hardest part of starting my own brand is funding. My vision is bigger than my bank account. I’m an independent designer supported by my day-job working for a contemporary artist. I wish I could offer extended sizes, have photoshoots every week, and of course quit my day-job but I’m learning to enjoy the journey. My lack of funding started to become an excuse to never try. I think bootstrapping makes me more creative and forces me to reach out to others for help. Everyone in LA just wants to collaborate and working with my creative friends has become one of my favorite parts of building my business.
A bigger challenge is the fashion industry itself. My design partner and I went to the LA Textile show earlier this year. The show was filled with sustainability-minded seminars but when we walked the show there were only a handful of sustainable vendors. We saw fabrics labeled as sustainable and when we asked what made them sustainable some vendors couldn’t explain why. There is still a gap between intention and execution.
My goal is create clothes in the most sustainable way possible. I want to be a part of the movement to change the fashion industry towards a more sustainable, slow, and ethical system. I wish it was easier to source sustainable fabrics, find renewable energy manufacturers, and recirculate existing fibers and garments back into the supply chain. I believe as more fashion companies commit to ethical production we can truly reduce the fashion industry’s toll on the environment and communities.
We are still at the beginning of the sustainable fashion movement. More and more people are starting to understand the effects of the fashion industry on the environment and communities. We’ve been trained to want cheap clothing, wear it a few times, and then discard it when the next trend comes along. The fast fashion business model has tricked us into thinking clothes are disposable. Another challenge is to shift the way we think about buying clothes. I try to create timeless pieces that will be foundational pieces in anyone’s closet. The more we can wear our clothes the less resources we’ll consume.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am passionate about using business as a way to give back. I donate a percentage of sales from each collection to charities helping to make the world a better place. I also donate a tree with each order to help offset the carbon emissions from the manufacturing of my garments. I don’t want my business to just be about sales and profits. I want my business to be about giving back and supporting my community. Each garment is made in downtown Los Angeles by my manufacturing partner Oksana, the owner of RadSeams. She started her own small-batch manufacturing company and is also committed to sustainable production and ethical business practices. I’m really proud to say my clothes are made by a female-owned, local business.
For me, sustainable design is about more than just rethinking the manufacturing process. It’s also about examining our relationship to the garments themselves. I’m trying to create the MVPs in your wardrobe. For example, a couple of my friends asked me to create a jumpsuit. My Britini jumpsuit is a minimal yet slightly tailored jumpsuit made from a sustainable fabric called Tencel. It’s perfect to wear to work with your blazer or sneakers on the weekend. It’s a great piece that can be styled multiple ways, begging to be worn again and again.
Each piece is thoughtfully designed by my design partner, Alice Spies, and I. She contributes so much because she really understands the women I design for. I also incorporate my friends in the design process. I host Girlfriend Tested™ previews and critique each design for fit, function, and price. I listen to my friends concerns and try to address them as best I can. For example, one of my friends suggested I add an elastic waistband to some shorts we were developing. She made a great point about how an elastic waistband would make it more conformable and flattering on different body types. My Steph short was created out of this discussion on fit and function with my friends.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was always interested in art and fashion. I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was in the fourth grade. I used to cut up my old clothes and make new designs. I took sewing classes at Joann’s in high school. I was a good student but a little rebellious too. I’ve always been stubborn, determined, and full of grit. I like doing things my own way.
I was always encouraged to pursue my creative and entrepreneurial endeavors. I used to make bracelets and keychains that I sold to my friends during recess. When I look back, I realize I always had a desire to start my own business. I’m not sure how much being an only child has influenced me but I think it made me independent. I think it helped me to become a self-starter.
- Angie T-shirt – $98
- Keri Top – $178
- Louise Top – $198
- Britini Jumpsuit – $298
- Belen Top – $168
- Website: elliceruiz.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @elliceruiz
- Twitter: @elliceruiz
Lindsay McCarthy, James Juarez