Whoever said sustainable clothing wasn’t chic hasn’t seen one of artist Alyssa Bird’s creations for her whimsical brand Regenerous Designs. The line of sustainable fashions and accessories has been spotted on songstress Jordin Sparks (American Idol, Sparkle) and featured in art galleries.
Alyssa, an Arizona native now resides in Arkansas. Her mission for Regenerous Designs is to help minimize waste in the fashion industry, while creating chic clothing and jewelry from upcycled materials in the fashion industry. Alyssa conceived the idea in 2012 and less than a year later in 2013, launched her business. In her line, she creates one-of-a-kind pieces, some of which have intricate design details such as the braided garments and woven fabric necklaces. She describes how it can be a big undertaking for one person:
“I half jokingly refer to myself as the CEO, but I say it stands for Chief Everything Officer because up until last year, it has pretty much been only me doing everything, with scattered help here and there.”
With wearable gear including dresses, vests, headbands, necklaces and earrings fashioned from upcycled materials such as fabric remnants and wooden pieces, Alyssa has established a name for herself as an artists and sustainable designer. I caught up with Alyssa to chat about her eco-friendly line and changing the environment–one garment at a time.
How long have you been designing?
I’ve been designing since I was a kid. My mom taught me how to sew at a young age and I fell in love with being able to create something completely special that only I had. That carried with me through high school where I made my prom dresses and dance costumes for myself and a few friends. However, I didn’t go straight into this after graduating high school. At the time, I didn’t quite have the confidence, but after trying several other things with nothing exciting me the way designing does, I knew I needed to suck it up and brave LA. This was my calling and lead me to start the business.
What was your first design project?
As far as I can remember, some of my very first projects were hand sewn little tote bags that I made from felt and hair scrunchies. I also loved to make friendship bracelets, which I think is where my love for braids in my current designs came from. For Regenerous Designs my first project was woven fabric necklaces, which I don’t make anymore because they’re all hand sewn and take too long to make.
Was this your first experience as an entrepreneur?
This is my first business, unless you count the craft sales I would try to have in my front yard as a kid.
What inspired you to create a line of upcycled products?
After graduating from FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) with a degree in Fashion Design, I went to work for a few different design companies in Los Angeles. Learning the behind-the-scenes process of clothing production, I kept noticing all the fabric that was being thrown out and wasted. These scraps could and should be used for something other than being sent to a landfill. Being an environmentally conscious and creative designer, I saw an opportunity to make a positive impact, and Regenerous Designs was born.
What motivated you to launch the company?
It’s kind of an odd start. I was actually let go from my job that was trying to downsize. Since I had some savings at the time, I was looking into volunteering overseas. I wanted to find something that I could connect with because the fashion industry can be so superficial.
I often felt like the odd duck out because I cared about different things. I felt like I was going in circles and getting nowhere with my search to volunteer. Nothing felt right until I got connected with a lady named Marichia Simicik Arese. She had a nonprofit company that helped people in need, as well as the environment, by creating products out of trash in a really cool way.
I wanted so badly to go work with her, but she was at the end of the project she was working on at the time. While talking with her I mentioned the wasted fabric problem I saw in the industry. She inspired me to just go ahead and do it myself instead of trying to work for someone else.
Not having any background in business, I was nervous but took the leap anyway. Then once I did, things started falling into place. Even though it was scary, I could feel this was the path I was meant to take.
What has been the most challenging part of the process?
I’m not gonna lie–I really struggle with the financial side. Numbers have never been my strong suit. Taxes confuse the heck out of me and it all stresses me out. But somehow, through lots of help along the way, I’ve managed to make it this far. But truly, I can’t wait until the day I can hire someone to really take that part over for me.
What’s next for you and your business?
I’m currently working on a special exclusive collection for the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art shop in Northwest Arkansas. I’m very excited about this because this museum is absolutely beautiful and it is so amazing to have this opportunity. I’m also growing my primary collection and always trying to innovate and improve everything I create.
“Be open to collaborations and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for all the people who have helped me along the way.”
What’s your favorite inspirational quote and who said it?
Funny thing is, the first one that popped in my mind is something I made up that I say from time to time, “I’ll get through this one post-it note at a time.” This is something that has helped me when I get overwhelmed by all the things I need to do. I just get out the post-its and write down my top priorities. This breaks down the massive to-do list and helps me focus on the things I can accomplish immediately, so it doesn’t all seem so intimidating.
What advice do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Network, network! Be open to collaborations and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for all the people who have helped me along the way. It is so true that we grow faster when working with others and supporting each other. I used to be a really shy person. I still get awkward in certain situations, but I learned real fast that nobody will know about your brand if you don’t put yourself out there and share it. I put myself in a lot of uncomfortable situations so I can grow as a person, and help my business at the same time.
For more information on Alyssa and her designs, visit regenerousdesigns.com.