Interview with Erin Donaghy

Erin Donaghy is the founder of sustainable fashion brand Applause Lingerie, a brand that creates lingerie and other pieces of clothing from pre-loved materials. We spoke to her to get to know her story and her brand better.

REFASH: Tell us a little about your brand and how you started?

Erin: Applause Lingerie is a sustainable lingerie brand that utilises upcycled fabrics and dead-stock textiles in a beautiful way. I started this concept as a fashion design student when I was given with an upcycling challenge. After participating in the challenge as well as learning about the innumerable issues with respect to textile production and waste, I decided that I needed to create a brand that marries consciousness with good design.

R: Where do you source the old clothes from? How do you ensure they are thoroughly cleaned?

E: I source old clothes from Goodwill. Many clothes that are donated to Goodwill are not actually old - some of them are new or hardly worn. I am very careful to select textiles that are like new. I launder everything in warm water and reject any textiles that are in a poor condition. New textiles are used for the panties liner. I also use Fabscrap in New York for dead-stock remnants for larger yardage. It collects leftover textiles in the NYC area that would otherwise be headed for the landfill.

R: Why lingerie? Tell us a little about your design process?

E: I love lingerie because it unites practical and beautiful. Everyone needs the basics, and it is a treasure to have some lovely pieces. Cotton t-shirts are great for creating everyday underwear but I look for cotton/nylon laces for sheer panties and bras. I like to design according to the fabric - the fabric usually tells you where it is supposed to go. For the kimono robes that I design, I look for flowy fabrics from wide-leg pants, dresses or skirts and often mix several fabrics to produce a robe. Bridesmaid dresses can sometimes make the perfect upcycled robe. If it is possible to preserve any details of the original garment, I try to do so.

(Erin Donaghy, the founder of Applause Lingerie)

R: What was the first upcycled garment you created?

E: The first upcycled garment I created was a bra and panty set made from a basketball jersey. Surprisingly the athletic mesh made a beautiful bra once combined with the lingerie notions! For the panty, I combined the mesh with a blue stretch top with sequins to create something fun.

R: Being an entrepreneur is tough, tell us one think you've been struggling with lately?

E: I sometimes struggle with having too many things to do. I always have a to-do list, and it is shuffled around on a daily basis according to priority.

R: What do you think is the problem with fashion today?

E: I think the problem with fashion today is that a cheap price is valued above everything. In the past, customers were more concerned about the quality and how long it will last. Presently there is little expectation that fast fashion will last, and it is considered disposable. This is also related to the consumers who over-consume clothing, which perpetuates the cycle. I also find it troubling that there are many outfits intended to be worn only once and never again.

R: How do you try to incorporate sustainability into other aspects of the brand, apart from design?

E: When you delve into sustainable fashion, all aspects of the garment matter.  Where do I source the most ethical materials? How can I eliminate waste? Can I use more natural fibres? How can I avoid acid dyeing of elastics? There are many points to consider in order to be conscientious. Previously I would order fabric and start designing and sewing without giving much thought to the textiles, how they were sourced, fibre content, etc.

R: What's the one misconception about being a sustainable fashion brand?

E: One misconception about sustainable fashion is that it has to be boring. Or only use earth tones, or linen and flax. It can also be joyful, fun, colourful, feminine and fashion-forward.

(Upcycled Virginia Robe from Applause Lingerie)


R: Who's the one person who inspires you on your sustainability journey?

E: I find great inspiration in Zero Waste Daniel in Brooklyn, NY.  He has an amazing model of upcycling and zero waste, and he motivated me to look closely at the sustainable fashion world and how to do it as an artistic endeavour. I also appreciate how the United Nations has made sustainable fashion a priority in their Conscious Fashion Campaign.


Visit the website here.

Find Applause Lingerie on Instagram here.


Photo Credits - Erin Donaghy

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