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An Interview with Araks Yeramyan of ARAKS


From editors like Yasmin Sewell to Hollywood stars like Sarah Jessica Parker, Araks’ bold silhouettes, dynamic colour palettes, and understated style has gained the patronage of fashionable women from all over the world. 
Beginning her love affair with lingerie in the trimmings department of J.Crew, Araks design aesthetic revolves around creating pieces that are both timeless and intimate. After all, lingerie is the first thing that touches your skin in the morning and the last thing you take off at night. Following the success of her lingerie line, swimwear felt like a natural progression.  Araks launched her swimwear range in 2013; and this season she has launched an eco-friendly range made from recycled ECONYL fabric. Always looking towards the future,  she aims to produce the entire range with regenerated fabrics by 2020, and won’t stop there. According to Araks, “there’s always more to be done” and when it comes to our environment - we couldn’t agree more. 

 We sit down with Araks Yeramyan and talk about the intimacy of lingerie, practical ways the fashion industry can reduce its environmental impact, and what we as consumers can do to contribute to change. 

 
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, what inspired you to start ARAKS? 
I have always felt an unparalleled intrigue with colour and garments that feel luxurious, simple, and beautiful. I set out to create lingerie for women to enjoy. Something they will love wearing for themselves and make them feeling beautiful. I’ve always loved wearing cotton underwear, but often times I felt frumpy in them. I created what I wanted to wear, cotton underwear in unexpected colours that made me feel beautiful. I wanted to create a collection that can be built on. Over time one could wear any combination, I want to give women underwear that makes dressing more effortless. Swimwear was a natural extension to the lingerie. I get a lot of pleasure from designing the swim line. I love the bright colours and I love carving out graphic shapes on the body.  It was my start in the trimmings department at J.Crew that really ignited my focus on intimates. From researching the elastics to sourcing trimmings, the brand has been a labour of love for almost 20 years. 
When I first started, lingerie was definitely much more of a niche market. Because of that, seeking out local production that met my standards of quality was a job unto itself. As I developed the collections, I met a wealth of talented seamstresses who shared my love of lingerie and had big aspirations of their own. From then on, I decided to use my platform to partner exclusively with talented women, and to create production facilities for them. To date, we have supported the launch of three female-owned production facilities in New York. 

What inspires your collection, could you tell us more about your design aesthetic? 
As the saying goes — “if beauty starts from within…,” — why not wear the very best close to your skin? Araks is a brand for women, created by women. The brand is not about overt sexuality but simple beauty.
I don’t tend to design each collection in the strictest sense of the word, but prefer to develop styles on the body. Being responsive to how a woman moves and how a woman might want to feel in her most intimate of layers is much more inspiring than an image or a painting. It’s definitely more indirect but translates to a collection that is in tune with my customer’s needs. 
My colour palettes are often a case of trial and error. I work closely with my dyers to manipulate shades, until everything just clicks into place. When you achieve the right balance of colour, style, and proportion — the whole collection just makes sense.    



Tell us about your sustainable swim collection? 
As an individual, I am always seeking out the best ways to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. I decided to translate this into my label, and pursue the challenge of an entirely Eco-friendly collection. The swimsuits feature Italian fabric made of ECONYL® fibre. ECONYL® utilises 100% recycled nylon materials, including abandoned fishing nets and other discarded nylon waste that are salvaged from oceans and landfills. This smart nylon matches the same high quality standards as traditional nylon, and these swimsuits can be recycled endlessly without any loss of quality. The use of this fabric helps to clean up the oceans and lessen our environmental impact! 

By 2020, your aim to produce your entire swimwear collection from regenerated fabrics. Could you tell us about the different sustainable practices ARAKS abides by in order to achieve this goal? 
We are committed to making quality garments that are meant to last.  Through our design, we create collections that are timeless.  Each new season is designed with the intention of women purchasing pieces to complement the ones they already have, not replace them. We have designed the collection around core evergreen fabrics, so that we can incorporate excess fabric from previous seasons into new collections. We use sustainable fabrics when possible and produce garments locally. Our factories are based in NYC to support the garment industry here, and to avoid the carbon footprint associated with shipping from overseas.  Our production process is set up to minimise waste. We cut to demand, eliminating waste produced by inaccurate forecasting. Aided by strong relationships that we have developed with our vendors and factories, we are able to reduce our production cycle while bringing product to market in line with the industry standards. We are also able to optimise our inventory levels to meet demand; and so we continue to improve our consumption of raw materials from season to season. For example, from spring 2017 to High summer 2017 we were able to more precisely calculate our material requirements and reduce our waste by 15%. We were able to consolidate our bulk material shipment from Europe, thereby reducing our shipments by 40%. 
We seek out partners that share our social and environmental philosophy. We measure our impact by examining the excess materials at the end of each production cycle. I’m continuously looking for ways to improve our current practises and there’s always more to be done!
Within our e-commerce operation we keep our packaging minimal and send our products in re-usable pouches. Swimwear purchased from Araks.com is sent in re-usable PVC-free packaging. You keep everything but the box it was shipped in, which you can re-use. We hope that our in-house commitment to more sustainable practises will inspire and encourage the Araks community to adopt more sustainable practises in their everyday lives as well. 




Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the fashion industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species? 
I think it is imperative that every brand takes a more conscious approach to their carbon footprint. Everything from sampling, press send-outs, and also wholesale shipments add up to negatively impact the environment. Businesses need to take a hard look at their production cycle, and consolidate where possible. Can you produce locally? Can you consolidate international shipments and/or packaging? Can you use environmentally certified sustainable or regenerated materials within your collections? Are you committed to off-setting an aspect of your business you might not be able to immediately change with an investment, in order to create a solution, donate to charitable causes, or support of particular advocacy programmes.
I think we also need to change the mindset of the consumer to buy less and buy better quality.  Mainly because fashion has such a large impact of the environment. I think beyond using recycled or organic  materials it would make a bigger change if we just produced less, and changed the mindset of people to buy quality that lasts. Trends also need to move slower, so people don’t feel like their clothes are  becoming irrelevant too quickly. At all levels, the fashion industry needs to take responsibility for its role as one of the leading industries causing environmental pollution. It’s about not only committing to change, but also taking tangible steps to change the way the industry operates. 

As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet? 
Just as I believe that it is the industry’s responsibility to improve and re-evaluate each production cycle — consumers too must take stock. Consumers must reassess their buying habits, educate themselves on their role in the consumption cycle and change accordingly. This isn’t just about clothes — it’s about looking at how you commute to work, the food waste you produce, and your recycling habits. It’s about making small changes that seamlessly integrate into your everyday, changes that will positively affect the rate of change over time. 

ARAKS

Interview By 
Hannah Tan-Gillies