There is an ease to EVERYBODY.WORLD cofounders’ Iris Alonzo and Carolina Crespo’s friendship that informs the collaborative way in which they run their clothing brand. It was founded in the aftermath of their dismissals from American Apparel (and its subsequent dismantling) and embodies many of the bright spots of the influential, made-in-LA brand’s ethos. Specializing in ethically-made, non-seasonal basics, EVERYBODY.WORLD has already proven itself as one of fashion’s foremost environmental and communal innovators via its Trash Collection—made from 100% recycled cotton and fleece—and its Contributor Collection, for which Iris and Carolina enlist designs from a diverse range of friends and artists who receive 10 percent of the profits.
This “golden rule” approach—paying people fair wages, producing biodegradable garments, properly crediting and paying collaborators—seems obvious, yet is rarely practiced in the fashion industry. With their combined 26 years at American Apparel (Iris as Creative Director and Carolina as head of graphics and kidswear), shared cultural backgrounds, and Carolina’s childhood spent in her father’s sewing factory, the two are uniquely positioned to build brand dually designed for contemporary aesthetics and sociopolitical circumstances.
Notre is thrilled to now be using EVERYBODY.WORLD’s Trash Collection exclusively for its private label collections. To celebrate this new partnership, we’ve invited Iris and Carolina to Chicago as our guests for the next installment of our Notre Talks series on the evening of Thursday, December 12—you can RSVP to the event here. We’ve also spent some time visiting Iris, Carolina and their team in LA for the second issue of Codependent, our ongoing print project celebrating unique forms of cooperative practice. The following conversation is excerpted from the new issue, which will be available at the event next Thursday, and shipped out with all online orders of our new collection while supplies last.
What precipitated your friendship?
When American Apparel was imploding and taken over by literally an evil hedge fund, we were surrounded by people we didn't know and couldn’t trust. And we had worked together for 11 years. Carolina had been there for 15 years, and I was there for 11, so we were colleagues, but we were never close close. We just worked together on things. And when that happened, we kind of united as like, okay…
I could trust you, you could trust me.
We shared information and that was the beginning of a very strong bond. Then when I got sacked, she got sacked the month later, and it became kind of…
She was like, “Well, I’m done cleaning my closet. What are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m now cleaning my closet.” And we just started…
Talking and doing the things that you need to do to detox from an environment like that, like rearrange things, start going to the gym...
At least from the outside, it seems like you have a very natural relationship and feed off of each other’s energy.
We say we’re sisters from another mister.
My dad saw a picture of her dad and he was like, “Why does she have a picture of me?” He really thought they might be from the same Pueblo in Mexico or something. But we have a lot in common, and we’re both—
My dad’s side of the family is Mexican, her whole family is Mexican. We’re both Scorpios, born within 20 days—
The beginning of the Scorpio and end of the Scorpio.
And then we’re both very interested in manufacturing—
She’s tall, I’m short.
There’s just a lot of trust, and we have the same goal. We’re moving towards the same thing. And, of course, when you’re starting a business, it’s complicated, and you’re exhausted, and you’re broke. All these things that are very stressful that are in any relationship—they can really fuck up a marriage, for example. There have been tension over the years, but once we said, “Look, we know that we’re going for this, and anything that happens along the way we can get through as long as we know we’re going to get to that goal together,” everything sort of became…
We’re in this together.
How do you create and maintain a collaborative work environment?
For our team, now is the time when we’re a small company and nothing is written. There are no rules. We can do anything we want to do if it’s what we feel is right. It’s like, “If you have an idea, speak up. Let’s try it.” Because no one can tell us no. We can experiment with it.
Try it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, okay, at least you tried.
Are there examples that you can think of? I mean, I know that obviously Ari has designed some garments such as the Everyday Short, but are there other examples?
A good example would be Christina, who does our wholesale sales, saying, “Hey guys, what about when we do the recycled fleece, we do it in scour?” Which is our unbleached recycled cotton.
And if people are asking, she would know because she’s getting the feedback…
Right now we’re knitting all this fabric for the Notre order, and we’re going to save half of a lot of, which will be a couple hundred garments. We’ll save that unbleached for the scour because yours will end up getting dyed. Those kinds of things happen more than we would even think.
"There are no rules. we can do anything we want to do if it's what we feel is right."
There seems to be a natural level of kindness at EVERYBODY.WORLD, which isn’t something the fashion industry has a reputation for. Where do you feel like that comes from?
The golden rule—doing to others as you would like others doing to you—is just how I think we were both raised. Our business is only as strong as all the people that are in it. The whole ecosystem is the baby. And also—
You have to be nice so you get things—you have to give and take.
That’s the thing. Carolina as the manufacturing director is constantly—you witnessed it all day long—negotiating with a wink at this person and a hug with that person.
But not everyone takes that approach.
By going to the factories they see us hustle. It’s not like we’re sending someone else. It’s real face to face time. Even with my broken Spanish, they still get the idea, they laugh.
Carolina also grew up in factory. There’s a picture of her where looks like a Cabbage Patch doll in a pink satin dress, sitting on top of a sewing machine.
With my dad.
Then we both worked in the American Apparel factory, which was my first major factory experience. It gives you empathy because when people aren’t familiar with manufacturing, they think of a factory as a sea of faceless people at machines. Versus working at the American Apparel factory where the creative office and the graphics department where Carolina worked were one floor away from the cafeteria where everyone ate together and got the same food.
"ONE T-SHIRT HAS PROBABLY BEEN TOUCHED BY 60 PAIRS OF HANDS FROM THE FARM TO PACKING."
The fashion industry is shrouded in mystery for a lot of people. And unless you’ve worked in it or studied it, you don’t necessarily know how or where things are made. Do you feel like in some way EVERYBODY.WORLD is about translating that understanding to the outside world?
Totally. It’s an ongoing conversation, especially with Ari and Eddie. How do we connect people, so they really understand what’s behind the brand? Most people think clothing grows on trees. It falls from the sky. It just appears. We have it, we buy it, we use it, we throw it away, whatever it is.” There isn’t the connection.
So many hands. So many hands.
One t-shirt has probably been touched by 60 pairs of hands from the farm to packing. Each of those pairs of hands has this very deep life. How do we tell that story so people have this ah-ha! moment where they connect to the reality of stuff?
We can trace our recycled cotton yarns that we make for both the jersey and the fleece back to the farms that they were grown on, which are all in the United States. We could find the DNA of every single step along the way down to the last person who packs it. We can trace the wages that are paid, the working conditions, the environmental impact. And that’s super rare, to be able to go from inception to end product. The only thing we don’t know is what happens once it leaves our place.
Is that something that you are considering incorporating at some point?
Our first step is making sure you can wear, love, and repair anything we make for 50 years. And, as long as we’re in business, we have a lifetime guarantee of repairs. All people have to do is ship it. That’s the first step. The second step is making sure every single thing we’re making, from the thread to the draw-cord, is biodegradable. So, if, God forbid, it ends up in a landfill at some point it will decompose and turn into bio matter within months.
Versus hundreds of years.
"THE GOAL IS THAT A COUPLE YEARS FROM NOW OUR WHOLE COLLECTION IS RECYCLED COTTON."
Hundreds or more. We don’t even know yet with plastics.
Can you talk more about the recycled fleece fabric you recently introduced?
Our jersey is made from one weight of yarn, one thickness of yarn. It’s 18 singles. And the fleece that we had been making was made from three different weights of yarn: there is the backing yarn, the middle yarn they call “the tie,” and the face yarn that’s on the outside. We had always dreamed of making this all from recycled materials, but it would require developing all new sizes of yarn, which is a really time-consuming and costly process. Finally, we built up enough volume and enough savings.
It’s taken us about a year.
There was a lot of trial and error.
Is there anything you have in development now that you can share with us?
We’re working on a double weight jersey. It’s going to be our 18 singles jersey, except it’s going to be 12 singles jersey, which is going to be thicker and sturdier. And we’re making it for ourselves, but we’re going to launch it with a new wholesale client, which is very exciting. And for summer we’re going to do a lightweight jersey, which we’re experimenting with now, where we take our lightest yarn and knit it very loose so it’s a breezier shirt. And then what else?
Eventually, we want to do it in simple denim.
We want to do wovens, but no one has the equipment in the States to do that, so we have to find a good partner. Probably in Mexico because then we get to go to Mexico all the time. The goal is that a couple of years from now our whole collection is recycled cotton.