No one needs to reinvent the little black dress. But reinventing the means of producing the LBD? A new company in Louisville is doing just that.
The New Blak is an environmentally focused clothing company committed to making high-quality, handmade little black dresses and other women’s basics in the most sustainable and responsible way possible.
The line currently features four LBDs that are mostly modifiable — sleeves can be added or subtracted, the length can be one of three choices — as well as three skirts and a handful of T-shirts and tanks. Everything except the T-shirts and tanks are sewn by the three co-owners of The New Blak in a downtown office building just off Main Street.
While she didn’t “invent” it, Coco Chanel is responsible for making the “little black dress” a ubiquitous part of a woman’s wardrobe, beginning in the 1920s. Before that, wearing black was a sign of mourning, and unseemly on other occasions. Since then, just about every American woman has had an LBD in her closet.
Amanda Dougherty, Oksana Kusyo and Kristin Truelove launched the business with a successful Kickstarter campaign backed by 84 supporters in March.
Kusyo and Dougherty are longtime friends; Dougherty and Truelove met working in retail. For Truelove, the company’s sustainability ambassador who majored in apparel merchandising at Indiana University, having a retail store of her own has always been the dream. Dougherty, the creative director, is a self-taught seamstress; while she was at the University of Louisville, she was the theater’s wardrobe master, and she had her own store, The Hanger, for a while. Kusyo, who handles the company’s human resources and business planning, is also a real estate broker in town.
Truelove said when she was working in retail, she saw all the negative things that come with the nation’s obsession with “fast fashion.” She was aghast at the amount of waste — from clothing that was destroyed instead of donated, to the dozens of boxes that would arrive at the store filled with items of clothing, each wrapped in plastic.
Because of that, she wants The New Blak to be part of a “fashion evolution.”
“We believe in transparency of the business from seed to dress,” said Truelove. The 100 percent organic cotton interlock knits that are used for the dresses and skirts are from cotton grown in North Carolina and processed in California.
The women, who have recently taken over all production here in Louisville, cut and sew the dresses with minimal waste, and every scrap is saved for future use or recycling. The company only ships in products developed by EcoEnclose, a woman-owned company in Colorado that makes all of their supplies from post-consumer recycled materials that are biodegradable.
In every way, the company is focused on “minimizing the fashion footprint” of their products, said Truelove. The mission of the company is “where people, the planet and fashion can coexist without sacrificing one for another.”
Truelove goes so far as to say we over-wash our clothing, wasting water and potentially subjecting our clothing to harsh chemicals. She suggests minimal washing for the LBD, and when you do, wash it in cold and hang it up to dry.
The dresses are not “fast fashion,” but they’re not as expensive as you’d expect a handmade dress to run. The LBDs are $98 each.
What’s next for The New Blak? Expanding their line and building a mobile boutique — like a food truck for clothing. Louisville already has a mobile boutique, the Betty Jefferies Mobile Boutique, and the women from The New Blak have sought out his guidance. They’ve already procured a bus for the project, so it won’t be long before you start seeing them selling their LBDs on Main Street during lunch hour.
Until then, you can order online — if you’re local, you can pick up your dress at their office. They also will be at the Seven Sense Festival on Saturday, Aug. 22, and will present at GLOW on Tuesday, Aug. 25. Finally, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, they’ll host their own event, Work It Wednesday, in their offices at 101 N. Seventh St. from 5:30-7 p.m. Here you can try on your own LBD and have the fashionable businesswomen behind The New Blak help you style it. In September, you’ll be able to find them at NuLu Festival.
On The New Blak blog, Dougherty is posting 365 ways to style your LBD. Follow along here.