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You can tell a lot about a person by the way they dress or style something. Fashion is an art form of self-expression. But just because fashion is enjoyable doesn’t mean that we should allow it to harm others or our planet. My guest this week is Lela Orr. That’s right, Lela Orr from the most recent season of Project Runway! Join me to hear how Lela is making a positive impact with fashion through her eco-luxury clothing brand Ferrah. You’ll also hear some behind the scenes about Project Runway and how Lela came to design something for the one, the only, Beyoncé!
Lela grew up in Dallas, Texas and Monroe, Louisiana. She is an ethically conscious vegetarian with a passion for zero waste.
Lela’s mom and grandmother were her muses for fashion. Not only was her grandmother’s style transformative in leading Lela to design, she also learned from both women about the value of reusing and repurposing old clothing.
The roots of Lela’s brand, Ferrah, sprouted when Lela was in college and learned about the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. She knew then that the fashion industry is too creative and forward-thinking to allow the neglect of the people who make our clothes. She knew the industry could and should do better.
Lela wanted her brand to be high-end and luxury, but as sustainable as possible. She repurposed all of the scraps from her designs and worked with zero-waste patterning.
She believes more brands need to define what being “green” and sustainable means to them. For Lela and Farrah, zero-waste is the core of the brand. It takes longer, but it also forces greater creativity while reducing waste at the same time.
When the show moved to Bravo TV to cast for a new season, Lela submitted her information with gentle encouragement from a good friend. The show kept contacting her and eventually she landed a spot as a contestant!
Lela was encouraged that her season of the show had more sustainably-minded designers and contestants compared to seasons in the past.
Lela began learning more about microplastics that pollute our water when we wash synthetic fibers in our laundry and only works with natural fibers and dies.
Other brands like H&M are working to be more sustainable in their fashion chain with initiatives that allow people to bring their clothes (any brand) to be repurposed in exchange for a discount off their purchase.
People want to know the stories behind their clothes, and Ferrah doesn’t want their customers to have to rebuy them a year down the road. That’s why Ferrah uses the best materials and offers them at a higher price point.
Lela coined the term eco-luxury with her mentor when she realized there were many brands that were luxury and eco-friendly, but not many with the combination of the two.
Eco-luxury is environmentally friendly but made with luxury textiles for gowns and statement-making occasion wear. At the same time, Ferrah falls under the category of minimalism with pieces that are easy to throw on but make you feel glamourous.
Beyoncé’s team is all about finding and working with emerging designers, and while Lela was working as a design apprentice for Charles Harbison who was hired Beyoncé’s team to create a few custom pieces for Beyoncé to wear to upcoming events.
Lela worked with Harbison to source fabric and design details to create a red custom jumpsuit that Beyoncé ended up wearing to a huge televised event.
Farrah’s first celebrity client piece will premiere in January, so be sure to stay tuned to see what it is and who it’s for!
Hear what Lela’s favorite TV show was growing up, her guilty pleasure, behind the scenes of life on a reality show, and what she would do differently if no one was watching. Of course, you’ve got to stay tuned to hear what it means to Lela to run a business with purpose!
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