Chicago designer Shelby Steiner goes back to basics with a new eco-friendly collection.
Shelby Steiner uses fashion to encourage others to think critically about their lives.
Shelby Steiner, 24, is dedicated to of-the-moment fashion and eco-friendly design in equal measure. “I’m moving toward the sustainability side of fashion,” notes the designer, whose eponymous label has been picked up by stores in LA, San Francisco, Portland, and New York, “so I’m working a lot with bamboo, organic cottons, vegan leather—trying to introduce styles in a different way.” This spring Steiner is making the move to Portland to begin designing for Nike, and as she prepares for a new sartorial chapter, the womenswear wunderkind shares why her less-is-more mentality is the key to looking good—and doing good—every day.
Tell us about your new collection.
Last season, I had a lot of ties that wrapped around the body; I did that same concept with a Japanese-inspired silhouette but with an American spin, so I did denim and plaid kimonos.
What inspired this collection?
I’ve been trying to simplify my life in every way, really stripping down to the basics and the necessities of what a woman would want in her day-to-day life—going from her house to yoga, or the train to her workplace. I tried to make things as casual and comfortable, but still interesting, as possible.
Why is sustainability important to you?
I think that’s really the future of fashion. A lot of people aren’t creating quality products that last. Where are those pieces going? That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about; personally, I just went through my closet, and I want to get rid of 75 percent of what I own. I really wear the same three outfits every week, just in different combinations.
How has living in Chicago influenced you as a designer?
In so many ways. I took the Purple Line today so I could see the city on my way in, and I think the most beautiful thing is that you see something new all the time. I also love how our city is old-world, but so technologically advanced, especially in its architecture. I’ve been here six years, and I love this city in winter and summer.
What do you envision for the future of your line?
I’d like to be in my top 20 stores throughout the world: Robin Richman in Chicago, Totokaelo in Seattle, Barneys [New York], and Oak in NYC. Dagmar [Rousset] in Australia is hands-down my favorite [retailer]—she’s interesting and kind of quirky.
How do you want to add your voice to the fashion industry?
I’m working on expression, and I hope to encourage others to think critically about all of their life choices, from when you throw a plastic bottle into a garbage can to what you buy on the weekends. All of that collectively adds up, so the less waste you can create, the better off all of us will be.