Gina Stovall is the founder and designer behind Two Days Off. She spoke with The Green and Blue Journal about her brand, how she started a business while working full time as an environmental scientist, and how her community has become a support system. Check out the Two Days Off website to shop.
GBJ: Why did you decide to start making your own clothes instead of just shopping from existing sustainable brands?
GS: I was a very crafty kid and have loved making things since before I can remember. In high school, I learned how to sew, and shortly after bought my first sewing machine. But even before that I was influenced by the creative women in my family, including one of my aunts who I named our Mizue styles after. I have very fond memories of my aunt taking us pattern and fabric shopping and then whipping out her sewing machine to make us outfits over the course of a weekend. She learned how to sew out of necessity; she couldn't afford to buy off the rack when she was younger, so she made all of her clothes, and she always looked amazing. She even made her own wedding dress and her sister's as well. And even though over the years, her financial circumstances changed significantly, she still loved sewing clothes. I, like her, love expressing my creativity through designing and making. I am proud to know the effort that goes into making a quality piece of clothing; I see the true value in that. And I want to express my point of view with the clothing I make.
GBJ: What has been the biggest challenge of working a full-time job and starting your own business?
GS: The biggest challenge was giving the business enough attention it needed to be able to grow. My full-time job was a priority because I was passionate about the work, work I had trained for and committed myself to for many years. But I found it very challenging to switch gears from my day job (which I worked from 7am-4pm) and then do all of the work for a start-up. I would underestimate the mental energy required, energy that isn't there after a full day of work. So I made the most of my "Two Days Off" (aka weekends) to get critical work done for the business.
GBJ: How did you go about creating a carbon-neutral brand? What changes did you have to make to your operations?
GS: From the outset of starting Two Days Off, I knew that I wanted the products I created to be part of a climate solution and not be part of the problem, so there weren't too many changes that needed to be made, but I am constantly looking at our environmental footprint as we grow. In order to address climate change and the abuses of people in the garment industry, we need radical disruption of how the industry currently does business, so from the outset, I knew I wanted a non-traditional business model for Two Days Off. I wanted to stay as local as possible in how I source and produce. I also knew that I didn't want to overproduce, so I have focused on made-to-order and small batch production. And then I looked at the potential life-cycle of the garments themselves: materials, durability, care, and so on. In addition to looking at the structure of the business itself and whether it promotes sustainable values, there are other easily quantifiable actions companies can take, like purchasing renewable energy, taking energy efficiency measures, or incentivizing the use of public transportation for employees. After minimizing the impact of our operations and products, the next key step is to measure or estimate your remaining carbon footprint because it won't be zero. We enlisted the help of non-profit Climate Neutral, who helped us offset the rest of our emissions by investing money in verified projects that will reduce GHG emissions. When businesses put their money where their mouth is and put a price on the carbon they emit, it incentivizes them to be accountable and keep reducing their emissions.
GBJ: Where do you see your brand in five years? And if you continue to grow, how do you plan to do it sustainably?
GS: It is hard to see five years down the line right now amidst the racial injustice we are experiencing in the US and during a pandemic. Times are uncertain, but I do hope to grow Two Days Off and use whatever platform we may have to amplify other makers, especially women and people of color, who are trying to shift the conversation towards sustainability while practicing their craft. And with that growth, we will remain committed to our founding principles of slow production and conscious consumerism. I personally have dreams of implementing a circularity program, and our commitment to carbon neutrality doesn't stop at our initial certification.
GBJ: You mentioned that Los Angeles and the artist community influenced your decision to start Two Days Off. How has the community supported you?
GS: I have met many makers, primarily women of color who have offered me encouragement and their knowledge. I did my first pop-ups last year with the support of my dear friend Scarlet Penaloza of Hey Moon Designs, I have been connected to a plethora of local vendors by Hanna Baror-Padilla of Sotela not to mention she's an awesome sounding board, and I have gotten to work with the talented Olivia Lopez of Summer Blues Collective on several photoshoots who is incredibly patient and creative. Since moving to LA I have learned that there is space for all of us to succeed. Small businesses and makers have to be each other's cheerleaders instead of looking at each other as competition.