Home / Columns / Off the Cuff / Popomomo's Eco-Friendly Fashion
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Popomomo's Eco-Friendly Fashion

Google+ Pinterest Print
When I think of Lizz Wasserman, I think of the girl with whom I attended high schoola skinny, Sarah Jessica Parker-type wearing a skirt made of sewn-together men's ties she'd designed herself. Fast-forward a decade, however, and Wasserman runs the hip, eco-friendly clothing line called Popomomo. Featured in TheHuffington Post and seen on runways from Los Angeles to Shanghai, Popomomo has helped Wasserman to surpass even her wildest teenage aspirations.

You have a degree in sociology, not fashion. How does your degree help you navigate the fashion world?

Being aware of the world and ways in which society works can really help in terms of trend understanding and direction: The why directs the what in most cases.Reading the paper, talking to people, checking out the city, looking at art and history, and traveling have as much to do with the line as me in my studio, draping and sewing.

You started designing for Urban Outfitters in 2002. How did that come about?

After college, I thought I wanted to get into designing, but I figured, before [investing in a grad program], I should take a design job to make sure I really liked the day-to-day of designing, not just the romantic ideal. I started at Urban Home Office as liaison between design and production. Two months in, the assistant knit designer quit. I asked, and the head designer was really open to taking a chance on me. They moved me over to design right away. I had to learn everything super fast to catch up to all the other assistants who had gone to four-year programs in design, but it was an awesome chance to learn on the job at such a creative and successful company.

How did you go about launching Popomomo?

When I quit Free People (a part of Urban), in 2006, for a job as head designer in New York, my new job was not as creative as I thought it would be; I could get everything completed during regular office hours. I started my line as a creative refuge from designing tank tops that had to sell 10,000 pieces, and as a less wasteful alternative to mass fashion.

Speaking of sustainability, the line is produced in Los Angeles and seems fairly Earth-friendly. Money-wise, is that difficult to pull off?

It's very Earth-friendly. Everything is made domestically. All the fabrics are organic or sustainable. All dyeing is low impact. All printing is low impact. Shipping is done with recycled materials. Business is almost paperless, and the line is small, tight and without excessthe antithesis to disposable fashion. The irony is: All the above is easy and not that much more expensive than doing it the shitty, evil way. And being eco-friendly will get more affordable as more large companies jump on-board.

What inspires you?

I am always open, but when inspiration hits, it's usually quite specific, like one idea, either trend- or shape-based. Then I get to get all dorky and sociology on it: doing my research, checking out books from the library, gathering visual inspiration, and then working back and forth between the pieces and the inspiration.

Other than Popomomo, what designers do you like and wear?

I mostly wear vintage. But I love my friend Mitra [Khayyam]'s line of tees, "Blood Is the New Black."

Last question, Barbara Walters-style: If you were an item of clothing, what would you be?

Yikes! I would definitely not be jeans. I think I'd be a dress that fits great, and makes you feel really awesome and confident and intellectually sexy which is kind of how I describe the line, too.