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Green Folk Collective repurposes textiles to encourage slow fashion

Multiple garments hang on a rack. A sweatshirt with the words "Be Nice" can be seen as well as a quilted jacket.
Debra Murray
Green Folk Collective, a slow fashion brand, recently re-released their signature "Be Nice" sweatshirts.

Green Folk Collective is a slow fashion brand using repurposed textiles like quilts and denim. The group’s founder moved from curating vintage fashion to making it.

The clack of red cowboy boots, the buzz of sewing machines and the loud laughs of three women are all sounds coming from Green Folk Collective’s studio off Frankfort Avenue.

Mallory Quisenberry is the lead designer, and red cowboy boot-wearer.

She started a closet cleanout in 2020 after the pandemic made finding a job difficult.

“I applied to over 20 jobs like retail jobs, anything, couldn't get a job,” Quisenberry said. “And so kind of out of a place of desperation. I wasn't able to just be embarrassed anymore. I was like I'm just gonna do a closet clean out page. Everybody was doing that at the time.”

Quisenberry’s closet cleanout brought her a lot of success, so she created her first business called MalThrifts in May 2020.

“I changed the name to MalThrifts because it was like, ‘Hey, I should keep doing this. I love doing this.’ I love thrifting anyway, and really put all of my time into MalThrifts. So I did a themed drop every single Friday.”

The name change from MalThrifts to Green Folk Collective was a way for Quisenberry to show that her business was expanding.

“I wanted it to be representative in a way so ‘Green Folk’ and then ‘Collective’ like the idea of it no longer just being me, MalThrifts, as like me being the person and like the brand,” Quisenberry said. “It's more of a collective. One day, I would like to expand to teaching groups of people how to sew and something that we can work on together and doing community events.”

Social media was a vital way for Qusienberry to grow the brand. When she started selling clothing in 2020, she also made sewing videos for TikTok. That page has been changed to start promoting Green Folk Collective and has over 91,000 followers.

“I just wanted it to be something that could be bigger than myself,” Quisenberry said. “I wanted to be able to detach myself from the brand because building up this brand, and making so many videos and spending so much time trying to promote it on social media, it's easy to really envelop your whole life and personality and just seeing my whole self as just this. Being able to work with other people is such a beautiful thing.”

The business repurposes textiles to lessen waste. Typically, garments are created using quilts, denim and other fabric scraps.

Mallory Quisenberry, founder and lead designer, designs a halter top using quilt scraps.
Debra Murray
Mallory Quisenberry, founder and lead designer, designs a halter top using quilt scraps.

Some of their most recent releases include quilt halter tops, “Be Nice” sweatshirts and t-shirts, and quilt coats. Green Folk is working on entering their “quilt dress era.” Quisenberry prefers to use guilts because to her, every quilt tells a story.

“It has a story that people would be wanting to know, it's a piece of people they want to invest in,” Quisenberry said. “I think about that in the design process and I don't want it to necessarily be the most on trend item ever. I want it to be something that's a little bit timeless. Because if you're spending a little bit more to have somebody hand make your clothes and maybe have custom measurements and truly have a custom made garment.”

Since starting her business, she’s learned how rapid the trend cycle is.

“You might not want it to be the most trendy thing like trendy is a word that when I used to think of it as like that just means cool, but like trendy is also something that is not long lasting,” Quisenberry said. “With the quilt coats, I think that the design of the quilt is pretty timeless.”

Slow fashion is a priority for Quisenberry due to high amounts of textile waste and overconsumption due to fast fashion.

Every year, people in the U.S. discard over 34 billion pounds of used textiles, according to research from Boston University.

“It's of course environmentally motivated,” Quisenberry said. “Because if that wasn't something that I cared about, there's a lot easier ways to do this.”

Many brands have preached sustainability without making any ethical changes, Quisenberry said.

“Sustainability has become such a buzzword and I don't use that word as much as I used to because I think it's so overused. It is an important part of my business. And I do love reusing old textiles for environmental reasons.”

Quilting is something that connects Quisenberry to her family and makes the garments more interesting. Quilts were common decorations in the 17th and 18th century, but also told stories of the women who made them.

“I think it's a lot more unique and I'm very interested in vintage textiles and quilts,” she said.

She was raised on a small cattle farm in Frankfort.

“It's something I'm connected to deep within my family,” she said. “Like the American folklore tradition of quilting and that like craftsmanship is something that I think is important.”

The business is always looking to expand. Quisenberry hopes to provide education about sewing and repurposing materials through online courses and Green Folk’s new internship program.

Last August, Quisenberry launched a virtual three-week sewing course. She said educating people about sewing and reusing textiles is one of her goals for Green Folk Collective.

“I launched that last August. I'm very passionate about teaching other people,” Quisenberry said. “I'm very passionate about teaching other people how to sew and I think that's an important part about sustainability. So whether that's like mending things that you already have, or you know, being able to just make something that's maybe more on trend, like let's say you're a trendy person, and you're really into fashion, being able to make that trendy item instead of going and purchasing it.”

Mallory Quisenberry keeps a happy bell next to her sewing machine to ring when something exciting happens.
Debra Murray
Mallory Quisenberry keeps a happy bell next to her sewing machine to ring when something exciting happens.

Alongside Quisenberry are Green Folk’s two interns: Ashley Durbin and Anna Knowles. Both interns help Quisenberry create products and run Green Folk’s social media.

“I always say like I manifested working with Mallory just because I've been such a fan of hers for so long,” Durbin said. “She was just such a welcoming person and such an inspiring person. To be able to learn with and grow with and I think this is such an exciting opportunity for like me and for Mallory and for Anna and for everybody who's a part of it. And I just love learning from her. But I think I've definitely made like, we've all made a connection with Mallory and like I think we're just friends now at this point.”

Knowles said she has found a space where she’s welcome and can explore her interest in fashion.

“We've been like come together and talk about our ideas and then collaborate on them together,” Knowles said. “That's something that's really great, because whatever, like a few years ago, when I really wanted to kind of get into fashion, I didn't really feel like I had a space where I could do that.”

On Quisenberry’s sewing machine, a taped up index card reads “Don’t half ass it,” and the “happy bell” to ring for celebration.

“I am so passionate about what I do every day and I feel really lucky that I get to do this,” Quisenberry said.

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