Suay Sew Shop is giving old clothes a second chance.

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For Lindsay Rose Medoff, change starts on the garment factory floor. Frustrated by wasteful, exploitative fashion industry norms, the activist-turned-CEO founded Suay Sew Shop. From using recycled textiles to making clothes and homegoods to providing workers a true living wage, Suay is more than just an eco-friendly fashion brand; it’s a complete reimagining of what it means to be a sustainable business.

Located in the Frogtown neighborhood of Los Angeles, Suay’s production sewing shop specializes in making comfortable “sleep-to-street” clothing from post-consumer textiles—aka fabrics that have already been used and discarded—at scale. 

While upcycled fashion tends to produce expensive one-offs, Suay is different. The shop’s ability to cut up hundreds of thousands of pounds of old textiles and use that material to create new products at scale is a gamechanger, bringing us closer to Medoff’s vision of a world where 85% of clothing and homegoods are made from 85% post-consumer waste. 

But sustainability is about more than just product to Medoff—it’s about labor practices and community impact as well. When COVID hit, Suay immediately pivoted to address the crisis. First, on the production side, Suay began producing masks for frontline workers. The company bought particulate testers to ensure they were selecting high-quality materials that protect against viral spread better than just a standard cotton mask. When they had developed a pattern they were proud of, they shared it online for free. All while taking steps to ensure that Suay workers weren’t just safe—but well cared for, too. Medoff converted half of the production floor to be a food bank for garment workers, feeding 250 workers a week with some outside help.

A self-described labor activist, Medoff started Suay with the understanding that garment workers rarely make a true living wage. In Los Angeles, the average garment worker does not make a living wage, and Medoff’s team is organizing to change that. Suay employees earn a truly liveable wage, with additional bonuses since COVID lockdown began, and a work culture where employees have a greater stake in the business. “I think the Made in LA story oftentimes is just that: A story,” she explains. “But what does it really mean? Suay is really focused on trying to blow the lid off of that story and really make Made in LA something to be proud of.”

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