Contemporary Brand Christina Dienst Forges Its Own Sustainable Path
To mark the official start of her self-named Christina Dienst label, the designer produced a pop-up shop in downtown Los Angeles’ Fashion District last month. The women’s contemporary line is inspired by New Wave–era 1980s styles, but she wanted her label’s production to be in line with sustainable manufacturing practices, which have been gaining cachet over the past few years. She found that it wasn’t easy.
“It was such a hurricane of thoughts, ideas and questions to ask,” she said of sustainability. “There’s no one right answer.”
Despite a tsunami of information, regulations and occasionally conflicting data, Dienst was determined to not become overwhelmed. As a former law student, she was ready to do a lot of research to find out more regarding the growing field of sustainable-fashion manufacturing.
With a career path that veered into design and product development, Dienst had worked with brands such as Philipp Plein, Anna Sui and Anine Bing. These experiences afforded connections to manufacturers who could lead her in the right direction to develop her privately owned line, for which she serves as chief executive officer and head designer.
“When I started, I thought that I’d be completely sustainable and find completely new vendors or I’d inspire the people who work with me,” Dienst said, revealing that she ultimately chose to work with the vendors she knew.
“They were interested in what I was doing,” she explained. “They were interested in adopting sustainable practices in business. It’s a learning process. There has to be more awareness. It has to be constructive. Everyone has to be invited. Everything counts.”
Dienst started with easily achievable milestones to start a sustainable line by working with organic cottons and dead-stock fabrics. Whenever possible, she produced clothes in Los Angeles to reduce the carbon footprint attendant to shipping from overseas.
When considering her entire supply chain, Dienst also set guidelines for materials she would use to package her goods. These materials are not only made out of recycled components, but they are also compostable, an option that costs 30 percent to 40 percent more than non-compostable material.
Sourcing fabrics, finding manufacturers and choosing the appropriate packaging were challenging, but looking to make a sustainable line also posed a moral dilemma. The Christina Dienst line features a collection of leather jackets. While Dienst maintains a vegan diet, she chose to make these pieces from animal skin.
“I don’t go for vegan leather. I don’t want to use plastic,” she said. “When it comes to clothing, I’ll always look for the more sustainable items. Plastic items turn into micro-plastics that pollute the oceans. You have to question everything. I’m saying that we have to look at the whole truth. What is the bigger picture? You have to make sure that the alternative is not going to cause a lot of problems for the planet.”
However, Dienst said that she will continue to search for vegan leather alternatives, one of which is Desserto, an organic leather made from nopal cactus.
Prior to her adoption of a vegan diet, vegetarianism inspired Dienst to seek alternatives not only in fashion, but also to seek answers on subjects that made people seem uncomfortable. She remembered people being perplexed when she told them that she was vegetarian.
“No one accepted that you should not eat meat. They asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’” she said. “No one would ask questions if I was a meat eater, so it made me ask questions on everything.”
Not taking the status quo for granted led to fashion production. “I was working for a luxe fashion brand and we were using a lot of fur and exotic leathers. I asked myself, ‘Where do I draw the line? How can we make it better?’ Also, how do we make it better for everyone without becoming too extreme, which scares off a lot of people.”
Her debut line features 32 items. They include 1980s-inspired leather jackets with bomber-jacket silhouettes and biker-jacket ribbing. Other looks include low-cut slipdresses with side slits, but Dienst insists these styles only “look” dangerous.
“They are sewn in a way to not show anything,” Dienst said. “You can be revealing without worrying that you are going to show everything. It’s part of my approach to making everything easy to wear and classy.”
Other looks include crop tops and T-shirts, and she also designed an athleisure capsule collection called Lazy, which was produced in collaboration with the Los Angeles–based trainer Jolana Nika. Looks from the capsule collection include sweatpants, crop hoodies and V-neck tees.
Retail price points for Christina Dienst range from $69 for crop tops to $399 for silk dresses and $1,500 for leather jackets. The brand is exclusively sold at christinadienst.com.