Fashion has been undergoing massive changes in the past few years, with major disruptions in manufacturing, distribution and marketing. Many brands are moving away from brick and mortar, and incorporating sustainability into their product lines. There is more of an emphasis on designing for all body types, and online brands with bespoke creations are taking hold.
Celeste Markey and Elizabeth Rickard Shah have been keenly aware of the shift in fashion’s focus.
Both women have worked in fashion and design for their entire careers, and have co-founded and run successful startups in the past. Markey has a background in PR and Marketing, and Rickard Shah has an extensive luxury design background, from Paris, to Italy, New York, and the West Coast. Together they have over 40 years of experience, and have worked for brands and clients including Giorgio Armani, Sonia Rykiel, Bulgari and more.
Their new label, Careste, combines both sustainability and luxury bespoke fashion. The timing for the brand’s launch couldn’t be better.
What motivated you to start Careste?
As founders, we have both been shaped by macro events including the 2008 financial crisis, and now coronavirus and the negative environmental consequences of overproduction. By creating products individually and on-demand, we are able to eliminate all of the excess waste created in the industry by mass production, creating a new, sustainable business model in the industry and a new way for conscious, luxury fashion customers to shop. Everything we do begins with sustainability at the forefront of our minds.
How did you choose the name?
Naming a brand is really important, and difficult! Ultimately we worked with an excellent team to come up with Careste, which is actually a combination of my name and my daughter’s name. Celeste + Charis (which is pronounced with a hard C) = Careste.
How is the online platform set up for getting a perfect fit?
Careste offers a first of its kind, very simple way of perfecting fit: a base of 22 sizes which can be customized as desired–by setting up a virtual stylist appointment–leaving no body type out. Because of our microsize offering, we are able to guarantee total satisfaction and as close to a perfect fit as you’ll ever get. If there is still room for improvement, the Fit Concierge stands at the ready to make a free alteration. In the coming months, we will be rolling out fit technology onsite to further our fit and sustainability promise.
The collection consists of clothing with very pure, simple lines. Will it continue in this vein?
I definitely subscribe to the philosophy of less is more. I also often find inspiration through architecture which in itself is very linear, as well as Modern and Contemporary artists. The current 29 Palms collection was intended to portray an easiness and air of nonchalance to the pieces. As most of us are currently spending more time at home it was important to design a collection that could be worn as easily in the house as one could to a ‘social distance’ event.
The collection is constantly evolving and will continue to play on clean, feminine and chic design.
What are the price points?
Our collection as a whole, including our 29 Palms Collection, runs from $225-$625. Cornerstone, which is our give-back collection, ranges from $225-$325, and donates 15% to a cause, currently Frontline Foods, a grassroots organization that takes action during crises to provide nourishing food from Black-owned restaurants to frontline workers and impacted communities. We are really excited to continue to support Frontline as we grow the collection, but will also rotate partners annually.
Made-to-measure online may well be the future of retail. How will Careste stay competitive as other brands come into the space?
We believe that our appeal is based on offering 22 sizes, including half sizes, while the vast majority of luxury brands offer only 4 to 7. In addition, because each Careste garment is made to order, we are able to customize most individual fit adjustments on request. Our goal is to provide each woman the best fit she has ever experienced. Being first gives us a significant head start when compared to our luxury competitors, all of which operate on business models based on mass production.
One of the goals is making the brand sustainable. How are you doing that?
Our entire business model is sustainable, we are a small team, and that we started with sustainability as one of our core brand promises as well as our raison d’etre, it has been easier for us then perhaps for others. From the beginning, we mapped out not only a timeline to reach the coveted B Corp status, but also a timeline of attaining all of the elements of sustainability possible. We are working with experts to help guide us in our journey to becoming as green as possible. We are committed to constantly evolving and improving our sustainability promise.
How do you see the brand evolving in the next five years?
We’re excited and hopeful of building an internationally recognized new luxury brand that supports innovative design and sustainability in our industry.