Embody Apparel

A small business is doing big things for sustainable clothing

Elise+Anderson+modeling+her+hand-made+crochet+bucket+hat.

Elise Anderson modeling her hand-made crochet bucket hat.

Carmin Sims, Staff Writer

As the focus on sustainable clothing continues to grow, there have been more people who want to contribute to saving the environment. Some have decided to visit nearby thrift stores, and others have decided to take matters into their own hands. Lincoln Southeast High School (LSE) senior Elise Anderson has created her own clothing business called Embody Apparel, made up of entirely crocheted items. This brand came from a unique hobby that turned into selling sustainably-made clothing for a good cause. 

Anderson’s inspiration for this business came from wanting to find her own way to contribute and promote slow fashion. 

“It’s a way to support sustainable fashion, which is something that I’m super passionate about because I’m a huge environmentalist,” Anderson said. 

Well-known clothing brands such as Shein, Romwe and Urban Outfitters are powerful contributors to the harm being done to the environment. Anderson’s brand is a contrast to the plastic microfibers and carbon emissions being produced for cheap clothing. 

Synthetic materials that are commonly used by fast fashion brands are primary components in harming bodies of water. Plastic microfibers in the materials degrade at a slow rate, meaning when it eventually breaks down it will release toxins into the oceans. These materials are poor in quality and they’re cheap. These toxic microfibers give brands the ability to mass produce clothing at an inexpensive price. Embody Apparel does the opposite.

Anderson discovered the possibilities crocheting could give her when a specific project was brought to her attention. The re-creation of the colorful checkered cardigan, that had been photographed on singer and songwriter Harry Styles, was her first crochet piece. 

“I taught myself how to do it over quarantine. It’s really funny how I started out knitting from the Harry Styles sweater,” Anderson said.

This project led to what is now a small business entirely curated and run by Anderson herself. All the hats, vests, mittens, bags and sweaters she sells are handmade by her. In addition, she also takes photographs for her website with a few of her close friends as the models. Anderson and her brand have had some very influential supporters throughout its growth.

Anderson said that her youth group leader has always been an advocate for her crocheting and asked her to make their group personalized water bottle holders for an upcoming  trip.

Alongside her youth leader, Anderson has always had a good relationship with her mom, who has been her  primary support system. They are best friends, and she has always been there for her. Anderson’s mom has been a huge help with managing time around school, projects and extracurriculars ontop of creating and sustaining her business. She motivates her daughter when she isn’t feeling productive and motivated. 

Dawson Dynek, a junior at LSE, is a close friend and buyer of Embody Apparel merchandise. He says that Anderson’s products fit his style and he loves supporting local businesses that are good for the environment.

“Elise loves having an environment friendly well…everything. Not just her brand,” Dynek said. “She puts effort into what she makes with a little sprinkle of love.”

The brand also requires a lot of time and energy. Anderson technically isn’t able to hire anyone because she is only 17, so she not only makes the products but also built her own website. Considering she creates each piece that she sells, Anderson spends a large amount of time crocheting. Her sweater vest took upwards of 50 hours. The smaller pieces, such as the bucket hat, take around 3 hours. The yarn used is also very thin, which contributes to the long process. Though it is time-consuming, Anderson has found ways to pass the time.

“It’s a lot of time but you know, [I] put on a podcast or my vinyls,” Anderson said. “I’m always playing my vinyls or watching TV and I’m like, I can live with this.”

Anderson has also had some personal struggles that have affected her business. She says that she has struggled a lot with mental health. Having a business requires her to be vulnerable and open to the public. 

“It’s really hard to put yourself out there,” Anderson said. 

She wants to find ways to normalize mental health issues, and believes Embody Apparel can help with that goal. After quarantine she had to figure out how to get back to daily life without her thoughts holding her back. 

There are constantly new projects in the works. For Christmas, Anderson made her dad, who is a Rock ’n’ Roll History Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), a tapestry of The Beatles. She has created a calendar of her projects in order to time out how long she can spend working on a certain project every day.

Luckily Anderson has found her senior year to be very manageable, aside from the business. She has less classes than usual, making it easier to find time to get homework done. She is also a huge coffee drinker which adds to her spirit for getting things done — preferably an iced vanilla latte from a local coffee shop, The Mill. 

Embody Apparel has an online shop displaying the different pieces being sold. Anderson described this as a “catalog” due to website issues that she has had to work around. She is currently waiting until she is 18 to move her brand to Etsy for an easier selling and payment process. 

This business has a long-term future ahead. Anderson plans to expand the brand as she goes through school. After attending fashion school, her goal is to work on making luxury brands more sustainable to lessen the major polluters. She says that the pieces of clothing high-end fashion brands produce can be stunning, but also harmful. She will be majoring at UNL in Supply Chain Management with a minor in Art History. 

“You see brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and all of these people sponsoring Met Gala dresses, and it’s like a one time use [outfit]. This is a super detrimental piece of work,” Anderson said.

Embody Apparel is doing bigger things for our planet as a small local business than big-name fashion brands. Anderson’s goal is being fulfilled as she continues to work on her new ideas and further her productivity.

“I want to be working with taking a product from the very beginning, making sure each step is sustainable, and then making a product,” Anderson said.