We’re so glad you’re here. We are a platform working collaboratively with brands, designers, makers, funders, and innovators to support and build a more just, reciprocal, and circular fashion economy.
Who we are
tonlé is a platform for brands, designers, makers, manufacturers, funders, and innovators who are collaboratively building a new circular fashion economy. We are a maker lead community creating a purposeful future for fashion that is restorative, regenerative, and just. Through our own production and alongside our network of partners, we strive for circularity and climate justice to mitigate the fashion industry’s devastating impact on the planet. tonlé envisions a fashion industry where everyone benefits and thrives.
what we do
tonlé started out as a single brand and manufacturer aiming to demonstrate that making clothes out of waste and utilizing every single scrap could be a reality. In 2008, no one thought this was possible and fast fashion had just started to take off thanks to large brands capitalizing off the recession. Despite many obstacles, over the last 15 years, the tonlé team realized many of their initial dreams and diverted over ½ million pounds of textiles from going to waste.
The last few years have been challenging for customers, makers, and small businesses alike, and we have to adapt to be resilient. Not much is changing with our core production, but we aim for more collaborative work through our expanded online platform. We’re proud of what we’ve built and we want to share our knowledge and skills with a larger community than ever before.
tonlé today is a collaborative online platform showcasing our own ethically made products as well as the wares of other designer-makers who value climate justice and fairness. In this space, you can find apparel, accessories, and homewares from reclaimed materials made by talented makers and designers from all parts of the world including many founding members of our team. Our vision is for a world where brands, designers, makers, business leaders, and funders work together toward mutual flourishing, instead of competing or monopolizing.
We are also dedicated to providing resources and support to emerging creatives, especially those who are outside of the traditional purview of global north fashion weeks. We directly champion the design of creators who are inspired by their own cultures instead of those working through a lens of colonialism.
We know that collaboration is the only chance we have to stand for our values against an increasingly hostile climate of extractive capitalism.
fashion isn't just..
Why we do it
The modern fashion industry is one of the most exploitative industries in the world for both people and planet. It has been designed to create wealth for a select few, while the vast majority of fashion workers pay the price. tonlé is leading a new circular fashion ecosystem designed to protect and support the people who work on our clothing and the earth we all live on.
The fashion industry—much like the capitalist system it is a part of—operates on a model of exploitative extraction that is rooted in the long history of colonialism. Colonial power dynamics and inequity persist in the modern fashion industry in many ways, from unfair pay structures to reinforcing harmful stereotypes. Such dynamics bolster an unfair balance of risk and reward across the supply chain, where people at “the top” become extremely wealthy by exploiting the people at “the bottom”.
Fashion brands are ordering and driving over production at an ever-increasing rate, while pressuring factories to continually lower their prices, resulting in garments being worn fewer times and more un-recyclable textiles going to waste. Fast fashion is only the most recent industry development that increases wealth for a few at the expense of the planet and human lives. Rather than working to improve a destructive system, we at tonlé believe it’s time for a radical rethink of what fashion can and should look like.
Our community of brands, makers, models, designers, students, and investors share the following commitments:
skill sharing instead of extraction
collaboration instead of competition
ecosystems instead of monopolies
equitable distribution of wealth
intentional and purposeful production instead of over-ordering
circularity and sharing instead of linear capitalism
reciprocity and mutual benefit, respect, and fair compensation for all who contribute to our success
We envision a fashion industry where everyone benefits and thrives. We are working to ensure that future by rectifying the harm and injustice the fashion industry has caused to both people and the planet one piece of clothing, one connection, and one relationship at a time.
Imagine if the fashion industry looked more like a circular, reciprocal ecosystem, rather than a top-down supply chain. In this ecosystem, sewing, weaving, dying, and mending, wearing and sharing clothes can be a form of sharing joy. In this ecosystem, everyone’s contributions are valued, and makers are centered as creators and leaders. Imagine if brands collaborated on raising funding, shared resources, and created together instead of competing. Imagine a fashion industry where clothing is made in a way that enriches—rather than destroys—the planet we all live on. Where you can buy clothes that you truly feel good about wearing and know that you are a partner in co-creating a more sustainable future. This is the future we strive for at tonlé.
While we can’t create widespread systems change on our own, we hope to inspire others and collaborate with them to build a fashion industry where everyone benefits and thrives.
More than a buzzword...
We believe that every scrap of fabric, every action we take, and each piece of clothing we create has a purpose. Using fabric others consider waste, we create beautiful products designed to last, mitigating fashion’s impact on the planet. We provide others with resources to support circular and sharing economies and acknowledge that one brand alone cannot create a circular system. We believe that the systems of the future look more like ecosystems than extractive and linear supply chains. Collaboration is the only way to make this happen.
what it really means to us...
There are generally two approaches to making zero-waste fashion: creative pattern making that uses 100% of a given textile, and creating garments from reclaimed materials. The approach we feel best honors our commitment to mitigate fashion’s impact on the planet is a marriage of the two. Not only are we diverting waste generated by others, but we strive to use every scrap of textile that comes into our workshop. Our design team scours the remnant markets in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where pre-consumer textile waste from large garment factories is collected and resold. Back at our sewing workshop, makers and designers work together to create designs from larger pieces of reclaimed fabric. The small scraps left over from making those garments are cut and individually sewn into yarn. The yarn is then handwoven and knit into new pieces—this process creates our iconic twice-recycled fabric pieces. The small amount of textile waste that remains from making our garments is mixed with used paper from our office and pattern-making to create our own handmade paper. By being purposeful each step of the way, we are left with zero material waste. Our process shows that waste is only truly “waste” when it gets wasted. Learn more about our zero-waste process here.
We work with a network of designers and makers to highlight their unique talents and ideas and bring them to life. Read more about the people we work with. (coming soon)