I’m helping to make Austin Net-Zero by: reshaping the perception of “waste,” and understanding that one product’s by-product can be another product’s starting point.
Meet Miranda Bennett, the founder of Miranda Bennett Studio, a sustainable clothing brand based in Austin. Miranda is an Austin native who moved to New York at age 17 to study fashion. Upon graduation, she launched her first clothing line, kicking off a successful career in New York City. After 12 years of operating and manufacturing there, Miranda moved back to Austin in search of a more meaningful way to work in the fashion industry. Miranda Bennett Studio is the product of her vision.
We spoke with Miranda about her commitment to Net-Zero, what her toughest challenges have been, and what advice she has for others. Read more below.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been obsessed with clothing. When I was 14, I was offered either a sewing machine or a CD player, and I chose the sewing machine. In my teenage years, I began making apparel as a creative outlet and form of self-expression. Then, in college, I studied fashion design and art history, where I began to really hone my skills as a designer. In 2006, I ended up starting my first clothing line in New York as an extension of my senior thesis.
Since moving back home to Austin and starting MBS, I have had the chance to take a step back and really evaluate how each one of my pieces is made — from the fabric to the stitching to the dye. I understand that as a business owner, every decision that I make is my responsibility and legacy. I also believe that sustainability is not just a benefit to the environment and community, but it’s also a way to maximize resources and revenue streams by doing the most with what you have.
By taking small steps at first, and by being open to continue evolving our business practices. I feel that my biggest achievement as a business owner is creating an environment where staid paradigms can be done away with and innovation can abound. In the fashion industry, everything is so seasonal and disposable, and I’m determined to help change that narrative. As a result, I’m always thinking about how I can make seasonless pieces as sustainably as possible.
To bring this vision to life, the pieces in my collection are created using textiles that are dyed in-house with plant-based materials. Recently, I began a partnership to produce all of our apparel through Open Arms, part of the Multicultural Refugee Coalition. This Austin-based organization is a sustainable manufacturer empowering refugee women through fair-wage employment. I’m so proud of this partnership, and we are looking forward to our teams growing together in the years to come.
To make the dyes used in our apparel, we love to experiment with by-products from other industries, such as sawdust and wood shavings, avocado pits and skins, and more. When we opened our MBS flagship store on East 11th Street, we worked with the design + build firm KKDW to create our fixtures. We began collecting Pecan shavings from their shop floor as a zero waste dye, which informed our desire to source our furnishings from Pecan wood as much as possible. Once the shavings are collected and used as a dye, we compost the leftover pulp with Green Thumb Commercial Composting.
We’re also working on our first crop of organically cultivated Mexican Mint Marigold, produced through New Leaf, the agricultural arm of the Multicultural Refugee Coalition. We harvested our first crop in October and are now working with different methodologies for preservation and extraction to utilize the crop as a natural dye on a commercial scale. I am personally so excited for our collection to be tinted with hues that are representative of the beautiful Texas Hill Country that we call home.
There’s no operating manual for this type of work! As a small business, the very same elements that give us the freedom to innovate also mean that we don’t have anyone telling us how to make it work. The challenges are rather constant, from infrastructure to financing to consumer awareness.
Yes, absolutely! I really enjoy engaging with other business owners and managers who are open to hearing us out about utilizing the byproducts of their work. The fact that our approach to materials has inspired others to rethink the “waste” in their daily lives is hugely rewarding.
At our new flagship store, we also carry a curated selection of goods and accessories. It’s been really fun for me to get to research these products and make connections with other businesses who are making their work in a way that’s aligned with our vision and values.
I’m also so grateful for my amazing team at MBS. Each one of our team members is a gift, and getting to assemble such a talented group of people around this work has been the greatest possible reward.
Give yourself permission to think outside the box and view materials with fresh eyes. You might be surprised by the incredible amount of resources you can find right in front of you.
To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.
Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.