(Photo: Courtesy Lauren Lilly; illustration: Jessica De Jesus)

This Designer Let Recycling Go to Her Head

Lauren Lilly is being honored by In Her Company, a campaign celebrating the power, creativity, and impact of 30 inspiring women entrepreneurs.
Dec 17, 2014· 2 MIN READ
TakePart Staff

In 2010, Lauren Lilly decided to create a headwear fashion company committed to the full circle of sustainability. Yellow 108 repurposes discarded textiles—that would otherwise be thrown away—to create unusual, chic accessories.

Yellow 108
HQ: Long Beach, Calif.
Industries: Fashion, manufacturing
Founded: 2010

Los Angeles–based Yellow 108 specializes in sustainable hats and accessories made from salvaged and recycled materials. Using materials that are waste from textile factories enables us to create a product that is truly unique and “limited edition" from season to season—while minimizing waste.

TakePart: How did you come up with the idea for your business? Was there a turning point that convinced you to start your own business?

Lauren Lilly: The idea for Yellow 108 came quite naturally. Having worked in the industry for a few years for brands claiming to be ecological, I quickly realized the idea of sustainability needed to be so much deeper than just products being manufactured. So much negative communication takes place in the fashion industry, I wanted to create a company that was built on a foundation of positivity and trust.

Leadership is very important to me. You are only as strong as the people that support you and that you are responsible for. So creating a sustainable work environment for a group of people that felt like a family was first on the list. From the food we eat to the way we choose to communicate to being active and healthy humans, we choose to be happy every day and work together for the bigger-picture goals we have for our lives. Yellow 108 is the catalyst for our positive and healthy lifestyle.

TakePart: What excites or inspires you? What do you care about?

Lilly: People excite and inspire me! I am fueled by the stories and dreams of others. I care about being a thoughtful and helpful human. To inspire and be inspired is life.

TakePart: What’s been the proudest moment that made you feel like your hard work was worth it?

Lilly: For me each small milestone is really fulfilling. This fall I started to do a lecture series at universities across the U.S., and my first one was at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. The feeling of connecting with students to answer their questions and help guide them was very fulfilling. It was my personal reminder that I have experience and knowledge to share. Having developed a program that is successful is fulfilling every day. Watching my team work together, love each other, buy houses, have kids, reach personal goals, is by far the most fulfilling thing in the world for me.

TakePart: Who are your customers, and how do you engage and reach them?

Lilly: We work very hard to develop products that are timeless and vintage inspired but also bridge the gap between demographics. Some hats we see worn by teenagers and also grandparents in their garden. We like to design products with a purpose that also follow a trend. Our customers tend to be really engaged in our social media. We like to project who we are through our marketing so customers can get to know us and feel like they are our friends.

TakePart: Why is sustainability important to you? How do you incorporate sustainability into your product and business practice?

Lilly: Sustainability is the core foundation for everything we do, from using only recycled and salvaged materials to avoiding dyeing our textiles (to save thousands of gallons of water) to recycling our boxes and only using recycled paper for all invoices and hand tags. For us sustainability is a lifestyle we live in our personal lives as well.

(Photo: @prismboutique)

TakePart: How would you describe your management style?

Lilly: Leading by example. Setting the pace for how communication is given and received is the core foundation for teamwork. It’s extremely important to consider the opinions and needs of all employees. Each person brings something different to the table, and it’s the combination of all people involved that makes the company what it is. Ensuring that each person is given the opportunity to balance what needs to be done with something that is creatively fulfilling is extremely important to me. As a leader, I help to maintain the balance and trust for all involved.

This post is part of the series "In Her Company," created in collaboration with Eileen Fisher and designed to celebrate the power, creativity, and impact of women-owned businesses. Check out more stories at takepart.com/in-her-company.