Meet Our Changemakers: Grown Lady Garments

Name: Alley L. Biniarz
Company Name: Grown Lady Garments

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
Hi everyone! I’m Alley. You may have seen my name out in the wild as “Alley L. Biniarz” when I’m working as a freelance writer, or as “al. lucyna” when I’m wearing my poet hat. Growing up, when someone asked me what I wanted to be, I never knew what to choose – I hated reducing myself to just one thing. I wanted to be everything: I wanted to be a singer, an athlete, a tornado chaser (yes, this happened after watching twister), and a storyteller.

In some ways, I feel like I took that to heart. I never chose one thing – how could I? I’m constantly evolving! While I’m still a writer and hold a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from the University of King’s College, I knew that business ownership would eventually happen for me as well. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurial-spirited family members, I knew I wanted the freedom of having something that was all mine. Don’t get me wrong, I know owning a business means having zero boundaries or “personal time”, which isn’t that much different from being a writer. Though, I wanted a space where no one could direct me; where the business would perfectly encompass the organized scatterbrain that is me. I’ve spent too much time tiptoeing around other people’s rules, and I feel like it’s time for me to make my own rules (and break them)!

2. Tell us about your company
My company is called “Grown Lady Garments” – because you’re a grown-ass lady and you deserve to know where your clothes come from.

At least, that’s how I felt. As a consumer, and avid shopper, I was incredibly unsatisfied with where the fashion industry was headed (and where it had been for longer than I wanted to admit to myself).

I shopped where I thought I was getting good quality garments (and for me, good quality means: the people are getting paid, the materials are well-sourced, AND it feels good on my body). I was sad to find that most of the brands I was shopping with were “greenwashing” me. In other words, they were selling me an idea of being greener or more sustainable, but they were doing the bare minimum in pursuit of the sustainable clothing movement.

I took on this adventure with Grown Lady Garments years ago, without even knowing it. I began researching brands, participating in transparency forums, writing about my experience, and most importantly – I began shopping sustainably. Unfortunately, this meant shopping outside of my homework, mostly while I was visiting places like Toronto, Montreal, or Halifax. So, what do you do when the thing you want isn’t offered in your city? You create the space yourself (if it’s within your means, of course).

Since my mom already owns a boutique: BVogue Boutique, it seemed like the natural progression that I would start bringing my own lines to the store. The “curated selection” that I will be bringing to Windsor has a mission of being stylish, sustainable, and socially responsible (my “three ‘s’s).

These three s’s are non-negotiable for GLG, along with keeping inclusivity at our forefront. This means that each garment brought into GLG will be heavy researched before, and all of the information will be transparent to my customers so that they never have to feel like they’ve been tricked into thinking otherwise; everything I know, they’ll know.

Sustainable for me means: made with recycled materials such as well-sourced bamboo, linen, hemp, or cotton. It also means that the garment is made in an environment that is safe for the environment and its people – no bad dyes, no fumes, no toxic dumping, and all scraps are reused.

Socially responsible means: the people making the clothing are paid a fair wage, are working in a safe and clean environment, and are not overworked. The key to being socially responsible also applies to my customers and those who are buying my garments. I want to ensure that they are getting a product that is worth their hard-earned dollar.

Stylish means: this is not ye olde definition of sustainable clothing (as cool as the burlap granola look is). At GLG, you will see modern and fashionable looks; however, we aren’t trying to keep up with rotating fast fashion. These pieces will be timeless, which means they will last you longer and will typically flow with everything you currently have in your closet.

Our mission for inclusivity stands for everyone who feels they haven’t been represented in the current shopping scene: whether this is because they haven’t seen themselves in marketing materials, or the look and feel of their garment was “compromised” due to size. All of the brands I will be working with have a strong presence for inclusive sizing, which means the garments have a standard look across the board, from XXS to 6XL.

3. Why do you feel the Libro-EPIC Social Enterprise program will be beneficial to growing your company?

I’m a lady with big ideas, and sometimes I need help with keeping my eye on the prize. As someone with a bachelor’s degree in English & French, a degree in journalism, and a Master of Fine Arts…that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for learning the ins and outs of running a business. The Libro-EPIC Social Enterprise program has already given me resources that are invaluable. Between the experienced mentorship, the marketing and financial workshops, and the connections with others in the program, I feel like I’m receiving a wealth of knowledge and building an entire community while I’m at it!

Not only will the connections stay with me throughout the early stages of the business, I know that they will be endless supporters of my project for years to come. Everyone involved truly believes in you, and they don’t just tell it – they show it. Any time I’ve struggled, someone has been there to pick me up and encourage me to keep going. It takes a village to get a business up and running, and I know my village will be there to help me raise GLG through to adulthood!

4. Why do you feel it’s important to have a company like yours in our community?

I think that not enough young people know the importance of where they’re spending their money. I know because I was one of them. I was someone who just spent and spent and didn’t know where my money was at the end of the day. Once I did start paying attention to where my money was going, and to which causes, I had this urgent feeling that I was too late to the game. But I wasn’t – I was perfectly on time. I know I can’t go back and change my old habits, but I can encourage others to change theirs sooner. Everyone deserves to buy a garment that is worth their money, that gives back to their community, and has meaning and purpose – these garments give someone a living wage and aren’t destroying the planet in the process (the garment industry is the second leader in climate change – right behind oil).

I also feel like so much of our mental health is tied to the way we shop, and if we start shopping mindfully, we might get to the root to some of our addictive tendencies. Shopping is an addiction, just like so many other things we do to avoid the core of our problems. Shopping isn’t bad though, and I want to challenge people’s views of that. If we shop mindfully – do something so simple – we can actually make a much bigger difference than we think.

5. Where do you hope to see yourself and your company by the end of this program?

I hope that I feel ready to tackle business ownership. That I know how to overcome those early stages, because I know that’s when many small businesses fail. This is too important to let it fall, and I know my mentors and those who are guiding me through this process won’t let that happen. By the end of it all, I hope to have a grand announcement for GLG, where we can have a badass inclusive fashion show – all bodies and humans welcome on stage – and to just celebrate where fashion can and should be. This isn’t just the future of fashion; this is now.

You can find us at @grownladygarments on Instagram for now, and stay tuned for the rest!