In a city where a garment’s origin story has become more important than its label, Akala clothing completes a coveted trifecta: sustainable, size-inclusive, and designed in Seattle by founder Ashley Klein.
With its small collection of classic pieces, sustainable down to the button at the waist of a wide-leg pant, Akala's late-2020 launch landed it in a growing cabal of direct-to-consumer brands made to flaunt their climate commitments. Seattle-based Girlfriend Collective has its plastic-bottle leggings. It-girl Reformation has its carbon neutral sundresses. All are welcome in a fashion industry whose greenhouse gas emissions make up four percent of the global total (per a 2018 McKinsey study).
Like other sustainable brands, Akala avoids the carbon footprint of traditional shipping, opting for recyclable packaging and standard travel times over the hyper-quick speeds popularized by Klein’s employer (Akala is a side-hustle; she works full-time in advertising at Amazon). But even those core tenets are only part of the story when it comes to sustainability. Tossing out your Tencel blouse every season still feeds into the fast-fashion glut.
That's why Klein lingers on the “versatility” that helps her line transcend the fashion calendar: “It's not necessarily going to be a puff sleeve neon dress that goes out of style next year." She designed Akala’s first pieces for fall, and like so many other businesses bumped up against Covid-related delays until it was almost winter. The perk of that versatility is that you’d never know.
Akala is also designed to carry its wearers through the seasons of life: Klein, who’s pregnant, frequently rocks the sweater dress. Each piece has some flexibility built in, from the wrap element on a rust-colored jumpsuit to the secretly elastic back on those pants. Whether you’re a size XXS or XXL, these are clothes meant to change with you. In an era of flux, that feels especially important.
To that end, the spring line—Klein’s first designed in the throes of Covid—will incorporate sweats-inspired drawstrings in styles you’ll actually want to wear out of the house. “Everyone's going to be looking for clothes that are more fluid and more forgiving,” Klein says. (And how.)
Could the brand be more size-inclusive? This season, certainly—there are plenty of shoppers for whom the 36- to 40-inch waist on the XXL just won’t cut it, though the spring and summer releases will go up to size 4XL, per Klein. And while the price range reflects the line’s small batches and above–minimum wage manufacturing in Los Angeles, a $150 top isn’t going to be accessible for everyone. Nonetheless, Akala is a thoughtful addition to the Seattle scene and a step in the direction of fashion’s more conscious future—sustainability, elastic waistbands, and all.