We love Liz (Elizabeth Roney) and here's why.
First of all, she is our longest-standing product designer (7 years strong!) and therefore a fundamental part of our team. Second, and maybe more significantly, she is unquestionably a person for urban progress.
Caring for people, cultivating good design, and taking action when she sees a need for change are clearly woven into her being. This spirit led her to create her own fair trade clothing line, Liz Alig, at a time when many were not on board with the fair trade movement. Fair trade is a way to empower those who may become trapped in a cycle of poverty, earning less they then need to thrive and often working in poor conditions. Brands using the fair trade model seek producers in developing countries and low income areas to create partnerships and business opportunities. This gives these communities a chance to have sustainable economic growth instead of just a hand-out.
Before she turned into the sustainable design icon of Indy that she is today, she honed her design skills while sewing clothes for herself and friends during high school and studying fashion design in Nashville, TN. Then she worked for several design icons in Nashville including Manuel – the man who put Elvis in the jumpsuit.
An internship working with youth formerly living on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya gave her the chance to teach others her trade, and begin to question the fashion industry. “My time in Kenya and other developing countries helped me put a face behind the people who make our clothes. Of course I had heard of sweatshops, but when you hear someone’s story while sitting in their one room house it tends to change the way you think. I started to realize that clothing production with small fair trade production houses gives women ownership of their lives – they can choose if they want to go back to school, if they want to add on to their house, and where they will send their kids to school.”
Soon after, Liz Alig was born out of a drive to give people a line of clothes that is not only fashion forward but transparent. Liz visits every production house regularly, she knows the people who create these clothes so she can attest that they are given a good wage, safe working conditions, and the benefits needed to succeed. She wanted the line to be conscious on every level, from the fabric to the manufacturing. Using as many recycled fabrics as possible, paired with hand-woven fabrics that use eco-friendly dyes, she has designed pieces that you can feel good about buying.
The values of her brand are in line with what we strive to do at PUP everyday: use what we already have to make something beautiful and new. “After working with a variety of recycled materials in design, I have come to appreciate how these ordinary things that we consider trash can easily become a resource if given a little extra effort.” She uses t-shirts and recycled textiles; we use the RCA dome roof and vinyl banners. She works with manufacturers around the world; we work with local designers… like Liz!
In an exceedingly connected world as ours, it is hard to ignore the struggles and injustices of those that live far and near from us. Liz reminds us that there should always be room for positive change and that it is up to us to turn a critical eye to our own industries and trades.
Emma Hagenauer grew up in Indianapolis and studied Fashion Merchandising at Ball State University. She first joined PUP as an Intern in 2015. After living and volunteering in Jamaica, West Indies she returned to Indy with a fresh appreciation for her community (and fried plantains).
When she's not pondering over clever Instagram captions, she's most likely dancing, dreaming up business ideas, or planting trees with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.