The pandemic was a blessing in disguise for Su Paek and Stephanie Callahan, the mother-daughter duo behind Find Me Now. "It was like someone had just turned a faucet off," Callahan told Byrdie. Prior to starting the sustainable fashion brand, Callahan worked in the fast fashion space with her mother for about eight years in private label design and development. It was a redundant cycle that required mass production and a business model at the end of its tether. Instead of feeding their creative perspectives, they had turned into "fashion robots."
During the pandemic, all of their orders were cancelled within a week. They hit rock bottom financially, professionally, and personally. Ultimately, it pushed them to unlearn old mindsets from their previous business. Callahan and Paek rose even stronger with a refreshed perspective in the fashion industry.
Find Me Now was developed organically through adversity. It's a creative project between Callahan and Paek bonded by blood and mindfulness. The slow fashion brand prioritizes clothing that can be worn at all hours of the day, either layered or thrown on its own.
Unlike contemporary fashion, Find Me Now celebrates what you have today. Sustainability is at the frontline of their production at self-funded, family-owned, and women-operated factories in Ningbo and Shanghai.
Currently, the Find Me Now team is working on their fall/winter 2022 collection that will drop at the end of September. This is their first collection using recycled yarn.
"I personally see the opportunity to replace all synthetic yarn with recycled yarn." Callahan shares. "This will be our first collection where we are incorporating recycled plastic bottles that have turned into yarn as the key feature. I think it's a huge first step, and it's just the beginning of this journey."
Below, Byrdie (virtually) sits down with Find Me Now co-founder, Stephanie Callahan, to discuss working with her mom, extending the life of fabric, and redefining what it means for something to be Made in China.
What did you have to unlearn from working in a fast fashion space before Find Me Now?
Just from a consumer standpoint, this is not even from like a design standpoint, but having the inner peace to really be okay with yourself, and not having something like fashion to fulfill a void, because that pushes us to buy into micro-trends, and that's not what we're trying to chase. We're trying to exude and fully embody products and designs that we truly feel we will use for six to eight months out of the year.
What do you prioritize when making these clothes?
I would say that, first and foremost, the wearability of the garment is so important. So garments that have a short lifespan or can't transit from season to season are really tough because, just from a physical standpoint, they take up so much space, and it doesn't feel like a long-term investment that you want to make. Long-term wearability is, I would say, number one priority.
I feel like many of your pieces are so easy to layer on. I'm thinking of the Second Skin collection and how versatile those pieces are. What made you want to expand that collection?
Second Skin is a concept we came up with because we had launched a mesh top last fall, and the immediate reaction was just so positive from our customer base, but then it really got us thinking. I had envisioned the Second Skin closet, if you will. Imagine if you close your eyes, and you were to grab five random pieces, and they all match and layer in a weird way; that's the Second Skin closet. I mean, that's how I want to dress. I don't want to have to put so much effort and think about it so much.
Each collection reuses the same fabric for multiple clothing pieces. Walk me through that approach.
Any fabric that we use, we have to give that fabric the moment it deserves. It doesn't deserve just one style. It deserves its capsule of a top, bottom, long sleeve, short sleeve, etc. While we're giving it its moment, we're also reducing the variations of fabric and prints because they require production and output. So giving each fabric and each print its moment is so important.
You co-founded Find Me Now with your mom, Su Paek. What is that working relationship like?
First and foremost, we are mother and daughter. As we grow, one of the biggest things I see is our roles reversing. So I do find myself developing into more of a mother figure, and I do find her developing into more of a daughter figure. We just feel so lucky and blessed to be able to work together and to make it really work.
Both of your factories are in Ningbo and Shanghai. How did you go about working with them?
In our prior business, we had the opportunity to live in China, and that was solely for the purpose of wanting to be close to production and the sample rooms. At that time, we were working with 20 different factories, and they were all arranged in different sizes. There were some that were at the mass level, and there were some small factories. That experience gave us the true wisdom and knowledge behind Made in China and production in China.
What do you hope people learn from your company working with factories based in China?
I think as an AAPI business, it really hits super close to home for us. The Made in China stigma runs deep, and it's nuanced. It's not just like a one headliner kind of topic. So the fact that we used to live in China, and we used to work alongside our colleagues literally on the factory floor, in the sample room, week over week. I mean, they're humans, they're people, and they deserve to be treated with respect. They're not robots just pushing out products for us to consume all the time. So telling that story and shedding light on the production process is so important to us.
I really want to talk about the Find Me Now capsule for AAPI Heritage Month. I feel like you can fold those pieces and frame them. What drew you to working with the illustrator, Gica Tam, behind this design?
So the main inspiration and concept behind this collection was to tell the story or the narrative of immigrants. It was just such an important story for us to tell, and we wanted to tell it in a whimsical, beautiful, dreamy way.
She [Gica] came to us with this idea of a girl flying through the mountain rice paddies and turning into a bird. It reflects the immigration story because you're leaving one place to find a home in another, and you change along the way. Or, even from one generation to another, you change and evolve.
Why is it important for you to showcase your heritage through this label?
As AAPI designers, we owe it to our community and ourselves to tell our story to break stigmas. So that every person we touch with Find Me Now, we can inspire them and hopefully change and give them insight.