Mollie Decker & Mike Sklenka
Founders and Designers of Object Apparel
Detroit, of course, is best known for its motors and Motown. But lately, there’s a growing sound coming from an irresistible machine of a different kind: a small business and entrepreneurial community lifting each other up and leaning in to doing things differently.
At the forefront of this movement are Mollie Decker and Mike Sklenka, co-founders and designers of the sustainable fashion line Object Apparel.
Mollie and Mile founded Object Apparel back in 2014, when the idea for the sustainable line grew out of their shared love for architecture and painting.
“We wanted to make a sustainable clothing company that didn’t feel like hippy wear. We wanted a modern take on basics that were imprinted with artwork. We wanted people to first be interested in our designs, and then have the sustainability aspect seal the deal,” Mollie shared.
Mollie went on to note something that even in 2020, with so much shifting happening in our collective consciousness, not many people realize: the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. From its cotton production to using pesticides, to all of the “disposable” clothing that is tossed into landfills each year, humans’ insatiable desire for clothes is coming at an exponentially rising cost.
We want to create clothing that is beautiful, soft, and that people want to wear, but that is also made to last and doesn’t hurt the environment or those who make it.”
Mollie and Mike’s Object Apparel checks those boxes and then some. The pieces are hip yet timeless, classic yet quirky, and oh-so-cozy, too. Plus, besides their supremely popular women and men’s lines, they also have a small kids collection. It’s an impressive feat for the duo, who designs, patterns, cuts, dyes, sews, and screen-prints everything themselves in their Detroit studio (whew!).
Read on for more from Mollie and Mike.
Tell me about your journey as designers.
We met at architecture school in Detroit. We also both painted and did a couple of shows selling paintings. As much as we both still love to paint we realized that we wanted to make our artwork more accessible.
Mike suggested screen printing. I suggested putting the designs on clothing (I had sewed on and off as a hobby when I was a child). Object Apparel slowly grew from there as Mike taught himself how to screen print and I learned how to sew knits.
A lot of our designs are inspired by our love of Detroit, architecture, and Detroit buildings.
We both worked full time up until a little less than a year ago. Mike now does freelance architecture work and is working to build his career as a painter/artist as well as Object Apparel.
I work full time at an architecture firm in Detroit. Basically, any moment I am not sleeping, eating, or working I am working on things for Object Apparel. I love making clothing and running my own business, so most of the time, it doesn’t feel like work.
What inspired you to finally make the leap to creating and launching Object Apparel?
It didn’t happen in some big way. We just slowly started by making one item at a time, teaching ourselves as we went.
The inspiration came while we were bored sitting at an art show selling paintings. We came up with the name that day and a few months later had our first couple of items realized.
How has your own personal style evolved in general, and when it comes to buying and wearing sustainable clothing?
My personal style is pretty well represented within what we offer at Object Apparel. We don’t sell anything that either Mike or I wouldn’t personally want to wear, and whenever possible that both of us want to wear.
I want clothing that is well made and of the time, but that is not super trendy. I like clothing that looks good but is also comfortable because if it doesn’t feel good I’ll never wear it.
Why the name Object Apparel?
We liked the word object as both a noun meaning a thing – like a piece of clothing (which is how we pronounce it) and as a verb meaning to disagree.
We object to fast fashion, to gendered clothing, to pesticides on cotton, to not paying seamstresses fair living wages etc. So we liked the dual meaning of the word and it serves as a reminder that we must object to what is wrong in our world and do our part to fix it.
3 words to describe the Object Apparel customer?
Conscious, Confident, Original
What is your current favorite piece/s from the line?
The long underwear is definitely my favorite this year. They have become my home loungewear uniform. Also, I’m very excited about our new hemp blend underwear as the fabric is so nubby and soft.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
No giant challenges as we’re just growing very slowly and at our own pace.
We have plenty of little challenges such as learning accounting/taxes, learning how to pattern-make an idea in my head, learning how to give our customers what they want, and stay true to ourselves and our mission.
What is one thing people can do to be more sustainable today?
I think people often dismiss being sustainable because they think they need to buy a bunch of stuff or spend a lot of money. I think the best thing you can do is to use what you have first, buy less, buy used, buy local, and buy better things that last longer.
Start with small things, like saying no thanks to a straw and saying yes to a reusable water bottle. And also be kind to yourself because no one is perfect and it’s about positive steps forward, not perfection.
What is your advice for other designers and creators looking to get into the sustainability space?
I think everyone should be in this space. I would give the same advice as above to start with what you can do today and don’t think you have to have a lot of money, etc.
Where do you see Object Apparel going in the next year? Five years?
Our biggest goal for this year is to run our space on reusable energy by putting solar panels on our roof.
In the next five years, we would love to expand our team of two and keep making clothing we are proud of.
Fill in the rest— Sustainability in fashion is:
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