Design duo C. Marchuska masters the ABCs of eco-friendly fashion
Story by Nicole Schlomann / Photography by Tribble & Mancenido
Sometimes, the most successful businesses go big with simple-yet-smart products. For designers Brooke Bresnan and Christine Marchuska, it all started with a T-shirt. One of these sharp-as-a-tack entrepreneurs began early — Bresnan’s interest in fashion drove her to sell her own line of tees to her friends in middle school — while Marchuska started later in the game, founding a namesake line of unisex shirts and scarves with her brother in 2009. But cotton tops weren’t all the girls had in common; both had a knack for finance and a passion for giving back to the community. Meeting at a fundraiser for Safe Horizon, an assistance organization for victims of violence, the two hit it off and C. Marchuska was born. “We have the same type of style and the same backgrounds. We’re both very business-minded,” says Marchuska. Becoming equal partners in the company, Bresnan and Marchuska expanded the line from unisex styles to a versatile mix of fresh, modern frocks and separates, with a Fall/Winter collection debuting in February 2010 at Eco Fashion Week; an impressive feat, but no surprise considering the girls’ expertise in business.
“I’ve always been good at math and creative things, and I spent six years in investment banking, analyzing retail and consumer products,” says Bresnan. “But after the credit crunch I realized finance wasn’t for me.” Marchuska, too, was ready to make a change. “When I left finance, I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I was always interested in design, so I began taking classes in the garment district and networking and trying to get a feel for how the industry works.” The duo’s instincts paid off — their line has doubled in size for the upcoming collection, and features everything from stylish blazers and leggings to expertly cut tops and trousers that boutiques citywide are vying to snatch up. And loyal fans won’t be disappointed either. “We definitely want to offer a more complete collection, to mix and match and create versatile pieces for our core customer,” explains Marchuska. “They’re pieces you can dress up and down — wear to work with a blazer and then accessorize and go out.”
Better yet, every style in the new C. Marchuska line stays true to the brand’s heritage of sustainability and eco-friendly practices. The designers consistently choose organic and sustainable fabrics that “are soft and feel nice against the skin,” like cotton, soy jersey, micro modal, bamboo — even hard-to-find hemp silk. “We didn’t realize how bad the fashion industry can be to the environment,” says Marchuska. “A lot of people involved in eco fashion really want to change the industry — it’s not just a fad or a gimmick. It’s trying to preserve the earth and change an industry.”
Pushing their eco-friendly practices even further, Bresnan and Marchuska source everything from American manufacturers and other reputable sources that offer organic or certified sustainable materials, like mills in Canada and California. Supporting the local economy and local causes is important to the designers, too — all of their pieces are made by a sewing contractor based in New York City, and the line also gives back to their favorite charity, with 1 percent of sales going to Safe Horizon. “We manufacture domestically to provide jobs. A lot of waste goes into overseas production, and other countries don’t have the same laws. We think it’s very important to be New York-based,” explains Bresnan.
Creating pieces with these ideas in mind, C. Marchuska’s design philosophy is all about sustainability. “Sustainability means classic pieces that are going to last over the years, not just a trend piece that you’re going to throw away,” notes Marchuska. The clothing, she says, is for someone “who wants sophisticated, chic clothing that’s going to fit well and feel stylish. The added benefit is that it’s green.”
Taking a collaborative approach, the two designers have tackled almost every challenge imaginable and succeeded. “You want to do a specific print or color but you’re limited to what’s available,” explains Bresnan, of designing while staying green. Starting a new business in the “worst economic environment ever” was an obstacle, too, Marchuska says, “but we’re in a really good spot right now and I’m really excited about how things are going from here.” Up next: a higher-priced line featuring rare fabrics and exclusive, limited-quantity items, plus the label’s big debut at Eco Fashion Week, featuring a runway show with not only the brand’s new 25-piece collection, but green hair products and makeup on the models as well. It’s fitting then that the designers describe their new endeavors as “not just clothing,” but also “a lifestyle,” proving that C. Marchuska is one investment that really pays off.