November 24, 2020
Get to Know Stephanie Stanton,
President of OPB
Interview by Original Paperbacks
Stephanie with her brother Michael, President of Stantex Dye House
What has been your personal journey with fashion and how has it influenced what you do with your brand and its business?
My father has owned a dye house for 30 years, so I’ve been exposed to the beauty of tie dye and the hustle of production my entire life. My dad is a true original, and with his instinctual eye for color he’s always coming up with crazy dye techniques that really push the envelope. In late 60’s and early 70’s American culture, tie dye became a symbol of the counterculture, embracing love, freedom, and individuality. In recent years it’s really been mass produced as famous celebrities have taken tie dye on as the trend of the moment. But for me, tie dye has never really gone away since I’ve grown up around it my whole life. What resonates with me about tie dye is the fact that it forces you to accept the imperfections, embrace the unpredictable, and stand out as an individual. Not unlike the 60’s and 70’s, we are going through massive political, social, and public health upheavals. Being a Mexican-American child of immigrants, tie dye symbolizes a call for change, as we wear undeniably bright colors and unique designs as a declaration that we will be seen and heard.
Steve Stanton, Founder of Original Paperbacks
Tell us about your brand’s origin story. How did you decide it was time to launch your own brand?
Original Paperbacks was started 10 years ago by my father, Steve Stanton. The concept came to my father as he was reminiscing about his days growing up in Monterey Park, CA. He wanted to start a brand that embodied the simpler days of his childhood, where he used to carry his paperback books in the pocket of his cargo short on his way to read at the park. He launched the brand with just one cargo short offered in 50 different colors. The success of that first short enabled him to expand into a full collection. With the pillars of our brand being vintage feel, artisanal quality, comfort, and color, we have established a loyal and almost cult-like following. Now that my dad has taken on more of an advisory role, he guides me as I morph the brand into what I believe inspires people to be original. Since no two tie dye garments are the same, the mere act of wearing tie dye gives you instant identity. Every piece you wear is a true original, as each piece is hand dyed at our family owned dye house in Los Angeles, CA. Operating out of a dye house allows us to dye colors on a whim, which means we can react quickly to trends or sample up new tie dyes with a quick turnaround. We aren’t limited by our capabilities, but only by what we can dream up of doing. That’s what makes us original.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in driving the success of your business? Also, any unfavorable personal qualities you’ve been able to turn into an asset?
One of the most important things my dad has taught me about running a brand is to stick with your gut instinct. Especially as a young woman in this industry, I get a lot of people giving me opinions about brand image, what styles to produce, and general unsolicited advice on how to run a company. I’ve felt my most creative and successful when I have a clear vision, derived by what influences me on a personal level. While sometimes that may translate as being stubborn, I truly believe it’s been pivotal to the success of the brand, as we have created our identity by just being authentic and marching to the beat of our own drum. It’s rare to be original in the age of social media, so I think people can appreciate when a brand is true to who they are.
What’s in the way of real change in the industry right now?
So much needs to change in the fashion industry. The working conditions of manufacturers, the gender inequity of garment workers, the sheer volume of clothing produced and its negative impact on the environment, the use of “token” POC models in fashion campaigns...the list goes on! I think it all starts with awareness, because it’s very easy for consumers to pay no mind to how their favorite piece of clothing was made, as long as they got it for a great price. I would like to see bigger brands that already have global influence to make it known they are actively changing to adopt safer, cleaner, and more fair production processes. As someone who also does private label, I experience first-hand how large brands will be so price driven when purchasing their goods from contractors, but then mark up the goods an insane amount for retail. The issue with this is that when there is a production issue, the contractors are left with no room for loss whereas the brand can afford to take a hit because their margins are so high. It’s just not a fair system that doesn’t cater to the people who actually are the ones making the clothing. Also, I think as consumers we can altogether support smaller, more conscious brands. I think we collectively need to be more aware of how our clothes are made and where they end up after we discard them, so we can start demanding real change.
What do you hope to contribute to the space with your platform?
I try to do my part in this industry by offering customers an affordable line of quality, so people don’t have to choose between wearing garments that inspire them to be original and breaking their pocket. Everything is hand dyed and made with high quality fabric, which is what warrants the value in our price point. We also contribute to organizations that resonate with us. We have recently donated to the Mayor’s Fund For Los Angeles and 100 Black Men of Los Angeles organization as our initial steps to be a part of the change. We also just launched a blog on our website, conducting interviews highlighting POC careers and art, which we are excited to further develop.