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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Jaber

Meet Melody Khounchanh, The 21-year-old Creator of Conscious by M

Sustainable clothing can be hard to find. Most either come with a hefty price tag, an outdated feel, or the store isn't as sustainable as it seems. During quarantine, Melody Khounchanh, a 21-year-old from Santa Ana, California took it upon herself to create her own sustainable clothing brand, Conscious by M. According to Khounchanh, "Conscious by M works to give new life to preloved fibers."

Khounchanh, who is a Film & Media Studies student at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, works right out of her dorm room. From creating the designs and sourcing the materials, to sewing and shipping out products, Khounchanh does everything herself.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Khounchanh about the creation of Conscious by M, the future of the brand and the importance of sustainability.

When and why did you start Conscious by M?

I started Conscious by M in the midst of the pandemic summer. I had always reworked clothes and was beginning to venture into fashion design. At the same time, I promised to only shop second-hand clothing. Through my school studies and personal research, I was really committing myself to minimize my textile waste. I wanted to share my knowledge and make sustainable fashion more accessible.

In the almost eight months since you created Conscious by M, the brands Instagram has gained hundreds of followers, the Tik Tok account has received thousands of likes, and several collections have quickly sold out. What has the response to Conscious by M been like for you?

The initial response to Conscious by M has only been love and support. It started off with friends and family back home and the people I've met since being in Boston for college. With time, I've been able to expand my following, but it's still only love for the work I put out. It blows my mind every day how willing people are to support my small business in every way possible. It is such a heartwarming feeling. I've been able to send my work to places I've never visited and to people I've never met. There's something so intimate about creating clothing that is made uniquely for an individual, even if our only interaction was through a digital screen.

Conscious by M has released seven collections. What is your favorite piece of clothing or collection you have ever created?

I really enjoyed my "Cupid Love" Collection I put out in February of 2021. I made that collection during my winter break while home in Santa Ana. I was really inspired by the stories of my hometown and allowed myself the time to experiment and work on new designs. It was a smaller collection, but I put in a lot of time and effort in creating a story and collaborating with other creatives of my hometown.

Most recently you released an Earth day Collection. Tell me about it.

I was working on a collection with my good friend Heggy that makes jewelry on @heggyworld on Instagram. Earth Day was in perfect alignment with our schedules, so we decided to go for it and team up to design six pairs of tops and necklaces. Heggy and I both made donations to local environmental initiatives and pulled inspiration from different earth elements when creating our pieces.

Conscious by M's philosophy is to create "fashion that can make customers feel good knowing they are doing good for our earth." How do you make your clothing sustainable?

Every item I create is made of 100% preloved items. These are second-hand clothing items or leftover materials from other projects that I then manipulate into a new garment. The act of creating new fabric is extremely taxing on our natural resources and society. The fashion industry creates 92 million tons of textile waste every year that only ends up in landfills. By working with the materials, we already have, we are able to extend the lifetime of those fibers and keep them out of the landfills.

Why is sustainability important to you?

At first, I was thrifting my closet because I really enjoyed the act of searching through racks and bins of clothing just to find a couple of pieces I really liked. I developed a more intimate relationship with the clothing I wore because every item came with a story. I felt that when I was shopping fast fashion through online stores and trips to the mall, there was nothing special about the clothing besides the fact that maybe it was on sale. Through school, I learned more about fashion sustainability and realized how important it is to preserve the clothing that we already have. Shopping second-hand was a hobby that then developed into a lifestyle that I pulled inspiration from when creating Conscious by M.

What can readers expect for the future of Conscious by M?

I definitely want to continue making clothes and putting them out into the world. I want to continue spreading the word of Conscious by M and what it stands for. I am hoping to expand my sizing range and experiment with more designs and silhouettes. I also plan to participate in a few in-person pop-up events in California. I started Conscious by M during the quarantine so most of my sales have been through my online store. I think meeting new people and hearing what they think about our initiatives will be really insightful when planning our future.

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