By: Sarah Hagman
Cara Bartlett and Vanessa van Zyl are looking to solve a problem some women face every day: a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. After 15 years of friendship, the California natives launched their Boston-based brand Vetta last month, drawing on their impressive careers in the fashion industry—van Zyl is a trained designer, Bartlett a former buyer at Rue La La and Saks. “Vanessa can create these beautiful ideas and concepts, and then I come in and say, ‘I think this is what our customer would love; this is what would actually sell,’ ” Bartlett explains. “We’re a team in that way.”
Vetta’s Kickstarter-funded capsule collection ships in June, and the pair plan to debut their fall/winter line shortly thereafter. Each of the capsule collection’s five pieces—a blouse, a tunic, a two-piece dress, a vest dress and a pair of culottes—can be worn at least two ways, a big plus for ladies facing Cher Horowitz-like wardrobe conundrums. But versatility isn’t the only priority for Bartlett and van Zyl, who are building their business with social and environmental implications in mind. “Globalization has been a race to the bottom to find the country that will produce clothing for the lowest price,” notes Parsons grad Bartlett, adding, “Ethical fashion is something I’ve been thinking about for almost a decade.” Nearly four years ago, she committed to only buying apparel from brands with transparent manufacturing practices. With the help of Boston accelerator program Factory45, she and van Zyl have chosen a longtime family-owned factory in Manhattan’s historic garment district to produce their line. They’ve also sourced eco-friendly fabrics like Tencel, a biodegradable textile made from sustainably harvested wood—proving one can indulge in fashion guilt-free without compromising style.