LOLO — People in the United States throw away more than 60 million plastic water bottles each day, filling landfills and leaving a significant burden on the environment.
While the excess of non-biodegradable waste won’t be solved overnight, one Lolo resident is tapping away at a solution in her own, stylish way.
“I think it's just our responsibility to do business in a sustainable way,” explained Lolo entrepreneur Mallory Ottariano.
Every clothing choice and business decision has been uniquely hers for nearly a decade and it’s one that’s making a mark on today’s fashion industry.
Ottariano created her sustainable clothing brand nearly ten years ago, and with her passion for individuality, it only made sense to name the brand something completely unique, something like “Youer.”
“Youer is the ultimate expression of individuality,” Ottariano told MTN News, “Sort of this idea of you-ER, being more you because no one is youER than you.”
In understanding Youer, you have to know the woman behind the brand, and her story began long before the title of entrepreneur was added to the resume.
“I learned how to sew when I was a kid. My mom and my grandmother sewed a lot growing up, and style was always my thing. I was always wearing very quirky clothes, going out of my way to dress in something I wasn't seeing anywhere else. I hated matching, and so to accomplish that personal style, I was often making a lot of my own stuff,” - Mallory Ottariano
Mismatched and inspired, Ottariano’s love for clothing never faded, so after graduating from college, tucked away in a corner of her parent’s Massachusetts basement, she made a life changing purchase in the form of a $100 sewing machine from Ebay.
One move to Montana and many sewing stints later, Ottariano now mismatches clothes for a living and her brand, Youer showcases whimsical designs with an array of colors. According to Ottariano, the clothing is made for the every day adventure, whether that be working, parenting, hiking, or grabbing a beer.
Missoulians latched onto the clothing and the meaning behind it early on and now, the brand is reaching far beyond the 406. “I started going to art shows and doing pop up shops and selling in local stores and my websites really took off. In 2015 I quit my day job,” said Ottariano.
Sometimes it’s the Bitterroot River that inspires a pattern, or a ski slope that sparks a color scheme. And as for the fabric — that inspiration comes from the landfill. Combing through a rack of colorful clothing, Ottariano reached for her bestselling dress, explaining that the piece is made with 30 water bottles.
Water bottles are turned to flakes, flakes to pellets, pellets extruded and stretched into a fine fiber that’s knit into fabric. A water bottle's journey to becoming a piece of clothing may be just as remarkable as Ottariano’s journey to entrepreneurship.
“I just hope that I can affect change in enough people to make a difference,” said Ottariano.
From the recycled fabric to the plastic-free packaging, sustainability will always be at the forefront of fashion for Ottariano, even more so as she looks to expand and move operations into a new apparel factory in western Montana – proof that sometimes mismatched makes perfect sense.