ARTIST INTERVIEW: Lindsey Fout of Last Chance Textiles
Company: Last Chance Textiles
Artist: Lindsey Fout
We are thrilled to welcome Lindsey Fout and her textile company, Last Chance Textiles, to the EPCF for the very first time.
Lindsey Fout is the textile designer, researcher, and teacher behind Last Chance Textiles. A native West Virginian, her rural Appalachian upbringing informs the integrity and utilitarian aspects of her work. She designs, dyes, and weaves in her Echo Park home to harness an experimental and physical practice that echoes the historical textile traditions that inspire her designs.
Last Chance Textiles brings distinctive palettes and patterns to the most fundamental and quality fabrics. The result is a product that aims to become as indispensable as it is durable, something you make sure to never leave behind.
Tell us about your current work and how that work has evolved since you first started your business?
Quality, utilitarian bandanas have always been at the heart of Last Chance. I’m still inspired and challenged to work within the parameters of a square of fabric. My first collection was focused on dyed and printed scarves. Now I’m exploring design of the textile itself. I’ve accomplished this with a knit blanket (okay, that’s a rectangle) and through woven structures that explore the interaction of colors in our plaid handwoven scarves.
The biggest evolution in my work has been the business itself. I’ve taken Last Chance from a personal hobby to a side project and now to a full-time business. The process of scaling up has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned which aspects of the business I most enjoy and wish to work on personally, and what I’m willing to delegate. This evolution has made it apparent that certain techniques I’m passionate about don’t necessarily translate well into product. I’ve begun to teach skill-sharing workshops as a way to fold some of those techniques into my brand and business model.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Echo Park Craft Fair?
This will be my first year as a vendor. I’ve attended the Fair many times over the years and there is always a joyful, buzzing energy that I’m excited now to help create. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone, talking shop a bit, and making connections that extend beyond the weekend.
Are there other communities that have been instrumental to the development of your creative work?
Yes, several! The outdoors community has been instrumental in keeping my work grounded and true to the goal of making utilitarian products. My fellow textile designers and fiber arts community are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. I come from an Appalachian lineage of women that have passed textile crafts down through the generations. I feel that spirit of generosity, shared knowledge, and enthusiasm for each other’s work is something that carries into our contemporary community.
Lastly, since launching the brand, I’ve found a community of independent shops that have become my wholesale partners and have been instrumental in helping the business grow. If feels symbiotic to work closely with other small business owners. I feel grateful to have their respect for my process and patience during the occasional growing pains.
The ethics of production are on our minds a lot recently – questions of sustainability, fair labor, location, and artistic integrity. How do these concepts come into play in your craft and your business? What choices do you make that take into account these ideas?
If I’m not making an item with my own two hands I want to have an intimate knowledge of the process and condition of its creation. When I started the business I was the sole labor behind much of the production process. I took pride in that hard work and could be very transparent about the process. Growth has required finding outside help, but fair labor practices and sustainability have driven all of those decisions.
Incremental, but intentional, growth has given me the time to find just the right partners. I’m proud to be working with Botanical Colors, our natural dye house, and non-profits like Womenweave and Southwest Creative, our co-op of hand-weavers and our cut & sew factory, respectively.
Some sustainable practices were easier when the business was smaller- like dealing with production waste, while other aspects were hurdles at a small scale – like barriers to entry in reaching minimums for sustainable fabrics. For example, our silk bandannas come in slightly under a common 22” bandana measurement. This is because we use the full width of the fabric and can cut two across. The next larger fabric width available would be too wide and create excess waste. This was an obvious decision to make because I’m the one cutting all the bandannas and can clearly see the waste. Had cutting been merely a spec handed over to a factory, I might never be aware that one slight change could save so much.
On the other hand, reaching order minimums on the GOTS certified organic fabric for cotton bandannas is a very recent development. We’re now buying direct from a family-run mill in India, which makes the supply chain more transparent again. Before this, when our cotton orders were smaller, the fabric was a great low-impact certified cotton, but we’ve been able to take an important step to reinforce the brand’s values.
I feel it is important to balance sustainability with attainability for our customer. I have no interest in catering to an elite consumer. Bandanas have long been a symbol for egalitarianism, after all! Finding this balance feels like walking a tightrope as a very small business striving for sustainability. It has required careful baby-steps to keep heading in the right direction. Recently, each step feels a little more hopeful. It is becoming easier for smaller brands to produce more ethically and major brands feel increased pressure to be more transparent.
What impact do you hope your creative work will have on your community?
Textiles are so ubiquitous that they are often overlooked. I hope that sharing my research and process enables my community to look a little closer at the textiles in their lives. My goal is to spark a little curiosity and consideration, even if that is nothing more than looking at the fiber content on a label before making a purchase.