Enjoy Fashion

How To Build A Sustainable Fashion Brand With Ellie Chen and Jensen Neff

Haley Paskalides  |  March 25, 2024

How the Oddli founders are reducing waste in the fashion industry, making profits, and having fun while doing it.

There’s been a major shift in the fashion industry over the past few years, with a noticeable shift away from Fast Fashion. H&M, once a stock market darling, is now well below 50% of its all-time high. This, in no small part, comes from the concern over the waste emanating from the fast fashion pieces that now fill our landfills.

Jensen Neff and Ellie Chen found out just how much fabric goes to waste in the fashion industry (14 million pounds daily!) and created their sustainably sourced clothing brand Oddli to fight back —fashionably, of course. “We were both absolutely falling in love with the project and creating clothes that we wanted to wear that didn’t exist in the market at that time,” Ellie Chen says. “They sold out immediately and it was this moment of, ‘What was the future of community and clothing going to be in the fashion industry?’ and feeling like we could create a company that told that story.”

But it’s not just high-quality “slow” fashion pieces that are trending. The second-hand market is booming. According to resale platform ThredUP, the market for used items is growing much faster than traditional retail, and — we can thank Gen Z for driving such explosive growth. This generation is seeing the effects of climate change firsthand and is committed to changing the shopping landscape. 

SUBSCRIBE: New episode drops every Monday! Subscribe to How She Does It on Apple Podcasts so you never miss the latest!

Both of Oddli’s founders credit their viral TikTok videos for helping to spread the word about their business and build hype. (Jensen spent the entire summer studying how social platforms can be used most effectively to sell.) “I was filming myself on my mom’s sewing machine, and then Ellie and I would get on FaceTime and write a storyline,” Neff says. “We were putting out content on TikTok a lot earlier than other brands, and that was the right decision.” Because of this, they were able to reach millions of eyes for free, in what would have otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads. Now that TikTok has become oversaturated with brand content, they are constantly thinking about every social media platform as a tool, and strategizing as to how they can continue to make Oddli stand out. 

They also credit their strong friendship (and unique skill sets) as key pieces of being able to create a thriving business and want to encourage other women to start businesses together. “People make it out to be the scariest, most emotional thing, but for us it’s been really easy,” Neff says. “Obviously every single day things come up, but we’re both really communicative, so I couldn’t imagine building with anyone else.” 

Fast forward to today, they’ve grown into a multi-million dollar profitable brand, and their dream is not only for Oddli to become a household name but also to become a way for people in the community to connect. “When the brand comes up in a room, we want people to say, ‘Oh yeah, I met someone through that brand’ or, ‘I made a friend in line at a coffee store because we were both wearing it,’” Chen says. “We want it to scale while also maintaining that intimacy that it has now, which is a hard challenge, but something that both of us dream of every day and are working towards.” 


Join us! Snag all the latest episodes, savvy budgeting tips, investing advice and even giveaways via the HerMoney Newsletter at Hermoney.com/subscribe!

This podcast is proudly supported by iShares. BLACKROCK and iSHARES are trademarks of BlackRock, Inc. or its affiliates (together “BlackRock”). The information provided in this communication is solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as advice or an investment recommendation. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of BlackRock. BlackRock is not affiliated with HerMoney

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Next Article: