Dana Cohen, Founder of Hyer Goods, is Turning Waste into Quality Goods
By: Valeria Ramos
Founded in 2020 by Dana Cohen, Hyer Goods is a sustainable fashion brand that offers accessories made from leather and fabric sourced from factory scraps. By upcycling trash, Hyer Goods helps eliminate the massive energy footprint needed to cultivate land, livestock, crops, and fertilizers while also reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. In a new podcast episode of Office Chats with Madame Blue, Cohen shared how her career in corporate fashion inspired her to create a sustainable brand and shared her best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and those looking to become more conscious consumers.
What inspired you to create Hyer Goods?
My career in corporate fashion coincided with the rise in fast fashion and it wasn’t resulting in the best product for consumers. I found that really stressful and internalized it a lot. I actually started to develop health issues because the corporate environment became so stressful. I knew that I wanted to stay in fashion but to find a way to do it that felt more healthy for me and the world. I always had the desire to start a fashion company but I never had the guts until recently. It was nerve-wracking but it felt like my last hope in the industry to create a brand that was more sustainable both in lifestyle and how it treated the planet.
What is your ultimate goal with Hyer Goods?
My goal with Hyer Goods is to minimize waste. We upcycle manufacturing scraps and deadstock materials into new products. We’re diverting what would be trash in landfills, keeping it in circulation, and making it into beautiful new things. We started with a small collection of leather wallets and handbags. Turns out, everyone loves the handbag! I recently also added a beanie to the collection made of yarn waste from luxury fashion brands.
Where do you source factory scraps for your collection?
I work with a factory in India that I’ve known since my first job. They manufactured the outerwear I was making at Cole Haan. We weed through their leather discards and see what’s salvageable. It’s still a high-quality product it just often has small imperfections that need to be cut around. We take those materials, repurpose them, and make beautiful things. In our first seven months of business, we upcycled over 500 pounds of waste.
What is the Hyer Goods monthly mission?
When COVID hit, I struggled a lot with owning a fashion company and I wanted to find a way to give back to the community. There are so many different causes that felt relevant and important to me, but I didn’t feel comfortable choosing just one, so I developed a concept where every month, we look at what’s happening in the world and decide who can use funds and allocate them accordingly. In November and December of 2020, we worked with Feeding America to provide as many meals as possible to those dealing with food insecurity.
Do you think the fashion industry will continue to see sustainable innovations?
The industry has caught on to the consumer’s desire for brands that prioritize the environment, but I think it’s going to be a long and bumpy road to creating meaningful change, especially within large corporations. I think a lot of the change will come from smaller, more nimble brands that will spearhead innovations and become thought leaders.
What advice would you give someone looking to start their own brand?
My first response is always ‘Do it!’ I was someone who was dreaming of starting a business for over a decade and I wish I had done it earlier. My caveat to that is that if you’re going to start a business, especially in fashion, I would ask yourself, do we need this brand? There is so much product out there—I would think about what you’re bringing to the table that’s different and why people need it. For me, the answer to that with Hyer Goods was simple. I’m keeping quality materials out of landfills and in circulation, reducing waste. It felt like a no-brainer that this company needed to exist. If you’re wanting to start a brand, just make sure there’s a reason to add more products into the world.