Responsibly Sourced Pieces
Dana Cohen is founder of HYER GOODS: a brand that’s taking on the leather waste issue with style & sustainability
a hyer standard
For Dana Cohen, founder and owner of HYER GOODS, reducing waste is a core principle of her business, and she’s finding creative, cost effective resources amidst a supply chain crisis to achieve it.
I was excited to sit down with Dana Cohen, the founder and owner of HYER GOODS, to listen to how she started her sustainable brand in an era where mass production rules.
Small-Batch Leather Goods
Small Scraps, Big Changes
Originating as a small leather goods seller, HYER GOODS was created to address common issues that come with the life cycle of leather.
Dana explained during our conversation that leather production naturally has wasteful implications because much of the skins are discarded, and often for aesthetic reasons. Leather also poses risks to the environment once it’s discarded since it may contain treatments that are harmful to the soil.
Even with such high-quality brands, Dana witnessed a large amount of product being discarded, and the waste it led to.
As a designer, Dana witnessed the waste both pre-production and post-consumer, and recounted the massive amount of fabric that brands would order and make into clothing, and how much of these clothes go unsold. “You’ve probably seen them yourself, there are piles of clothes on sale in the back of the store, those clothes don’t just disappear.”
HYER GOODS was initially created to redirect high-quality material away from landfills, and to upcycle it into beautiful, truly unique pieces that will last for generations, all in the name of innovative sourcing and preventing waste.
“We started out just using cuttings and scraps,” Dana said. “At that time, the brand focused on wallets and small leather goods. I feel like the ‘bag part’ was the part that people were more excited about, but it’s really hard to make bags out of cutting scrap since they’re so small, so we ended up turning to deadstock.”
“Deadstock” in textiles refers to leftover material; sometimes leftover scraps, but in the case of leather, much of it is made up of discarded skins and pelts.
Deadstock leather is often considered “unsellable” (though that’s often not necessarily true), so it tends to wind up in landfills. Through HYER GOODS, Dana is working to help reduce this waste, while meeting customer demands through innovative resourcing and ethical, effective practices.
HYER GOODS was launched in November of 2019, just before the pandemic. At that point, Dana had over a decade of experience in the fashion industry under her belt where she witnessed the full life cycle of a garment–from production to post-consumption.
When the supply chain struggle began at the start of the pandemic, leaders in the ecommerce and logistics industries had to quickly react. For Renewal Logistics, the urgent need for quick turnaround on reverse logistics caused our business to explode, and with that burst of growth, we had to make significant pivots.
With my own experience in mind, I was curious about what challenges Dana had to face, and what pivots she herself made at the inception of her company.
“I would say that if anything, there was definitely more deadstock leather, because brands were unfortunately canceling their orders everywhere,” Dana said. “But I think that the most difficult thing for me was that my product is made overseas…over time, various protocols were instituted, but as far as supply, that was the most challenging part.”
Like so many business leaders during the pandemic, Dana learned to quickly overcome obstacles through creativity and a growth-oriented mindset.
“I remember thinking, ‘I make bags, is this really important?’” Dana recalled. “I do feel that keeping waste in circulation was an incredibly important mission, but I live in Brooklyn, and we were hit incredibly hard by the pandemic. There was one point when we were counting time between ambulances, and hearing about doctors having to reuse masks.”
True to her creativity, Dana found an opportunity to build one of the first reusable mask businesses at the time. With her personal sewing machine and deadstock material from partnered companies, Dana started sewing masks from home to sell in her area.
“That was a really interesting pivot for me, because I never would have thought that I’d have been manufacturing masks during a pandemic,” Dana admitted, laughing. “But then I had a mask business, more so than I had a bag business.”
Setting the Brand Apart
For any successful business, a great idea is just the beginning of the work. The rest is all about the business practices you implement and the quality of your products.
Dana knew this when she started her business, and she entered the space with longtime business relationships, years of experience, and a plan. “Everything is made in India,” Dana said. “I partnered with a factory that I worked with at my first job back in 2007, back when I was a designer for Cole Haan and Andrew Marc…it’s a small, female-run family factory; I’ve known them for years and they do incredible work.”
Dana also shared some of the limitations to her work, and how she’s finding creative ways around it. “There’s lots of deadstock leather here that I’d love to work with,” she shared. “But there are so many technicalities that […] it’s really hard to find that sort of craftsmanship locally.”
Dana’s learned to strike the balance between quality and sustainable measures, and she’s embraced her brand’s strength in visibility. As her brand continues to grow, she looks forward to developing more solutions to address the supply-chain.
Innovation & What’s New for HYER GOODS
“There’s a lot of innovation happening in leather alternatives, but the reason I don’t support most of them right now is because they’re still largely made of plastics, so even when you use pineapple leather or apple leather, there’s still going to be some plastic matter. I still support real leather because it’s a byproduct of the meat industry, and for me, a byproduct of other people’s manufacturing.”
This summer, Dana will be working with the students from Columbia University through their sustainability program, where they’ll perform life cycle analysis on both samples from her own brand and other alternatives. And Dana’s especially excited about this, as statistics and visibility are what separates genuinely sustainable practices from greenwashing marketing.
Dana is also looking forward to partnering with brands–some locally-based in Brooklyn like her own, and some beyond–a collaboration that wasn’t possible during the pandemic.
“I’m working with a couple small designers based in NY and Miami to see if there are other types of products that we can offer that might complement ours, and I’m really excited to work with other people,” Dana said. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with other designers and to hopefully offer some variety of accessories that also do their part to reduce waste–there are some people doing amazing things out there, and it’ll be great to share our resources and work together.”
I love talking with people like Dana, who have placed sustainability at the center of their mission, while answering the needs of customers through innovative, cost-effective resourcing strategies.
Meet The Founder
When Dana Cohen created her brand HYER GOODS, she combined two of her biggest passions: fashion and waste.
Coming from a 15-year career designing in corporate fashion, Dana witnessed the amount of fabric and clothing that contribute to landfills every year.
Through her experience, relationships, and drive, she set out to create HYER GOODS, a brand that produces quality, timeless pieces while helping prevent landfill waste.
By upcycling deadstock leather, HYER GOODS aims to eliminate the massive energy footprint needed to create leather, while simultaneously reducing the waste that’s sent to landfills. Check out their site, hyergoods.com.