Isadora Alvarez started Back Beat Co. with a simple mission: to give women higher style with lower impact on the environment. Made from recycled cotton and hemp, her collection of California-inspired wares are understated, easy to wear, and stylish as hell. Her clothes are also a breath of fresh air in a world where fast-fashion litters the apparel landscape. We recently rolled over to her Los Angeles studio to chat about creativity and explore the dopest goods around.
What led you to start Back Beat Co.?
Basically, I was working at an off-price retailer in a corporate buying environment. I did that for a couple years and wasn’t really proud of what I was doing, especially with these throwaway products. So, after three year there, I thought “this is it, I’m gonna do it” because this company is going to suck me in.
So I quit my job and I didn’t really know what type of brand I wanted to do at that point – but I knew I wanted to do something.
At first, I started selling vintage at flea markets and that’s how Back Beat Rags got started. I did that for a year and during that year I was like, “what do I really want to do with this brand?” And through selling vintage I honed my personal style, and after a little while I noticed people coming to me for basics like cool jeans, jackets, and shirts.
And this helped dial in your design niche?
Yeah. At the time, brands like Reformation and American Apparel were popular. So I was like, I want cool basics that are low impact – unlike something from American Apparel made from conventional cotton. I felt like these low-impact basics were missing in the market and after a year or so of selling vintage (and some inspiration from Jungmaven) I decided to start a line made completely of low-impact fabrics.
What was your first line of clothing?
I had a five-piece line – three t-shirts, a jumpsuit, and a dress. I used organic cotton at first, but on the second round I started using hemp.
What’s the inspiration behind Back Beat Co.?
We just want to provide everyone with everyday essentials that use low-impact fabrics – soft, comfortable, and easy to wear. It’s also very California-inspired. I mean, growing up in the Philippines I was obsessed with Gwen Stefani and I just wanted to be in Venice and rollerblade.
How do you approach your designs?
When I design something, it needs to tie back to another piece. I want everything to be able to mix and match. I’m hoping you can literally wear these items every day and just switch out little pieces to pair with your Back Beat shirt, pants, or jacket.
What’s your creative process?
I start with fabric first and then look at what sold more last season. I then just build from there and basically try to figure out what to do with these massive amounts of fabric I have to order – like 3,000 yards of it!
Do you handle all design yourself?
I’m very hands-on in the design process. I mean, I do work with designers for the nitty-gritty details since I don’t have time for a lot of that.
How would you describe the Back Beat style?
Very California. Very tomboy as well. Not fuzzy or uncomplicated, and everything needs to be comfortable and feel good against your skin. Those are basically the pillars of how I design. Just being true to who I am.
How do you believe your commitment to authenticity has helped you stand out?
It’s funny to see that the stuff that feels true to us is what sells. There’s so much competition nowadays and you just have to be true to who you are because people will see that.
What made you decide to rebrand from Back Beat Rags to Back Beat Co.?
Back Beat Rags started as a vintage shop and the branding was geared more towards that style. And we’ve grown up a bit since then. So I just wanted to give it an update with a cleaner website and more grown-up feel, while still feeling fun and uncomplicated.
Does cannabis play a role in your creativity or lifestyle?
I suffer from mad anxiety and also depression. I’ve used cannabis as a way to combat that – especially for sleeping. Ever since I started using it for health reasons, I can actually sleep through the night now. I honestly love it.
Yeah, a lot of people can relate to that.
Yeah, I mean your depression often makes you think you’re not good enough. But I have found out that I’ve wanted to talk about it more this year. You know, there’s still a stigma around it, even if it’s a lot less than there used to be. And it’s also about support and maybe reaching out to one person that might be suffering or hasn’t figured it’s something they’re going through.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
I would say the tomboy tees. I’m the kind of person that wears the same thing over and over every day, and these are kind of my staples. Recently, I’m also most proud of the plant-dyed corduroy styles – mostly because I’m the type of person that’ll push to do something until I find it or make it happen. This was a long journey and I had to find it in India!
Can’t wait to get some of those corduroys! Thanks for your time, Isadora.