Environmentalism and affordability have not always walked together hand in hand. For years, the sustainable movement has been associated with people of a higher socioeconomic status, like those who can afford slow fashion, a low-waste lifestyle, or local produce. Michelle Clements wants to change that with “useful solutions for middle America.” With her business, Atypical, Clements strives for affordability, accessibility, and usefulness in all her products.
“I want to use as many repurposed materials in the construction of what I do as possible. To keep cost down so people can afford them, but also to reduce waste.”
Each bag is fashioned from billboard vinyl–a sturdy material sure to last for years to come. With bright colors and eclectic designs, her bags turn heads and catch eyes. She partners with the Women’s Initiative Network–a group dedicated to supporting domestic abuse victims as they transition–and they assist her in preparing the vinyl. Clements is family-oriented and credits them as being her biggest supporters. In fact, many of her bags are named after her sisters and cousins.
“I have internalized a lot in my life. The bigotry, the sexism, the racism, all the other isms I have come across in my life. It makes me want to create a company that is fair and inclusive in its space.”
Clements prices her bags with everyone in mind. Each product ranges between $20 and $30, but she hopes to lower that price even more. Her ultimate goal is to turn her small business into a large-scale manufacturing corporation focused on providing even more affordable products made with repurposed materials. Looking forward, she hopes to sell wholesale and find investors who also want to build something valuable and sustainable. But Clements doesn’t stop there. She wants to reinvent the traditional method of “work.” She believes that the 1950s model of a 9-to-5 job is damaging our livelihoods and decreasing productivity. In her eyes, “quality of work will improve once quality of life does.” To accomplish this, she plans on paying her employees far above the minimum wage, having flexible hours, investing time and money into all workers, as well as creating a safe space for everyone.
“[The goal is] to create this manufacturing company that teaches them job skills, has fair pay, and provides a safe space for people of all colors, sexualities, everything. Come one, come all.”
She is a trailblazer taking Wichita by storm, providing affordable, sustainable alternatives, and focusing on what’s ahead of us instead of behind. Atypical bags are available at farmers’ markets across Wichita and for order on her website as well.