Sustainable and Local: The secret to Detroit's growth. That's what Christian Birky models his entire business after. When we first heard about Lazlo, we fell in love with the concept and knew that these young entrepreneurs have a lot to bring to the table. We knew that we had to reach out to learn more about their sustainable menswear business, and help support this amazing foundation that Christian, and his sister, Kathryn, have been building together. They are currently in the last stage of their Kickstarter campaign and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for this eco-conscious business.  

{SS}: Can you share with us your brief career background and what inspired you to launch Lazlo?

{Christian Birky}: During my senior year at Princeton, I was increasingly aware that while I was working towards social causes, my closet was full of clothing made by exploiting workers and the environment. After modeling in a sustainable fashion show and being disappointed by the limited menswear offerings, I began to develop the concept for a product-driven sustainable menswear company. Having written my thesis on prison policy and tutored in a prison, I knew the importance of living wage jobs to men rebuilding their lives. When I found out there were men being trained to sew in Michigan prisons, I recognized an opportunity to hire experienced workers and to create a significant social impact.

{SS}: When did you start Lazlo and how has your business grown so far?

{Christian Birky}: A couple years ago I committed to Lazlo and began working on our first product, The Heirloom Tee. I sampled fabrics from mills around the US and couldn’t find the quality I was looking for, so I spent a year developing a custom organic fabric for the Heirloom Tee, with a yarn spinner in Switzerland and a mill in Los Angeles. I’ve worn iterations of the Heirloom Tee nearly every day for the past year, and earlier this year we did a test run of shirts with friends and family. We’ve taken feedback from these and applied it to the latest version. We’re backing the tee with a lifetime guarantee, so we wanted to be confident that we could deliver a product at that level. We believe people deserve a second chance, and that includes access to employment. We are working with the state to hire formerly incarcerated men and are partnering with local non-profits to provide wraparound services.

{SS}: Can you tell us the significance of the name Lazlo?

{Christian Birky}: Lazlo is named after the dapper, daring Victor Laszlo from one of my favorite films, Casablanca.

{SS:} What is the role you fulfill on a day-to-day basis? Role that sister, Kathryn, takes on?

{Christian Birky}: Kathryn and I are co-founders, and it’s very much a collaborative effort at this stage–all hands on deck. My focus, however, is especially on the financial, legal and creative aspects of the brand.  

{SS}: What has been your biggest success so far? What has been your biggest challenge faced?

{Christian Birky}: You know, I really wanted the very best American organic cotton, which is organic Supima cotton. Only 3% of the American cotton crop is Supima, and only 1% of Supima is organic. I was told that I was on a wild goose chase to source organic Supima but was able to develop a relationship with a mill owner in LA.     

{SS}: Tell us a bit about your kickstarter campaign with the Heirloom Tee:

{Christian Birky}: We just launched the Heirloom Tee on Kickstarter. We need to meet our fundraising goal by August 21st to access the funds to begin hiring and start production. Emmy-winning filmmaker, Stephen McGee, shot our Kickstarter video. To share the video, purchase a shirt or support the campaign, visit  

{SS}: What do you love about your job? 

{Christian Birky}: I’ve really enjoyed the hands-on process of designing the Heirloom Tee. Because the white t-shirt has been done so many times, the easiest way to make our tee stand out would be to do something bold–but what I really wanted to do was to pay attention to the subtle details. I’m always looking to simplify, so each adjustment had to add value and be done very consciously. The slightly curved hem and the side vent encourage the drape of our slightly longer, slimmer fit. The relaxed neckline allows us to use the same fabric for the body and the collar.

{SS}: Who inspires you in the Design world?

{Christian Birky}: Dieter Rams definitely. And in fashion, Yohji Yamamoto is a legend. Everyone should watch the video of him speaking on Nowness.

{SS}: What are you most excited for as Lazlo continues to grow?

{Christian Birky}: We are currently in the process of building out our space at Ponyride. It’s a 30,000-square-foot foreclosed building in the historic Corktown neighborhood that has been transformed into a creative incubator for socially conscious businesses. We’ve been knocking out walls, tearing down ceiling tiles and ripping up flooring. I’m excited to begin production in our own facility!

{SS}: Are there any new projects that you are excited to be launching in the near future?

{Christian Birky}: I’m excited to set up our indigo dyehouse! Each shirt will be made in white, and some will then be dipped 10+ times by hand in an indigo bath. It’s a traditional practice that goes back thousands of years and leads to a rich finish. Each shirt will be unique and will age beautifully. To extend the lifespan of our shirts, we’re also offering indigo re-dyeing. You can send in your stained or faded white tee and we will hand-dye it in indigo for you.

{SS}: Your secret to work/life balance? 

{Christian Birky}: Long runs on the river walk in Detroit!

Now onto your personal style…   

{SS}: In regards to your personal style, do you have a signature "go-to" apparel or accessory?

{Christian Birky}: It’s a pretty safe bet that if you run into me now I’ll be wearing our Heirloom Tee, in white. They’re only getting softer each time they go through the laundry!    

{SS}: Please pick your current favorite items on Styleshack?

{Christian Birky}: 3×1 Slim Straight Denim Indy Jeans Zieben Mare The Byers Duffel in Herringbone Holderness and Bourne      

{SS}: Favorite local business (or store) in Detroit?

{Christian Birky}: Definitely Floyd, which has these fantastic table legs that attach to any surface, and Douglas & Co, which has high-quality leather goods.  

{SS}: Favorite fashion, lifestyle, food or business blog 

{Christian Birky}: A Continuous Lean   

{SS}: Currently reading?

{Christian Birky}: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein  

{SS}: Go-to favorite restaurant in Detroit?

{Christian Birky}: You can’t beat the egg sandwiches and coffee at Astro!  

{SS}: Words to Live by? 


Let's help Lazlo reach their fundraising goal by supporting the Heirloom Tee Kickstarter Campaign.

{Share the video, Contribute to the campaign, or Purchase a T-Shirt}

Ends Friday, August 21st.