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1) EVRNU

Stacy Flynn, CEO Seattle, WA

Founded: 2014

Products: Premium textile fiber made from garment waste.

 THE GOODS

 •Social Purpose Corporation.

Uses non-polluting energy sources.

No wasted fresh water.

Full life cycle of product is considered with reduce, reuse, recycle principles.

No emissions or waste of synthetic substances.

No greenhouse gas emissions.

Net zero impact on biodiversity.

Fair, livable wages for employees.

 

 THE EVRNU PROCESS:

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

Stacy Flynn: When I began my research in 2010, I saw so many issues with the framework of the textile and apparel system, mainly with fiber procurement and waste (the beginning and the end of the linear supply chain). Today, I know that leveraging the power of good business is exactly what is needed to shift this entire industry, and I think we’ve got a solution with Evrnu that is powerful enough to make a dent and demonstrate that a new way of working is possible.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE TEXTILE AND APPAREL INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

SF: In 2010, I traveled to China without large corporate credentials. On this four-week trip, I saw what my industry was doing to the environment and people. I began adding up the millions of yards [of fabric] I had created in my career and suddenly I was linked to this massive problem that I had no idea I had caused. It was not what I thought I was creating in the world. I quit my job, got an MBA in sustainable systems, and developed a technology that has the power to make current methods obsolete. I will use the balance of my career proving one theory to myself; that is, if one person can do so much damage unintentionally, what can the same person do intentionally for good? This is what we – there is a stellar team forming around this concept and company – are scaling.

“If one person can do so much damage unintentionally, what can the same person do intentionally for good?”

WHAT BUSINESS PRACTICE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

SF: We have developed a gorgeous fiber that looks great, feels great, performs well, holds rich and vivid color, and is made using no virgin resources in a way that creates no waste. We’re getting ready to go into the lab with a handful of key partners, which is when things really get exciting. Bringing others in to co-develop with us will make the learning exponentially greater, and it will be a lot of fun bringing this technology to the world!

2) LOOMSTATE

New York City, NY

Founded: 2004

Products: Sustainable apparel and uniforms.

THE GOODS

 •Uses 100% Fair Trade certified and certified organic cotton.

Maintains a transparent and Global Organic Textile Standard-certified supply chain.

Creates long-term partnerships with cooperative farming communities.

Employs strict factory standards including worker safety and complies with the restricted substances list and best practice guidelines.

Cradle to Cradle Certified and participates in the Fashion Positive program.

Member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

Loomstate makes clothing that is functional, long-lasting, and needed. Everyone needs basics like a T-shirt. We hope to replace the conventional T-shirt in someone’s closet with an organic one. When a customer has the opportunity to understand the supply chain of a product, they are more likely to keep, respect, and repair that product. This will slow down the fast fashion turnover that has become the norm. We also produce private-label uniforms for other brands that value sustainability and want to elevate their work-wear. By working with the bigger brands on their uniforms, we are able to increase the demand for organic cotton and partner with more farming communities.

Photos: Loomstate

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE TEXTILE AND APPAREL INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

Since 2004 we’ve made functional streetwear for our customers. Not too long ago, we had an “aha” moment. We were not tapped into the space where functional apparel is needed most: the workplace. We learned that in the uniform industry, organic options were slim pickings. We swiftly made a move to fill that void. By providing custom-designed, organic cotton uniforms, we’re allowing big brands to have access to uniforms that align with their sustainability missions. Employees are also more likely to embrace that mission and feel pride in the brand they work for.

 WHAT BUSINESS PRACTICE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

We are most proud of our connection to our supply chain, whether it’s for the Loomstate collection or for a private-label account. From seed to finished product, we know every step of our supply chain. We are proud of the resilient communities deep in our supply chain and their success stories, from our farms in India to our headquarters in New York.

 

3) SEAMLY.CO

Kristin Glenn, Founder and CEO Brooklyn, NY & Denver, CO

Founded: 2013

Products: Socially responsible womenswear.

 THE GOODS

 •Fabric is sourced from within the US and Canada (no overseas-manufactured fabric is used in products).

All products are manufactured in Denver, CO, in a factory that pays living wages.

Uses surplus fabrics (excess from mills and factories across the US) when available.

Uses minimal packaging: stickers are 100% recycled, bags are 100% made from waste, and packaging is made in the US.

Donates scrap fabric from production to the Green Bag Lady project to use to make pet beds that are given to local animal shelters.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

Kristin Glenn: Seamly.co is a socially responsible company, first and foremost. Our focus is on the people involved in the process, from product development to fabric production to sewing, folding, packing, and shipping.

Our biggest impact is the support we give to American factories and suppliers who are doing things right. I’ve met them all, from our fabric suppliers (a husband-and-wife team in New York) to our button factory (a small family operation in Brooklyn) to our factory, COsewn (employing young seamsters and teaching them new skills through the production process).

We exist to provide unique, American-made clothing to our customers, but the real difference we make is the work we’re able to give to our suppliers. Watching them grow along with us has been the biggest reward.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE TEXTILE AND APPAREL INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

KG: Local production is important because it guarantees transparency. I’ve seen where our materials come from firsthand, from fabric to finished goods. I’ve met the seamstresses who work on our products. So I know, with certainty, that our products are a net positive for the people who work with us. And that’s something that’s really difficult to have when working overseas, unless you’re there in person all the time. The fashion industry is a dirty business that, for the most part, is all about a quick buck. By producing locally, with people I know and trust, I’m able to offer products that I believe in and feel good about.

In terms of environmental sustainability, we’re sourcing fabrics for our next product that will be better aligned with my environmental goals: organic cotton, hemp, and wool. That’s an important next step for us. We’ve got a great local production chain in place, and now we’re ready to introduce new fabrics and styles.

WHAT BUSINESS PRACTICE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

KG: Transparency. I’ll be the first to say that buying less is a good thing, and that no clothing is truly sustainable. I’ll also be honest with our customers about how things are made, and what changes we’re excited to make next. They get to see all of the work that goes into their garments, and it’s a lot of work! I hope that kind of radical transparency translates into mindful buying decisions in all areas of their lives.

 

Photos: Noble Denim

4) NOBLE DENIM & VICTOR ATHLETICS

Abby Sutton, Co-founder Cincinnati, OH; Factories in TN and PA

Founded: 2012

Products: Responsibly made, high-quality jeans and clothing.

 THE GOODS

 •Uses 100% organic cotton, grown and knit in the USA.

Each item is cut and sewn in the USA; offers fair wages for all clothes-makers.

5% of after-tax profits go back to the factory to reinvest in workers and combat the impact of outsourcing.

Offsets carbon from shipping products.

Recycled packaging.

 WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

Abby Sutton: There are three main benefits that we see from running our business in a conscious way:

1. We are more creative. When you care about sustainability, you naturally have to look deeper into what you’re doing as a company. Innovation comes when you give yourself boundaries and choose to be creative within those boundaries – that is when interesting and fresh things can happen. Choosing sustainability gives us an outlet to be more creative because we’ve immediately constrained ourselves, which we think great companies have always done.

2. We form better relationships. At this point in time, companies are in the organic apparel industry because they care, not because it is a trend. So you end up working with like-minded people and the relationships created are more fun. We’ve found that people champion each other because we’re after the same goal – all of us want to see sustainable clothing become more accessible because we want to steward environmental resources better and support our customers’ health. This creates a feeling of team within the industry rather than one of competition.

 3. We keep a clear focus. A traditional company often is cutting corners and pushing down costs to create a product that has the most profit, but then they are inevitably coming up with forced positive PR or initiatives to make up for the corners cut in their business. The beauty of a conscious company is that the work is so integrated that good stories flow naturally from the heart of the business and there is no need for extra initiatives. The very thing we’re focused on is good enough, which creates a purity for the owners and employees because we simply have to focus on our main product and let it speak for itself.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE TEXTILE AND APPAREL INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

AS: Conventional cotton occupies only three percent of the world’s farmland, but uses 25 percent of the world’s chemical pesticides and fertilizers. It is the most pesticide-laden crop in the US. That’s why sustainable clothing is so important.

The national buzz has been on organic food for the last decade or so, which is incredibly important as well, but the raw materials used to make clothing have just as big of an impact, if not more, as how our food is grown. The pesticides used in growing conventional cotton are destructive to the health of the earth and they also rub off on the skin of those wearing clothes made from conventional cotton. For both reasons, we are passionate about using only organic cotton to protect the wearer and the grower.

Second, manufacturing used to employ 72 percent of Americans who didn’t have a college degree. It was the backbone of America and a way for individuals to have a good living in rural areas. Since outsourcing became widespread over the last 20 years, these former apparel districts have been depleted and the economies around these areas have not recovered. Choosing to prioritize how the product is made creates an amazing opportunity to retain the skill of these communities and to see the core of our country grow stronger. Some companies see factory labor as an area where they can suppress costs, but we see our clothes-makers as key members of the team and want to pay them and treat them as such. We see this as a key part of us having a sustainable company long term.

 

5) NIKITA & VESPER

Courtney Montague, Co-founder & Operations Director Littleton, CO

Founded: 2012

Products: Socially responsible, stylish apparel and accessories for women, selling artisan products sourced from makers around the world and eco-friendly vintage products.

THE GOODS

Environmentally friendly products (vintage).

Supports women-owned businesses in developed and developing countries.

Purchases goods at a fair price from artisans with a focus on environmental sustainability.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

Courtney Montague: With a more sustainable business I believe that your customers automatically bestow a bit more trust on you, which we strive to honor with great customer service. I also believe that anyone who works with us, from our interns to vendors, values our mission and that adds to their overall desire to provide us with great service.

And then there are the environmental and social impacts. Each vintage T-shirt we sell saves 700 gallons of water and one-third of a pound of pesticides. If 300 million Americans reused just one T-shirt, we’d save 210 billion gallons of water and 1 million pounds of CO2.

Each artisan product we sell supports a small business; 90 percent of our artisans are from developing countries and 90 percent are women. When you put $1 in the hands of a woman, she will spend most of it on her family, providing better nutrition and access to education for her children. Empowering female entrepreneurs also provides women with greater bargaining power and stature within the family unit and the community as a whole. We want to continue to empower small businesses in developing countries by connecting these powerful women to the global marketplace.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE TEXTILE AND APPAREL INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

CM: According to the EPA, 11.1 million tons of textiles are trashed each year. The earth just can’t keep up with our consumption; we must learn to reuse, upcycle, and develop new sustainable materials that stop contributing to the environmental destruction of our planet. That is why we love vintage and why we love working with certain artisans to improve environmental sustainability within the products we sell. Right now, we are working with a number of artisans on a new custom line of Guatemalan weekender bags created from reused, beautifully ornate women’s blouses.

WHAT BUSINESS PRACTICE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

CM: I am most proud of our environmentally friendly vintage line and our ongoing work with female artisans around the world.

 

6) INDIGENOUS DESIGNS

Matthew Reynolds, Co-founder Sebastopol, CA

Founded: 1994

Products: Organic, fair trade men’s and women’s clothing.

THE GOODS

 •Provides fair wages in the local context.

Supports safe, healthy, and participatory workplaces.

Supplies financial and technical support as well as shared community planning to build capacity.

Ensures environmental sustainability in processing (including using certified organic cotton and Oeko-Tex Standard 100-approved dyes, and meeting the Global Organic Textile Standard).

Respects and embraces the cultural identities of families and the community.

Builds direct and long-term relationships.

Educates and collaborates with partners on sustainability. 

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

Matthew Reynolds: INDIGENOUS Fair Trade Fashion brings economic and social opportunity to artisans at the base of the supply chain in some of the world’s underdeveloped regions. The materials in our organic fashion are grown without any harmful pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, or artificial fertilizers, which keeps harmful toxins found in synthetic and non-organic clothing out of our ecosystem and away from your body.

In addition, the INDIGENOUS model of ethical sourcing ensures that the artisans in our supply chain receive fair wages and enjoy a safe working environment. We accomplish this through a close collaboration with our production partners, artisan workshop leaders, and others. Our mission has always been to elevate artisans in the poorest regions of South America to world-renowned status in the handicraft textile market while preserving their rich cultural heritage. The artisan is one of our most valued partnerships. This is not charity, but rather paying a fair wage for their masterful work while providing the necessary assistance to help make the artisan more successful in the international marketplace.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE TEXTILE AND APPAREL INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

MR: From the land to the loom to the hanger, we’ve made a conscious decision at each step of the way to stay true to quality, ethics, and sustainability. Our use of natural and organic fibers coupled with fair trade practices with artisans around the world has created a movement in eco-friendly fashion that’s in line with one’s style sense and moral code. The damaging and deadly effects of conventional production are now part of the national and international conversation driving global awareness and demand for our responsibly made products. The trillion-dollar fashion industry is the second largest contributor to global pollution next to the petroleum industry. With the magnitude and multitude of human and environmental impacts from the fashion and textile industry, “business as usual” is no longer acceptable.

WHAT BUSINESS PRACTICE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

MR: We are very proud of the launch of our unique app, the Fair Trace Tool, which creates engaging supply chain transparency for the INDIGENOUS customer. The Fair Trace Tool engages our end customers in the lives of our artisans and shares the social impact of an INDIGENOUS purchase by simply snapping a QR code on our hang tags. The back-end of the Fair Trace Tool allows us to communicate directly with our artisan producers at the base of the pyramid via cellphone-based voice and text technology.

INDIGENOUS is also very proud of being among the first 10 founding B Corps in the world, signing the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence on June 1, 2007! For the last two years, we have also been recognized on the B Corp “Best for the World” list.