8 Companies Working To Make Fashion Sustainable

While Forever 21 files for bankruptcy and other fast fashion brands suffer, “sustainability” is increasingly becoming the buzz word in the clothing industry today. “Sustainable fashion” web searches have increased by 66%. Unfortunately, the industry still has a long way to go. It is responsible for over 5% of global carbon emissions, second only to the oil and gas industry. Even more tragic, 87% of produced clothing ends up incinerated or in a landfill. Here are eight companies attempting to move the needle in the fashion industry by making it more sustainable.

1) Sourcing Playground

Heather Williams is the founder and CEO of Sourcing Playground, a B2B sourcing platform designed to connect fashion brands with more sustainable manufacturers. By helping brands navigate the sustainability landscape, Sourcing Playground makes it easier for companies to make responsible sourcing decisions.

“We’ve made it our mission to reduce the harmful impact of fashion brands by giving them the tools to connect with verified sustainable manufacturers,” says Williams. Manufacturers who are more sustainable harness resources during production to reduce wastage and chemical costs. This results in cost savings, which can be passed onto brands and buyers. So, there is a cost benefit in addition to social and environmental improvements.

 

Since a young age, Williams has been interested in and worked in fashion. However, when she realized the wastage involved and the negative climate impact of clothing, she felt driven to help change the industry. Her advice to others looking to change the world is to focus on these three things, “Add value, be 100% solution-focused, and never give up! Doing something that you are passionate means working that much harder. Find something you love doing because you will find a way to be brilliant at it.”

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2) Queen Of Raw

Stephanie Benedetto is the CEO and cofounder of Queen of Raw, an online marketplace where brands can buy and sell deadstock fabric. She is driven to reduce the harmful impacts of the fashion industry on the planet. “I am doing what I am doing to make a difference in the world, not just for myself but for my children and my children’s children,” she says.

According to Benedetto, one t-shirt takes 700 gallons of water to produce. That’s enough water for one person to drink for three years. And over 2 million shirts are sold worldwide every year. Says Benedetto, “If we don’t make a change to the fashion industry now, in just a few years, two-thirds of the world’s population will face shortages of fresh water.”

Benedetto’s family has been in the fashion and textile industry for over 100 years. In 1896, her great-grandfather came to the US from Austria, landing at Ellis Island. After settling into New York City, he began chasing the American Dream. He would find old fabrics and materials other immigrants had brought with them on but weren’t using anymore, and use these to create beautiful fashion garments with minimal waste and minimal toxins. This is exactly what Benedetto is attempting to do today, but on a global scale, with Queen of Raw.

To those looking to change the world, Benedetto says, “Don’t be afraid! Take risks, put your ideas out there, and test your solutions in the market. These are important steps to being able to improve your offering and iterate your product effectively.” 

3) Boob Design

Mia Seipel is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Boob Design, a Swedish fashion brand that has been making sustainable clothing for pregnant and nursing women for the past two decades. Today, she’s happy to see the tide turning, with both customers and retailers placing demands on fashion brands by shopping for sustainably-produced clothes that are designed to last. 

“Since the inception of Boob, it’s always been clear that sustainability would factor into everything we do,” says Seipel. “Our target is women who are literally carrying and feeding the future. We must tend to our planet for the sake of everyone. For many of us in this industry, it’s very hard to go back once you understand the magnitude of the environmental challenges we are facing, and the responsibility we all have to become part of the solution.”

Seipel’s advice to other people looking to change the world is simple: “Stay true to your ideas and core values. And try to make decisions that allow you to sleep well at night.” 

4) The Simple Folk

Jamie Morea and Abigail Brown are mothers of two young children each, best friends, and the cofounders of The Simple Folk, an organic and sustainable line of children’s wear that is also ethically-made.

It was after becoming mothers that Morea and Brown became aware of the dangers of fast fashion – to people and the planet. Think toxic synthetic materials, unfair wages and horrid working conditions at manufacturing plants, environmental degradation and tremendous waste in fast fashion. “Simply put, we had had enough,” says Morea. “We felt compelled to create a more sustainable, non-toxic and ethical line of ‘slow fashion’ children’s clothing to help build a better future.”

To aspiring entrepreneurs, Morea says, “Follow your joy and inspiration and find a way to delegate everything that drains you or that you don’t like to do. When you allow yourself to set your soul on fire for your business, you can build and create from a completely different place; a place where work is play and an act of self-care that serves your highest good. I’ve found that when I follow the path of inspired action, it often feels fun and easy and leads to exponential results.”

5) Nudnik

Lindsay Lorusso is the chief explorer and co-creator, with her twin sister Alexandra, of Nudnik, a circular children’s wear brand. All Nudnik clothes are made from unused scraps of fabric that otherwise would end up as landfill.

The sisters grew up in the waste management industry – their father co-owns one of Canada’s largest privately-owned companies, Wasteco. They worked for him for 15 years prior to launching Nudnik, and thus began to understand the impact we have on our planet as a result of our “throw-away” culture.

“I look at waste as a commodity,” says Lindsay Lorusso. “If we collect our waste separately and cleanly, we can almost always turn it into something new. We are among a handful of ambitious global entrepreneurs who are pioneers in the space of circular design. We are steadfast in our vision to make coveted products from waste.” 

To others looking to build sustainable companies, Lorusso says, “It’s all about starting! Reach out to people doing something similar and ask them questions. Reach out to the companies whose vision and values align with yours and ask how you can join their team. If you already know your life purpose and aren’t fulfilling it, what are you waiting for?”

6) Tsouls

Marina Shtatlender is the cofounder of Tsouls, a sustainable footwear brand that makes shoes out of cork. “We love cork in our shoes for many reasons,” Shtatlender says. “It’s organic, lightweight, super comfortable, and healthy for your feet. It’s also renewable, abundant, and easily recyclable. The process of debarking the tree extends its life by 75 years, and when the bark regrows, it reduces carbon dioxide from the environment. For every ton of cork produced, 73 tons of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere.”

Shtatlender dropped her life-long career as a graphic designer to pursue this path at the age of 55. Her cofounder, Gero Francis is an architect with a business degree who came aboard at age 28. “Yes, you could say we are the odd couple!” Shtatlender says. “But we are true believers in this mission. Neither one of us knew anything about the shoe business before founding Tsouls. We only knew that we wanted to be an innovative company focused on sustainability.”

As a result of her own journey, Shtatlender feels it vital for any changemaker to carefully consider their choice of cofounder. “You must be aligned in your life purpose. This greatly improves collaboration and communication. Without it, the company will have a harder time overcoming unforeseen challenges.”

7) Lucy & Yak

Lucy Greenwood is the cofounder, along with her partner Chris Renwick, of Lucy & Yak, a dungarees fashion brand that sources its manufacturing ethically and sustainably in India. All products are packed in recycled, reusable fabric bags and shipped in biodegradable mailing bags. Fabrics used are organic and colored with low-impact dyes. And everyone who works for the company in paid a fair living wage. “It always seemed strange to us that we had jobs that didn’t pay enough to live on,” says Greenwood. “We set about to create well-paid jobs for as many people as possible.”

“Start small,” Greenwood advises aspiring entrepreneurs. She and Renwick began their business when they were traveling the world and living off of just over $100 a week. They made a few products, sold them, then made some more. Eventually, they had built a solid fashion business and were able to find a manufacturing partner in India. Recently, Lucy & Yak completed construction of a new factory in India with superior working conditions and solar power.

“Once you achieve a tiny little easy target, the next ones just happen without you doing anything,” says Greenwood. “It’s not about big goals or grand life purposes. Life and business are a collection of tiny events. We’re often so busy looking for grandiose life dreams that we miss the amazing little things along the way. So, my advice is: Don’t have a big goal. The bigger the goal, the harder it seems to accomplish and the less chance there is of it actually happening.”

8) LoveMerino

Pip Smith is the cofounder of LoveMerino, an Australian fashion brand that makes ethical, sustainable clothing out of Merino wool. All LoveMerino products are made from wool gathered from the sheep raised on the Smith family farm, which is also home to Pip’s husband, Norm Smith, and their five children. They use holistic farming methods and adhere to strict animal welfare standards, making their clothing genuinely “flock to fabric.”

In addition, LoveMerino supports local designers and artisans. Each product is knitted, hand-dyed, and finished in Australia. “We have encountered many difficulties in finding processors and manufacturers here in Australia to maintain quality and traceability,” says Smith. “But we have remained committed to the cause and now work with a number of highly talented craftsmen, artisans and designers to produce our quality Merino garments.”

To others looking to align their careers with their life purpose, Smith suggests first coming up with a statement of purpose and list of values to guide you. This will help you generate clear short, medium, and long-term goals. Then put together a team of excellent people to support you. Smith says, “Find your passion in life, what makes you happy. When you get up each day and love what you do, you will never give up.

[“source=forbes”]

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