Why start a clothing company?
Originally published 9 February 2019
After all, there is no shortage of fashion brands available today. In fact, global clothing production has more than doubled since 2000. The average person buys 60% more clothing items than they did 15 years ago. Most clothing is thrown away after being worn only 7 or 8 times.
It is well documented what this is doing to our environment. But this frenzied pace of consumption also has a human cost.
Our rate of consumption has drastically increased, but this doesn’t mean we are spending more on clothes. In 1900, Americans spent 14% of their family budget on apparel. In 1950, they spent 12% on clothing. In 2003, this amount dropped to 4%. In 2015, it was 3.5%. In 2018, it was 2.4%.
We are buying more, but clothing is costing us less. Even though the overall prices of consumer goods have risen, clothing prices have declined. So if clothing is not costing us, who is it costing? Who is paying the price for faster, cheaper fashion?
We’ve seen it on our clothing labels: China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia. Even though the cost we pay for clothing is lower than ever before, the costs of making clothing have actually risen over the past decade due to rising labor, material, and energy prices. How are clothing companies able to sell for less? Because of the drive to produce more and more at a lower and lower cost, production continuously moves to the next country where clothing can be made at a lower cost, which means even lower wages, less regulation, and less protections for the people making our clothes and for the environment.
There is no such thing as a cheap outfit: someone, somewhere, is paying and it's usually her. The great majority of garment workers are women between the ages of 18-35. Only 2% of workers in the garment industry make a living wage that meets their basic needs. As a fashion company and as consumers ourselves, we believe that justice calls for personal and communal change.
This is hard because we are creatures of habit and have grown used to larger wardrobes filled with fast, inexpensive, dispensable clothing. We are also used to the idea that something is a good deal if it is cheap.
We are here to challenge that idea and to offer an alternative.
What if something is a good deal if it is versatile and well-made and will last for years?
What if a good deal is a garment made from natural fibers that, after years and years as a well-worn, much-beloved staple in your wardrobe will, if not handed down, decompose and enrich the soil rather than pollute it?
Most importantly, what if the criteria for a "good deal" doesn't just mean it's a good deal for us but also for the one who made it?
Has she received a fair wage? Does she have a safe and clean work environment? Are her hours reasonable? Does she get adequate leave time to spend with family? What happens when she has a medical emergency? Is she protected from harassment, abuse, and other human rights abuses so common in the industry?
Are we willing to live with less so that others can simply live?
In 1920, an average American woman owned nine outfits. In 2015, the average woman owned 30 outfits. And so much of what we buy, we end up throwing away. Per person, Americans discard 70 pounds of textiles a year.
What if we buy fewer, better things? Do we really want a bargain that isn’t fair to the people that made it?
Change is hard and ethical shopping takes money and effort. We are the first to admit we all have fast fashion items in our wardrobes. But we can begin to make small changes that will add up to big differences.As a company, we are committed to living wages and benefits that allow our employees to plan for the future. This is reflected in our pricing. As a brand, we engage in marketing that encourages intentional, rather than impulsive, purchases. We are transparent about our pricing (more on this coming soon!) and avoid the gimmick of high mark-ups slashed by drastic sales.
We’re offering a better way of doing business, a way of making clothing differently, of caring about people, planet, and profit. We hope you’ll share this journey with us.