Ethical clothing and fashion can be more expensive, but thinking about cost-per-wear gives the item a better sense of value.
A new initiative by Kathryn Hilderbrand aims to shake up the fashion industry by altering supply chains. Currently, it can be very difficult for new entrants into the industry to get a small run of designs done, and even more so to find a supplier who they can trust and has decent ethical credentials.
Good Clothing Company aims to provide independent designers with a one-stop shop in Massachusetts where they can get small runs of their products made by Kathryn and her team.
Behind this objective is a strong set of principles. These include supporting and bolstering the Made in the USA movement, and therefore avoiding shady ethical and labour practices which are commonplace in many factories in developing countries. Additionally, Good Clothing Company will be operating using sustainable and green production methods. Finally, a key driver is the desire to support independent designers and combat the corporations that have cornered much of the fashion market.
An initiative such as this one would truly help free the fashion market up, offering opportunities to entrepreneurs and small companies to get their products made efficiently and to a high standard, and thus consumers will see a wider range of clothing that is made in an ethical and sustainable way. When it comes to fashion, both mainstream consumer attitudes and supplier practices need to change, but it may be easier in many ways to alter supplier practices and hope that consumer attitudes follow.
Good Clothing Company is almost ready to get going. They are currently working with three industrial machines, a large work/cutting table, racks and shelves, tailoring tools, and have their office furniture, but still need to raise additional funds for six more industrial sewing machines and so that they can hire four more stitchers. They're also looking to purchase an industrial cutter to speed up the production process, which will therefore bring the cost down for clients and new designers.
If you'd like to support this ethical supply initiative, they're running a campaign over the next month on Indiegogo.
You can also find out more from this Vimeo clip.
By taking those waste products, the team at Upmade, headed by Reet Aus, are able to create a shirt at a minimal cost to the environment.
The project is an interesting one, as it actually relies on fast-fashion to exist - it just recognises that there is an issue with the inordinate amounts of waste created by fast-fashion factories and suppliers. By taking the waste into their own hands, they are creating brand new shirts by simply altering stitching patterns of the typical tshirt.
Instead of growing and creating new cotton, by relying on waste products from garment factories the water usage of the shirts is kept to a minimum. In addition, energy used in creating the shirts and the CO2 produced is minimal too. In fact, some of the Up-Shirt designs use up to 93% less energy, and produce 89% less carbon than that of your typical tshirt.
Reet Aus has plenty of experience in sustainable and ethical fashion, as she has been producing upcycled collections for years. She has also completed a PhD in sustainable fashion design, which first linked her to Beximco and the idea for the Up-Shirt started to gain shape.
Whilst the Up-Shirt seems like a simple and novel way of using mass-produced waste, what I also see is a team that's wanting to change the practices of the fast-fashion industry. A much bigger goal, but with the mountains of waste products created during garment creation, it is certainly a noble one.
Cycling if often seen as an inherently ecological activity. As a method of transport, it is almost carbon-neutral with next-to-zero impact on the environment. Why is it not completely impact free, as is often touted by cycling enthusiasts and environmentalists alike? Primarily because impact from production methods still exist, which goes hand-in-hand with a negative human cost from the use of sweatshop labour.
Enter Veleco, a company looking to begin bridging the gap between minimal environmental harm to impact-free. Veleco are a cyclewear and clothing company based in Brighton, UK, and founded by cycling enthusiasts Jamie Lloyd and John Lewis. The pair had previously worked together on ethical sports venture, Fair Corp, and Veleco is the next logical step.
Jamie and John started the company on the grounds that they “couldn't find cyclewear anywhere in the world that [they] thought was truly eco and ethical.” Veleco now stocks a large range of t-shirts and hoodies, as well as more specialised cycling attire such as caps, cycling shorts, musette bags, and a cycling jacket. All of these items are made using Fairtrade-certified materials, or, where possible, recycled materials, and are carbon-neutral in their production. Workers are fairly paid, and premiums are paid on specific items which fund health, welfare, and education projects for workers and their families. All products are currently vegan-friendly as well.
Take the example of the Re:Cycle Softshell Cycling Jacket, a product that has all the high-quality design and features of large-scale competitive companies' jackets, yet is produced fairly, positively impacts the environment (it's made from twelve recycled plastic bottles), and looks stylish to boot. At £75, the product is competitively priced too.
The company also offers a range of accessories and extra products besides cyclewear, such as wallets created with recycled materials, and Nikwax, a waterproofer that's eco-friendly and animal-testing free.
With a new collection being developed shortly, the future is looking strong for Veleco. This could mean cycling could finally achieve its status as a truly zero-impact activity. Unless of course your name is Ed Orcutt, in which case I'm sorry for breathing whilst riding my bike...
The first time I came across Talant Trade Co. was on a fashion blog doing ‘research’ for True Icon (shopping). I saw the bag pictured above and although I didn’t know who had made it, I was determined to get myself one. After a quick backwards image search I found Talant Trade Co.
3 weeks later my bag arrived here in the UK – thoughtfully packaged and with a hand written note of thanks from Johnson Benjamin, Talant Trade Co’s creator. These little touches make a big difference.
I was so impressed with the build of the bag and the service I’d received that I decided to in touch with Johnson to say thank you and perhaps, while I was at it, find out a little more about the company. Not only did he write back quickly, he remembered wrapping my order and was kind enough to answer a few questions.
I can’t recommend Talant Trade Co. enough - great bags and a great service from an independent business worthy of your attention.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us the story of how Talant Trade Co. came about?
My name is Johnson Benjamin, a 2011 graduate of Mississippi State University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and a passion for urban design and renewal. This program opened my eyes to the dying industrial infrastructure all around me. After graduation, I spent several months trying to figure out what I could do to have a positive affect the community around me. Talant was my solution.
What are the ethics and motivations behind your company? How important are they to you?
I began Talant because I saw the great need for a stronger industrial base in my rural Mississippi area. The area in which I live was formerly home to many garment factories and hundreds of garment workers. With empty factories, rejected equipment, skilled labor, and a rich history at my fingertips it was easy to plot Talant out. I wanted Talant to stand for ideals and be part of the change in this country- that change being a push for high quality, domestically produced durable goods over imported replaceable goods.
Did you have any prior experience in fashion or textiles?
My grandfather owned and/or operated garment factories for a large portion of his life all over the southeastern United States. My father, for a portion of his life, worked with my grandfather and also worked with a very large sewing machine distributor. Also, many other men and women in my extended family were garment workers. Firsthand though, I have had no experience or training.
Your bags have a fantastic sense of American heritage and are extremely hard wearing. What gave you the idea of designing bags and why do you use duck-canvas in particular?
Thank you for the compliment! Once I established that I wanted to sew, I had to figure out what to actually make. I have always had a passion for military surplus and cool bags (owning a few bags too many). I asked myself, “If I were to design my own bag, what would it be like?” The material choice was easy, canvas just seemed obvious because of its rich military history and its cotton fibers. I am surround in the south by a heritage of cotton growing and the slogan “Cotton is king.” It was important to me to use cotton duck-canvas for my bags over other materials.
How long did it take from having the idea for Talant Trade Co to selling your first product? How did that first sale feel?
The initial idea of Talant popped into my head in Sept of 2011, and by April 2012, I was selling my first bags. That first sale was relieving. I spent so many months developing this crazy idea and that first sale legitimized what I was trying to do.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to start their own business?
I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, research as much as you are capable of about every aspect of what you're about to do. Second, be honest with yourself, about your passion, and if you are truly willing to make the sacrifices associated with starting a small business.
If you had the opportunity to start the business over again, would you do anything differently?
No, I would not. Every decision I made was the best I could make at the time. Even in bad decisions, if you look, you can find positives.
What can we look forward to seeing from Talant Trade Co in the future? Are there any new products being released soon?
We are always working on new designs and improving our process. We have right now, a new bag that will debut online in the coming weeks. My long-term goal for 2014 is for Talant to debut a few interesting garment pieces.
Where can we find out more about you and your products?
Talant is on facebook, this is where you will find the bulk of our news updates.
I keep an active personal and business instagram. This is my personal favorite form of social media. You can find me at johnson_benj
Deciding on a logo is hard. In your head you hold your hopes and aspirations for what your business will be. In your hand you hold a poorly sharpened pencil, hovering just over a scrap of paper. Between your right frontal brain, the pencil nib and the paper is the potential to draw the best, most awesome logo the world has ever known. Sadly, what comes out looks more like the ravings of a prisoner of Bastille.
But you draw and you discuss and you drink more coffee than you should. And eventually, caffeine jitters setting in, and you give up. Or at least that’s our experience.
Fortunately, there are people out there who can help. People who make logos and corporate brands for a living. Our man was Kurt Henderson.
Kurt listened patiently as we nattered on about what it is we sell, about our ethics and spluttered out half-formed ideas of our own.
After a little back and forth, we’ve happily arrived on what you see before you. First and foremost True Icon is about fashion - our logo needed to look good. But crucially, we also want to spread the word about ethical consumer choices. We aim to prove that you don’t have throw your morals out the window in search of looking and feeling good. It is from the idea of spreading the word that we arrived upon our speech-bubble inspired logo.
As True Icon grows, we hope the logo will grow with us. No brand ever comes complete with brand identity and values, these are attached as the company progresses. Logos are vessels to be filled. For now, we’re just pleased to have a fine looking vessel.
A big thanks has to go to Kurt. What you see before you is the result of his patience, keen eye and understanding of our needs as clients.
All the best and now that our logo is sorted, expect further news on our first range of products shortly.
Kai and Rob
P.S. We like to interview everyone we work with at True Icon and Kurt was kind enough to oblige.
Kurt Henderson: An Interview
How did you get into graphic design?
Design entered my life from creating custom forum interface graphics for gaming clans. From there on I focused on mastering photoshop thus tailoring my designs towards all the different industries. It's been a fascinating experience.
What past experiences/clients do you have?
The Hugo Boss simplicity design was quite interesting to work with when I was in my teens. Throughout University I carried out some work for M&S, Spotify, Reading & Leeds festival which were all great opportunities to express my creativity.
Which project have you most enjoyed?
I think there where milestones for me where I could easily say I enjoyed a project far more than another. They are all equally important to me and all play a huge part in my life. I mostly enjoyed being a 13 year old boy with many dreams and aspirations, that was the project I enjoyed most, and still do, I'm still that 13 year old boy deep down.
What inspires/influences you?
My inspiration derives from many different sources, I have my favourite designers who inspire me of course, but my belief to think outside the box grasping onto various elements that make that ever so curious side of my brain light up.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into design?
Yes, plenty, but there's a very important lesson for all of us we need to learn. If you want to excel, finding a synergy that binds your love for design with a personal experience or aspiration. Then you'll find you naturally 'need' to design.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My work can be found on my website: kurthenderson.com or Deviantart.com with the user name Ckygfx. Hope you enjoy what you see.
Welcome to my long overdue explanation of what True Icon means to me. When Rob and I started the site we agreed we’d each write what the site was about and what it meant to us as our first posts.
Well, Rob stuck to our promise while I wrote my post months ago and subsequently scrapped it. I’m a perfectionist who eventually, grudgingly, settles for less than perfect; this time in the form of a stream of conscious blast of blogging.
So what does True Icon mean to me? When Rob first came up with the name and the tag “Become the Icon” it grew on me over the space of the next 5 minutes to encompass a lot of what I wanted the site to be. I’m not sure if it came endowed with meaning that took me 5 minutes to understand (It’s a strong possibility) or if I subscribed my own meaning to it. At this point it probably doesn’t matter.
So what is it? In short, we want True Icon sell ethical and stylish clothes. Both Rob and I have been vegan for a number of years and we’ve found ethical ‘fashion’ to be at best highly suspect. We’re hoping to provide organic, fair trade and fashionable clothing for both men and women as soon as possible. As you can probably tell from the state of the site at the moment, neither of us our web designers; we’re working on the shop functionality and going over every aspect of our products to make sure they’re as ethical as they can possibly be.
In the meantime, we’re throwing out material on anything and everything that we care about. Loosely broken into categories:
Culture: be that books, games, music, films or what have you. It’s a broad title but if it’s good enough for the Guardian, it’s good enough for me.
Fitness: We’re both fitness obsessed and we think everyone should be. Expect posts on workouts, diets, Martial Arts and how to generally make yourself into a superhero.
Essays: In which we cover topics in depth that we have been thinking about recently. This is a bit of a “File as Misc.” section.
Food: Always vegan. Nearly always healthy, fitness focused, quick and convenient. Apart from the odd indulgence including Oreo Ice Cream and Raw Food Vegan Snickers (both coming soon!). Check out the True Icon Rule of 7 for an explanation of the types of food we cook.
Technology: It has a larger and larger part in all our lives and almost everyone is fascinated by some part of it – we fall under the category of ‘almost everyone’, so here it is.
Fashion: Last but by no means least. We’ll cover brands and products we back as well as debates around just what exactly ethical fashion is anyway.
The link in all this is that we will cover things from an ethical standpoint. So if you’re an ethical dude or dudette, or you’d like to be, you’re in the right place
Finally getting onto the subject of the name, it’s easier to approach from our tagline “Become the Icon”.
I’ve heard a lot of vegan jokes over the years. But my favourite?
How do you know if someone is vegan?
Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.
We’ve all met the preachy vegan types. They’re so stoked with themselves and their attitude to life.
“Would you like a crisp Mark?”
“Umm... no thanks. I take my crisps cruelty free.”
This is a slight exaggeration and in reality things are a little more nuanced. But no matter what way you look at it, no matter what type of vegan you are - it’s so very, very true.
It’s true about any ethical or moral choice. I wouldn’t be vegan if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. And if I think it’s the right thing to do it would follow that I want others to be vegan as well. And what better way to get people to be vegan than telling them about it, right?
But there are different ways to let people know.
1) You can bombard them with facts.
Facts about why meat is bad, why diary is bad, why animal testing is bad. Facts about how these things damage the environment, global society and perhaps even your health.
Facts about how bee’s numbers are critically low, how we’re over fishing to the brink of disaster, how inefficient beef production is. Ad infinitum, ad infinitum, ad infinitum.
The reaction is unlikely to be a favourable one. It’s a bit like telling someone their hair is crap and that you don’t like their music taste and then asking them to buy your latest record. It’s not going to work.
Option two then.
2) You can set an example.
Live your life to its fullest and live it ethically. Be an informed, healthy, attractive individual.
People might comment on your food, your clothes, your energy levels or physique. At this point, if you like, you can mention you’re vegan or vegetarian or that your clothes are fair-trade, ethical and just downright awesome in every way.
They’ve asked, so let them know. Let them know that being vegan is one of the best things you’ve ever done for you.
Over time they’ll see how you live your life and they’ll start to see that maybe they could make some changes. Maybe how you live will work for them too.
I’ve seen this with so many of my friends, family memebers and collegues. They come to making ethical choices in their own time and in their own way. They might not go vegan but they might shop more locally, eat less meat or avoid animal tested products.
Anyone with an ethical conscience wants immediate change. And it can happen. We will fight for it with pen and with fire, with protest and with boycott.
But first we need to set an example of how life can be.
That’s what True Icon means to me. I hope to set an example of just how easy and enjoyable it is to live a compassionate and considerate lifestyle. Most importantly, I hope you’ll join me.
If you’ve read this far – major props. Please get in touch with us and let us know how we can make the site better and what you’d like us to cover. We’d love to hear from you.