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20 Ethical Businesses to Support on Black Friday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday… they are THE biggest shopping days of the year in the United States and perhaps like you, I’m inclined to ignore them.

The problem? We’ve gotten to a point where small independent brands can’t afford to.

While the “shop, shop, shop til you drop” mentality doesn’t align with the business values of sustainable and ethical brands, consumer behavior has forced the issue.

The justification: If people are going to be shopping anyway, then why not give them better options?

So, if you’re inclined to shop the deals, here are 20 ethical brands that are offering Black Friday discounts and deserve your dollars:

vesta

WOMENSWEAR

Vesta | Modern & minimalist essentials for women that are 100% vegan. SHOP NOW >>

SixChel | Sustainable clothing, ethically made for women with purpose. SHOP NOW >>

Poppy Row | Size-inclusive luxury basics, offering sizes 2-28. SHOP NOW >>

Nine56 Studio | Made-to-order capsule collections, manufactured in Minneapolis. SHOP NOW >>

Harly Jae | Feminine, vintage inspired designs, responsibly made in Canada. SHOP NOW >>

PonyBabe | Eco-friendly loungewear, designed & manufactured in Brooklyn. SHOP NOW >>

GalaMaar | Timeless womens swimwear crafted in Los Angeles. SHOP NOW >>

milo+nicki | Cruelty-free & sustainable womenswear with Indian & Zambian roots. SHOP NOW >>

Sotela | A body-positive women’s brand, selling closet essentials. SHOP NOW >>

Dallas Daws | Limited edition, made-to-order apparel handmade in Minneapolis. SHOP NOW >>


cultural detour

MENSWEAR

Cultural Detour | A collection of accessories handcrafted from antique & vintage kimono. SHOP NOW >>

Mayor | Organic cotton, short sleeved, button-downs for men. SHOP NOW >>


novel supply co

UNISEX

Novel Supply Co. | A sustainable lifestyle brand, designed for the urban adventurer. SHOP NOW >>

THOM KELLY | Mens & womens plaid shirts made in the USA from sustainable fabrics. SHOP NOW >>

Be Kind Vibes | Mens & womens eco-friendly apparel for conscious adventurers. SHOP NOW >>


fair seas supply co

ACCESSORIES + CHILDRENS

Fair Seas Supply Co. | Organic Turkish beach towels for life’s great voyages. SHOP NOW >>

Regenerous Designs | Versatile, upcycled accessories handcrafted in the USA. SHOP NOW >>

Liz Riden | Handcrafted leather goods that work in every woman’s wardrobe. SHOP NOW >>

Mamachic | The do-it-all scarf for the do-it-all woman. SHOP NOW >>

Bevy Goods | Ethically-made handbags that take you from day to night. SHOP NOW >>

Pure Colour Baby | Organic baby clothing and accessories handmade in Canada. SHOP NOW >>


Market45

The Factory45 Marketplace Launches Next Week!

For over four years, I’ve worked with designers and entrepreneurs to launch fashion brands that are sustainably and ethically made.

I’ve had the unique perspective of seeing these brands build their supply chains, think carefully about their business models and bring value to shoppers who are looking for better options.

It’s been a ride, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done.

But, like any serial entrepreneur, I know there’s still so much more to do.

Two years ago, I envisioned a platform where I could sell the products that have launched through the Factory45 program.

I wanted to create a marketplace that would make it easier to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

So, what did I do?

The same thing I do every time I come up with a new (sometimes hairbrained) idea.

I hopped on the phone with my creative director to walk her through the vision:

  • I want to launch with 20 Factory45’ers to start.
  • I want to send traffic to their online stores.
  • I want to offer a discount incentive to shoppers.
  • I want to make enough money to break even.
  • But ultimately, I want to help the brands grow.

Could we make that happen? I asked her. From a tech perspective, is it possible?

And for the sake of full transparency, at first we couldn’t.

The platform I initially envisioned was just too complicated — there were too many moving parts.

So, in June we decided to scrap the whole project.

But what usually happens when you take a deep breath and walk away?

You find clarity.

And thankfully, that’s what happened.

We put aside the ideal for “perfection” and came up with the “good enough” option. (This is a beneficial lesson for any entrepreneur.)

Six months later, we are one week away from launching Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace.

Featuring 20 invite-only brands that have launched through the Factory45 accelerator program, the marketplace will make it easy to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

Before we launch on Thursday, November 1st you can join our VIP list here and get 10% off any Market45 order.

By signing up to the Market45 email list, it will also ensure that you’re one of the first to know when we launch next week.

I can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on.

Grateful for your support,

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

sustainable fashion products

5 Sustainable Fashion Podcasts You Need to Be Listening To

Alright, podcast lovers, this one’s for you.

Read on for my top 5 podcast recommendations in the sustainable and ethical fashion space…


MISSION DRIVEN MARKETING BY RISE CREATIVE

The Mission Driven Marketing podcast was started by ethical brand strategist Marisa Flacks, founder of Rise Creative. Launching in July 2018, Marisa has hosted guests from high profile brands like The Yellow Co., as well as members of the Ethical Writers Co.

This podcast is a must-listen for anyone who wants to learn how to effectively market an ethical brand.

My conversation with Marisa about launching a successful brand is on Episode 6 here.


spirit 608

SPIRIT OF 608 BY LORRAINE SANDERS

Spirit of 608 is a weekly fashion business podcast that empowers women and builds female thought leadership at the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability and technology (FEST).

Host Lorraine Sanders is a seasoned journalist who has featured guests, ranging from designers to doctors to strategists to fashion photographers — all who are influencing the sustainable fashion space.

This podcast is perfect for anyone looking for part inspiration, part tactical business advice, part education of the industry.

If you love a good failure-to-success story, start with this episode.


simply lived in

SIMPLY, LIVED IN BY NINE56 STUDIO

Simply, Lived In is a podcast started by Factory45’er Meg Floersch, founder of Nine56 Studio. Following the death of her father, Meg began to question the pace of her life and wondered, “What would it look like if I simplified?”

It’s with this mantra in mind that she interviews guests who are pursuing minimalism, slow fashion, local eating and living a more purposeful life.

This podcast is perfect for anyone who is inspired to slow down, live life intentionally and explore a more minimalist lifestyle.

My conversation with Meg about shopping ethically and always moving forward is here.


conscious chatter

CONSCIOUS CHATTER BY KESTREL JENKINS

Conscious Chatter quickly grew as an industry favorite when it launched two years ago. Boasting over 130 episodes to date, host and storyteller Kestrel Jenkins has interviewed industry experts from across the fashion world.

Whether it’s Mara Hoffman musing about mindfulness, Summer Rayne Oakes speaking about slow fashion or Andrew Morgan talking about The True Cost, there’s something for everyone.

For a refreshing perspective on environmentalism and feminism, start with this episode.


wardrobe crisis

WARDROBE CRISIS BY CLARE PRESS

With five stars on iTunes, the WARDROBE CRISIS works to decode the fashion system and dig deep into its effects on people and planet.

This podcast unzips the real issues that face the industry today, with a focus on ethics, sustainability, consumerism, activism, identity and creativity.

Host Clare Press is Australian Vogue’s Editor-at-Large, sits on the advisory board for Fashion Revolution Australia and has written three books about fashion activism.

Start with this episode featuring Kestrel Jenkins, host of Conscious Chatter, from above.


Know someone who is a podcast fiend and looking to learn more about the sustainable fashion space? Share this link with them!

Happy listening,

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

Contemporary swimwear

Introducing Gala Maar: Contemporary Swimwear for the Modern Muse

This is an interview with Factory45’er Blakely Wickstrom about the launch of her brand Gala Maar, contemporary swimwear for the modern muse. Blakely took a pre-sales strategy to launch her first collection through her online store. Read on to learn more about her company and hear her advice for new brands.

Tell us about your products and company. What do you make?

Right now, I’m producing women’s swimwear and being as sustainable as possible throughout the entire process — from my fabric, made of discarded fishing nets, to sourcing the only made-in-the-USA pad inserts and everything else in between.

The construction is very high quality and the design is more timeless than trend driven, with the intent being that the swimsuits should last my customer an especially long time. Swimwear is the beginning — I’m hoping to expand the product range with every season to grow into an ethical resort lifestyle brand.

Contemporary swimwear

From the beginning, you had a very strong vision for your branding and aesthetic (hello, Instagram). Can you tell us a little bit about how you got so clear on the brand direction you wanted to take and the inspiration behind it?

Coming up with the aesthetic direction was probably the most fun and organic part of the process. For my Instagram, it started with just opening myself up to all the things that inspire me and saving the images to my Pinterest without giving it too much thought.

From there I was able to organize and hone in the branding and be more strategic about what I posted. In the swimwear market, there is not a lot of diversity in the type of imagery brands choose to use. Typically it involves a “perfect” woman on a tropical beach, which is fine but I wanted to do things differently and to portray the qualities of a contemporary woman beyond shallow attributes.

When creating my own campaign images I think the most important part was hiring a photographer who was a natural fit. I loved the way Amanda Bjorn captures her subjects and how comfortable and intimate her photographs are. When casting the models I picked three girls I found super inspiring, from a dancer/ choreographer to an artist. They were all unique beauties and gave their own je ne sais quoi to the project.

And then there was the stunning location of Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson and apprentice, Eric Lloyd Wright, a compound high above Malibu which was a perfect mix of nature and architecture, my biggest inspirations aside from the female form.

contemporary swimwear

You’re one of my Factory45’ers who was really conscious about being patient and taking your time with the process. You didn’t rush your launch – can you tell us more about your journey with the pre-production process?

In all honesty, it was more the process than my patience that didn’t rush the launch. Finding my fabric was the first step and what really set the course for my business. I did some googling and discovered that they had an office in NY so I made an appointment and met with the US sales rep. Swimwear is super technical and when your goal is quality and fit, finding the right manufacturing partner is essential.

I did encounter multiple situations where the quality or communication wasn’t working out and I had to move on. Going to trade shows was key, talking to as many people as possible and making the connections so there were options and a point of reference. Although frustrating at the time, I am thankful for the way things played out as it allowed me to really hone my product, message, and branding.

Throughout this time, did self-doubt ever creep up? How did you get past it?

Quite often! Something I remember very well from the Factory45 program was your advice to celebrate the small victories, which I think is key. That and being able to reflect and see how far you have come.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed and get caught up in all the things you have to figure out and the laundry list that only seems to grow so it really helps me to reflect on all the obstacles that I have overcome. Entrepreneurship is undoubtedly a rollercoaster of emotion so you just have to welcome it, roll with it and keep checking things off the list.

What has been the best thing about launching and seeing your idea come to fruition?

After working for others for so long it’s really great to be able to see an idea through from start to finish and the crazy amount of learning that goes into the process is very fulfilling. I feel like I am finally being able to live my truth and practice my ethics in a proactive way. Something unexpected which I have really loved is all the amazing and inspiring women that I have gotten to meet and work with as a result.

Contemporary swimwear

What is your best piece advice for a new designer or entrepreneur that’s just starting out down this road?

I would say be open to the course things take. The path won’t always go how you planned and it might be the best thing for you in the end. Also, check the mundane things off the list as soon as possible. Once your launch is on the horizon you will be happy to have things like your shipping and return policies, website copy and sales forms already in place.


To shop contemporary swimwear for the modern muse, visit Gala Maar here. To read more about Blakely’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

minimalism

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Over two years ago, I got an email from an old “blogger friend.”

My {r}evolution apparel co-founder and I had written a guest post for his blog during our 2011 Kickstarter and doing so had catapulted our campaign from around $40K to over $64K.

His large and dedicated fanbase of readers had been the exact target market our clothing company was trying to attract. And thanks in large part to them, we became the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history at that time.

The blog was called The Minimalists.

Several years later, it was a surprise to hear from him again and even more surprising to receive the following request:

Howdy! Long time no see. Do you have any interest in doing an interview for our minimalism documentary?

minimalism-film-2

On May 3, 2016 I attended the Boston screening of Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things in a jam-packed, sold-out theater.

Joshua and his co-creator Ryan now have a following of over four million readers and have been featured on ABC News, BBC, The Today Show, NPR and The New York Times, among other notable press.

The film, directed by Matt D’Avella, was named the number one independent documentary of 2016, won pre-screening awards at international film festivals, and has shown in 400+ worldwide screenings.

In the film, I was able to talk about the marketing messages that the fast fashion industry feeds us, why we look to fashion to make us happy, and how our clothing choices play into global consumption.

The documentary also asks, How might your life be better with less?

And it examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life — families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker.

You can get a taste of Minimalism by watching the trailer here:

As my mother-in-law said after she saw the film, “Minimalism isn’t for me, but I get it,” the point is not to transform into a minimalist overnight.

I do hope that the messages in the documentary provoke deeper thought about what we really need to make us happy, how our purchasing decisions impact the rest of the world and what it would feel like to find happiness from within.

To watch the film in full, the online screening is available here.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 


 

dictate your success

Do You Let Others Dictate Your Success?

I have a friend in the sustainable fashion industry who is amazing.

Out of college, she interned for an international eco-fashion brand, she’s worked for big designers in NYC, she’s helped to run a fashion-tech startup on the west coast, and she’s constantly debuting her own creative projects.

One of her most recent endeavors is a podcast with people in the sustainable fashion industry and to announce it, she sent out an email to her network.

When a big-name womenswear designer replied back my friend was awestruck.

“I can’t believe she is interested!” she said to me.

To which I replied, “Um, of course she’s interested. You’re, like, amazing. And everything you do is amazing.”

“Do you think I should ask if I can interview her?” Insert grimace of trepidation.

Me: “Uh, YES! I’m sure she would be honored! Do it!”

It took less than a week for my friend to hear back from the designer and get an interview on the books.

As an outsider looking in on the situation, it was so clear to me why this person would immediately say “yes” to my friend’s request.

My best guess is that the designer was equally thrilled and honored to be asked.

But to my friend, making the ask was scary and nerve-racking. She was the one having to make herself vulnerable to rejection and in doing so, the stakes were automatically heightened.

We all put people on pedestals (I’ve written about imposter syndrome before here). Most of us can think of at least one person we feel inadequate to. We get it in our heads that because of our [age / experience / station in life / upbringing / background / etc.] we’re not worthy of the people around us.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from one of my entrepreneurs in Factory45:

“I reached out to this patternmaker… she wrote me back once and then I never heard from her again. It really knocked my confidence.”

Fact: As entrepreneurs, we cannot let our perception of others dictate the decisions we make and how we navigate forward.

As soon as we do, we’re letting other people determine our success.

For all we know, we’re letting an unanswered email that could’ve ended up in a spam folder, hinder us from moving forward.

And yes, we all do it. Sure, there is the occasional ego-less robot whose confidence doesn’t waver, but for the rest of us mortals we can’t help but question our place among others.

Where do I belong? Am I understood? These are questions humans have been asking themselves since the beginning of time — back when we were using rocks as dishware.

But I’d argue that as entrepreneurs, those questions take on an even deeper meaning. Do my ideas matter? Am I making the world a better place?

dictate success, imposter syndrome, people on pedestals

We tend to look for outside opinions to validate those answers.

Recently, I was connected with an entrepreneur in the venture capital and development space, who has been a coach to entrepreneurs for several decades.

Originally, we were supposed to jump on call to talk through a pre-interview so I could be on his podcast, but after our call, he told me he wanted to do more.

“Shannon,” he said. “How can I support you beyond a 30-minute podcast? I really believe in what you’re doing and you’re one of the only people out there doing it. How can I help you?”

When we got back on the phone he expressed interest in mentoring me and immediately my thoughts jumped to:

“Why would he be interested in me?”

“How can I fairly compensate him?”

“I don’t want to waste his time…”

When we got on our third call it was clear how much he believed in Factory45. No strings attached. He wanted to do what he could to help me succeed.

So, why did I question my worth? Because of his LinkedIn profile? Or his bio? Or his successful company and connections to other entrepreneurs I admire?

Why do those external factors dictate our internal dialogue?

Because they shouldn’t.

If we’re all going to succeed as entrepreneurs (and yes, there is enough success for all of us), then we can’t hold back, waiting to see how others will respond.

We have to take the favor from the exec we met at a networking event. We have to click “send” on the cold pitch to Vogue. We have to accept the meeting with the intimidating industry veteran. We have to believe we’re worthy of the help we are offered.

It’s safe to say there isn’t anyone giving us gold stars or A+’s anymore. It’s our job as highly-capable, driven entrepreneurs to give them to ourselves.

The future of our businesses depend on it.

 

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 

*This post was published with permission from Kestrel.

Photo credit: Jeshu John


 

Making It: Start-up Advice from the Co-Founder of Sword & Plough

I was first introduced to the founders of Sword & Plough during their Kickstarter campaign in the spring of 2013. Sisters Betsy and Emily Nunez launched a campaign (that blew their goal out of water) to produce a quadruple bottom line company that works with veterans to repurpose military surplus fabric into stylish bags.

A year later, I met Betsy in Boston to hear more about the behind the scenes of growing Sword & Plough. Since our coffee chat, S&P has seen some amazing traction with its debut on The Today Show, as well as features in Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, Refinery29 and many more.

Having started from ground zero and building the company into what it is today, Betsy is sharing her best start-up advice for early-stage companies that are ready to embark on their journey.

1.) What inspired the creation of Sword & Plough? What are the ethics and values behind your company?

My sister, Emily, and I grew up in a military family. After hearing so many meaningful stories from our father, uncle, and cousin about their time in the service, Emily was inspired to serve herself. She was particularly inspired by the humanitarian missions that our dad was deployed on and the counterinsurgency research he conducted that was put into action. She knew she wanted to serve in the military, and we both knew at a young age that we wanted to make a positive impact in the world, just as our family members had.

Betsy-Emily

As a result of Emily’s time in Army ROTC during college and growing up in a military family, she was keenly aware of the incredible amount of military surplus waste, as well as the state of veteran unemployment. This inspired her to take something that is often wasted and upcycle it into a beautiful product with a powerful mission.

The result is our company Sword & Plough.

Today, our team re-purposes military surplus materials into stylish bags that are made by American manufacturers that are veteran owned or operated. We also donate 10 percent of the profits to veteran organizations that align with our mission to strengthen civil-military understanding, empower veteran employment, and reduce waste.

We are a quadruple bottom line fashion and accessories business focused on people, our purpose, care for the planet, and profitability (a key component that allows us to further our impact). Our team has built our business model to reflect a life cycle and we’ve worked hard to shape the brand’s ethos with impact at every stage. To date, Sword & Plough has up-cycled over 15,000+ pounds of military surplus, supported 38 veteran jobs, and sold over 5,000 products. twitter-bird-light-bgs1

2.) What was the most difficult part of setting up your supply chain? What hurdles did you have to get over in the process?sword-plough

The most challenging part of setting up our supply chain was learning everything from scratch, setting it up, and ‘putting out fires’ or problem solving as issues arose. We knew from the beginning we wanted to do our manufacturing in the U.S. and work with U.S. partners and suppliers, but no one on our team had specific knowledge or experience with manufacturing or creating a supply chain. Building our long term supply chain for large scale S&P production happened after launching on Kickstarter, all while the majority of our team was located in different time zones — Emily, our CEO, was deployed and serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan at that time.

First hand experience taught us that relying on so many different pieces (manufacturing, shipping, expenses, other people and even the environment) can create surprises or ‘speed bumps.’ What you thought was going to take one month to implement can quickly extend to two or even three months!

These ‘speed bumps’ were the sort of setbacks that if not corrected the second time around, can quickly crush an early stage business, or best (of the worst) case scenario, lead to unhappy customers.

We worked hard to absorb as much information as possible and then make adjustments and implement new strategies as we moved forward.

supply-chain-sword-plough

Here are a few key things we learned:

  • Find sources that are a match for large scale production regardless of the stage you are at.
  • Find sources or partners that carry items that are consistently re-stocked or are regularly available in large quantities.
  • Ensure that the companies you are working with are in good financial standing and will be a long term partner.
  • Ask the supplier or partner to fill out a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility survey) or ask them questions to ensure their processes meet your values.
  • Do test runs for time, cost, etc.
  • Get quotes, samples, shipping timelines, lead times, and cost in writing prior to purchasing.
  • Find an effective and diligent way of communicating with your manufacturer (Whether it be planned calls, weekly/daily visits, having them regularly update a master spreadsheet with production progress).
  • Find mentors specifically skilled and experienced in retail distribution, operations, logistics, and supply chain.

Manufacturing within the U.S., communicating with all parties in the same language, as well as being located in the same country has helped us do all of the above, act or react in a very timely manner, and has allowed us to feel a lot more comfortable with our processes once we were set up.

manufacturing-sword-plough

3.) What mistakes or challenges have you learned from while setting up and running Sword & Plough?

We knew there would be a lot of challenges and new roles, facets, and foundations that were going to be essential to fulfilling our dream of turning S&P into a well functioning business.

When building a startup, you haven’t learned how to do everything yet and you’re likely going to be very limited with resources and working capital. A lot of the advice and help we received early on is still priceless today.

We’ve never been afraid to ask for help or to ask the questions that will help us problem solve or plan our vision further. It wasn’t easy (early on) to be focused on an idea that hadn’t gained momentum yet, or something that people weren’t aware of or didn’t understand. We’ve learned through early challenges that nothing worth doing comes easy and there’s a lot to learn when you’re building something from scratch. It’s your ability to work when work isn’t easy that makes the difference.

The best part about our business life is the uniqueness and pride that comes with seeing our idea through and gaining momentum. Each and every day, regardless of the challenges that present themselves, we feel like we’ve won the lottery because our team gets to build something that is our owntwitter-bird-light-bgs1, through our vision and share it with the world.

Sword-and-Plough-Repurposed-Bags4.) What is your main marketing strategy? You’ve also gotten some great press – how did those opportunities come about?

Our main marketing strategy is to build engaged groups through word of mouth, social media, press, and email marketing. A lot of the opportunities and features that we have received to date have come from a very strong launch when we entered the market on Kickstarter in April 2013.

Here are  three things that we found helpful to think about when launching our brand and getting the word out:

1. Define your goal and create your pre-launch, launch and post-launch plan. Define your vision for your audience, brand, community, and story. Be as detailed as you can and think about what you need in terms of funding and your goals for marketing, branding, production and customer experience.

2. Activate and engage your network. Make an early, large, public and online announcement to your commitment to build your product or launch. From that point on, commit to building as much awareness as possible around your product, campaign, or launch.

3. Ensure a wide audience for your campaign (to expand even beyond your network):

  • Share your product or idea with as many friends, family and acquaintances as possible.
  • Organize feedback sessions and ask for their advice, opinion and real time feedback. Collect as much information as possible and listen.
  • After you’ve connected with someone in your target market, ask if there’s anyone they think you should meet or speak with who could provide additional support, and don’t be shy about asking for a direct introduction.
  • As you’re having the conversations, give people the opportunity to sign up for launch alerts or updates.
  • Create engaging content and tell every aspect of your story.
  • Develop brand evangelists who will talk about your product and story.
  • Create and build your brand’s resources (social media platforms, media packet, press release, business cards, pitch postcards, text lists, email lists, photography and campaign videos).
  • Build a media list of bloggers and publications that have synergy with your idea, mission and product. Keep in mind that many of the bloggers you reach out to are getting hundreds of emails each day. You need to make your story stand out, and the easiest way to do that is often with a direct introduction.
  • Create new contacts outside of your own network by attending meet-ups, events, presentations, pitch competitions, events in the industry you’re looking to enter, and be an active member of communities that have synergy with your mission
  • We highly encourage you to reach out to your already existing network — your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network and ask for support, in the form of help or pledges, but perhaps more importantly, contacts.

sword-plough-2

5.) What advice do you have for designer entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

If we could pass along advice, our top ten would be…

1. Take your ideas seriously from the start. Every idea is worth serious consideration (at least a five minute brainstorm), no matter how absurd or impossible it may seem at first. Believe in the power of an idea. Test your idea continuously and ask questions. Push yourself to drive the idea from concept into reality.

2. Ask for feedback every step of the way.

3. Dream up the biggest vision possible, start wherever you are and start small. twitter-bird-light-bgs1

4. Nothing is impossible or out of reach for people that continuously try and go after what they want.

5. Push through the challenges and overcome any sized obstacles by gathering information, seeking help and broadening your perspective.

6. Find mentors that are successful and experienced within your industry.

7. Constantly developing relationships is essential for business growth.

8. Build your own community or seek out the ones that will either be very supportive and the most critical of your idea. Both will make you better.

9. Seek out opportunities. They are fuel for gaining momentum, and opening the door for communication between your business and audience is key.

10. Always thank people and express gratitude.

Photos courtesy of Sword & Plough, So Freaking Cool, Druammons, Made Close, Go Verb & Super Compressor.


Market45

6 New Innovative Fabrics for Sustainable Fashion

In 2014, I attended a textiles expo in New York City. The 18th floor of Hotel Pennsylvania was host to dozens of fabric suppliers, as well as a series of seminars for designer entrepreneurs.

I went to network with suppliers and potential Factory45’ers and get an insider’s view of the “non” sustainable fashion world (it looks a lot different).

While there was a limited number of vendors selling organic cotton or recycled fabrics, I did attend a seminar that explored the future of textiles. Below is a nod to the newest wave of innovation coming out of the textile industry with a focus on sustainability:

1.) CRAiLAR is a flax fiber that drastically reduces chemical and water usage. It was named a 100% BioPreferred product by the USDA in April 2012. In fabric form, it looks and feels almost identical to cotton.

qmilch

2.) Qmilch is a 100% natural and renewable fiber derived from a protein in sour milk. (Yes, like the milk in your fridge.) The result is a fabric similar to silk, but less expensive, while being durable enough to withstand wash and care. Qmilch is naturally antibacterial and can regulate temperature, making it ideal for sports and activewear.

qmilch

3.) “Recyclon” is a recycled nylon from Unifi’s Repreve that uses pre-consumer and post-industrial nylon waste. While the makeup of the blend is not 100% recycled, the innovation has been widely celebrated by those who have been wanting a recycled nylon option since recycled polyester became available years ago.

repreve

4.) S.Cafe is a new fiber coming out of Taiwan that uses recycled coffee grinds. Big names like North Face, Puma and Timberland are already using it, while coffee sellers like Starbucks and 7-11 are said to be some of the suppliers. Apparently coffee grinds have natural odor-masking properties without making the entire garment smell like your morning brew. It’s said that coffee grinds require less energy in the fiber-making process, making it an “earth-friendly” alternative to traditional fabrics.

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5.) EcoCircle Plant Fiber is a plant-based PET (polyester). The new fiber contains 30% sugarcane, which replaces 30% of the oil needed for traditional polyester. Teijin, the company behind the fiber, said it will have a closed-loop recycling system at the end of the fabric’s life. Nissan is one of the first companies to use the fabric for the car upholstery in the 2014 Nissan Leaf electric car.

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6.) Evrnu is an innovative new technology that recycles cotton garment waste to create a premium, renewable fiber. More than 12 million tons of garment waste is disposed of every year in the U.S. alone. Evrnu emerged from a new way of thinking about the apparel and textile industry, by textile specialists who love fashion. The Evrnu team is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to bring the technology to a larger scale.

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Photos courtesy of Ecouterre, Napo Images, A Complete Waste of MakeupHack College, Green Building Advisor and Evrnu.


 

Sew Shop Talk: Introducing Southwest Creations

“We believe when a woman is given an opportunity to earn income, she will invest in her children first – a strategy shared by organizations around the world. We also understand that women from low-income communities face major barriers to economic success for themselves and their children.”

This is the philosophy behind Southwest Creations, a cut and sew facility in Albuquerque, NM that proves a sustainable business can be driven by a social vision. I spoke with executive director Susan Matteucci on the phone a few weeks ago about how Southwest Creations was started, how it has grown and where the opportunities lie in U.S. manufacturing.

Susan was also gracious enough to offer her own advice to designers looking for a domestic production partner. Read her interview below:

F45: Tell us about Southwest Creations. How did you get started? How long have you been in business? What was the catalyst for opening a manufacturing facility?

Southwest Creations is a women-driven factory that provides contract cut-and-sew handwork and kitting production services. Our clients range from West Elm to a dog collar company for sewing, and multinational to local businesses for kitting and assembly.

Southwest Creations was founded in 1994 and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary.

We operate a successful social enterprise that was founded to create economic opportunities across generations.

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F45: What advice do you have for new designers who are looking for a sewing contractor in the U.S.?

  • Know your product inside and out – know all of your suppliers, components, materials, etc.
  • Have your pre-production samples and patterns 100% to your satisfaction before going to a production contractor.
  • The designer should be the expert on his/her product. twitter-bird-light-bgs1
  • As a production contractor, our minimums are 250 per style and that can include three colors and sizes.

F45: What are some of the things that a designer should look for and ask about when reaching out to a sewing contractor?  

I would ask for references from companies that are similar. I would make sure the company is large enough to handle the agreed upon deadline. I would ask for production samples. It’s best to be within a days drive so you can see the facility and get to know the staff.

F45: What are the red flags or things a designer shouldn’t do or say when looking for a production partner?

  • “I have a dress I want you to copy for me.”
  • “I don’t know where to get my material.”
  • “Can you make five?”
  • Asking for a price for something over the phone that the production partner has never seen.

F45: What sets Southwest Creations apart?

We have an excellent reputation and receive highest ratings for quality, communication, customer service and delivery with competitive pricing. The icing on the cake is that we provide many opportunities for our employees from onsite daycare for $.25/hour to a path to education program for employees’ kids, plus an additional 300 families in our community. By working with us, you get more than just great service, you are part of a movement to alleviate poverty.

For more information on Southwest Creations, you can visit the website here.

Photos courtesy of Southwest Creations and The Albuquerque Journal.

Sew Shop Talk: Introducing the Carolina Textile District

This weekend I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit designers, sewers, project managers, and other industry professionals I’ve only before had a chance to speak with by phone or email.
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It never fails to amaze me how much goes into making our clothes, and I’m always grateful to get an inside look at the process. After a weekend exploring downtown Asheville, I started Monday morning bright and early in Burnsville, NC to meet designer Kristin Alexandra Tidwell of Be Well Designed.

Three Factory45’ers are working with Kristin on concept designs, samples and patterns, so it was a long overdue treat to meet in her studio. Kristin has an extensive background in design, patterning and samplemaking, and it was awesome to see where all of the magic happens.

carolina-3 copyFrom Burnsville, I headed to Morganton to visit Opportunity Threads, a worker-owned cut and sew facility that has been able to successfully change the traditional business model to one that is as empowering for the sewers as it is for the project managers.
carolina-4 copyMolly Hemstreet, who oversees Opportunity Threads, has been an amazing resource and connection for me throughout the past year, and it already felt like I knew her when I walked inside. She gave me a tour of the facility, shared their plans for expansion, and showed me some of the products they’re working on. OT has been able to steadily grow since they opened their doors in 2008 and are nearly busting at the seams six years later.
carolina-5 copyThere is a prominent Mayan population in Morganton and several of the skilled sewers have come into OT with factory experience from Guatemala. Through the Opportunity Threads model, they have autonomy to track their own output and have a direct stake in profit and losses. From an outsider’s perspective, this balance of independence, leadership and collaboration was something I hadn’t seen in similar facilities before and it was incredibly refreshing.
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Both Be Well Designed and Opportunity Threads are members of the Carolina Textile District, a network of textile manufacturers, sewers, printers and professionals that help entrepreneurs start made in the USA businesses when they’re ready to go into production. I was able to also meet with Tanya Wade and Dan St. Louis who are two of the key players in making The District a long-term solution.

At the Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover, NC, Tanya gave me a tour of the facility where they test everything from furniture to fibers to baby products, and house two 3-D printers. MSC is a non-profit that also serves as an incubator to product-based entrepreneurs in both the textile and tech spaces.
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Both Tanya and Dan are collaborating with community leaders in NC, like Kristin and Molly, to “reshore” jobs back to the States and further grow the Made in the USA movement. They are the incredibly hardworking people behind the scenes, moving forward everyday to bring jobs back home.

So where does Factory45 fit into all of this? Based on conversations with Molly and Tanya, The District gets 5-8 emails a week from entrepreneurs looking for fabric suppliers and production partners. About 30-50 percent of those inquiries are from people who do not yet have a solid business plan, marketing strategy or brand vision.

If you’ve ever wondered, “Does a manufacturer really care if I have my marketing plan together?” the answer is is a resounding “YES.” Every project they take on is a personal investment, and The District does not take on entrepreneurs who do not have an initial business strategy in place.

With Factory45, I’m offering a solution for entrepreneurs to become “production-ready,” preparing them to work with resources like The District.

To learn more about the incredible people working in the Carolina Textile District, you can check out Be Well Designed, Opportunity Threads, Manufacturing Solutions Center & The District.