1. Who Made My Clothes?
Fashion Revolution is a non-profit organization dedicated to achieving greater transparency, sustainability, and ethics in the fashion industry in the hopes of radically changing the way clothes are made. They challenge everyone to ask "who made my clothes" and demand that brands answer.
2. How Are My Clothes Made?
Look inside the garment to find out where and from what your clothes are made. Companies are required to list the fabric composition and the country of origin somewhere on the garment. Natural cotton is better than petroleum-based polyester, and organic cotton is better than conventional cotton, especially GOTS-certified organic cotton, which ensures fair labor practices in addition to sustainable farming and production.
3. Why does this cost what it costs?
Does your lunch cost more than a shirt you're considering? Time to think about how that's possible. If a company has $12 to pay for materials to make it, people to sew it, transportation to ship it, and stores and more people to sell it, not to mention profit to make from it, there's not much to go around. Be aware of what it costs to make something for you and make sure you feel good about what the people who are making it are getting in return.
4. Is this a conscientious company?
Do your research about your favorite brands. Are they clear about their values, design philosophy, and manufacturing practices? Do they share where they make their clothes (not just countries, but factories too!), what they make their clothes from, and why they make their clothes? Clothes are among the most visible manifestations of our values; make sure the clothing companies you support share them.
5. Do I want this or do I need this?
Both are ok, but its important to ask the question and adopt sustainable shopping practices in addition to supporting sustainbly-minded brands. Americans throw away over 68 pounds of clothing every single year, driven by fast fashion and disposable clothing. Clothing should last for years, not days, whether its in your closet or someone else's. Think about the "one in one out" rule - when you buy something new, donate something old through Give Back Box or any other recycling/upcycling method (stay tuned for a future post about different options)!
Thanks to Sophie Benson and The Good Trade for inspiring this post!
We're celebrating Mother Earth and Earth Day with a few fun activities - we hope you'll join us!
Happy Earth Day!
Here at Olen Organic we're all about clean and modern design. Our resident artist creates our exclusive prints and patterns using mid-century and Scandinavian inspiration, as well as his own artistic style. We use a neutral, soothing color palette perfect for babies, as well as their stylish parents. And the best thing about our prints and color palette? They pair beautifully with the timeless classics you probably already have in your little one's closet. We've pulled together four simple and adorable looks to inspire your own mixing + matching. Send us photos of your favorite looks, or tag us on instagram using #olenootd!
RAINY DAY SNUGGLES
photo c/o @citrinebeautyaz
Oscar nominations were announced yesterday morning. The Golden Globes were last Sunday. The Screen Actors Guild Awards are the last Saturday of the month. February brings The Directors Guild Awards, the Writers Guild Awards, and the mother of all guild awards: the Academy Awards. That's a lot of red carpets. A lot of gorgeous dresses and dapper tuxes. A lot of talk about "who are you wearing" and "let's see your shoes" and "how did you decide on your dress?" A lot of: Dior. Givenchy. Tom Ford. Valentino. Marchesa. Brian Atwood. Louboutain. We tried 20 options. This was custom made for me by Mr. Armani. I went with my first choice. I picked what was comfortable. All commendable, inspired, swoon-worthy choices and answers.
But some actors and celebrities are using the red carpet to be green. Founded by Livia Firth (Yes, Colin's wife. We love her anywa.y), Eco-Age (a "brand consultancy that helps businesses grow by creating, implementing and communicating bespoke sustainability solutions) has created the "Green Carpet Challenge." The "Green Carpet Challenge" pairs glamour and ethics to raise the profile of sustainability. They work with celebrities and design houses to create ethical, eco-friendly outfits, thus "catapulting sustainable style into the spotlight at the world' most high profile events."
Just last Sunday, at the Golden Globes, Michael Fassbender wore a gorgeous Tom Ford tuxedo made from a low environmental impact, European certified, spun wool called Oeko-Tex. Lauded stars and tastemakers like Emma Watson, Cate Blanchett, Anna Wintour, Nicole Kidman, Bradley Cooper, and of course Colin Firth have all worn Green Carpet Challenge designs on the red carpet, looking fab and raising awareness all at the same time.
We're fashion nerds and can't wait to see what people wear during the glamorous "awards seaon" over the next couple weeks. But more importantly, we can't wait to see who goes green on the red carpet.
The Olen Fam
We make all of our organic baby clothing in Los Angeles, and we're happy and proud about that. We manufacture in LA so that we can be close to our makers and form optimal relationships with them, so we can make an impact in our community, and so we can minimize our small business's carbon footprint. However, we are not opposed to manufacturing overseas someday; indeed, it would allow us to expand our practice of mindful manufacturing while celebrating and utilizing the expertise and talent of the global textile industry.
Most clothing is made overseas, primarily in China and India. Unfortunately, both now have reputations for being the source of cheaply-made goods, but actually have incredibly rich histories of fabric and clothing innovation and quality, especially India. In fact, Indian communities and artisans could and should be considered the creators of modern-day fabric art and industry.
Thousands of years ago, people in various regions of India began inventing ways to make and decorate cloth. Historically, fabric is made from natural fibers found in natural places in the world, like the chest of a goat (pashmina), the inside of a seed (cotton), or the unraveling of a cocoon (silk). Indians began cultivating these fibers, especially cotton, for fabric consumption at home and for global trade almost 10,000 years ago. Today India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh "grow enough cotton annually to provide every person on the planet with almost two pounds each" (Victoria and Albert Museum, Fabric of India Exhibit).
Video: Growing Cotton
After growing their crops or raising their animals, fabric makers need to turn the collected fibers into yarn. They do this by spinning the fibers into yarn, or in the case of silk, unwinding the cocoons into long, shimmering strands. Once they have their yarn, they weave it on looms, lacing threads of yarn together in a durable pattern that creates cloth. Gujarat, India was the main center of weaving technology for more than 500 years, and Gujarati weavers traveled and spread their techniques throughout India, and then, through global empire and trade, the world.
Once they've made the cloth, Indian textile artisans decorate it sublimely. Decoration techniques evolved based on region and include tie-dying, block-printing, jacquard weaving, and embroidery. Indians pioneered the discovery and use of natural plant-based dyes in brilliant blues, yellows, and reds. The Greeks were so taken with the blue color of the cloth they traded for from India that they named the color "indigo" - from India. Fabrics can be dipped entirely in dyes, but more commonly complex and beautiful patterns are created using natural dyes "drawn" onto the fabric. To dye an indigo pattern onto a cloth, lines are drawn in resist paste and the fabric is then dipped in dye, with the indigo taking to the fabric where there isn't any resist paste. Conversely, red dyes only stick to fabric if it has been treated with mordant, a binding agent. When the fabric is dipped in dye, the red will only stick to the fabric where the mordant is. By utilizing thes techniques, along with draping and twisting the fabric before dying it, gorgeous patterns are created.
Video: Indian Indigo Dyeing
Another key decorative technique still popular today is block printing. A hand-held block is made by hand sanding wood, tracing a grid onto it, transferring a pattern or image into the grid and then chiseling out the pattern or image. This block is then repeatedly dipped in dye and pressed all over the fabric in the desired pattern. Hope and Lily Stockman are two sisters who co-founded an accessories company celebrating and promoting this tradition in India. Please visit Block Shop Textiles to view the work of the Indian artisans they collaborate with and learn more about the process.
We are most inspired by dyeing and block printing in our work at Olen (although our amazing artist paints patterns by hand and then digitally edits them), but jacquard weaving and embroidery are two other Incredibly luxurious and beautiful decorative techniques. They utilize creating pattern out of either the weaving of the cloth itself (jacquard) or applying additional yarn or thread to the cloth (embroidery). We have both worked with Indian jacquard and embroidery artisans in our past and will perhaps do so again in Olen's future.
For additional information and images about the history and traditions of the Indian textile industry, please visit the Victoria and Albert Museum online (or in London!). They are the foremost authorities on textile and fashion history and continually inspire us. We look forward to sharing more in future blog posts.
The Olen Fam
Stuff isn't always bad. Sure, we're not advocating for a lot of stuff (hence our motto: more knowledge and less stuff), but we don't live in museums. We need stuff. We want stuff. We also sell stuff.
So, in the wise words of Seinfeld, what's the deal with stuff? Why do we need, want, and sell it? Within the past decade or so, psychology researches have stated studying the correlation between happiness and purchasing, between satisfaction and stuff. In 2003, some of the earliest and most influential research was done by Leaf van Boven and Tom Gilovich, who established the difference on our happiness between buying stuff and buying experiences. Their study and much of the research that followed argued that for maximum happiness, buy experiences not stuff.
However, as the field grows, additional research has complicated that advice. For example, if you're what Gilovich calls a "connoisseur," buying stuff like baseball cards, or exotic bottle of wine, or shoes, might make you really really happy. This stuff falls into the category that researchers call "experiential products." The experience of buying the product generates happiness.
All that research lands heavily on the side of experience vs stuff BUT more recently, studies into momentary happiness vs the happiness afterglow, have complicated things further. Aaron C. Weidman and Elizabeth W. Dunn, two social scientists in Canada, performed a series of experiments studying whether stuff might bring more frequent happiness, while experiences may bring you more intense nostalgic happiness. Their findings proved their hypothesis: material things bring happiness more frequently than experiences.
So happiness is complex, and money is complex, and happiness as it relates to money is complex. What's clear though is stuff can make you happy frequently, while doing stuff can make you happier longer. Our advice? Stuff both into your lives and be as happy as can be.
The Olen Fam
Last week, 195 countries reached a milestone achievement in diplomacy and sustainability by approving a landmark deal on climate change. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and guarantee global warming does not exceed 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
Part of Olen's mission is to practice more mindful manufacturing and to create a more sustainable product lifecycle to help lessen the impact of the fashion industry on our environment and world. As research has begun to show, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world. Huge amounts of water are required to manufacture clothing, and much of the world's water pollution is caused by dyeing and treating fabric. Overall, the industry uses vast quantities of the world's resources, creates enormous amounts of waste, and is saturated with chemicals. We are trying to educate ourselves, and our community, about these issues and build a company that contributes solutions.
We were obviously very interested in the outcome of the Paris climate talks and what it may mean for the fashion industry. We really enjoyed Kate Abnett's thoughtful piece in The Business of Fashion (a website and newsletter we highly recommend) and thought we'd share it here. Let us know what you think in the comments!
The Olen Fam
LONDON, United Kingdom — On Saturday in Paris, the gavel came down on two weeks of fraught talks, resulting in a landmark agreement between representatives of 195 countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
The deal, which comes into effect in 2020, aims to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, with an additional aim to cap this at 1.5 degrees C. A temperature rise of 2 degrees C could could result in catastrophic environmental changes, such as extreme weather, accelerated melting of the polar ice caps and dangerous rises in sea levels.
As the first universal agreement on climate change, the Paris deal sends an important signal that all countries — including developing nations like China and India — are committed to a low-carbon future. The private sector, too, has a part to play — and supporters of the agreement are optimistic that it could encourage business leaders to turn away from fossil fuels and invest in renewables with confidence.
But what does the agreement mean for the fashion and luxury industries?
“This agreement marks a transformative moment on the journey towards a low-carbon economy, providing the certainty and confidence businesses need to continue to pursue positive climate action,” says Hannah Jones, chief sustainability officer at Nike.
Pierre Börjesson, sustainability business expert on climate at H&M concurs that the deal is a step towards a “safe environment with continued growth and increased quality of life for more people around the world.”
Before the agreement was announced, Eric Liedtke, who is responsible for global brands at Adidas, wrote to BoF: “World leaders forging an agreement is wonderful, but we shouldn’t need to be told to do the right thing. The industry can't afford to wait for directions any longer.”
Ramping up policies
That said, the Paris accord was more ambitious than many predicted — in particular, the additional aim to cut global warming to 1.5 degrees C. Will this spur companies to ramp up their existing environmental policies?
“We plan to align the next phase of our targets and actions to ensure that we can contribute to a 1.5 degrees world,” says Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs at Kering, which will report on its 2016 sustainability targets in the spring.
In 2012, Levi Strauss & Co. committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. By 2014, the company had already done so by 20 percent. “That, along with this agreement, are driving the need to set more ambitious targets,” says Anna Walker, senior director of government affairs and public policy at Levi’s, which will update its climate strategy and targets in 2016.
Where to begin?
Some sections of fashion companies’ supply chains present greater risks to the environment than others. “The impact of the raw materials stage is the most significant,” says Elisa Niemtzow, consumer sectors director at non-profit consultancy Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). “There are opportunities there to work with suppliers to improve practices and to ensure small producers are more protected and resilient in the face of climate change.”
Indeed, raw materials like cotton and cashmere require huge amounts of electricity and water to produce, and are sourced in parts of the developing world that are particularly vulnerable to the early effects of climate change, such as increased flooding and droughts. Traceability in supply chains can also give companies a clearer view of the knock-on effects of their operations — for example, the production of rayon and viscose has been linked to deforestation.
Another high-impact part of the industry is in transport and logistics, where businesses can partner with their transport providers on route optimisation and choose eco-friendly fuels to reduce the impact of moving product around the world.
“Approximately 25 percent of the energy footprint is coming from the customer, after we’ve sold them the product,” adds Pierre Börjesson of H&M, citing tumble dryers and dry cleaning as key culprits. “We need to help and inspire customers to minimise their energy usage when they are caring for our products,” he says.
Cost of the climate
But transitioning to a low-carbon future requires investment. Can fashion companies cut carbon and keep up business growth?
“They have to make investments no matter what, so making investments in a way that’s much more sustainable for them in the long-term is just a much smarter way of thinking,” argues Emily Farnworth, campaign director of RE100, a programme set up by non-profit The Climate Group, to sign up companies to commit to using 100 percent renewable power. RE100 participants include Google, H&M, Nike, and Yoox Group. With renewable technologies “dramatically” dropping in price, “it’s often good business sense anyway,” she says.
According to Anna Walker of Levi’s, governments can help companies follow a low-carbon path. “We’ve found that where governments have incentivised and focussed on growing the renewables in their own countries, we’re able to do more, faster, to reduce our own emissions and make those investments in renewable energy as well,” she says.
However, concerns remain around the real costs that these investments will mean for businesses — and the extent to which governments will make the private sector accountable for its impact on the planet. There are no legal mechanisms currently holding companies to their sustainability goals — though that could change, as countries that are bound by the Paris agreement (which is, overall, legally binding) draw up plans to radically reduce their nation’s emissions.
For the moment, civil society provides a “check and balance” for companies, says Elisa Niemtzow.“It’s consumers who we see are increasingly seeking out that information,” she says.
Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, concurs that companies must back up their storytelling with substance — or risk losing consumer trust. “Social media is making the houses we live in increasingly transparent. Paying lip service to issues like the environment and workers rights will be more and more difficult to get away with,” he says.
Some businesses are also partnering with cross-industry organisations and NGOs, which hold them accountable to targets. Kering and Tiffany have both committed to net zero emissions by 2050 through The B Team, a not-for-profit comprised of business leaders across different industries.
A global effort
As part of the Paris agreement, countries committed to raise $100 billion a year by 2020, to help developing nations mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change. Do fashion’s large, powerful firms also have a responsibility to share resources and help smaller businesses fight climate change?
“As one of the biggest fashion retailers, we have a huge responsibility to motivate parts of the value chain where other companies are influenced,” says Pierre Börjesson of H&M, who points out that this responsibility begins in its own supply chain, which is made up of smaller sourcing and production companies, many of which are based in the developing world.
“Just by virtue of companies being in these parts of the world and demanding renewables is giving confidence to investors,” says Emily Farnworth of RE100. By investing in clean technologies at scale, companies can also help make these technologies more affordable. “[Companies] have a really positive role to play in enabling this investment to flow through them.”
Pierre Börjesson adds that fashion brands can speed up tech advances that the whole industry can benefit from. H&M runs a textiles collection programme, which encourages customers to drop off old clothes in store, which the company then recycles. “The whole industry will gain from having more [textiles] returned, so we can get more leverage in the recycling industry, helping recyclists find ways of recycling more fibres,” he says.
However, industry-wide change requires companies to work together.
“The groundwork has been laid,” says Elisa of BSR, who points to groups like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Better Cotton Initiative, in which fashion brands work together towards shared goals. “I think companies are getting out of the more traditional mind-set of secrecy — especially for luxury brands, that’s been the standard. They understand that to tackle a lot of the challenges, particularly when it comes to procuring commodities, you need to partner.”
“You need to have collaboration across borders — politicians, civil society, regions,” says Börjesson of H&M. Of the Paris deal, he says, “Getting this global agreement and a handshake all over the world will help us drive this change through the whole value chain: everything from the cotton farmers, to the customers that are wearing our products.”
For the fashion and luxury industries — whose supply chains rely on parts of the world that are already suffering the effects of climate change — the time to act is now. “We will have to become disruptive and find new ways of doing business. It is an exciting time,” says Marie-Claire Daveu of Kering. “The world will be watching how we all react.”
Fast fashion is like fast food. Goes down great and then doesn't feel so hot.
First, a little anecdote from Elizabeth Cline's eye-opening book, Overdressed: "A few years ago a mass discount retailer ran a commerical featuring a fashion student named Lindsay [Ed. Note: not me], who chirps, 'I never wear the same thing twice!' This retailer would like us to believe cash-strapped college students should buy a new piece of clothing for every single day of the year."
A few years later, this same retailer started referencing their customers as "maxxanistas," equating "fashonista" with shopping for cheap, trendy clothes. Just as a hamburger was once a special treat to be enjoyed at a local diner and is now a commodified staple, each piece of clothing in someone's wardrobe used to be well-preserved for a specific purpose and is now tossed onto an ever-growing pile of stuff.
We are now a country in which people buy 20 billion garments per year. Fast fashion (which essentially means clothes that are made quickly, delivered to stores even faster, and sold for super low prices, all meant to encourage increased sales) has grown exponentially in the last five years. As companies like Zara and H&M have proliferated, other companies have had to change to keep up. In our time in the industry, we've gone from delivering product once per quarter to once per week and have lowered prices to encourage customers to buy more pieces. 25 years ago people bought an average of 34 items a year; that's since doubled. Clothing that cost $100 in 1993 costs $59 today. The only other thing that's gotten cheaper is oil, and well, that's a post for another day.
We've conservatively estimated that the two of us have had a hand in making over 50 million pieces of clothes in our career. 50 million! We've also each seen the prices for our goods decrease every season both in what we pay to make them and what our customers pay us for them. (And this is not because we've discovered a magically less expensive formula to make clothes.) We have a long way to go to make up for that but we're trying.
Here are some of the ways that we've set up Olen to be different:
1. Babies don't need fast fashion. They need great, well-made, safe basics.
2. You won't find us delivering new styles on a weekly basis. We believe in designing beautiful prints that double as wearable art and issuing them on a seasonal basis.
3. We need to finish the product lifecycle. When you're done with one of our pieces, send it on to a new home. If it's worn out its welcome, recycle it.
So this holiday season, let's slow down. Buy, but buy thoughtfully. Share. Donate. Do things differently.
The Olen Fam
More Knowledge (and sources):