For the last few months, I’ve been doing a little bit of interning with an international organization called Slow Food. I’m working at our local chapter in Denver as an intern assisting with their large festival called Slow Food Nations. Slow Food’s mission focuses on three things:
*Good - nutritious food, joyful connections, diversity in ecosystems and societies
*Clean - protecting natural resources, helping people and the environment depend on each other, and promoting food that is local, seasonal, and sustainable grown
*Fair - building local and global collaboration while respecting laws, requiring no prerequisites or credentials for participation, fighting for dignity of labor from field to fork
It’s simple focus rings true for me in so many areas of my life, including WorkWear Community. I’m inspired by their mission and passion to change things for the better, reminding people that our choices about food matter.
This notion of responsible food choices has become mainstream, as it should. From books to documentaries to the resurgence of young people going into farming, good food is a major topic in today’s society. I think fashion is right behind it. Patagonia has been focusing on sustainable fabrics and manufacturing for years, and this groundbreaking company leads the industry in innovation. More and more people are becoming concerned about where and how their clothes are made. The media is opening consumers’ eyes to the negative impact of fast fashion, factory working conditions, cotton’s high water needs, and the waste and greenhouse gas emissions of synthetic fabric production. That’s a lot to process.
Slow Food’s mission of good, clean, and fair and so many other missions out there that focus on positive, intentional choices are easier said than done. WorkWear has just started embarking on that journey, and I can say that it’s full of tough choices. I know that I’m not the only business owner who confronts this thought every day: How do I stay true to my beliefs while ensuring my company’s success?
Here are a few things that we’re pondering:
-In an ideal world, WorkWear is always Made in America.
-Our first choice would always be to source fabrics and trims that are sustainable and have the least impact on the environment.
-You shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage on your home to buy a pair of our pants (or anything else we make)
How do these three things fit together? I’m mostly concerned about price. You know what they say, price often reflects quality. I so believe that to be true. There’s a reason why “Made in America” costs more. There’s a reason why “handmade” costs more. There’s a reason why sustainable, organic, etc cost more. When you add all of those inputs together, your end cost and therefore your retail price costs more than your fast fashion t-shirt you got from H&M.
So, what do we do? Do we focus on Made in America first? Well, that would reduce our carbon footprint in regards to shipping. That also stimulates the US economy. Aaaannnddd it helps promote and teach the skilled jobs of patternmaking and sewing, one of the very things that we’re striving to achieve at WorkWear Community. But then what about the fabrics? Cotton, hemp, synthetics? Which is best? Where do we get them from? What’s the impact of each of those fabrics on the environment and society? So, which comes first? Made in America? Or sustainable fabric choices? Can we do both? Can we do parts of both? Then what about the cost to the consumer? Will prices be too high? So, what should be our first priority?!?!?!?!?!?! SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.
I share all of this with the community, because at WorkWear we believe in transparency. We also believe that our choices have a great effect on the environment and society. But we’re all only one person, and we know that one person can’t be everything and do everything. We’re only getting started, and the decisions are only slowly rolling in. We’ll do our best and take time when making important decisions. I’m positive that we’ll make mistakes, but I promise that we’ll learn from them. We’ve got a lot to think about, and it won’t be without intention. Here’s to the journey of tough choices. Let the adventure being!