Trials of Sustainability
As the idea for WorkWear started to form in my mind, I knew it was important to make my decisions with the future of our earth in mind. As the months progressed and our clothing line started to take shape, that idea of being a sustainable brand snowballed into an all-consuming goal. I was hoping I could make every aspect of our business as “green” as possible: No conventional cotton (only recycled or organic). Hemp has to be a part of our collection. If any polyester was to be used, it had to be recycled including thread for production sewing. Manufacturing had to be as close to home as possible to help reduce our carbon footprint. We had to integrate the use of new fiber technologies that come from natural materials. The production of our textiles, clothing, and dying processes have to be done in closed loop systems. The list went (and still goes) on and on. While it’s a noble goal to try and meet all of these standards, I’ve realized for a small startup brand that it’s a bit of a tall order to fill.
We have three really big road blocks on the path to sustainability:
- MOQs – also known as Minimum Order Quantity, this is the minimum number of yards or units that we are allowed to order with a supplier. Each supplier sets their own MOQs. Most fabric suppliers have an MOQ of 3,000 yards per color of fabric ordered. And some suppliers, when dealing with organic cottons, have MOQs of 12,000 yards per order… 12,000 yards of fabric could make over 4,000 pairs of our pants. Yeah. That’s a lot of fabric. MOQs also play a role in cut and sew production. Many factories require you to order 500-1,000 units of EACH item you want to produce with them. I have no idea what 8,000 pieces of clothing would look like when shipped to my driveway, but I really don’t want to find out.
- Price – Saving our earth is going to take a lot of money. It’s no secret to any of us, but organic, sustainable, recycled, eco-friendly, Made in the USA, pretty much always costs more. So, if it costs more for us to make, then it costs more for you to buy. At what price do consumers stop caring if it’s better for the earth?
- No response – This hurdle is really more annoying than anything. As a small startup brand, most businesses do not want to waste their time talking to you. They’re motivated by money, and established brands will spend more money with their company and are more likely to place a large order. Luckily, we’ve been in contact with some great people who have been very kind with their time.
We’re a bit frustrated that we have to compromise. The business world makes it so difficult for small brands and individual people to make a big difference. But, we believe that one day we’ll be successful enough with enough buying power to really do it the way that makes the earth proud. With every decision that we make, we are still prioritizing environmental and ethical responsibility, because intentional decision making will always be at the core of our mission.
I’m glad that we’re shooting for the moon, because even if we miss, we’ll land among the stars. -Norman Vincent Peale.