Organic this, organic that. The synthetics-free movement has swept the farming industry and grocery stores nearly to a point of annoyance. Hipsters across the country flock to Sprouts and other natural and organic food stores. And increasingly, mainstream shoppers are seeking additive-free products, with Walmart and Costco stocking organic foods and, according to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic edibles in the U.S. rising nearly 12% in 2013 to $35 billion. Many consumers want to know where products come from and that they are created in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
Amanda Rinderle and Jonas Clark left full-time jobs to gain MBAs from Yale School of Management with one goal in mind — to create a socially and environmentally responsible and mission-driven company. After a year of romantic and idealistic dreams and research, they settled on the textile industry. They decided to produce dress shirts.
The idea stemmed from frustration and curiosity. Rinderle and Clark, who are recently engaged to each other, were tired of clothes wearing out and falling apart soon after purchase. They were fed up with spending a lot of money on clothing just to have it fall apart, and then repeating the process. They discovered a trend used by nearly all clothing companies — “fast-fashion.”
SLOWING DOWN THE PROCESS
Fast-fashion is the idea of producing clothing quickly (duh) and cheaply. “There is an average of a 2.7 (times) markup on clothing,” says Clark. “A shirt with a $100 dollar sticker might only take $15 to make.” The added cost comes from markups first by the clothing company and second by the stores selling clothes.
Clark and Rinderle set out to change the textile game. They wanted to produce quality clothing with low markups, with materials sourced from environmentally conscious cotton producers. The brainchild of this goal is Tuckerman & Co. Named for their favorite New England hiking trail, the company is set to begin selling shirts today (October 29) via a Kickstarter campaign.
The duo began by seeking the best organic cotton. According to a 2011 study examining conventional cotton growth, it takes about one-third of a pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton for a shirt. It takes three-fourths of a pound of chemicals to make a pair of jeans. After contacting nearly 300 cotton suppliers, Clark and Rinderle settled on a broadwoven mill in Italy that gets the organic cotton from Egypt. The buttons are made of “vegetable ivory” from Panama and the shirts are stitched together with the custom Italian fabric in an 1870s textile mill in Fall River, Massachusetts.
“Customers are much more aware and concerned about where products are coming from,” says Clark. “Supply chains will need to be transparent and ethical. The early movers for this were in the food and beverage industry. Then it moved to fair-trade. We are hoping to start the conversation around how clothing and other textiles are produced.”
Clark and Rinderle intend their business to spark positive dialog about change. “We don’t want the conversation to be doom and gloom of pesticide use,” says Clark. “We want to inform the customer how they can make a difference in the world by doing something as simple as buying clothing.”
The shirts will only be available through Kickstarter and directly from the website to begin, but the long-term goal is to build a well-established direct to consumer e-commerce model. Shirts are currently going for $110 but Clark and Rinderle say will be creating a casual line soon with shirts around $80.
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