Certifications are complicated. Fashion is going through a change like food went through where customers are becoming aware of where these things are grown / made / where they come from. When I go to the grocery store, I look for produce that has an organic sticker. When I go to my farmer’s market, I don’t need to see any stickers because I can see the people who grow the food, I can talk to them, I can understand what they do and what their values are. I think this relates to fashion and business in so many ways. Certifications are needed for big business because the person making decisions often isn’t the same person visiting the producers. It’s also easy for bigger companies to get a certification, maybe just on one small aspect of their business or one collection, this leads to greenwashing and can be misleading to you as the consumer.
In my case as a small independent brand, I have built a relationship with all of my factories and with as many people along the supply chain as I can. I understand what they do, what their values are and how they do business. I don’t need a certification to decide if I want to work with them because I can make the judgement for myself and build trust that’s greater than any piece of paper they can show me. I like to, and often can only work with, other small businesses, and it can be difficult and expensive for them to get certain certifications. I believe in small companies and believe that often times you’ll find that they do the work that goes above and beyond a certification but they just aren’t able to get it. In most cases, I also believe that small businesses are inherently more ethical because they are so connected to their product and care deeply about their work.
As far as our Climate Beneficial certified wool, I do believe in the work that’s being done behind this. Laura who owns NY Textile Lab is building a decentralized Carbon Farm Network. A community of farms, mills and designers who all work on a small scale and can find each other, work together and communicate easily. The textile system in the US has traditionally been very difficult for a small brand to navigate or even to just find factories or mills. Having the ability to connect with small farms who care about their fiber, mills who can spin it and factories who can produce my designs is a dream I’ve been trying to realize for many years.
Under the Fibershed Climate Beneficial certification, the carbon levels in the soil is measured over time to see how much carbon the land is sequestering. If this can be adopted across the world, I think being able to have these metrics can be of a huge help. To me, this is what makes this certification different than many others. Fibershed is also working to educate farmers, designers and consumers about this.
Certifications can offer a talking point and should be used for you as a consumer to educate yourself. I try to be very transparent and show you where our clothes come from, who makes them, what is the fiber, if the fiber does have a certification, what does that actually mean. I think education and transparency need to be at the forefront of conversations about our clothes, rather than a sticker. My hope is that as consumers, you’ll be able to have enough information to make informed decisions for yourself based on your ethics.