In this podcast episode, Sebastian interviews Erin Houston, co-founder and CEO of wearwell, a company aiming to make the fashion industry more ethical and sustainable. They discuss the challenges of greenwashing, body positivity, and the need for sustainable fashion to be accessible and inclusive. Erin provides practical tips for shopping sustainably and highlights the importance of collaboration over competition in the social impact space. The episode also touches on the role of brands like Zara and Shein in the fast fashion industry and the need for consumers to be more conscious of their purchasing decisions.

LISTEN to this pod right here by clicking play or choose your favorite listening platform below. You can also WATCH the video podcast below that! Check out the show notes at the bottom to get more details about the contents of this episode. Enjoy!

Show notes as a general guide below. Somewhat in order and not written in perfect grammar because we want you to actually listen to the show!

Topics Discussed:

  • The Greenwashing Problem
  • Body Positivity and Health
  • Tips for Shopping Sustainably
  • Ethical Production and Sustainability in Fashion
  • Limitations of Fashion Apparel Audits
  • Greenwashing and Red Flags
  • Fashion Industry’s Impact on Consumer Behavior
  • Speed of Supply Chain in Fast Fashion
  • Reality of Garment Workers’ Conditions
  • Overproduction of Standard Sizing
  • Limited Sustainable Options for Plus Size Consumers
  • Gender Neutrality and Equity in Fashion
  • Tips for Shopping Sustainably
  • Asking About the Impact of a Product
  • Traits of a Conscious Leader
  • Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry
  • Body Positivity in Fashion

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Below is a transcript of the video podcast created by Seb’s Robot buddy, Zekton. He tends to make mistakes so please forgive him if you find errors or some funky sounding sentences. For the real deal, watch the video or click on your favorite audio Podcast platform above! Enjoy!

Sebastian (00:00:08) – What up fam? Today I had on Erin Houston, co-founder and CEO of Where well, Where Will is on a mission to transform the fashion industry by simplifying access to ethical and sustainable products, supporting brands that prioritize positive impacts for both garment workers and the environment. Guys, I’m not sure if you know, but the clothing industry is the second dirtiest after the oil industry. Crazy, right? We dive into the topic of greenwashing, with Erin calling out some brands and offering red flag insights. We talk about body positivity and the fine line between acceptance and celebration of bad health. Erin also provides actionable tips for listeners on realistic ways to shop sustainably. Erin has a wealth of experience and passion for ethical fashion, so if this topic has piqued your mind before, this episode is definitely for you. I want to give a shout out to the sponsor of today’s show, The Kin, which is a membership network, accelerator and workspace for conscious entrepreneurs. I’m a big fan and encourage you to check out the Kin Co guys.

Sebastian (00:01:08) – If you like the show, please share it with a homie or on social media and definitely subscribe. It truly means the world to me and you’re helping to be a part of this consciousness revolution that we’re experiencing. Enjoy the show. Erin, welcome to the show.

Erin (00:01:25) – Thank you so much, Sebastian. Good to be here.

Sebastian (00:01:27) – Yeah. Great to have you, Erin. I always start my podcast by asking my guest, what was your last oh, shit moment. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Just whatever comes to mind first.

Erin (00:01:36) – It was yesterday. I was officiating a wedding, and, uh, we didn’t know if who had the rings or where they were, so.

Sebastian (00:01:43) – Oh, shit.

Erin (00:01:44) – All right.

Sebastian (00:01:45) – Yeah. So what happened?

Erin (00:01:48) – Uh, we found them. They were tied to the pillows that they were supposed to be tied to. And the kids brought them up, so it was fine.

Sebastian (00:01:56) – That’s great. That’s great, I love that. How did the initiation go?

Erin (00:01:59) – It went.

Erin (00:01:59) – It went great. It went great for, uh, one of my very best friends from undergrad. I’ve known her for 17 years, and. Oh, wow. Yeah. And just a really heartfelt, heartwarming day with family of hers from the US, from Pakistan, and the groom’s from the US and from Turkey. So really wonderful day.

Sebastian (00:02:19) – Yeah. Oh that’s awesome. A lot of cultures in there. Which makes.

Erin (00:02:22) – It exactly.

Sebastian (00:02:23) – The wedding is way more fun that way. Like you get to see how everybody likes to celebrate.

Erin (00:02:26) – Yeah, yeah, yeah. And everyone, you know loves to hit the dance floor. So we had a good time. You know, it was a Sunday evening, so. Yeah.

Sebastian (00:02:33) – Exactly. And here you are Monday. Good on.

Erin (00:02:36) – You. Exactly.

Sebastian (00:02:37) – Love that, love that, love that. Um, Erin, I watched the movie The True Cost, uh, several years ago, and I was blown away. Like, I was blown away by the fact that essentially, the clothing industry was the second dirtiest industry after oil.

Sebastian (00:02:55) – I was like, no way. Like, this cannot be. Um, that was definitely the first thing. That sort of was an eye opener for me in terms of fast fashion and the clothing industry. Do you have any, um, like a personal example or experience that you’ve witnessed regarding, you know, the lives of garment workers or anything like that?

Erin (00:03:12) – Yeah, absolutely. I do, uh, I’ve got a lot to share there. And actually, that movie came out right around the time that I started thinking about these issues. So I had started to go deep on them. And then that movie really tipped me over the edge. Uh, yeah. Realizing this is something that I really need to be working on. So to give you that backstory, I used to be working in global development, so I was working in the international development industry. I was, um, heading up the corporate partnerships division for a media company that was partnering with NGOs that were doing work on the ground and developing communities with, uh, with donor agencies and with fortune 500.

Erin (00:03:50) – And essentially my job was to get those larger companies to talk about the impact that they were making with their supply chains in developing communities. And I realized as to right around again, right around the time that movie came out, that I had every single industry represented in my client pool except for fashion and apparel, and I started to dive into the issues and try to figure out why. And I thought, you know, I, I understand this space. I know what it means to make a purchase in a meaningful way, to spend my money on locally and sustainably sourced food, or to support a local business whose cause and impact I deeply believe in when it comes to my clothing accessories. Even as someone who gets it, I don’t really know how to do that. And so I ended up saying, you know what? I’m not going to purchase anything unless it is sustainably and ethically made. Uh, for I’m going to see if I can do that for a year. And I purchased nothing for a year.

Sebastian (00:04:43) – I was gonna say, you got no new clothes.

Erin (00:04:46) – Exactly, exactly. And this was, you know, rewind several years ago. The industry has shifted a lot. And there’s new and different challenges today. Um, but very much a personal and professional tie to the issues behind this.

Sebastian (00:05:01) – Yeah, yeah. So was there. You clearly have a mission, right? To essentially change the fashion industry, to do things differently. Through your company and through what you embarked, was there a turning point in which this became the mission you mentioned? It was right around that time when when you was there something specific, though, that sparked it.

Erin (00:05:21) – Yeah, there was like.

Sebastian (00:05:22) – A long term thing.

Erin (00:05:23) – No, it was a conversation with my co-founder. So we met in grad school and we ended up just catching up over dinner. Of all places. We were eating dinner at Whole Foods. So just, you know, a great background for this or backdrop for this story. Um, and we got to talking and I told her I was thinking about these issues.

Erin (00:05:42) – She on the flip side, I was a field worker in global development. She’s an impact measurement expert, and she was working on the ground before grad school in a variety of different places, and afterwards in Cambodia and India. And she was thinking about the same things, but from a totally different angle, really seeing how livelihoods impacts people’s ability to provide for themselves. And if it’s fair and dignified work, what the different outcomes are for those communities. And so we put our heads together and we said, there’s gotta be a better way for people to shop sustainably and ethically. And so we started just creating a list that we shared between each other of brands that we felt confident in, that we were doing our own research on. And we said, you know what? This is actually the problem. It’s really too hard, only because it’s time consuming to find products that fit your personal style, your budget, and the impact that you want to make. And so that’s really that was the turning point for us, is realizing if we put our two talents together, we can actually just make it easier for the average consumer to shop in a way that’s aligned with their values.

Sebastian (00:06:47) – Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. How you said something interesting there in terms that you said that your business partner was an expert in and measuring impact. How do we measure impact?

Erin (00:06:59) – It’s so hard. It’s so hard because, you know, if you are dealing with a controlled environment, uh, it’s a lot easier to measure. Right? But humans you can’t control and different companies you can’t make them all do things identically. Right? So when we talk about measuring impact in our industry, it’s super, super complicated. And that’s often why you see, uh, different things like certifications falling really short of what we as consumers expect them to be. They are really great and they serve a purpose. But just because a company is B Corp certified does not mean that they pay garment workers fairly. And so it’s that kind of challenge that we’re presented with when it comes to measuring impact. And so Emily, before.

Sebastian (00:07:45) – Sorry to interrupt you is that because you could still get the, let’s say, X amount of points that you need to be certified B.

Sebastian (00:07:53) – But maybe one of those things that you do is you don’t pay your workers fair wages, but you do a lot of other things, right?

Erin (00:08:01) – Yes, exactly, exactly. And that’s not to say B Corp’s are not good enough. They they all have different priorities. And that’s just yeah the fact of the matter the certifications.

Sebastian (00:08:11) – Yeah yeah yeah yeah okay. Gotcha. Um which is an interesting thing because I, I talk about this a lot in the sense that whether you’re starting a company or whether you’re already leading a company, if you try to do everything right and perfect, you just it’s really, really tough. And it’s very tough to make money, especially in the beginning when you’re at scale or you’re not really big or you have a ton of investment or whatever, right? So you can drive yourself nuts trying to do everything perfect. So it’s good to start somewhere, right? And then to make sure that your you can actually follow your mission. Otherwise you’re not getting anywhere right?

Erin (00:08:48) – Absolutely.

Erin (00:08:48) – We say all the time that if if you were to truly build a sustainable fashion brand, it just wouldn’t exist because it’s consumption at the end of the day, right? So if you really are spinning your wheels trying to do everything the right way, we’d all be naked. So yeah, it’s not it’s not possible to do it perfectly. So you have to look at impact as incremental change and doing things that, you know, making those choices that are the most positively impactful in your space.

Sebastian (00:09:17) – I’m glad you’re being transparent about that and being open. It’s just like, you just can’t do it. You can’t.

Erin (00:09:23) – Not possible. It’s not possible. And we also tend to put a burden on the smaller startups and independent brands that are trying to do things the right way. We tend to expect them to do everything the right way, and just absolve large companies of it by saying they’re too big to change, when that means we’re putting the burden on the companies that have the fewest resources, and so let them do the good that they can and let them move the needle forward as much as possible when they’re able.

Sebastian (00:09:52) – Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. So ethical production and sustainability in terms of clothes, it’s more than just materials. Yeah. So it also encompasses the well-being of the people. Right. Who make the clothes, which is something you touched on. Um, so. It with. When you have massive, fast fashion companies that are competing for price like crazy, how are you able to pay fair wages and provide a safe workplace? Like how are you able to deal with all of that when you have the competition?

Erin (00:10:22) – Yeah, so we sourced from over 50 different brands. We don’t produce anything on ourselves. So our impact model is a pass through one. And what you’re really getting at though is how do our brand partners do that. And there’s a variety of different ways. And that’s kind of what I mean, where, you know, some certifications fall short not because they aren’t important, but because they’re all measuring different things. And so we take into account, you know, is a brand producing in a factory where they know exactly what’s being paid.

Erin (00:10:49) – Do they own the factory? Are they vertically integrated or are they sourcing from artisans? So there are lots of different ways to tackle the workers rights aspects of things. And we we dive in deep to what those different facets are. But really we’re looking at the basics are fair and or living wage. And that depends on country context and production context as well as safe work environment. And you know, it’s.

Sebastian (00:11:14) – Can you really do that? Like how can you really like without going and like flying. Right.

Erin (00:11:19) – So the really interesting thing is fashion apparel audits, you know, going and flying someplace and checking it out. They don’t do anything. And it’s been proven over and over again that companies just simply audit their supply chain. They aren’t any more ethical or sustainable than brands who don’t. And that’s because there’s a lot of ability to just hide those things, either through forged documents or, you know, whatever else it might be changing, changing who’s on the floor that day. Um, the way that we do that is we foster deeper relationships with our partners where we’re really when I say when I call them partners, I don’t call them vendors for a reason.

Erin (00:11:54) – Uh, we’re partners with them in the sense that we support their growth. If they grow, we grow. It’s a great thing. But what that means is we want to know what their challenges are. We want to know, uh, what are they? What are they not doing yet when it comes to their impacts that they want to be doing and really helping them grow in terms of their mission. But that also means we do interviews with them. So we look at how do they talk about themselves publicly before we ever have a conversation with them? Are they already transparent with what they’re saying they do and how they produce? Are they able to prove anything because they have certain certifications? Do they trace certain pieces of data? And then if we ask them the same question, three different ways, are we getting the same answer or are we getting a little green washy? And so that’s how we we really kind of dive in and suss it out. And we sourced from the brands that we trust.

Erin (00:12:42) – We don’t necessarily score them. We don’t, uh, you know, guarantee a specific piece of impact from them. We tell their story and we keep up our relationships with them. We’ve been working with some of our original brand partners for six years now, and we plan to continue doing that.

Sebastian (00:13:00) – Got it. So the model is and it’s all going through your e-commerce. Yeah. So you’ve got all of these partners that essentially integrates into your e-commerce, but you’re purchasing from them ultimately. Right. And you’re basically you’re vetting them and you’re saying these are some these are the reasons why we think that they’re a essentially an ethical business and we trust them. And so if I trust where, well, then I know that where well is going to trust this brand and. Right. Is that.

Erin (00:13:27) – Exactly. Yes. Okay.

Sebastian (00:13:29) – Got it, got it, got it, got it. Sounds good. So with all of this, I mean, Erin, you must, um, encounter a lot of greenwashing, right? You encounter a lot of greenwashing.

Sebastian (00:13:44) – So, like, just what will you call out? Some big brands that are greenwashing. Like, don’t be afraid to call them out like it’s it’s it’s real. Right? Like it’s a real thing. Like it should all know about it. And like, if you don’t mind calling out some some of the main ones or big ones, like what are the red flags to look for in greenwashing.

Erin (00:14:05) – Yeah. So happy to go into all of those red flags. Typically we stay away from what we call naming and shaming when it comes to brands. But you’re right, it is real. It’s happening. So I will answer your question. I think it’s really important for people to be looking at Sheehan in particular, with the volume of clothing they’re producing, and then some of the other fast fashion brands that everyone is familiar with. They’re in every mall in the US. Uh, they’re in Europe. Um, one in particular that it’s no secret a lot of people talk about here is Zara. And, you know, it’s not it’s different than than she and where she ends, just purely based on high volume and pumping out clothes that can be produced, can be worn 1 or 2 times.

Sebastian (00:14:46) – Uh, but.

Erin (00:14:47) – Zara instead is focused on a super, super fast supply chain. So rather than just consumption the way that she and is overproducing Zara is focused on speed. And so if you think about what speed and supply chain does, it puts pressure on garment workers and pressure on the makers to produce faster and therefore in often unsafe work environments. And that has a lot to do with the way that subcontracting works in the industry. And I won’t bore you all with that, but it’s really it can get really complicated. So I’ll name those two. What the. When it comes to red flags, you want to look at how many products is that company offering. Yeah. How cheap are the products and are they constructed well. Do they last 1 to 10 times. Uh, and I think there’s something really interesting to dive into here, which, you know, tick let me know if I’m going off course here. But if you think about price, accessibility and kind of the lower price point items, if you’re paying for a t shirt, you’re paying $5 for a t shirt, and that t shirt is going to fall apart the second time you wash it, why not pay $25 for a t shirt that’s going to last you two years? And so it’s kind of flipping that mindset as a consumer from noticing those red flags to finding the solution.

Sebastian (00:15:59) – Hey guys, I just want to remind you, if you want to find more content like this, you can visit Sebastian Comm. That’s Sebastian na um com you can also get a ton of other marketing resources for myself and my agencies, ranging from SEO to social media, influencer marketing, branding, web development, and more. Again, that’s Sebastian nam.com. Thank you and enjoy the rest of the show. How does Zara. How do they promote that? Or how are they psychologically making the consumer feel like they have to buy, you know, 50 different things throughout the year? And if, if in fact, I mean, I’ll be honest, I, I’ve, I’ve had experiences in the past with like washing something like a few times and falling apart with H&M back in the day. Yeah, that would happen a lot. It was like a total hit or miss. It was like H&M would be like 50% of the time. It would just be trash. And the other 50%, it sounds like, oh, this is great.

Sebastian (00:16:52) – Oh, no. Um, and so, I mean, this is like 25 years ago. Um, and then I became a big fan of Zara. I just loved the the fashion of it. Right? I didn’t learn what fast fashion even was, right. So I, I was just consuming it. I was being a consumer. But how do they actually get into the consumer’s mind that it is? In fact, it makes sense to be buying, you know, all kinds of different things when back in the day it was sort of like summer and winter, right? It was like this whole thing, right?

Erin (00:17:22) – Yeah. We used to have four seasons a year. We all do as humans have four seasons a year. But the fashion industry, there’s 52 plus seasons a year. And so maybe 252. Yes. So when you walk into Zara this week, you’re going to see different things and you’ll see next week. And that that’s what fuels that consumption is, oh, I need the newest thing.

Erin (00:17:43) – And now that we’re primed to do that as people. Yeah, it’s you know Zara is not forcing us to want something new. They’re just supplying the new things that we actually want. And so they’re keeping up with that idea of, oh, let me get the newest thing by constantly making sure there’s new things in front of us.

Sebastian (00:18:02) – How they do that. How do you get new things 52 times a year.

Erin (00:18:07) – Every week that comes back to that speed of the supply chain. So they will create a design and within two weeks there’s a portion of that design is already created. And on the floor of a store, if it sells well, it goes to more stores the following week.

Sebastian (00:18:22) – Wow.

Erin (00:18:23) – It’s impressive when you think about the business mechanics of a supply chain like that. Yes. And so, yeah, you know, if if that were possible to do in a way where you were actually making sustainable choices with the fabrics and the production and you were paying garment workers fairly, that’s a really interesting business model, right? It is.

Erin (00:18:44) – Yeah. And so I think I think it’s just a matter of thinking through the ways that your purchases, uh, impact the decisions that a company makes. Um, not necessarily that a company exists.

Sebastian (00:18:57) – Yeah. I, I would imagine that 99.99% of people that are walking into any of these stores have absolutely no idea what’s actually going on behind this. Right, exactly. Um, you know, even like I, I like to get educated in these things. I don’t really know the details of the process and all that stuff. Right. So when you’ve got something that is scaled to to that extent and you need that speed of process, you know, of manufacturing, like you said, what does that actually look like? What is that? What does that look like visually? Like if you were a fly on the wall to go down to those manufacturing facilities to, you know, to the garment facilities, what does that mean? Like, are they actually being are people being abused or is it just like are we calling it abuse? And it’s not really abused and they’re just really working really hard.

Sebastian (00:19:51) – But maybe like, you know, okay, for example, like some people would be like, well, you don’t know if somebody’s making a dollar an hour like that can mean a lot for them. And then maybe before this job, they had a job that they were making $0.50 an hour. And this is actually great working conditions. Like there’s people rationalize a lot of things. Right. So yeah, if you don’t mind sharing a little bit of that. Yeah. Yeah.

Erin (00:20:10) – And I can’t speak to actively going to a factory floor. I just want to be really clear about that when it comes to any one of the brands that we’ve been talking about. But but what I can tell you is anybody who’s interested in learning more about what the experience of a garment worker is like, Google garment workers wages. And you will see news headlines from two weeks ago that there were protests in Cambodia over wages. And you’ll see how much is earned. And you can take a look at how much is earned by a garment worker, whether they are paid by the number of pieces that they sew together, or they’re paid hourly as a wage.

Erin (00:20:48) – You can then compare that to the poverty line in that country. So the world Bank publishes all of that data, and it gives you a really, really clear view of sure, that might be a better alternative than in many cases in a lot of countries we’re dealing with. That’s a better alternative for women than sex work, uh, in terms of the amount that they’re paid and in terms of dignity, depending on that person’s choices and preferences. But what you then are doing is you’re just comparing different livelihoods that aren’t actually viable for that person to support themselves and to support a family. And that’s really what we’re all after, right? It doesn’t. Right? We want a safe work environment. We want dignified work for everybody. And so if you start to compare those numbers rather than compare, well, this, you know, dollar 50 might be better than the dollar 25. It really puts it in perspective what that experience is. But I think it’s also really important to take a look at some of the abuses that do exist in factories that are in apparel supply chains.

Erin (00:21:54) – Um, one of the clearest ones, uh, you’ll often hear it talked about as modern day slavery. And a lot of people don’t really know what that means. Um, one of the things that, that one of the ways that that can come to fruition and happen is someone submits their passport for work and their passport is held, and they’re not able to get their passport and their identification back. And they are therefore indebted to that employer, uh, employer in quotes. Um, and and can’t exit the, the job. And so um, well that’s something that does happen very, very often. Also something you can Google. So you know, I think those are two really, really tangible things to, to point people towards if they’re curious about learning more experiences.

Sebastian (00:22:38) – I think it a lot of people learned about the reality of that with, uh, the World Cup in Qatar. Yeah, right. That’d be that became a lot more sort of visible to the public. Wow. They’re really held there.

Sebastian (00:22:50) – They cannot leave. Mhm. Um that’s wild. Um, in terms of, you know, commitment to inclusivity that being a feature. Um. Of you guys is, you know, a mission essentially, or one of the things that you guys care about. How does that affect your marketing and partnerships in terms of looking at inclusivity in other brands?

Erin (00:23:10) – Yeah, yeah, I love this question. I think there’s a lot of ways you can talk about inclusivity. Um, I’ll talk about it in two very distinct ways. The first for us is size inclusivity. So yeah, a lot of people have been talking about size inclusivity for a very long time now, years now, about how the majority of women in the US do not need standard sizing. They need extended sizing or petite sizing. And so that’s something that is just a, you know, a consumer need here in the US and often overlooked, but it’s also a sustainability issue because the smaller brands that are producing and standard size runs, they are then not producing in sizes that half the population needs.

Erin (00:23:55) – So therefore, there you are, sustainable choices for women who need extended sizing in some way. And so that is a thing that we are very much focused on this constantly adding.

Sebastian (00:24:05) – Let me rewind that. Yeah. Because I want to make sure I understood that. Correct. Absolutely. You’re saying that because um, but explain that again, you know. Yeah.

Erin (00:24:15) – So the majority of women in the US, I believe it’s 54% I might have that were slightly off. They needed extended sizing. And what that means is, is sizing that is plus size or petite size. And so when you’re looking at the consumer market and you’re looking at those underserved women, and then you’re looking at the brands that produce sustainably, it’s an even smaller chunk. So that means the majority of women in the US don’t have adequate access to sustainably made clothing options. And so when we think about inclusivity, we think about how can we make sure that we are carrying brands that are also focused on producing in different sizing than just standard size rounds that we’re overproducing.

Sebastian (00:24:57) – We’re overproducing standard sizing, and we’re under producing a lot of the sizing that actually needed. So we’re actually wasting clothes by overproducing in those standard size. Yes. And then yeah. So then and then we don’t really have enough of the, the other sizes that we actually need.

Erin (00:25:14) – Yeah. And it’s also it also just comes down to the, the consumer experience of someone who needs, um, say they need A3X, uh, when you take a look at the number of options that are out there for them, if they want a t shirt, they’ve got a specific set of brands that they can go to, and only a handful of those might be sustainable. So their options are even fewer than the average consumer. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s that’s one area. Then we focus on another uh is around race and gender. So um, we launched a gender neutral collection a couple years ago. We don’t have a men’s section yet. Um, but I noticed that. Yeah.

Sebastian (00:25:54) – I feel dis included that.

Erin (00:25:56) – Yeah. The gender neutral is where we’re headed for the most part. Um, but we also take into account the types of brands that we source from. It’s really important to us to look at who are we building equity for with our business. So the vast majority of our brands are women owned. Uh, we have 16% of our brands are black owned brands. Um, 15% are, uh, non-black person of color owned brands. And we really take into account how do we continue increasing those percentages and make sure that the people who are benefiting from the growth of those brands. Yeah, people who don’t look like every other person in a room.

Sebastian (00:26:37) – Yeah, yeah, I love that. Um, when it comes to an errand, this may be like an awkward question, but like, when it comes to, um. Do you feel like there must be a line drawn between accepting all forms of body positivity, which is a beautiful thing, versus sort of like celebrating unhealthy ness, in a way, in a world today where we’re sort of there’s unfortunately, in my opinion, things are either way too far right or way too far left in a way, and there’s just so much divisiveness.

Sebastian (00:27:11) – And then it happens in everything. It’s not just in politics, right? It’s in like, everything. Right? It’s either like. Anyway. So yeah. So I’m not.

Erin (00:27:21) – A I’m not a health expert yet, but I do believe that body positivity is a real and necessary thing. Uh, you know, speaking as just a, a woman and not a man. So a woman who has consumed her entire life, uh, different images, uh, of the way that we are, quote unquote, supposed to look. And I don’t exclude men from that. I know there are many men that face that increasingly so today. Uh, but, you know, comparing your your body to someone else’s never makes you feel good about your body, nor does it encourage healthy choices in one direction or the other. And so I don’t think it’s the job of the clothing industry to encourage people to live a certain way or to eat a certain way. I think the job of the clothing industry is to make sure that people have access to the kind of clothes that they want to be buying for themselves, and that support the impact that they want to make.

Sebastian (00:28:23) – Yeah, that’s, uh, very well said. And then you’re probably very much right in this sense that, you know, as a, as a man, you grew up with a totally different type of pressure. Um, I think there is definitely it exists, but it’s very different, uh, than for a woman. Um, and I’m sure that a girl that’s growing up, uh, a little girl that’s growing up today is going through a very different experience than somebody that’s, you know, maybe closer to our age. Right. And magazines that we were seeing when we were growing up, um, and things like that.

Erin (00:28:53) – I hope it’s a different experience.

Sebastian (00:28:55) – I also, I would say that there’s a lot of progress in that, uh, it seems to.

Erin (00:28:58) – Me that’s more representation.

Sebastian (00:29:00) – Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Um, so, Erin, in terms of. I think that. What? In terms of your business model. Right. You’re you’re promoting as many partners.

Sebastian (00:29:14) – You said. We don’t call them vendors, but their partners is possible that are truly ethical. So really looking to make a positive change in industry in general. Right. Is is that your actual mission to to make a measurable impact in the industry? And, and how do you measure that? How are you guys actually doing that?

Erin (00:29:33) – Yeah. Great question. So when we talk about our mission, yes, at the end of the day, we would love to see a fashion industry that is more sustainable, more ethical. We can’t do that on our own. So that’s my.

Sebastian (00:29:44) – Goal.

Erin (00:29:45) – It is a big goal. Yeah. When we talk about our mission, our mission is to make it easier for consumers to shop sustainably and ethically. Got it. And so for us, that means making sure that we’re filling the needs that consumers don’t have met right now. And for a lot of consumers, that’s affordability of ethically made, uh, and availability of it. And so one of the things that fits into this that you’ll see on our site is a lot of people, um, have talked to us about like, I just can’t afford a new, you know, XYZ at, uh, $70.

Erin (00:30:18) – A lot of people can, which is great. Uh, but not everybody can. And so when we think about how do we continue to, uh, move that forward for ourselves and how do we kind of take on that next frontier? Um, we started a couple of years ago, uh, selling secondhand, that is secondhand, that was sustainably made in the first place. It’s a lower price point for customers. So it allows us to serve more people. And so when we think about measurable impact and our mission, we’re looking at how many people can we serve, how many brands can we support. Um, but I think what you were getting at was really around, how do we measure our impact on the industry broadly? Uh, and that’s that for us is it’s a challenge to do because of the different ways that brands measure their own impact. But that really gets into a couple things we’ve already mentioned of making sure that 100% of our brands produce in a way that pays garment workers or artisans fairly, and then another piece of making sure that 100% of our brands, uh, you know, use sustainable materials or produce sustainably in some way.

Erin (00:31:24) – And there’s a lot of different ways to meet that criteria. And then finally, that we are looking again, always at who we are supporting with the brands that we choose to to put.

Sebastian (00:31:34) – Out with.

Erin (00:31:34) – The ownership.

Sebastian (00:31:35) – Yeah, absolutely. I think the price point thing is probably one of the biggest challenges. I think that just the same way people say, oh, I’m not gonna shop organic at the grocery store, it’s the same exact reason. It’s because I can’t afford it, blah, blah, blah. Right. So I think that there’s definitely an affordability thing with food. A lot of people will say, okay, well, just keep in mind that if you’re hurting your health in the long run, you’ll end up spending more money on your health and yada yada, right? With clothes, maybe that’s a different you know, it’s a different type of argument. Um, I like I personally like one of the things that because I actually do, I love clothes, um, I love clothes.

Sebastian (00:32:12) – And so I.

Erin (00:32:13) – Tell you, very.

Sebastian (00:32:13) – Stylish. Oh. Thank you.

Erin (00:32:16) – The phoenix gave it away.

Sebastian (00:32:18) – Uh, so. Well, the funny thing is, it, um, the more I started learning, I was actually really frustrated. I was like, I definitely can’t, like, I need to buy a lot less clothes. I can’t just buy anywhere and all these things. And so one of the things that I personally fell in love with doing is buying clothes, um, internationally, uh, making sure that it was being made by locals. And a lot of the things were handmade, but it is, uh, quite expensive for them a lot of the time. Right now, I’m very grateful that I’m in a position that I am able to do that. And also, though at the same time, I know that if, you know, um, I’m in Mexico and I’m buying a nice button up shirt that was handmade by locals with certain materials and this and that, and I paid, let’s say, 200 instead of going to Zara and paying, you know, 30 or whatever.

Sebastian (00:33:17) – I’m also going to value that piece of clothing. There’s a story behind it. Um, and I also I think then it’s like I kind of get into this mode of like, okay, I have. Uh, the staple items that I can mix and match, you know, with colors and things like that, instead of having to have, you know, 40, you know, versions of this one t shirt, right? Um, but I think that that’s more of like a mind shift, like how, how you want to approach, you know, uh, clothing. And I think that maybe there’s another difference, too, in terms of male, female, uh, for young girls and young women who are really trying to stay up to date, there’s so much more going on with fashion and wanting to look, you know, a certain way and always being on top of stuff. Right?

Erin (00:33:58) – Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you’re describing as analysis paralysis that everyone goes through when they start learning about ethics and sustainability and fashion.

Erin (00:34:06) – Like, how do I still live my life the way that I want to? And how do I start tackling this? Because it feels enormous. And unless you have the resources to, you know, a lot of people, six years ago, you used to have to spend $250 plus on a piece of clothing that was ethically unsustainable, made, uh, if you didn’t want to spend hours and hours looking for it, which is, you know why we got started in the first place? Not so much the case today, but it’s still really confusing because of greenwashing. And so you kind of get into this mode of like, well, I can spend my money this way, or I could do this or I could, you know, only shop locally. We always try to help people navigate this by saying, start with where you are and what you have. So what you have in your closet is the most sustainable thing you can choose to wear, right? Wear until it needs to be donated, or it can be resold.

Erin (00:34:54) – And then pick one thing that you care about and try to align your purchases with that one thing, or choose that one new thing that you need to buy, and try to focus on making that as sustainable as possible. You know, overhaul your lifestyle and you don’t have to make it. The only thing you focus on. You will burn out so quickly and just give up and go shop it. She ends up. Yeah. Can you do that?

Sebastian (00:35:19) – That’s so funny you said that because that’s what ended up happening with me at the time when I started finding out, I was like, oh my God, I have all these things from Zara, like I have to burn them. And then I was like, wait, that is the most I need to wear them. That’s sustainable. Yes.

Erin (00:35:34) – Yeah, make em less care for your clothes. That’s also another really amazing way to live sustainably. Is just taking care of what you already own.

Sebastian (00:35:42) – Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So it’s very, um, I think I love what you guys are doing.

Sebastian (00:35:48) – So obviously people listening, you know, check out shop wear welcome. It’s a beautiful way to find amazing brands and things like that that are going to be sustainable, that are going to, um, hopefully align with, with your values. Now, I think that when you’re out there just shopping, you know, physically 99% of the time you’re completely blind. And when you’re if you’re shopping for food and you grab it, you can at least grab the package, turn it around. You look at all the ingredients and you kind of have an understanding. I think we have a lot more understanding today about food, but clothes, it’s like super blind. I mean, yeah, you may see like, oh, like 80% cotton, 20% rayon. Like, what does that even mean? I don’t know what that has anything to do with the history of this clothing. Is there is there something is there like an actionable tip that you can give people outside of, of course, checking out, you know, shop wear well, but when they’re out there in the wild.

Erin (00:36:43) – Yeah, in the wild on their own. Um, you’ll see a lot of times today that that clothing or even like linens will have certifications and different, different stamps of approval on them. Just start to learn what those are and it’ll start to become easier. Like you’ll see, oh, this is okay. Text 100 and I know what that means. But the average person who hasn’t looked at a label probably done that. But if you start looking, you’re going to see it over and over again. Um, and it just it’s, you know, it’s it’s starting to remember what are the things that you can look for that I think can really make a difference. But I think the most practical tip that I always give people who ask me this is that to to just go ask someone if they can tell you anything about the impact of that product. And I say that because even if it’s a larger store, you might need to phrase it differently. But even if it’s a larger brand or a larger store, if it’s core to that company’s values, their employees are going to know about it.

Erin (00:37:43) – Um, if it’s if it’s core, right? And if it’s not core, it’s probably not sustainable.

Sebastian (00:37:49) – Like, like who is making sustainable clothes and it’s not part of their mission.

Erin (00:37:54) – Exactly. Or it’s not something that they’re leaning into communicating about in some way because it’s good for their brand. Right. So, you know, there’s it’s if if you’re just getting nothing from anyone, it’s probably not going to fit what you’re looking to, to. Yeah.

Sebastian (00:38:10) – In this journey for myself, I was I got first introduced to an app called Think Dirty when it had to do with, um, like things that I was putting on my skin or on my hair or whatever. And then I learned about Good on You, which was one for clothing. Um, but then I started just noticing a lot of sort of inconsistencies in there. I didn’t even know if it was for real or not. I’m like, am I? Do I trust this is good on you? An app that’s trustworthy for the stuff?

Erin (00:38:34) – Yeah.

Erin (00:38:34) – Good on is fantastic. They’re a great resource. I think the challenges were still in a place where we expect consumers to go look up a brand when they’re standing there in a store holding something right.

Sebastian (00:38:45) – I’ll nerd out.

Erin (00:38:46) – On. So I do too. But the average person doesn’t. They’re not they’re not against us. We’re just, you know, on that end of the spectrum. But yeah, but you know, I think that is that’s definitely a great resource to be able to learn about brands you can support, where you can buy those brands that you want to support. Um, and it gives you a nice quick stamp of approval or no. Or you can read deeper, but the brands that are really worth supporting are ones that they’re going to publish impact reports. They’re going to have a whole section of their site dedicated to their production, to their sustainability, to their workers rights. Um, and so you could go to a platform like good on you, or you can just go to that brand’s website and see what’s available for you to read.

Sebastian (00:39:29) – Yeah, that’s how I started. I think discovering some of the first sort of like big time green washers, in my opinion, where I was like, wait, this is I’m literally looking on your wall like it’s this big mission statement. That it said in green. Yeah. I’m like, oh my goodness, I’m ready. Um, well, Erin, I absolutely love what you guys are doing. So, you know, um, keep doing what you’re doing. What do you feel like as a leader in your company? What do you feel that they’re what are the top two traits that a conscious leader must embody or that you aim to embody? Well.

Erin (00:40:05) – Up to traits. The first trait is really being collaborative and not looking at everything you do as a competitive edge. I think collaboration gets you further than competition in many ways when it comes to businesses that are focused on social impact, and you build a stronger business model, one that’s more resilient. We’ve seen that, unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of the stakeholders in our space go out of business over the past couple of years, and we’ve stayed really true to how can we just continue to align ourselves with the people who are doing great work in this space rather than compete against them? And it’s really paid off.

Erin (00:40:43) – But I think that also applies internally to look at your your, you know, your coworkers, your colleagues as team members. You’re all in the same team. You’re all working for the same thing. Uh, the second is don’t strive for perfection. We touched on this quite a bit in our conversation. If you if you strive for perfection, you’re never going to get there. And so instead, just focus on what’s what’s a little bit of progress you can make right now and just don’t give up on continuing to make that progress.

Sebastian (00:41:10) – Yeah, I love that. I love that, especially as a recovering perfectionist. I absolutely love that you said that. Oh, I.

Erin (00:41:16) – Want to.

Sebastian (00:41:17) – Let it go. Yeah, I love that. Well, Erin, thank you so much. You truly are a conscious leader. So keep doing you. And of course we’ll have the links at the bottom of the show notes where you can check out shop where. Well, and all that good stuff. So a great rest of the day.

Sebastian (00:41:30) – Thank you so much for being on.

Erin (00:41:32) – Thanks, Sebastian.

Sebastian (00:41:33) – Hey guys, I really hope you enjoyed that episode. You know, it takes a lot to put these things together, but I truly love doing it. If you enjoyed this episode or the show in general and you listen to it on Audio podcast, please take some time to give it a review. It would really mean a lot to me. And if you watch the video, please go ahead and just click subscribe and share it with somebody that you think would like it. It would really mean the world to me and it helps keep the show alive. This is Sebastian Nam. Com for more content and follow me on Instagram at seven Nam that’s SBB. And um, thanks again for spending your time with me. I know it is valuable. I hope you have a great rest of the day and week. Till next time.