Interview with Susan Correa

Face2Face
Susan Correa
Susan Correa
Founder & CEO
Art & Eden
Art & Eden

What other fabrics do you use?

Recycled polyester: We use recycled polyester where applicable. Old garments, excess industry fabrics, and PET soda bottles are collected and remade into new polyester fibres, then weaved or spun into a new fabric. Recycling and reusing polyester fabrics decrease environmental impact and takes less crude oil from the earth's resources.

What we love: By repurposing used bottles and garments-destined-for-trash, we prevent plastic and waste from piling up in landfills. Polyester also has lower energy impacts during its wash and clean cycles. As reported by Waste2Wear, recycled polyester has a 50 per cent lower carbon footprint than organic cotton, 90 per cent lower footprint than nylon, and a 75 per cent lower footprint than polyester. It also uses very little water.

What we don't love: It's a love-hate thing: because polyester is a synthetic material, it is not ultimately biodegradable. Also, even though recycled polyester saves energy and emissions in contrast to virgin polyester, it is still more energy-intensive than making natural fibre.

Where are the garments being made?

Our girls' products are made in India. Our boys' line is produced in China. The reason for this is that the girls' production has a lot of details, pockets, ruffles, trims, etc, and India is better suited to handle the details on the same. Also after close to six months of R&D, we were able to make the girls base quality goods to a hand-feel we really liked in India; so, we wanted to keep the entire line in India. China is really good with less complicated styles and boys' is just a natural fit. We are opening both India and China as international retail spaces and wanted to ensure strong production bases in both countries.

From womenswear to childrenswear, why did you make this change? Why are you limited to childrenswear?

It was on August 18, 2014 that I launched Empower. For every garment sold in the brand that I co-founded, a hot nutritious meal was served to a child in need at the Hope Foundation School in Bangalore. I had just touched the lives of 400 kids, and my joy knew no bounds. That experience changed everything. It marked the day that I found my 'why' and consequently my 'way' forward. I dreamed to scale that impact to 4 million kids.

Immediately thereafter, I embarked on this quest to find an answer to a simple question: how can the business of fashion be better and our choices more responsible? That led to a myriad of more questions on figuring out better processes, better management systems, better packaging. I then spent about two years thereafter studying out the details of impact of the business of fashion in the world at large. It was ironic that during this study I was doing some large successful programmes for children's clothing in my global sourcing business for the very first time. I absolutely loved it and it seemed like the most natural fit after my research on impact and success with children's clothing to build Art & Eden as a business that clothed children with a product that was sustainable, and through a percentage of profits meet the needs of less privileged children around the world.

What are the different printing, embellishments and texturing techniques used?

The differentiator for Art & Eden is that we collaborate with artists from all around the world to do our prints. We have artists from Brooklyn to Belgium, Sweden to Switzerland who collaborate and co-create with us. The world had become so collaborative and the artist community is delighted in our greater purpose. We use low impact dyes to marry back to our sustainable fabrics; our embellishments always connect back to our prints.

Are there any accessories besides the garments?

Our vision for Art & Eden is to build it into a lifestyle brand, to provide sustainable solutions for parents to shop for their kids. We do only apparel, but we have plans to build out the brand extensions in the near future.

Where do you source the dyes and chemicals from, and how do you ensure their quality?

We partner with factories committed to our sustainable journey and take responsibility to source our fabrics from authorised and certified GOTS approved vendors. The dyeing and printing mills are also aware of the low impact dyestuff that we must use with our sustainable fabrics. The factories are required to provide us with a certification of the processes before shipping the goods to the US. Our next step is to engage a top-of-the-line audit company to validate and vet our entire supply chain.

What is the planned turnover of your company?

We just launched Art & Eden on January 25, 2017. We built a business plan before we started the company that projects a growth to $35 million in five years. We are less than six months in the business, and have already achieved 80 per cent of our first year's target. We will be on-boarding some pretty amazing strategic investor partners. I am super-excited about how our combined strengths will help bring about a rapid scale.

What about your team's portfolio; what does each person handle?

As I build Art & Eden, I challenge myself daily to push boundaries and to break free from the business as usual mould. I reimagined a new way forward to structure the team and our leadership model. We have reversed the power pyramid. Leadership is now at the bottom, and supports and empowers the team to achieve business goals.

What is the distribution network?

We have a multi-faceted distribution network. We do business online and offline. We work with major department stores and specialty store chains. The business is domestic across the US, as well as international.

How many garments are made in a month? Who designs the garments?

We work the numbers on an annual basis. For the first year, we had projected to do 145,000 units which will scale to close to 2 million units by the fifth year. 

We have a very talented design duo, both graduates from FIT in the US. I specifically looked for raw, young, fresh talent untainted by the industry. For me, a fresh perspective trumps experience. Art & Eden had to exist because we bought something fresh, new and exciting into the market. Katherine Lee is our awesome girls' designer who pours all her heart into everything we do at Art & Eden. Joey Benshetrit is our spirited boys' designer who truly labours over what's the new cool in the boys' world.

How many collections are made in a year? How many styles are there in a collection? What is the price range?

We do five collections in a year: Spring / Summer / Fall / Winter / Holiday. We have about 70 styles in each major collection over each division. Holiday is smaller at 50 styles. We wanted to ensure that we made Art & Eden affordable for all to enjoy. Our prices are in the $20-35 range.
Published on: 16/08/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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