The kids are all right
Five children between three working moms and apparently no wears in organic cotton somewhere at Oakland in California. So the trio with more than four decades of experience in the business of apparel decided to put their heads together to launch Mightly, a line of comfortwear for children in the 2-12 age group that can handle any kind of adventure, are ethically made, and don't cost a fortune. Paulami Chatterjee speaks to CEO Tierra Forte about sustainable kids’ wear.
You have only established your brand last year. What are the major goals you have achieved so far and what are the new learnings?
Our main goal is to make sustainable children's clothing accessible to more families. We believe that all kids should be able to wear natural organic fabrics that are free from toxic dyes and chemicals, and that farmers and workers should have safe working conditions and be paid fairly. Everything we do as a business is driven by these goals. We started with a small collection of graphic tees made from organic cotton. Since then we have launched many other styles, including dresses, leggings, hoodies, underwear, and award-winning pajamas, all of which are both Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified and Fair Trade certified. Certification is extremely important because it means that our customers can feel confident that they are buying from a brand that shares their values.
How did your previous experience of being part of the sustainable apparel industry help you set up the brand? How did you come in touch with the other co-founders Barrie Brouse and Anya Marie Emerson?
When it came to launching Mightly, my long-time relationships with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Fair Trade Certified factories was a tremendous asset. We are working with suppliers and certifiers that I have been working with for over a decade, which means we're starting our business relationship from a place of mutual trust and respect. The same is true with my two partners. I've known them both for many years. Barrie and I worked together at Sweet Potatoes, a boutique children's wear brand back in the early 90s, and Anya and I got back as far as elementary school.
Sustainability often comes for a price. How do you keep your sustainably produced clothes affordable?
We work closely with our suppliers to make sure that everything we develop plays to their strengths as a manufacturer, rather than chasing trends. We focus on making great quality classic styles that we can repeat season after season to maximise efficiency in every step of the supply chain, from fibre to yarn to sewing. Many apparel companies spend a lot of money on marketing and advertising in order to justify their high prices. We choose to invest in making great products, not great ads, and we pass the savings along to our customers.
With so many brands turning towards sustainability, how is the competition like for you? How are your products different?
I agree that sustainable fashion is a fast growing segment of the apparel industry, but given the overwhelming "fast fashion" nature of the sector, there's still a long way to go! If you look at customer preferences, a majority prefer to buy from sustainable brands, so there is plenty of demand. This is especially true in the children's space, because people often make the transition to eco-friendly products when they become parents.
As you alluded to, many sustainable brands are premium priced and out of reach for many families. Mightly is one of the few brands that offers Organic and Fair Trade Certified products at prices comparable to mainstream brands.
But it wouldn't matter how low our prices are if we didn't make great products! One thing that makes our products stand out is our partnership with print and textile artist, Lili Arnold. Lili is known for her hand-carved, nature-inspired block prints that she translates into unique prints and graphics for Mightly. And we know from online reviews that our customers continually praise the thick, soft quality of our fabrics and our vibrant, bold colours.
What will be the trends in sustainable kids' fashion going forward?
To be honest, at Mightly we don't really care about trends. Chasing trends is one of the things that makes the fashion industry so unsustainable in the first place. At Mightly, we're hyper focused on doing what we do well, which is making high quality, certified organic cotton products that are designed with kids in mind. For example, our leggings come with invisible reinforced knees, because we know that falling down is a part of being a kid and leggings need to be able to withstand a few falls.
Is it only India which supports your natural fibres and non-toxic dyes requirement or are there other sourcing destinations involved?
Currently we're only sourcing in India. There, we are able to source high-quality rainfed cotton from family farmers which means that our business is supporting people who are caring for their land and reinvesting in their communities. We also like that we have visibility into every step of the process and that we don't have to ship raw materials around the world.
How can consumers know that each product is sustainable - from seed to shelf - how transparent is your supply chain?
Sustainability starts with transparency, which means we have mapped our entire supply chain back to raw cotton. And we back up our sustainability claims through independent third-party certification at every step of the process through both GOTS and Fair Trade Certification. Consumers can look for these two labels of all of our products.
To explain further, as raw materials and unfinished product proceed from cotton farm to cotton gin, and pass through the spinners, fabric mills, dye houses, and on to the final sewing factory, each and every step requires a GOTS Transaction Certificate to ensure GOTS compliance. Additionally, our factory, as a Fair Trade certified factory, must adhere to rigorous social, environmental and economic standards to protect the health and safety of workers. For every Fair Trade certified product sold, Mightly pays an additional Fair Trade Premium directly back to the workers who make our clothes. Collectively, they vote on how to spend the funds on projects that address local needs, so that their families and children can thrive for generations to come.
Where is the production of clothes done? Are there more than 1 party involved in the same?
Our entire supply chain is in India. There are multiple suppliers involved in making Mightly clothing, which is why we believe that transparency is so important.