Q&A with Aysia WrightOwner and Founder of Greenloop Why fashion, being so influential, visible, and tangible, provides a powerful vehicle for change.
By the time Aysia Wright was in high school she was advocating for environmental issues, establishing a community-wide recycling program, while also crusading for animal rights. And, while she went on to follow her environmental passion, earning her B.A. in Environmental Science and her Law Degree in Environmental Law & Policy, it wasn’t until years later that Wright realized she had a different eco-calling in life—becoming the first fashion retailer to not only take into account ethics and environmental issues, but to do so while maintaining high style.
Q: Why did you create Greenloop?
I ended up practicing law for about 5 years in an unrelated field, got married, had kids and like many women trying to juggle these huge life changes, sort of lost myself for a while. Upon turning 30, I had a quarter-life check, realized I was not doing what I wanted to do, and started looking for a creative, market based outlet to get back on the environmental advocacy path. Greenloop was the solution. At the time, in 2004, there simply was no such thing as an eco-fashion retailer but a few designers were using sustainable textiles in modern, trend conscious collections. Fashion, being so influential, visible, and tangible, provides a powerful vehicle for change, allowing conversations about often stereotyped or judgmental feeling issues to happen in a fun, educational, inspirational manner vs. the old soapbox approach.
Q: What types of materials do you look for?
Certified organic fibers, including organic cotton; sustainable lower impact textiles like hemp, tencel, linen, and modal; recycled & up-cycled materials, including eco spun, recycled & natural rubber, recycled metals; and leather alternatives—vegan, faux leathers (non-PVC), though I am hoping to see more nonpetroleum polymer based leather alternatives soon. In general, we look for materials whose overall ecological footprint is significantly lower than their conventional counterpart—all the way from seed/source to final textile and including labor/human rights issues along the production chain.
Q: What types of practices do you hope to promote?
Practices that are as closed loop as possible in terms of inputs (water, energy and natural resources) and outputs, conservation of water, energy and resources, using non-toxic substances, chemicals, finishes, and that is free from heavy metals, chlorines/dioxins, caustic agents, etc. In addition, [we want to support companies that demonstrate] respect for human health and quality of life in the workplace.
Q: What impact do you feel consumers have with their fashion purchases?
It's a matter of voting with your dollar to support businesses that are working toward building a sustainable, socially and environmentally responsible economy. Right now, especially, in the wake of the economic 'cleansing' we have all been witness to and a part of, all of us as consumers have a tremendous opportunity to reshape the economic landscape, filling it with the type of sustainable, responsible businesses that operate based on a triple bottom line - People, Planet, Profit.
Q: Eco fashion tends to cost more than average clothes and accessories. Why? And, why should we be willing to pay more?
A better understanding of the "true cost" of everything we consume, not just fashion, is critical. Do you really think a $10 T-shirt could possibly represent materials that are grown and processed in an eco-sensitive manner, labor that respected human rights, transport that took into account its carbon footprint? No way. Not possible. People have become accustomed to being able to buy goods at unreasonably and unrealistically low prices given what things really cost, when produced in a manner consistent with environmental and social ideals. The materials cost more, in part because economy of scale for sustainable textiles is not yet present. Demand is there, and growing, but it has not yet reached a tipping point. The labor used to create these goods is more expensive—factories are monitored, living wages are paid, children in sweatshops are not making these goods. And finally, there are brand premiums involved as well for many eco-fashion lines. These lines are coveted, the brands sought after, so they are able to demand a higher price because what they are making is special, has a great story and that is reflected in the price.
Q: What eco-purchase do you feel offers the biggest bang for your buck?
Jeans and T-shirt—no doubt about it. The items we wear everyday, wear out and replace with a certain regularity. If you are going to make a few changes and buy new goods for your wardrobe, focus on these pieces. We all wear them, all the time, and there are a ton of great options out there. Not only does apparel need to be sustainably and ethically made, but also wearable, practical, and to a degree, timeless and season-less. Slower fashion that lasts, styles that you can update in small ways to keep up with trends. It’s all part of the equation.