From Green Right Now Reports
Nancy’s Gone Green, based in Framingham, Mass., is just one of many eco-friendly clothing boutiques that are springing up across the U.S., offering one-of-a-kind designs you won’t find in chain stores.
We stumbled on them via Green America, which is highlighting 10 green clothiers who are finalists for this summer’s “People & Planet Award.” The contestants are all green businesses that operate with an ethical supply chain (i.e., they don’t use sweatshops). The winner will be chosen by online viewers who can vote here.
All of the companies seem deserving, so vote for your favorite one.
We’re highlighting Nancy’s Gone Green because we liked how they are selling vintage, upcycled and new clothing. Their green ambitions seem to know no bounds, as we found out when we spoke with Mary Savoca, who with her mom, Nancy Savoca, has been wrapped up in the vintage and green clothing scene for the past six years. The mother-daughter team own the company, which sells locally and online.
Tell me about your design aesthetics, your core focus?
"As you saw from our site we're definitely eclectic. We draw insipiration from a lot of different places, but in general I think what we’re trying to do is to defy what a lot of poeple think of when they think of green products. So, a lot of people envision a lot of beige and brown and things that are really neutral, kind of loose fitting, plain kind of clothing, and for us we’re really going for REALLY FUN bright colors, really well fitted flattering clothes that are on trend, not trendy, because trendy isn’t really eco-friendly, those are throwaway clothes"
“We’re looking for things that are really flattering, generally pretty feminine that’s kind of our aesthetic and bright colors, fun prints that people may not think of when they think of green fashion.
Do you think people still think of green fashion as that off-white T-shirt with a logo on it?
“There’s a growing community of people who realize that you don’t have to sacrifice style to wear green fashion, but I think the larger public still sees it as overpriced, ugly, potato-sack clothes and it really isn’t anymore. We’re trying to create something that’s really appealing to everyone, even some poeple who are not as tuned in to the green movement as we are and our customers are. That’s really our ultiamte goal is to pull in people who really haven’t thought about this sort of thing before because they love the products, and then have them say ‘Oh wow, it’s organic and it’s fair trade and it’s not even that expensive! This is great why don’t I buy all my clothes this way. That’s really our goal in everything we do.”
So how did you decide to form a company with your mom?
“When I was a senior in high school, my mom and I had started selling a lot of clothes on eBay, used clothes, vintage clothes. We’ve always been really into hunting for vintage clothing. So we got started with the vintage, we really loved it and we were making money. So I of got the entrepreneur bug and really wanted to start soemthign together with my mom. So we started to get serious about the vintage clothing and see it as a real business and in time it evolved to a point in time where we wanted to be selling not just one of a kind items, but something that came in more quantities. It made sense to do eco-friendly clothing because it went right in line with the recycling concepts we were already doing.
Then my mom’s line, Re:awakened, which is an upcycled clothing collection, it’s kind of the halfway point (between vintage and new eco-clothing) because what she does is she takes either vintage fabric or gently used fabric and reworks it into new designs. So she’s sort of crosing into an area inbetween our vintage clothing and the new green clothing.
One thing that’s very interesting about your business is that you have this range of vintage clothing and then a mix of offerings, new and upcycled. Who designs the new clothing that you’re retailing?
The new stuff, if you just go to clothing on our site, the new stuff is done by several dozen designers that we work with. So we’re working with a lot of Fair Trade Cooperatives, that are either working with organic fabrics or recycled fabrics. There’s a lot of really exciting things that are happening now with recycled polyester. That’s one of the fabrics that’s getting really big.
But we work with mostly global, Fair Trade coops, and right now we’re trying to connect a lot more with Made in the USA workshops and we’re making connections with very local producers, which is exciting. Because a lot of the American eco-fashion is prohibitively expensive. And most of it is not eco-friendly, there may be a line that’s organic, but it’s very small and very limited.
For me, when I’ve been looking for Made in the USA eco-lines, there are lines that are selling an luxury T-shirt for $160 or whatever and we just can’t sell that, to almost everyone. And we’re not interested in seeking out the customers who are willing pay $160 for a product. We want to sell to regular people. We're looking for products that a regular person that can buy and get behind.
Is it hard competing in the clothing market, generally, against corporations that pay low wages and operate on volumes with low margins? How do you compete?
I have to say that most of our customers right now are already convinced that the eco and fair labor products are what they want to buy. But we see a lot of opportunity in creating unique designs that you can't buy anywhere else…Clothing with block printing or embroidery, stuff you cannot find at the mall.
And our prices aren’t that high! Our tops are under $50 and most of our dresses are under $100. We can’t compete with H&M or Walmart.
But you’re selling a different product than what those stores offer? Yes.
You want to sell an ethical and green product; that encompasses a lot, how do you accomplish this goal?
Becoming a member of Green America was really helpful. That helped us figure out the 360 degrees of becoming an ethical company…It's not just the material we're using and the labor. It includes trying to be more local.
We also always looking for things that use organic fabric or recycled fabric or natural materials, like among our accessories, there’s jewelry made from nuts and seeds and recycled metals….
Then in terms of the labor side of things, everything is either made in the U.S. or follows fair labor practices. For the fair labor aspect of it, a lotof designers are fair trade certified, and we have a close relationship with them. Some of the smaller producers are taking steps in that direction. They’re maybe too small to be certified but they care for their workers and believe in paying a living wage.
What can you tell us about your moves toward using more local producers?
We ourselves are looking at doing some local production here in Boston. There's a lot of it already in New York City and LA. Hyperlocal is something we're getting very excited about. We have a vision of New England becoming a center for eco-friendly production.
What we're working on are basically some creative designs that are really modern. We’re again looking for interesting colors, prints and shapes that flatter a woman’s body. A lot of this will be happening in the spring.
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