From Luxury Fashion to Sending Girls to School
Interviewing changemakers in the fashion industry is what we do here at Global Garbs.
It seems that everywhere we look there are new brands popping up left and right.
But when it comes to brands who are driven by sustainability, fair trade or social responsibility the US is definitely a bit behind the curve.
However, instead of buying more and more, we definitely see that there has been a shift over the past decade or so in consumers wanting to put their money towards products they believe in.
That’s why today’s interview is such an important one.
I recently had the privilege to chat with the founder of Rallier, Olivia Wright.
Rallier is an emerging womenswear brand designed and made in New York inspired by the notion of a self-defined uniform.
Made from high quality ethically sourced natural fibers, the brand also has a giving program in which for every piece sold, school uniforms are sourced from regions plagued by gender inequality and given to local schoolgirls.
Coming from what she calls “old school global luxury” brands, Olivia spent the majority of her career working in marketing and public relations for brands like Cartier, Vera Wang, and Prada.
During her time at Prada, Warby Parker was first launching. What she noticed was that many brands were starting to emerge within this (giving) type of space. However the majority of the brands were rather inexpensive (around $75), and she couldn’t quite grasp the idea as to how we as consumers were expecting these brands at such low price points to consistently make donations when higher end luxury brands - with much more room for margin are not doing this.
After realizing this was happening, Olivia knew that she eventually wanted to pursue fashion in a more socially responsible way.
“I had always planned to take my background in luxury fashion and apply it to social responsibility. But in my mind it was sort of like, ok, this is something I’m going to do twenty years from now when I’m the VP and have more leverage and more stability in my career.
...and then I saw a documentary called Girl Rising. It’s essentially about girls around the world who are trying to go to school but can’t for various reasons. It’s sort of one of those things that just stuck with me.
After that, Olivia started to get heavily involved in different non profits and really researching and understanding what was going on with this particular situation.
During this time she came across a study in Kenya that looked at the impact of donating school uniforms to students that didn’t previously own one.
The results showed a reduced student absentee rate by 64% which Olivia was blown away by.
HER AH-HA MOMENT
“As someone that works in fashion and the amount of clothes and waste out there is just so overwhelming, and so the fact that a piece of clothing and a lack of this piece of clothing could be the thing that prevents students from going to school, just didn’t make sense to me.”
And so it was just one of those (not be cheesey), ah-ha moments.
And an “ah-ha” moment it was.
Olivia then went back to business school at NYU Stern to get her MBA and use the next two years as a way to really research and develop the brand, it’s mission, and the whole launch process.
At the the time what she realized was that there were numerous brands such as Warby Parker, FEED bags, and TOMS who were sort of leading the way with their lower price points and with a gift/kitschy brand ethos, but nowhere near the price points her brand would aim for (dresses range from $295-$495)
So by taking the time to really think about the way people were dressing, and how to build a contemporary brand with a social mission, the idea of creating a collection tied back to their overall mission of giving uniforms became a part of her brand ethos of uniform dressing.
In addition to her social mission, the idea of uniform dressing and purchasing items that can be worn for many years to come is such a great mentality shift that her brand is adopting.
THE SUSTAINABLE/ ETHICAL PROCESS
When I started to get into the reasons why Olivia chose to create not only a brand driven by its social mission but to also ensure that the brand was made ethically and with sustainable fabrics, her response was absolutely amazing...
“I think from a human perspective, if you’re creating fashion right now and you’re not thinking about your impact on the planet and sustainability, you really shouldn’t be operating.
It’s starting to get to the point of no longer is it something that you’re just interested in, it’s more of an imperative.
I think we’re going to get to a point where it’s not like, we’re ethical brands; it’s going to be more like NO we’re just normal brands and the other people are harmful brands.”
When Olivia made this statement, I realized it’s something I’ve heard quite frequently from other designers I’ve interviewed regarding sustainable fashion
Sustainability and ethically made clothing shouldn’t be a trend. It should be the norm.
We as consumers really shouldn’t have to worry about if the garments we wear are hurting the planet or being made by someone who isn’t being paid fairly or in bad working conditions.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I was truly inspired and excited about the future of sustainability.
If there were more people like Olivia, who come from traditional luxury retailers making these bold moves in their career, I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the future holds for fashion being made sustainably, ethically, and with a social mission. Bravo Olivia!