More about Our Founder

Susanna Schick has worked in product development for some of the top fashion designers in New York and Los Angeles, always choosing creative challenges over money and security. Ms. Schick always remained true to her north star goal- to deliver the greatest good for the greatest number, while also finding creative and intellectual fulfillment in her work. Thus, she shared her expertise with her students at Parsons School of Design while also completing projects from multiple avant-garde designers desperately preparing for Fashion Week.

When apparel product development ceased to be adequately challenging, she pursued an MBA focused on sustainability. The intersection between preserving Earth’s finite resources and promoting more meaningful consumption is where her passion lies. Ms. Schick spent the summer of 2009 with Virgance in San Francisco, helping them develop and scale Carrotmob, an exciting new form of consumer activism.

When she’s not dreaming up innovative ways to solve the world’s problems, or striving to make Los Angeles the world capital of eco-fashion, Ms. Schick can be found using her talent for strategy in darting through traffic on her motorcycle or bicycle. Try to keep up on Twitter: @pinkyracr

The Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show at Los Angeles Fashion Week

 Last Saturday afternoon, Sunset Gower Studios played host to a different kind of show, created by the Green Youth Movement and produced by Gallery LA. The Green Youth Movement was started by Archer student Ally Maize, whose mission includes:

“As founder of GYM, I hope to one day garner the support of politicians and educators to create a practical and research based environmental course of study that would ultimately become integrated in every elementary school education curriculum across the nation.”

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Global Green and What Makes an Oscar Gown Green?

 

Photo Courtesy of Brandon Hickman
 At the Global Green Pre-Oscar party last week, Suzy Amis Cameron’s eco Oscar gown was unveiled. It was lovely, but there was no mention of what made this gown more sustainable than most, other than it was colored “Na’vi blue”.

This sort of vagueness is how people can easily be accused of greenwashing.  Even the interview with the designer did not include this pertinent information, only her discussing the challenge of creating an eco gown. Yes, it’s a little harder, but when price is not an issue it’s no harder than designing any other couture-quality gown.

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TransFair Develops Fair Trade Certification for Apparel

A child in Zanzibar wearing a secondhand dress from…

Recently I met with Tierra Forte of TransFair USA, to discuss the new apparel certification pilot program they’re developing to extend fair trade benefits and protections beyond just the farm, but also for factory workers. I am very excited about this, as one of the main reasons I chose to pursue an MBA in Sustainability was to find a way to help improve labor conditions for apparel industry workers. Having worked in the US apparel industry for over a decade, I’ve witnessed the shift from domestic to foreign to predominantly Chinese manufacturing, and all of the benefits and difficulties that encompassed.

67% of American Consumers Don’t Know Fair Trade

The United States represents 30% of the fair trade market, even though only 33% of American consumers know what “fair trade” means. Have you explained it to your friends and family yet? I didn’t even know how environmentally rigorous the certification is until I dug into TransFair’s website. TransFair teaches and empowers producers to become stewards of their environment, so that Fair Trade Certified products are also environmentally responsible. For example, with apparel, they only approve factories which already meet the legal environmental standards. This is a big deal in countries where many textile mills dump toxic waste into the water supply as part of the dyeing and finishing processes. 58% of TransFair’s commodity products are also certified organic, and this is increasing.

Clothing- Slightly More Complicated Than Coffee

Most people do not realize the amount of time and effort it takes to develop and manufacture a garment, and therefore undervalue clothing. Apparel uses a very complex supply chain which involves a broad range of suppliers.

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What’s an Eco Designer to Do about Bamboo?

Having read a lot of recent coverage of the FTC’s August 2009 ruling about bamboo, I wonder what will become of brands whose staple fabric is “bamboo”? The problem is, most of these designers and the textile sales reps they buy from, were sold rayon fabric labeled as bamboo.

Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber based on wood pulp. Sure, some of that wood pulp could be bamboo, but try getting a Chinese textile mill to tell you what they’re actually putting into the mix, as opposed to what they know you want them to tell you is in there.

While Viscose Rayon (known simply as Rayon in the US) is a wonderfully breathable fiber with great texture, strength, and drape-ability, it does require a lot of nasty chemicals to turn that wood pulp, bamboo or otherwise, into soft textile products. In Delia Montgomery’s recent article on the subject, one of the comments mentions the impact of cotton, complaining that cotton has a more negative net impact than bamboo.

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Photo of Bamboo Dress by Anna Ostrovskaya, Courtesy Reuters Oddly Enough

How Nike Considered Uses Innovation and Collaboration to Close the Loop

This impressive footprint is Nike’s Considered Air Jordan XX3, their first basketball shoe designed using the Considered Ethos.

Lorrie Vogel is the general manager of Nike Considered, Nike’s in-house sustainability think tank. She holds a degree in Industrial Design from Syracuse, and numerous patents. Her work in innovating around sustainability has helped put Nike on Fast Company’s Fast 50 list multiple times. Considering how aggressive Nike’s sustainability goals have been, it’s even more impressive that they are on track to meet their targets.

Sustainability is second only to performance when ranking the critical factors of a product. Nike is committed to making their entire collection as environmentally responsible as possible. Lorrie Vogel spoke at the Opportunity Green conference in Los Angeles, explaining some of the ways Nike is meeting these targets. In this phone interview, Lorrie expands on some of the points she touched on in her presentation. The conversation is split into two articles, in order to go deeper into the many changes that need to happen to increase use of recycled and organic materials in apparel and footwear. We begin with a discussion about materials, and conclude with the human element needed to ensure these changes occur in a timely manner.

From Nike: The long-term vision for Considered is to design products that are fully closed loop: produced using the fewest possible materials, designed for easy disassembly while allowing them to be recycled into new product or safely returned to nature at the end of their life. By 2011, 100 percent of footwear will meet baseline Considered standards, apparel by 2015 and equipment by 2020 – creating better performing products while minimizing environmental impact by reducing waste, using environmentally preferred materials and eliminate toxins.

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Recycled Underwear? PACT Doesn’t Recommend It.

Earlier this week I spoke with Jason and Jeff, co-founders of PACT, the most socially and environmentally responsible underwear company on earth, as far as I know. Not only do they use organic cotton, GOTS compliant dyes and otherwise uber-responsible manufacturing, they also donate 10% of sales to charities. This is utterly astounding in an industry where even a 10% profit margin is a miracle. But then, most apparel companies weren’t founded by Haas MBA’s.

Cradle To Cradle For Everything?

Jason and I got to talking about Cradle to Cradle, as it’s an interesting topic, and well, they’re already doing everything else, why not take it a step further? Do I hear a protest? You don’t want someone’s underwear recycled into your t-shirt? But it’s for the cause, man… OK, jokes aside, and even if it wasn’t underwear being discussed, but some other form-fitting cotton garment, Jason did the research. Because he cares that much. The thing is, 100% cotton gets baggy and saggy. So it’s more likely to be thrown out soon. If it happens to be owned by someone who’s passionate enough to find a place to deliver their used cotton underwear, it can be recycled. Jason explained that less than 1% of all cotton is currently recycled, and Jeff pointed out that even pure cotton sometimes contains dyes and chemicals that make it impossible to recycle.

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Is This the End of Greenwashing for Consumer Products?

After watching Walmart’s Sustainability Milestone meeting, I am still convinced that the index they’re developing could be the end of greenwashing as we know it. They’ve engaged a broad enough range of engaged stakeholders, from Environmental Defense Fund to Business for Social Responsibility to their competitors that this could truly succeed. All speakers talked enough about the importance of full life-cycle analysis and transparency. The level of transparency is laudable, but there is still a question as to how well these metrics will be monitored. While the retailer is working closely with their suppliers to help them reduce their emissions, other changes require better management practices, which are harder to monitor.

By October, their US suppliers (Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, etc.) will have answered 15 questions related to life-cycle analysis of their products. These questions mainly focus on GHG emissions and labor practices throughout the entire supply chain. Most are yes/no, and Walmart will use these answers to determine what needs to be addressed first. The second step in this massive project, and the one where Walmart wants to be sure all stakeholders are involved, entails actually creating and maintaining the database of information about all these products. Mike Duke, CEO, explained they want to spur development of an open platform that all retailers and manufacturers can develop.

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