Podcast

Indigenous.com

Indigenous: The Importance Of Fair Trade

It supports better models
Friday, November 2, 2018, 3:57 PM

Fashion is a dirty business.

Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for five percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions? That's equivalent to the impact of the aviation industry  -- equal to the carbon output of all the planes flying around the planet each year.

In addition, the industry is rife with human rights abuses and is a toxic polluter.

Just as what we choose to eat has an impact on our bodies, our communities and the planet, so does what we wear. But while there's been substantial advancement in consumer labelling in the food industry ("organic", "pasture-raised", etc), there's not much of an equivalent with apparel.

The next time you buy an article of clothing, how can you make a choice better aligned with your values?

Here to explain how are Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds, founders of Indigenous Designs, an organic fair trade fashion company at the vanguard of forcing the apparel industry to become more socially responsible. 

  

Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Matt Reynolds and Scott Leonard of Indigenous Clothing (45m:23s).

Transcript: 

Adam Taggart: Hello. And welcome to Peak Prosperities featured voices podcast. I'm your host, Adam Taggart. Here at Peak Prosperity we strive to surface models of better ways for entering the future. How can we be more sustainable and resilient both environmentally and economically? Well, this week we're going to look at the fashion industry. We've all heard of the human rights violations that unethical switch shop operators can be guilty of. Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for five percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions? That's equivalent to the impact of the aviation industry of all the planes flying around the planet each year. Just as what we eat not only impacts our health, but the welfare along the entire supply chain of food productions and distribution, the same is true for what we wear. Now, we have at least some standards like organic labels that help us choose which type of farming models we want to support, but what about our clothes? How can we tell if the shirt we're buying is made from sustainably grown material or colored from nontoxic dyes or whether the weaver who made it is paid a living wage?

To help us understand and navigate how our clothing choices impact the world around us are Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds, the cofounders of Indigenous Designs, one of the world's leading fair-trade fashion companies. Matt and Scott have been passionate agitators for greater social responsibility throughout the entire supply chain in the fashion industry, and they created a successful model at Indigenous to help lead that change. Scott and matt, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.

Scott Leonard: It's a pleasure.

Matt Reynolds: Absolutely. Really nice to be here.

Adam Taggart: Well, let's start with some background on the dark side of the clothing industry because I think most people are completely unaware of it. Just how bad is the situation when it comes to polluting, human rights violations and the like?

Matt Reynolds: Well, you addressed it right there in the beginning. I mean, it is a nasty industry. And we actually found at Indigenous to really address that problem. Fashion is the third largest contributor to global pollution. As you had mentioned, petroleum being right up there at the top. And, another thing people don’t think about is how many people work in the fashion industry. One in five people on the planet, in some way, touch the supply chain, the fashion industry or the retail side of the fashion industry or the cut and sew or the manufacturing side or even the farming agricultural side. And over 80 percent of those people that are in the fashion industry are women. And all too often they are exploited and not treated with dignity or respect. So it is a really, really dirty industry, and we are here to be a bellwether example of a fashion brand that is authentically turning a dirty industry upside down. Some other little stats – five percent of every landfill is textiles. Nearly 100 percent of those textiles could be recycled but they aren't; they're just discarded. Twenty two percent of the insecticides used worldwide are sprayed on crops, and it takes a third of a pound of pesticides to just make one cotton t-shirt. It's pretty bad out there and we're really….

Scott Leonard: What I'll say is, and I'll interject a little bit here saying it's not all doom and gloom. There are companies like Indigenous and we can support organic cotton. We certainly can support things, a lot of circular activity. We talk about circular fashion, different ways that we can take all that landfill that you we're taking about, Matt, and put it into use into more than just a recycling mode. So literally building props from the beginning also that are amazing from the molecule up and being able to look at it from a circular standpoint. There's organizations out there like Fashion for Good which we've been very instrumental in being on the ground floor out of Amsterdam. There's actually percolating a lot of innovations around building better products. But there's a lot of things we can do including adhering to great fair-trade principles which we do with Indigenous. I'm not sure if that's something that we might want to talk a little bit about.

Adam Taggart: Sure. Well, you just used a word there, fair trade, which I've heard a little bit about, largely in respect to products like coffee but also a little bit in fashion. But just so folks listening have an understanding, what exactly is meant when we talk about fair trade?

Scott Leonard: If you look at the roots of fair trade, it is commodity based. And it was actually to ensure that the producers of our, say it's bananas or coffee, we're actually paid a fair price for their yield at the end of health year in the marketplace. Because what we were seeing was a lot of subsidies going on from governments and then all the sudden, wow, wait a second, this coffee that I've grown, I can barely get by with the price on the market as a farmer. So creating fair trade was like creating a fair floor price for the products in advance with the buyers. That's the premise of fair trade. Since then, and that was back in the '70s, since then there's been ways to incorporate almost all different aspects of supply chains into fair trades. But the root of it is around allowing workers and producers to have a voice and a negotiation in a participatory way of moving forward in products that they produce.

Adam Taggart: Got it. And a way that I've kind of thought about it myself, which sounds like it still might be accurate given what you're saying, is that floor that you're talking about is sort of ensuring that the worker who is essential to bringing that commodity to market is getting paid a living wage for it so that we're not basically undermining the base of the pyramid for commodity production.

Scott Leonard: That's exaclty right. And maybe there's a few things I can kind of bring to light that we call them our fair-trade principles that we adhere to at Indigenous. So it's all about maintaining these long-term relationships. So one thing you don’t want to do as a brand is go in one year and offer a great price for, say it's a garment in our case, or offer work, and then pull back out. You want to be there for the long term. You don’t want what we call these peaks and valleys that happen because that doesn't give the community steady workflow and a source for viable income. So, again, not coming in and just offering, in the case of commodities, coming in one year and being a buyer for coffee – with Indigenous, not just coming in one year and producing some garments and then leaving. Having solutions for the long-term aspect and accountability for capacity building with artisans is key.

Adam Taggart: Before you move on from there, as I've understood it, which I think is both very respectable but also just makes a lot of long-term business sense, is by making long term commitments, the point you made earlier, is you're allowing the community to invest in itself, to invest in infrastructure, to invest in – especially in some of these more developing markets where you might be dealing with people that otherwise might be itinerant. You give them the opportunity to plant roots, to put in sanitation, to invest in education, to invest in hospitals, things like that, that they otherwise might not be able to if they're having to uproot to go to the next commodity or the next area where someone's paying the best price that year for whatever product that is. So rather than persisting this problem where people are perpetually migrant, you're actually giving them the opportunity invest, to build stability themselves. And for you as the business partner, you don’t have to go find new sources of labor every year. You know that you’ve got this long term dependable and eventually fairly highly trained community over time. Is that an accurate way to think of it?

Scott Leonard: Oh, it is very accurate. It's actually – when we started this company one of the ideas was to support exactly that. How can we have indigenous women more empowered to actually own a viable business and income stream that allowed them to reinvest money into the family, into education, into…

Matt Reynolds: Preserve the cultural traditions of their handicraft, how to make – we make democratic decision-making processes as well which is a huge part of fair trade. So they actually have a voice in the actual process and in the pricing, in the product value proposition.

Scott Leonard: We found that when you're investing back into women it actually does go back into education with kids and meal planning, into the family unit. So that's literally one of things that we've done. And, yeah, it does actually create a stronger sense of stability. And that's one of things that we've actually brought to the table too is bringing not only the education but the training to the table so that they can do exactly that.

Adam Taggart: Great. And we'll get specifically into the Indigenous model in just a moment, but, because you mentioned it briefly, you said you worked with indigenous women and there it's small line indigenous meaning – you're actually talking about people that live it a different part of the world. I think with Indigenous you're dealing with artisans in Peru, correct?

Matt Reynolds: That's correct. Throughout South America. We don’t only work in Peru, but we have a very large part of our production partners that are in Peru and the artisans that we actually support in the Indigenous working groups that we actually have been working with for over a decade now are in Peru.

Adam Taggart: But we're talking about developing market, people that historically quite low wage earners before models like yours at the bakeries of whatever is available in that market to make a dollar. Maybe in the past it was working for a sweat shop or some operator like that where they didn't have a voice, they weren't necessarily paid a living wage. Maybe the revenue was there. Maybe it was there one year, but it wasn’t there the next year if the employer moved on to somebody else.

Scott Leonard: That's an accurate way of looking at it too. And we've gone to very hard to reach places as well where there's no income at all. And it kind of goes back to what you were talking about as far as that migrant worker, giving them an opportunity to stay in the communities in which they'd like to but there's sometimes not a viable income stream or work that they can actually grab ahold of. So we've gone out of our way to go to these really hard to reach places to support the communities. And it's not just been about the work for us. We've gone beyond fair trade too. So some of those educational programs that you were saying when you invest into the community and allowing the women to invest in the community, well, we've actually enhanced that by surrounding them with NGO support and coming in and bringing in things like clean water initiatives that we've paid for ourselves. For instance, last year, we paid for 250 artisan families to have clean drinking water in very hard to reach places; ten thousand feet and above. And we're going to continue on with these types of programs. But it's being able to support that overall community that's so important that you’ve spoken to, Adam , and that Matt and I are both so continuing forward with Indigenous as a model.

Adam Taggart: So this is definitely a form of socially responsible business which we'll talk about a little bit more because you guys are definitely one of the more active companies that I know of in the whole social responsibility space. But looking at the business side of things, you guys have been in business with this model for twenty year or this year or so. Obviously, it's great for a number of humanitarian reasons to do some of the things you just mentioned there, Scott, like bringing clean drinking water into these communities and whatnot. Because you’ve been at it now for so long, can you speak to some of the long-term benefits just on the bottom line side that you’ve gotten from being socially responsible?

Matt Reynolds: I think that – I don't know – I'm feeling that it might be helpful to give everybody a sense of kind of where we started first before addressing that question. So both Scott and I have a deep passion for sustainability and also indigenous culture and knowledge and grew up with that respect. You know, myself, I had a chance to live through Central and South America early on, and I saw firsthand that we live in a really diverse world and that there were so many people that didn't have the opportunities that I had growing up. And so we said when we went to go climb – when we started Indigenous we said we went to go climb a mountain because we literally were in the Andes meeting with artisans. But we say it wasn't a mountain of earth, really, that we were trying to climb. We were trying to create a scalable, viable model. A cottage industry model that respected the deep cultural traditions of the Andean people and wouldn't harm our environment at the same time. And how do we meet people that are amazing, passionate entrepreneurs that don’t have opportunities, and not to be a charity but to really be – to give a leg up or to give a helping hand in bringing them access to financing, helping them with design, helping bring their skills to the main stage to be the best product out there in the world, but made in a way that is truly authentic and respecting the actual hands that made it and the person that was involved with it and also using materials that don’t harm our environment? So that's where we started…

Scott Leonard: With great fit and style, I might add.

Matt Reynolds: So here we are flash forward 20 years later as a multimillion-dollar fashion brand that is in Nordstrom's, Barnies, Bloomingdales, Saks, and hundreds of specialty retailers that is 100 percent stayed committed to those founding values. And I think that's a really important thing to point out that everything we do – it's not just a niche of our brand that it's fair trade and organic. It's 100 percent social and environment commitment. And that is what I think is very unique about Indigenous. So full circle back to the artisan. They're entrepreneurs. So we created this virtual entrepreneurial engine that is working with artisans disbursed in very remote, impoverished regions around the developing world. And are helping them create these micro enterprises and little communities where a knitter or a weaver might be given a zero-interest loan by us and our partners. And they're able to then get their own looms and bring it in and start bringing in their friends to work on looming. And eventually that expands, and before you know it you’ve got 50, 60 artisans all producing together, making a fair living wage that's third party certified – so everything that we do, whether it's organic certification has to be third party certified to ensure the authenticity. If it's fair trade, it has to be third party certified to ensure the actual artisans are making a living wage.

Adam Taggart: Thank you for giving that backstory. It did a great job of really putting its finger on what I find most inspiring about you guys which is that you – and it sort of goes to the question I asked earlier which maybe I'll ask in a slightly different way. But you have been able to be true to those ideals and to be sort of at the vanguard of social responsibility. But your point is not to simply be a charity. In other words, you guys could be a nonprofit bringing clean drinking water or economic opportunity or low-cost living to these people. But you’ve actually built this into your business model and you mentioned that you're a multimillion-dollar fashion company now after two decades, and you're running profitably, I take it. So you’ve actually figured out how to do what I think a lot of entrepreneurs even here in the states would love to do at heart, but not necessarily have figured out how to do in practice which is to remain committed 100 percent, as you said, to the founding ideals, but to be able to do so at a profit. You really truly appear to be doing well by doing good.

Scott Leonard: The triple bottom line, right? People, planet and profit.

Adam Taggart: So kind of back to my original question, twenty years in doing this, by making these investments in the communities in which you're engaging with, it sounds like you have actually seen an economic return on that over time. You've actually seen that you’ve gotten better quality products that you're able to sell at a higher price point and that it's creating a virtuous cycle over time.

Matt Reynolds: We've actually – we have taken, though, a very methodical and patient [Cross talking] We're a twenty-year overnight success story because it's really disruptive. It truly, when we started out, was a first of its kind in terms of a distributed cottage industry production model that had a long-term goal to redistribute wealth back to artisans at the base of the pyramid or Andes' economically marginalized communities. And that required a tremendous amount of commitment and passion to hold true. So our first decade was all bootstrapping and building the backend. And we self-invested our own capital, millions into the backend model to create a scalable cottage industry production model that could be reliable, that could bring the quality that meets the needs of a customer that's used to shopping at Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom's. And then also to do it, though, with the ethics that we're talking about and not – to go back to what Scott mentioned earlier – not go in and say okay, we've got a big purchase order from Nordstrom's. We're going to do ten thousand units with this knitting group and then see you later. They ramp up, they have to do it, and then the next year you're gone and they don’t have any work, and they’ve left their other jobs to do that. So we had to create long term visibility, forecasting and looking at capacity planning to be able to successfully do this very methodically, to maintain he profitability that we knew we had to do as a business. And I will say, just to say, we are one of the first 17 B-corporations. I don’t know if you’ve heard what the B-corporations…

Adam Taggart: I don’t know if everybody listening here knows exactly what a B corporation is.

Matt Reynolds: So B-corporations take into consideration all stakeholders of a business, not just the shareholders. So it actually is for responsible businesses that are wanting to improve the livelihoods of everybody that actually is involved in the product that the company is offering as well as the employees of the company as well as the shareholders. So it is a benefit corporation, is what B-corporation stands for. And there are a number of states if passed. There are now over two thousand B-corporations globally, and we're very proud to be one of the first 17 and signers on the what they call the B-corporation declaration of interdependence.

Scott Leonard: So, I think for us, it was actually a legacy move when we joined as a B-corp. It allowed us to actually galvanize our values and our principles literally into our bylaws. And so when you become a for benefit corporation for people on the planet, you’re able to take the values that mean the most to you and bring them into and get your shareholders to sign off on that. So everybody's on the same page. So for instance, for us, legally, we actually have to adhere to those principles. And that means that no matter who is guiding the ship years in the future, we can count on those values to stay true. So, for instance, only using organic cotton, that's what we do. We only have used certified, 100 percent certified organic cotton. And that is meaning – we use a lot of different fibers – but we're not going to use conventional cotton. So we are only using 100 percent certified organic cotton, when we use cotton, as you said, Matt, and also adhering to fair trade principles. But also being a beacon for sustainability and collaboration. We actually have that as something in our bylaws. Can you imagine like we want to blow on the coals of sustainability of other companies and be a beacon in that way.

Adam Taggart: You guys did a great job explaining that. As I understand it, you said, Scott, you're really, you're baking the social responsibility commitments into the bylaws of the company. And you said something I just want to make sure folks understand, if I understand correctly, which is if Indigenous, say, were to get bought by another company, the Indigenous division would still have to be run according to those commitments, right? That's part of what the B-corporation structure does, right? It makes those values and those commitments permanent.

Scott Leonard: That's right.

Adam Taggart: Well, fantastic. And just really quickly, if folks want to learn more about B-corporations, where would they go online. Do you know?

Scott Leonard: So you can just google B-corporation or B-lab.

Adam Taggart: Is B-lab the entity that sort of oversees and answers questions and helps people?

Scott Leonard: Yeah. They do a lot of the due diligence and do all the certifications. And you go through quite a process to become a B-corp.

Adam Taggart: And you mentioned now that there are thousands of them. You guys were one of the very first few. So there's some big, well known brands in there, right, like Catalonia. What are some other big brands that are in there that folks might recognize?

Scott Leonard: Ben and Jerry's.

Adam Taggart: Ben and Jerry's. Okay.

Scott Leonard: Method.

Adam Taggart: Okay. Great. So it's not just a confederation of small companies.

Scott Leonard: No, our good friends at Guayakí . We're here in Sebastopol, California. Our friends at Guayakí also are one of the original founding B-corps.

Adam Taggart: For those listening…

Matt Reynolds: Athleta just became a B-corp.

Adam Taggart: Great. I live in a house with teenage girls, and we have a lot of Athleta. All right. Great. I'm really glad that you brought the B-corp element into it. So, real quick, I probably should have started with this, but Indigenous, just very quickly, just give us a sense of the type of products you guys make.

Matt Reynolds: So we focus on impeccable quality knits for women, so sweaters, shirts, dresses, skirts, cardigans, tunics. You can go to indigenous.com and see our selections. We also have a really tight, curated men's offering, but we're primarily driven by women's fashion. Better end quality women knits that have a handmade element to them or are completely handmade.

Adam Taggart: Great. And for folds listening, and we'll talk in a moment about how you can learn more about Indigenous and whatnot but go to their website. We can talk about the quality of the design, but it's the kind of thing you just have to see for yourself. And you'll take a look at it and…

Matt Reynolds: It's meant to last. It is made so well that it will hold up over time. We design with western European detailing, so it's very classic in design and can transition from season to season. We joke it's investment dressing. You buy a piece of Indigenous, you take care of it, it will take care of you. It will be in your closet for years and years to come. This is not fast fashion. This is slow fashion.

Adam Taggart: One thing I want to underscore too and my wife will tell you I'm the last guy to talk to you about fashion in terms of how I dress myself, but when I think of knits that are made by people in the developing world, I kind of picture sort of the bulky, alpaca sweaters that you see at your local farmers market or swap meet or something like that. I mean, looking at the garments that you guys have and folks, I'm recording this in the actual offices of Indigenous. This looks just like walking into a Nordstrom's – these are every day, high quality fashion garments that you just see on professionals walking down Madison Avenue.

Scott Leonard: I would say that they're impeccably hand crafted in that way. And we're able to get things that are knit on looms that are hand loomed that you can get this really thin knit feel for it. So although we do a lot of hand knits as well, we're able to get things in what they say like thinner gauge. So you can have knit quality items that really are for any occasion. It can be casual, it can be light weight, and that's the market that we've actually addressed. So when Matt went through all the different products that we offer, we're able to get hand crafted detail in an impeccable way, right.

Matt Reynolds: Yeah. And we use only the finest raw materials. So if its cotton that's grown organically, we're using Pima cotton which is one of the highest quality, softest cottons out there. It just happens to be grown without pesticides, chemicals or defoliants. And then, if we use alpaca, our alpaca is free range, and we're using only the finest fibers on the alpaca which we call Royal alpaca or baby alpaca which is the underbelly of the alpaca, which is the softest portion of the fleece. So it's exquisitely soft. We're able to product things that are really sheer and thin to we can – we have some beautiful, big, thick, right, warm, hand knit, chunky, 100 free range alpaca sweaters that people love. But they're not what you would imagine at the market square when you're traveling through the Andes.

Adam Taggart: You guys did a great job of describing the quality of that. I just wanted to sort of dispel anyone thinking that oh, this looks like I'm wearing kind of a third world garment and I'm going to stand out. it like, no…

Matt Reynolds: And Scott and Matt are in their serapes right now.

Adam Taggart: But real quick, I really like that Matt described it. I mentioned earlier – I made some comparisons to food production. But just as somebody would subscribe to a CSA, and we've interviewed some CSA providers on the program in the past, where they know they're getting better quality food, either produce or meats, that's been produced in a sustainable way that's environmentally friendly, that is better for our bodies and better for the soil and the animals involved. It's that triple win. You guys basically create a model that's very similar just around clothing which is we're getting the highest quality output to be able to make the best garments in a way that treats everybody's ecosystem the best. And the people who are wearing if feel like they are wearing the highest quality around. So I really like what you’ve been able to do there. As people are going to make their next clothing purchase decisions – in the markets it's getting easier. It's still not exactly easy, but it's getting easier to make more informed food choices that the labeling is getting better, the standardization is getting better. Most groceries have clearly marked organic sections versus not and whatnot. Is it that way in the fashion world? I don’t think it is, but if you're – are there standards that are evolving? Are there ways for people to make a more informed choice? If they're pulling a shirt off the rack can they say is there a way for me to know this shirt was actually produced in a fair-trade way?

Matt Reynolds: So that is such a fun question for us to answer because we've actually been so passionate about the conversation of transparency for so long. And, in fact, I don’t know if you or your listeners remember the horrific tragedy that happened in Rana plaza where over two thousand factory workers were killed when a factor collapsed and structural damage was determined in the building prior to the collapse, but workers were forced to go back because of fear of losing their jobs.

Adam Taggart: This was in Southeast Asia, right?

Matt Reynolds: Yeah. And before that, we created something called the fair trace tool back in 2001 where every one of our garments had a hand tag that you could scan with a QR code, and you could meet with the artisan that made your product, learn about the social impact of your purchase and see where it was made. And, even more remarkably, in the backend, we used SMS technology, or cell phone, to be able to communicate directly and anomalously and confidentially with the actual artisan to ask them are you working in a safe place? Or you better off than you were six months ago? And we used economic indicator questions that we worked with World Bank about. Do you own a refrigerator which told us whether they were doing meal planning, if they had electricity, if they were able to transport big ticket items?

Scott Leonard: Just for listeners, that's called the out of poverty index.

Matt Reynolds: Thank you. Thank you. So we were able to take that information and assess that economic well being of our actual supply chain. And when we saw a hole or something that didn’t' look quite right we were able to go in and address it and make it right as the brand. So if that tool was available to the brands that were working in that Rana plaza factory, we'd like to think that tragedy could have been prevented if these were responsible brands. So we're ecstatic right now because we're working on the fair trace tool 2.0, and it is engaging even more deeply the relationship between the artisan and the consumer. And, if fact, if we succeed, this tool will actually have the ability for you as the customer, if you say you bought an Indigenous garment and you loved it, that you could tip the artisan directly on your own. And it will be one of the first blockchain level of transparency for demonstrating that deeper authenticity and incredibility of supply chain at every step. So that's actually a great segue because what we're doing right now is we're swiveling this traditional wholesale private label company that we've had for the last two decades and we're swiveling to an omni channel approach, really all about working directly with the consumer and having a direct online presence. So you can go to Indigenous.com and see indigenous personally. And that allows us to share our story with you intimately and you're able to get it direct from the horses mouth, so to speak, as to what we're doing as opposed to maybe through other channels.

Scott Leonard: Well, being able to control the narrative and bring that story directly to the consumer in the fair trace tools is just one of those ways to do it. But we believe that every garment tells a story of artisan impact. And the consumer is actually looking for that authentic brand, and that's exactly what we deliver. And that we believe that the care for our garments starts long before they're ever taken home and worn, and we want to bring each of those touch points of that care directly to the consumer. And the fair trace tool is a way to do that, to really be able to show all the different positive aspects of impact from the farmer, from the organic farmer all the way to the artisan, even to the actual packaging that we're using that's all around the sustainability areas that we care so much about.

Matt Reynolds: And we want to share that. We want to share it. When we come up with it, we don’t want to hold it proprietary as just an Indigenous thing. We actually want everybody to be able to use this tool.

Adam Taggart: So I just find this so incredibly interesting because it makes total sense how it addresses a lot of the core issues that you talked about earlier, the dark side of the fashion industry. And it shines a bright light on them in ways that brands like you can enforce behavior changes. You either tell these producers that aren't getting scores you want to either make reforms or you're going to switch to somebody who will meet the requirements. I'm so glad you said it was on the blockchain because as you were describing it I was thinking the blockchain is exaclty the kind of technology that would enable something like this to work at this extremely trackable level. And our audience is very familiar with blockchain technology. We're talked a lot about it in the past. And, again, so glad to hear that it's sort of an open source solution that you're saying you're looking not just to use it for your company, but to transform the industry. So the big question I have for you, because I got so excited hearing your description of all this, is like I think this could scale to any consumer product, right? This could track the beef at your table from calf to how it was raised. Was it grass fed? Was it pastured or was it bounced around to whole bunch of feed lots or whatever? You could know. Your consumer electronics. Was this smart phone built in a horrible sweatshop by somebody who's working 20 hours a day and not seeing the sun or getting paid a wage, or is the artisan actually being well taken care of? So is it true? Could it literally be used by almost any consumer product?

Matt Reynolds: Absolutely. In fact, when we created the fair trace tool 1.0 it was adopted by some food companies. We shared that and Lotus Foods, for example, used our fair trace tools to help share about their rice farmers and everything that they were doing in bringing transparency to their supply chain. So we are 100 percent in full favor of all industries using this because we should know who made our product. We should know that we're making an informed choice when we make our purchases.

Scott Leonard: The fair trace tool is truly something that we're proud of bringing forth to lift all boats, all industries. And that's part of our commitment as a company that's literally embedded, our very DNA, embedded into sustainability.

Adam Taggart: I just think that's a great, great technology. All right. So we got to wrap up here. This has been a great conversation guys. A couple things I want to get into as we begin to close. First, Matt, you mentioned earlier – you used the word omnichannel which I'm going to guess most people don’t really quite get what omnichannel means. But I think the core of what you were saying is sort of historically Indigenous as a brand has been a wholesaler, a white labeler for other bigger labels that have sold in some of these stores you talked about. But now it sounds like you guys are beginning to increasingly go direct to consumer, that you're letting people buy directly from you. Is that accurate?

Matt Reynolds: Exactly. So our two-decade experience working with other retailers and other brands, producing a white label for other brands or wholesaling to other retailers that you would go into and buy is translating really, really nicely into a direct to consumer opportunity. And we started doing that this year. And we opened our first retail store here in Sonoma County on Earth Day, and it's been doing great. And then we also really relaunched our own direct to consumer site, and the results have been outstanding.

Scott Leonard: I would encourage people to actually go to our website.

Adam Taggart: The question I always have is how can people learn more? So it's indigenous.com.

Matt Reynolds: indigenous.com. I-N-D-I-G-E-N-O-U-S.com You can learn all about it. We have an incredible program called a loyalty program where you get these care coins you can apply. And when we get this fair trace tool 2.0., our idea is to tie in those care coins that we reward you with as you shop Indigenous so that you could even be sharing those with the artisans. That's coming hopefully soon we'll be able to give that. But yeah, check out the loyalty program too.

Adam Taggart: So, obviously, those folks listening, if you are interested in learning more, want to see what their designs look like, perhaps become a customer, check out the fair tract tool, indigenous.com. One of the things I love about companies like yours, I used to be involved in a meat CSA and gave this talk a lot to people who came on the farm and learn about how we raise the animals there is everybody would like to see animals raised more humanly, everybody would like to eat higher quality meats. Not everybody really realizes the individual agency we all have to advance those models, and it's by voting with our dollars. It's literally by supporting the models that we believe in with our dollars makes those models more economically viable. Organic food will probably always cost more than conventional food, but if more and more people buy organic, those dollars get reinvested in the system, allow that system to grow to economies of scale, and that delta between the good and the bad begins to shrink. It becomes easier and easier for more people to make that deacons. And you guys are the vanguard of doing that around clothing, fashion, which I think is wonderful. So, in closing, you guys have mentioned to me that you're a twenty-year overnight success story. and now you're investing in the next stage of your growth, and you guys were just talking there about the whole direct consumer channel you guys are building here. It sounds like you guys are, like I said, you in a funding round, and there's still some potential for investors who are interested to potentially participate. Very quickly, I just want to give you a chance to let anybody who's interested know about what you're up to.

Scott Leonard: Sure. So the success that we've been talking about online has actually already been funded by what is a Series B that we're going through right now. We still do have some opportunities for investors in participate. I won't go into great detail here right now, but we'd really welcome any folks that thing this is something that they would want to support. There's a nice strong return on the investment that we have planned out, and we would love to talk more about that growth to anyone that wants to entertain the conversation.

Adam Taggart: And I'm just curious. Is there sort of an ideal investor that you'd be looking for either in terms of – do they have to be a credit investor or are you looking for someone who's philosophically aligned? What would be the right kind of person to knock on your door here?

Matt Reynolds: We have a great group of investors in our Series A round that are what we call impact investors, very values aligned, missions related, which, obviously, I think if you a Peak Prosperity member you most likely to be values aligned with what we're doing. Our investors are accredited, so yes, this is an accredited investor round. You would be joining a very, very wonderful family of values-aligned impact investors. That's what we're looking for, or strategic investors as well. Anybody that has experience in the digital space and scaling direct to consumer online channels would be tremendous. Even just to reach out with advice.

Adam Taggart: Awesome. So for folks who want to learn more about this who should they contact?

Scott Leonard: They can contact me at indigenous.com and be happy to give any information about this.

Adam Taggart: Well, guys, thank you so much. You guys are up to amazing things. I'm sure we're going to get a lot of questions from the listeners about the model in general, probably some additional questions about the fashion industry, et etcetera. Hopefully we can pass them you guys way.

Matt Reynolds: Thank you so much.

Adam Taggart: Thank you guys. Looking forward to talking to you guys again in a year or two and see how things are going between now and then.

Matt Reynolds: That would be fantastic.

Scott Leonard: Thank you, Adam.

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2 Comments

Little Pond's picture
Little Pond
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 9 2018
Posts: 4
What an excellent interview,

What an excellent interview, and I very much appreciate this and a very few other clothing companies attempting to better one of our worst industries. I see from your website that Indigenous obviously makes beautiful high quality things I'd love to have. As a former CSA member and a great appreciator of the true cost of necessities, I understand exactly why ethical stuff costs so much. But there is an issue here. We make well over the median for our area. We built our house with our hands, so our housing cost is comparatively low. We grow lots of our food, cut our own hair, forgo cable and household internet, heat and cook with wood we harvest, camp as our vacation, etc, etc to make ends meet. I personally own a single drawer of favorite hard-used clothes. Even though we're much better off than the majority of people around us and pinched to the bone in other areas, my entire yearly clothing budget is $100. Shoes, underwear, coats, everything. Family total is $400 (one of us needs respectable work attire). I will never, ever be able to afford a $300 sweater. Obviously clothes SHOULD be made the Indigenous way, and companies are hurting us all by making them badly. Which means that the vast majority of us in the richest country in the world already cannot afford to clothe ourselves, even before times get tough.

Tude's picture
Tude
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 1 2017
Posts: 38
Recycle

For most of my life (almost half a century now) 50-80% of my clothes has come from thrift/consignment stores. Occasionally I buy new, and always try to buy locally and thoughtfully. Much of my closet is high end US and European made clothes, thanks to consignment stores in ultra-wealthy areas of the Bay Area (there are now online versions of this). I’ve never understood buying cheap, new “fashion”, no matter your budget.

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