The Fashion Knowledge Report
I’m trill to have Heather Kaye, Co-founder of sustainable swimwear finch designs to share with us on this issue of The Fashion Knowledge Report™! This regular publication will provide you with ideas, strategies and information to help you succeed in your fashion business.
1) Why did you want to start the brand at the beginning?
To be honest, I used to be among the most corporate of fashion designers. Big company in NYC, never ending meetings, on-trend presentations with everything due yesterday, an absolute treadmill going at full speed. And while I lived in NYC, I loved it all. But when the opportunity came up to move to the company’s Shanghai office and help bridge the NY design team with the factory teams, three things happened.
I saw first-hand how much waste the fashion industry generates, how impactful it is on the lives of everyone at the factories, mills and dye-houses, and the surrounding communities.
I also fell in love with manufacturing – the art, the process of making something even if it wasn’t with my own hands. I imagine it’s how an orchestra conductor might feel, having such appreciation for all of the individual musicians as well as an understanding for the whole, and the ability to draw out everyone’s full potential.
Thirdly, and most vitally, our company exists because of a deep friendship and trust between two people, myself and our co-founder, Itee. Together we came to the realization after working together for two years in Shanghai, that we could try and move the needle of the fashion industry simply by being so close to our production base and the largest growing consumer market in the world. Our supply chain could be laid bare in front of us, we could dissect each step of the garment making process, and make it as sustainable as possible.
FINCH was born because two committed, passionate individuals saw a way to make a difference, and help lead the charge to change the way the fashion industry has by default always operated, without accountability for the outsized amount of resources it consumes.
2) Can you name 2 methods or channels did you use to communicate your sustainable concept to your audience and how did they react?
Western audiences are pretty well informed about what qualifies as sustainable, and what doesn’t, but this knowledge isn’t always reflected in their buying choices. We never lose sight of the fact that most people buy our swimwear because they love the prints and colors, the fit flatters them, and the price-value relationship is there. Being a sustainable company making swimwear from recycled plastic bottles is almost a 4th point on their priority list believe it or not.
Instagram is the best channel for us to commune with like-minded eco-entrepreneurs and influencers outside of China. Within China, we find that personal connection – whether at an eco-design event or speaking on an Earth Day panel – is the best channel of communication for us as foreigners. The conversation around sustainability and consumption is really getting going in China now, and it’s thrilling to be apart of the movement here!
3) Many brands are looking into developing more sustainable garments, if you were to mentor them what would be the first couple pointers you tell them and questions you would ask them?
Run the FULL lifecycle of the garment, don’t just buy into ‘organic’ or ‘recycled.’ The only garments anyone should be making are ones that last and will be able to be worn for a long time. There is no argument around the fact that fast fashion is not only destroying our planet and depleting our natural resources, while at the same time programming consumers to think clothes are disposable. Nothing – not that plastic bag or iced coffee cup you use for 12 minutes and then throw away – should be considered disposable any longer.
Also, have a strong business plan and solid financial accountability – ALWAYS! The business cannot be sustainable if it doesn’t sustain you and your team.
4) You have been in shanghai for a long time and how does that help in creating your brand in terms of design and product development?
That’s an interesting question. It’s hard for me to know how differently I’d view or prioritize things if I had stayed in New York these past 12 years that I’ve been in Shanghai. Almost for certain, I would not have become an entrepreneur in America! The barrier to entry seems much higher there, and China has the most seriously entrepreneurial vibe of anyplace I’ve ever been. Everyone here has multiple jobs, businesses, and a constant stream of ideas. This ‘just build it’ mentality contributes an enormous amount to our productivity, though our design aesthetic is a veritable mix of Asian and Nordic influences. Being close to our supply chain of course helps accelerate product development, but in general we think of ourselves as a ‘nationless, global brand’ that really wants to tear down borders and get everyone in the water!
Heather, thank you very much for your sharing!
Itee (left) & Heather (right)