Meet Molly! She is the Creative Director and Founder of The Simple Kind, an ethical fashion company that creates stunning dresses for women and children. She hails from Austin, TX and is a doer in a world full of talkers. Not only does she create these timeless dresses, connect vulnerable women with meaningful employment, she is also a student and teacher through her company. She educates about the pit falls of the fast fashion industry and shows what we can do to change the world with how we shop. It’s no wonder she is Rosebud’s first Inspo Woman!
1. What is the issue with fast fashion and how did learning about it lead you to start your ethical fashion company, The Simple Kind?
Fast fashion is basically a sales model in which brands churn out new styles more frequently, using mass production of garments to lower costs so that consumers can keep up with rapidly changing trends and essentially buy more. This model is everywhere, and companies like Forever21, HM, & Zara lead the way! From the outside this may not seem like much of an issue, but once you flip it over you see the astonishing trail of exploitation that is necessary for this method of production to be possible. It all exists in a really complex web of global economics and laissez faire capitalism that I’m still trying my darndest to understand, so I’ll just give the jist of it here:
The demand for a steady stream of inexpensive garments creates a demand for cheap labor and raw materials, so these brands have moved their production overseas to nations with developing economies where their price points can be more easily met. The demand for jobs is often high in these nations, so it WOULD seem like a win-win scenario for everyone– except for the key factor that the bottom line for these brands is saving money to make money, not providing good jobs to people who need them. These brands contract out labor to manufacturing facilities in developing nations, where they are able to save money by chronically underpaying their workers and skimping on health and safety standards, leaving enormous footprints of environmental and human rights violations along the way.
Garment work is an easy job to score for people migrating to cities in search of employment, especially for those who haven’t received or completed an education. Unfortunately, these jobs tend to keep people poor instead of lift them out of poverty. Salaries below a living wage mean that parents can’t ensure healthcare or education to their children, who often drop out of school to help their parents make ends meet. The list of these injustices goes on and on! One recent study among women working in the commercial sex industry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia found that over half of the women had come to prostitution as a better alternative to working in garment factories– the transition actually improved their finances & quality of life.
The Simple Kind was born out of a desire to connect economically vulnerable women with creative, meaningful employment. It’s only been along the way, through lots of study and research, that we’ve uncovered the role that fast fashion has played in exploiting vulnerable communities and contributing to the human trafficking epidemic. It’s CRAZY! So now our goal is just to invest in the local economies from which women are frequently trafficked, and to continue learning how to be a healthy contribution to works of justice already in place.
2. Tell us about The Simple Kind, what do you hope to instill in your customers?
The Simple Kind is an ethical fashion company that believes beauty & kindness can change the world. We make simple, classically feminine dresses for women & children, and try to be as mindful as we can about what kind of fabric we use, where it comes from, and that the women who make our clothes are cared for as human beings. It started out as just me sewing dresses for the love of fashion, but our current production partnership is with an incredible organization in Latvia called Freedom61.
F61 began as an outreach to women working in prostitution in Riga, the nation’s capital. Job scarcity, rural poverty, and lack of formal education are usually what brings women to working on the streets; all of these are a symptom of a depressed economy that is still trying to stand on its feet after its entry into the global market in the post-Soviet 1990s. Over time, F61‘s work has expanded into walking with these women into new lives of health and wholeness. They opened a transition center in the countryside of Latvia, and as part of their program’s financial and vocational training aspect, we’ve begun teaching women going through their program how to sew our designs. Some of them love it, and some of them don’t like it at all and choose to do other things. It’s a very slow, relational process, but we believe it is an enormously valuable investment to truly get to know the people we are working with. One of the woman we employed last year is now in the process of returning to the center as a staff member to invest in the lives of the women who come through and to also offer sewing training in their own language!
We are currently in a season of contemplating what sustainable expansion looks like for this partnership. It has been a very relational progression of working together, and we are at the point that we are both ready to start growing into long-term employment on their end and a more efficient order fulfillment operation on our end. I’m spending this summer in Latvia to pursue a vision of what this might look like!
3. You’re getting married this fall (congrats!) and plan to have an ethical wedding, how does one go about doing that?
I’m not sure we’ve ever talked super directly about wanting to have an “ethical wedding”; I think after a while, being mindful of the hands that made the things you buy kind of becomes a way of life! Our plan of action is to keep things personal and local, and to be mindful of not creating waste. We want to make sure everything is directly supporting something we believe in. We’re hiring our friends who are great at what they do to help make our wedding day sweet– our decor is coming from a little vintage shop whose owners we just adore, The Simple Kind’s faithful photographer is taking photos, our musician friends are coordinating sound, florist friends are doing flowers, etc. My wedding dress is vintage, and my fiance’s sister is making dresses for my bridesmaids. Nathanael hasn’t found a suit yet, but I know he’s gonna keep that thing forever, and I think that’s a huge part of ethical fashion– making loved clothes last, no matter where they’re from!
Something else worth mentioning: a friend of mine runs an online platform to connect engaged couples to ethical businesses in the wedding industry, and/or those that are willing to give a portion of the profits from your wedding towards anti-trafficking organizations around the world. This genius idea is called LoveGivesWay!
4. What are some of your favorite eco-conscious brands?
Okay, my top three!
First, there’s a jewelry company in Cambodia called Penh Lenh that is the absolute cream of the crop. Their name means “whole” in the Khmer language, and their mission is to empower marginalized and at-risk women in Cambodia to pursue their life goals through quality education and sustainable employment. I’m lucky enough to have visited their studio, and it may be the most peaceful & joyful workspace I’ve ever seen. They make super fashion-forward jewelry (that Lauren Conrad wears!); I want to buy everything they make but… I’m pacing myself.
Second, I am an ever-increasing fan of Everlane. They are a clothing brand out of San Francisco that has long-term, transparent relationships with healthy garment factories around the world. I’m usually not a big wearer of basics (t-shirts, shirt dresses, etc.), but their pieces just feel high quality. I bought a t-shirt from them a week or so ago and I can’t express how amazed and delighted I was when I took it out of the package and put it on. I’ve NEVER been a t-shirt girl, but they have won me over. Their prices are excellent, and if they overproduce an item, they have a “choose what you pay” option on their website.
Third, there’s a wonderful revival of linen happening right now in apparel, and one of the loveliest makers of linen garments that I’ve seen is a family-owned business in Lithuania called OffOn. They have an Etsy store full of linen dresses and jumpsuits for mom & daughter. Linen is not only luxurious by reputation, but it’s one of the most eco-friendly textiles because its natural fibers are made from the flax plant, which usually doesn’t require much pesticide to grow. The dresses OffOn makes are so lovely and so classic; they’re on my wishlist 🙂
5. How can someone take their first steps into ethical clothing? Where is a good place to start and/or avoid?
There’s a mantra that simplifies the slow fashion movement and it goes, “buy less, choose well, make it last.” Instead of going shopping every weekend to buy things you probably don’t need (that aren’t well made and won’t last long anyways), get reintroduced to the items already in your closet and figure out what you love and why. Lean into your own personal sense of style, and develop a long-term relationship with your clothing. When you know you actually need to buy something new, do your research! Clothing brands that you want to support will go beyond just quoting something about social responsibility at the bottom of their webpage (that’s gotten trendier these days, but it usually doesn’t mean much). Look for brands that talk transparently about who made their clothes, what conditions they work in, and how much they’re paid. Certifications to look for on tags that guarantee just treatment of workers along the supply chain are things like Fair Trade Certified, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and B-Corporations. A good rule of thumb is to only make purchases that you know you will wear more than thirty times. They may be more expensive up front, but they are built to last! And my personal opinion… don’t fall for HM’s green initiative. Their business model of fast fashion is fundamentally incompatible with curbing the tide of worker exploitation, and the rate that they recycle garments does not compare with the rate at which they make brand new ones. If you really wanna be green, go thrift shopping!
6. Where can people reach you and/or find out more about The Simple Kind?
Right now, the best place to do either of those is through our Instagram, @thesimplekind. We’re on a little sabbatical this spring to prepare for our extended trip to Latvia this summer (which we’ll document with photos and stories!), so we aren’t selling anything currently. But all of our happenings & updates will filter through our Instagram, and I’m happy to answer messages there as well!