What did you learn about the ethics of making clothing behind-the-scenes when you started Siena & Co Swimwear?
Catherine: I thought it would be easy and possible to find partners to work with: factories who value transparency and ethical and sustainable practices, or all US-made materials.
I didn't expect so much pushback, or just straight up ignoring when requesting sustainable or ethical practices be looked into or enforced. So many in the fashion industry, and probably lots of industries, give the response "This is just how we do it, or how it's always been done" and coming in to rock the boat is not welcomed.
What do you wish conscious consumers knew about what it takes to run a positive impact business?
Catherine: In the production world, making more product = lower costs because when you make more of something, you can use the assembly line effect, and churn out lots of product in short amount of time, it's a very efficient model. However, if there's not enough demand for all the product being produced, that is all extra waste that can end up in a landfill. All the resources have been wasted (materials, time, energy, etc.).
A lot of conscious brands, including Siena and Co., choose to make fewer products to ensure as little waste as possible is produced, which means much higher cost of production and goods is incurred, which is then passed on to the consumer buying the goods. This is one of the many reasons sustainable products have a higher price tag.
Do you have any tips to help consumers spot greenwashing and navigate making sustainable choices when purchasing new clothing?
Catherine: I've found with clothing manufacturing, actions speak louder than words. Here are some ways brands tell you by their actions how sustainable their efforts are:
How often do they come out with new designs/styles? Is it once or twice a year promoting high-quality construction and in-depth testing? Or is it more frequently than once per season, promoting inexpensive, low-quality manufacturing and frequent buying habits?
Are the styles timeless, evergreen and promote a capsule wardrobe? Or are the styles trendy, with only current colors and prints that will no longer be relevant in a season or two?
Slow fashion vs. Fast fashion: Does the marketing press and push sales and discounts with urgency and pressure to buy now? Or does the marketing help inform and teach the consumer about the goods and how they're made?
Do they have some type of recycling or re-sale model? One way a company can be sustainable beyond the materials they use is by promoting re-using, re-selling or re-cycling their products.