What Really Makes a Sustainable Clothing Brand

4 min read
Clayton Chambers
Clayton Chambers
Director of Merchandising

Published: June 15, 2022

Known Supply is one of our favorite vendors at SwagUp. Their products are sourced and made ethically, and each hem comes with the name of person who made that garment written on it.

Today we chat with the founders, Kohl and Travis, about their journey building this business, and what their ambitions are for the future.

Give us the Known Supply backstory; where’d it all start for you guys?

Travis (my-co-founder) & I started our first ethical clothing brand in 2007 by training a community of women in Uganda how to crochet headwear and providing life-changing employment opportunities in the process. As we grew that brand we realized we were tapping into something much bigger and could use our experience to take this concept of socially-minded fashion to larger levels.

Kohl and Travis

KNOWN SUPPLY was launched in 2017 in an effort to invite anyone into this movement for ethical fashion. We expanded our apparel offering and began using our products to create merchandise for the teams & organizations who were looking for clothing that met their values.

Just like when we started, not only were the items empowering the people who made them but each item to this day is signed by the person who made it so a growing number of shoppers can meet the person behind their product.

Each product tag has the name of the person who made it written on it.

Sustainability is a word that often gets thrown around. What does it mean to be truly sustainable in 2022?

Too often, brands take a far too narrow view of sustainability, which generally only looks at the materials used to create a product. In our view, the most overlooked (and least discussed) aspect of producing sustainable items is the care for the actual humans involved in making them.

That’s why all of our products are Fair Trade Certified to ensure fair compensation and safe working conditions. Beyond that, making quality products that will last is the other litmus test for a sustainable product.

A holistic approach to sustainability is the way forward, and anything short of that is greenwashing.

What sets you guys apart from other businesses in this space? What’s unique about your model?

Contrary to much of how this industry works — with its focus on convenience over quality — we take an impact-first approach to our business. It starts with quality products made from sustainable materials by makers who are fairly compensated by their work. Beyond just claiming these things in our marketing materials, we back up these promises with certifications that look throughout our supply chain & company.

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KNOWN SUPPLY is B Corp Certified, our products are all Fair Trade Certified™, and our organic cotton is GOTS Certified.

Moreover, we invite customers to meet the people who made their clothing.

What are your favorite core products to offer?

Our Unisex Tee & all of our fleece sweatshirts are extremely popular for their unique colors and heavier weight (but soft) fabric. Next would have to be our accessories, especially since it can simplify things to use these one-size-fits-all items.

Our Dad Hat is a clear favorite, the Bucket Hat is here for summer, and our tote bags are unmatched. The current team favorite in this category is our Camp Hat, so check that out as well. 🙂

Anything else to add in closing?

We love working with SwagUp, primarily because together we get to address the problematic history of swag & the waste it has created. By making quality items that people actually want to wear — and that will stand the test of time — we get to shift the paradigm for the role merchandise plays.

But we can’t do it alone. It takes people within companies to play an active role in making merch meaningful as well.

We’re grateful for those trailblazers within organizations as well!

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