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Sustainability In The Fashion Industry: What You Need To Know With Britt Howard

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Many are caught unaware of the myriad of sustainability issues facing the fashion industry. What we need is creative problem solving and direct engagement with the community. Corinna Bellizzi welcomes Britt Howard, the Founder and Creative Director at Portland Garment Factory (PGF).

Immerse yourself in the conversation as Britt shares with Corinna the various initiatives she’s taken to tackle sustainability head-on. For one, she supports the shelter next door, which houses over 60 homeless women. PGF recycles cut-out fabric and other waste materials to make masks, lap blankets, and pillowcases for them. Listen to this episode and discover what you can do to practice sustainability in your personal life!

About Britt Howard

Britt Howard is a visionary artist and entrepreneur who combines creative problem solving and a down-to-earth approach to make the work Portland Garment Factory is known for. PGF is an award-winning, zero-waste, B Corp and Climate Neutral Certified full-service factory that bridges design and production to create experiential marketing installations, soft sculpture, high-end custom garments, and more. Britt is involved in social infrastructure and community aid and sits on the boards of Business for a Better Portland and the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, where she directly engages with community issues.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/britt-howard-056281119/

Website: https://www.portlandgarmentfactory.com 

Social: https://www.facebook.com/britt.howard.3

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Show Notes (RAW):

 

00:02:00: Sustainability Issues In The Fashion Industry

00:07:33: The Fire That Burned The Business Down

00:12:29: Heirloom Fashion

00:17:15: Mood-Based Dressing

00:21:32: Naked Lady Party

00:28:08: Creating Swag Items

00:32:13: Helping With Rainwater Runoff

00:39:51: The Trick When Air-drying Clothes

00:41:26: Final Questions

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Sustainability In The Fashion Industry: What You Need To Know With Britt Howard

We’re going to revisit a subject we covered in early 2021 in an interview with Caroline Priebe of The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making. As we dig deep into the subject of fashion, my guest for now deep dive into fashion is Britt Howard. She is an artist and entrepreneur. She combines creative problem solving and a down-to-earth approach to build the work Portland Garment Factory is known for.

The Portland Garment Factory, also known as PGF, is an award-winning zero waste B Corp. PGF is a climate-neutral certified full-service factory that bridges design and production to create experiential installations, soft sculptures, high-end custom garments and more. She sits on the Boards of Business For a Better Portland and the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, where she directly engages with community issues. Britt, welcome to the show.

Hello. Thanks for having

Many in our audience may not already know the realities of the fashion industry. That it’s one of the most polluting that is out there in the world, let’s talk about this soft goods manufacturing. What is it? What are the problems that you face?

There’s a myriad problem in this industry and I would say that as a person who’s running a manufacturing company from the United States and from specifically Portland, Oregon, where we don’t have a garment manufacturing center, the way that there is in LA or New York. Some of the things that we face are waste streams.

Problems where there’s not a place to put your waste after you’ve cut out thousands of units of fabric, for instance, or even the shipping in an importing of goods that aren’t right down the street at the manufacturing facility, the way that they would be in LA or something like that. We have a few different hurdles and we’re working every day to work around, overcome, improve or whatever needs to happen.

You mentioned installations in your intro. One of the things that got me thinking about is the waste around things, even trade shows, museum installations and the shipping of materials, production or procurement of fabrics that might be used in these soft installations. I wonder if you could tell us a story that relates to that so that we could get a better conception or understanding of how that even impacts our environment?

I think not many people talk about is the waste around trade shows and events or one-time, pop-up things that happen in stores. Maybe a new shoe is coming out or a new perfume is coming out and they need to do all these displays. How do we make that more sustainable and create that place-making and do it in a way where you’re still getting your marketing across? It’s a huge hurdle.

A story I can think of is, we’ve done a lot of installations in New York over the years because that’s where a lot of the larger retail stores are and we do a lot of retail store installations for launches of different items. Ahead of the design, a lot of times, we can talk about something I like to ask my clients is in use.

You’re asking me to make this window display. What is the end-use? Where does this go at the end? Sometimes they’re taken aback by that question and they know right away. We store it in a warehouse and we try to recycle these mannequins or huge butterfly sculptures, whatever it is that we’re making into another campaign. Even asking and pulling that question out of the client can help get their heads in the, “This isn’t a permanent thing and how can we solve for that ahead of time before we even start designing and choosing materials?” I like to ask that question at the beginning.

Longevity can come out of buying quality clothing.

As we get into it, we offer the option for our clients to take things back to PGF and either upcycle them or down. Anything from taking things that aren’t used and pulverizing them and making them into a stuffing that would go into pillows that we make or something in the future, or cutting it up and making something different out of it.

We have a shelter next door that houses all houseless women, and there are probably 60 residents over there. We can make things out of other things. We can make masks, lap blankets or pillowcases. We like to fill in our schedule in little gaps in our schedule with the sewers and having these side projects. It’s getting the client to get on board with that is the hardest part. I’d say that the solutions are there on our end. It’s other people wrapping their mind around their precious XYZ thing that we’re making, not sitting in a warehouse somehow that feels more safe.

I’ve been to many trades shows in my life and the natural channel alone, at least a hundred, most of which I have found to be incredibly wasteful. Often companies even manufacturer a booth that only gets used 1 or 2 times. It’s stored or scrapped and who knows where it goes from there. I see in your image a patchwork chair. It looks like an IKEA chair that I used to have in college. I know it’s the same shape as a bucket chair. Was that something that your team also created?

I found these chairs. They’re vintage and they’re club chairs or what way am I going? There are two of them. I found them on the side of the road and we took this canvas waste that we had from other projects. Made little sections, we deconstructed it and holstered it. We have a matching set and luckily, they were at my house when the fire happened. They’re one of the things we have had since before the fire, which is a different topic.

We’ve experienced fires here on the Central Coast of California. They’re related to a lightning strike and something like somebody muffler drying alongside of the road or a discarded cigarette. There is any number of things that can result in fires and with increasing frequency. You’re talking about specifically a fire at the factory, is that correct?

Yes. The business burned down in April of 2021. It was an arson fire and we lost everything except for this is and that was in my house or at a friend’s house randomly. It’s fun to have these things because after losing so much. It’s precious to have these chairs.

Talk to me about the work of the Portland Garment Factory. What makes it so unique? What are you hoping to achieve in the world of fashion?

Manufacturing that we do here is rooted in collaboration with our clients and on the different projects that we work on. We like to bring in projects that speak to us in our core values and also the things we think we’re best at making. In this new iteration of PGF, we have some new capabilities and we were able to start from scratch, setting up a new shop and with new equipment. We went through what we felt we did well.

How can we take PGF as it was once known and make it as much better with this opportunity to rise out of the ashes? We’ve set up the new shop and made all different kinds of things. We make lots of masks. We made probably over 100,000 masks in 2020 and that is something that kick-started our direct to the consumer side of the business because we’ve always been B2B.

We always work with established designers, brands or large corporations that want to do different initiatives or maybe they have a rollout of a launch. We once worked with Intel. They were having their 50th-anniversary party at the Intel Campus. They were hiring dancers to go around and these were flashmob dancers that were doing choreographed dancing. We designed all of their costumes and everything they did. We do lots of different types of stuff.

CMBB 69 | Fashion Industry
Fashion Industry: It takes over 2000 gallons of water to make a new pair of jeans.

I think where we’re headed now is more of the best of what we had already been doing. I want to keep steering the boat toward collaborating with artists. Working with large companies on sustainability projects is something that I’m pushing for. I’m having a lot of meetings about and trying to put the burden on decision-makers’ ears that there are ways to infuse their brands with sustainable action.

I know these companies are huge and a lot of times, it takes a long time to move the dial because it’s almost like a bureaucracy in these big companies. I think that there are small things we can do with decisions if they’re made. I don’t work in those companies, but it’s how I see it from the outside and I want them to consider my perspective because, for instance, Patagonia’s worn wear. I’m sure you’re familiar with that or Eileen Fisher has her rewear. It was called Green Eileen for years.

She’s a pioneer in the field of creating sustainable fashion from the very beginning, creating timeless fashion and garments that are made to last. When they do get that tear or that stain, taking them back in, repair them and help educate her people that are her fans and that buy her clothing in that interaction that we can have with the clothing we wear. In the longevity that can come out of buying quality and buying less clothing in the first place, for those of us that are privileged enough to be able to do that, we can take care of those leather boots, learn how to mend things and it’s still fashionable.

I wore an honor of this shirt that I ended up finding at my local Goodwill that I love. It’s a blue shirt with pineapples that are green printed all over it. I look at it as my green shirt. I wear it from time to time when I’m going to be discussing specifically fast fashion and the problems around it. One of the things that Caroline Priebe talks about and I believe that was episode 15 of the show was the concept of heirloom fashion. Trying to get people to think about certain garments as something that you might even have in your closet for decades and pass on to the next generation or to some other person that might get the most out of that as well.

I think specifically of things like nice sweaters, or I have several dresses from the 1950s that I love. Even a couple of loud and proud, fabulous polyester 1970s get upset are more costume probably than anything else at this point, because they are time capsuled. The reality is that those fashions tend to circle and come back.

Right now, we see the 1980s mom jeans coming into full-frontal exposure. It seems that Levi’s is even taking some of their old fashions and bringing them right back. It’s interesting to see from a design perspective that some of these things are circling back as well and gives us this idea that you could preserve a collection in your closet, or perhaps in a box that you might bring out again another day down the road.

It’s a part of the trend of fashion that things come back around. My personal philosophy is to pick things that are me. That I know are at the core of who I am, they’re not a trend. Every once in a while, it is a trend. I happen to have a thing that happens to be trending at that moment, also aligned with the true fashion of Britt and maybe I acquired that item.

Getting dressed for me is an expression of who I am. It’s very important to me, not that I’m vain every day and that I have to look good, but I have to be and feel a certain way. Part of the way I do that, otherwise I do that with how I eat, how much sleep I get and if I exercise, but I also do it by how I get dressed.

How I get dressed is sharing with the world this is who I am. This is how I’m feeling and doing now. That’s a huge part of who I am as an individual. Choosing things for me in my own wardrobe that I know are very Britt items. I’ve had two children, in other words, my weight has fluctuated and I’ve had to stow things away and find if they come back out. If you grow out of something and you’re not going to have it again, you’re not going to fit back into it. That’s one thing that I understand getting passing that on or saving it for your niece, child, friend or whatever.

For me, I like to stow things, even seasonally. I have bins where I put all of my sweaters and every year, instead of going, “I don’t have any winter clothes.” I used to do that. I go, “Wait a minute. You do. They’re stowed. Go get them out.” I fall in love with them all over again, keep track of them and keep my mothballs or whatever. I use different things to keep bugs out and everything of my wool sweaters.

Focus on what you can control.

It’s a practice and it takes time, but it’s anything else any other collection you have. My husband collects records. He has an extensive collection of many different things. He’s a big collector and he keeps them very organized. I picked up the habit from him because I also like having all my clothes and a huge pile on the floor in my bedroom. How can you not because when I’m getting ready after, I have to try something on and go, “No, that’s not now.” It’s something I know about myself I’m never going to not have. I don’t even get mad at myself for it because it’s part of who I am. I have to try on five things a day.

You brought up a couple of things that I want to comment on because I think it’s the reality for many women, especially as we develop our own sense of personal style, look at our mood and how are we feeling now? What do we want to wear now? One of the practices I also take on, which is something you touched on, is having a seasonal shift in your wardrobe.

I live in California. It’s not as dramatic as in some other parts of the country but what I do is I’ll have my summer set of clothing, which is typically a lot of tank tops, sleeveless dresses and things like that. I will put them in a bin and that goes to my attic with my kids’ clothes that they’re growing out of. We’re preserving for the younger child and then potentially even organizing to donate to a shelter, to another mom I know, or something like that.

We keep that cycle running and it helps to keep my closet organized and not overwhelmed. I also organized my closet by color, which I maybe is a little bit much for some people, but I like to be able to find my clothing based on color and coordination. It helps me keep from having the pile of clothing on the floor because I’m like, “I feel like it’s a bright day and I need to wear this yellow thing.”

Mood-based dressing, very enlightened or it can bring something to your life. I think that keeping in mind that a new pair of jeans, for instance, apparently 2,000 gallons of water or somewhere around that. It’s good to have those statistics in the back of your mind when you are shopping so that you can remind yourself, “Is this trendy or is this something I’m not going to like in a year?” I have another friend who told me that hers is more about shopping affordability, which also plays into sustainability. She says for every $1 that she spends on it, she has to wear it that many times.

For instance, if you’re buying a $400 wool black wool jacket, if you have three months out of the year and you’re going to wear that jacket almost every day, that’s 90 days over four years, is that realistic for you and then it’s an investment piece. However, if you’re at a thrift store and something’s $14 and you think over the course of the next three years, you might wear it five times a year, maybe. That was her little way of letting herself by different things and I always think about that when I’m shopping, even if I don’t practice it necessarily.

I have a mantra myself too. For me, I do wear things until they’re either red bear or no longer wearable. I repaired garments over and over again. Even for my kids, I’m like, “You can put a hole in a pair of jeans in a week and a half.” We are patching them. Whether or not it’s something that looks perfect. I have two boys. They’re 7 and 4 and they’re going to wreck these clothing pieces over and over again. If I can pick them up used, great. If I can’t, I buy new and they put a hole in it. I’m going to patch it as long as I can. When they’ve outgrown it and it’s no longer useful, it can become rags, recycled into something else or it can be thrown away. I look at that thrown away like the last-ditch effort.

I also think many people look at Goodwill as they’re dumping ground. They’ll take a bunch of their clothing, take it to Goodwill and they will dispose of it. If the clothing is damaged, has a hole in it or is stained, they’re not going to put it out for consumers to buy. If all of us will be a little bit more mindful of even the things that we were to donate, that we look at the items that are waste as waste, it can change our behaviors too.

There are other things you can do besides give your clothes to Goodwill. If you have something that’s a Terry Cloth sweatshirt, for instance, you can cut that up and use that in your garage when you change your oil rags or so you’re not wiping your hands. You could put it in your paint supplies for the next time you paint.

There’s a whole bunch of different things you can do with some types of fabrics. You can even turn them into wash rags for washing windows, washing cars or something like that. Another thing I like to do instead of going to Goodwill is to host this thing. I heard this somewhere and this is only done in Portland. I know that can’t be true, but we call it a Naked lady Party.

CMBB 69 | Fashion Industry
Fashion Industry: Pick things that are at the core of who you are because getting dressed is an expression of who you are.

The reason we call it that is because you bring all of your items that you don’t want anymore, you put them in a big pile in the middle of a big table and it’s fun to host them here at the shop because our tables are huge. Everybody goes digging through everyone else’s clothes and then if it’s in this intimate setting, sometimes the people are in their bras trying on different items. I think that’s where it came up with its name.

I’d like to take that a step further at my next one. I think we did this once and hosted it where you do the Naked Lady part where you bring all your extra stuff. We also do like a little area for home goods. I got a cute mirror once that way and we are swapping maybe these dishes don’t go anymore, but you can swap your dishes. Also, a kid section and then maybe you find something in it is doing need mending. We have mending stuff out when I’ve had these with my friends.

It’s easy to repair, but a lot of people I’ve met, like a lot of people who don’t even know how to put on a button and they don’t know that you can double up the threads. They go around so many times when every time you go through, you can be bringing two threads. That’s a very specific thing but I’ve noticed that a lot of people tie one knot at the bottom anyway.

I’ve patched a lot of things on my time. I don’t tend to run into those issues. What I will say here is they call it a clothing exchange, which I think is great. I liked the branding of the Naked Lady Party because people might get curious about that and go, “What is that?” Catch their eye when you put an event on Facebook or something like that, “Wait a minute, Naked Lady.” Who knows, maybe it’ll get more attention for something like that.

I love that concept and idea. I’ve participated in a few myself and in many cases, it’s something as simple, especially after somebody has gone through a weight fluctuation. It’s like a great time to say, “I want to host a party and here’s why. Bring a bunch of your community together, sip some wine, have some cheese, enjoy talking and sharing the experience of giving new life to the clothing.” I love that.

I’m excited to do one when we can.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on rebooting the factory and getting reconnected with all of our old partners. For me, as the owner of the business, I’m trying to reach out into the community, into my network of people that we’ve worked with the past and remind everybody, “It is the new year, Portland Garment Factory is back up and running. We had a seven-month hiatus. Thank you for supporting us during that time after the fire and we’re better than ever. We’re ready to make stuff and we also are even better suited.”

Our capacity, facility and everything is better suited for the kinds of work that we were already doing and wanted to do more of. We’re ready for it now because of the capacity. I’m spending a lot of time emailing, connecting, Zooming, getting coffee with people, all of those kinds of things. It’s many years, I have a lot of tentacles, but the world has changed a lot since 2020. I’m re-establishing all those connections.

As far as the factory goes, we’re doing exciting things. In 2022, we have our recertification for the B Corp. That’s a big part of our decision-making. All this year is remembering, “How is this going to affect the B Corps?” There’s a third-party auditor that comes in and decides where your points come from and whatnot. Even in how we do our internships, re-establishing our inclement weather policies and is it equitable?

When you see nature and connect with it, you’ll want to help make the planet better.

I’m digging into all of the different things that we have established over the last several years and retooling them. We lost our core value flags. That’s another thing I’m working on, which were these big flags we made that represented each core value of the business and of course, those were lost in the fire. Maybe we can work on some new sculptures that represent our core values that are an iteration off of those flags but not an identical representation. We’ll do another creative representation of each value and then hang those up in the new shop.

They’re another talking point. They show our customers our capabilities and how good we are at making stuff. Also, it gets us jazzed up for keeping the positivity up in the business because it’s been a very tumultuous last couple of years and everybody knows that we’ve been through a lot. I always try to create a culture in my shop with my employees of positivity, not in a toxic way, but in a realistic way and in an empowering way.

We have a lot of people going through a lot of different life stages and it’s been hard. I’m trying to be there for the people that work for us because they’re dedicated and that’s happening in the first week of February 2022. I think anything in the next weeks will be perfect because I’m going to be trying to point a lot of people to our gift shop. Honestly, I’m trying to reboot my company and bring in revenue after the year of hell.

I can only imagine. I had to evacuate my home because there were fires in the area.

I was going to say, do you live in Northern California?

I live in Santa Cruz County in Scotts Valley. Our entire town was evacuated. They made us all leave.

When was that?

September 2020. For about ten days, I was finishing one of my terms, graduate school and had to vacate my home as I submitted my finals. It was rough. We went with our two kids, our dog, our nanny, her dogs, my fish tank, which I consolidated three fish tanks into and an animal or two didn’t make it. The dogs were good but it was disruptive. Granted our house didn’t burn and many of our friend’s homes were safe, but we did have a few friends who lost their homes. They are now having to rebuild.

I’m sure you are intimately aware of all of that jazz but you learn that your fire insurance doesn’t cover certain things and it’s impossible to be wise on everything, but they’re doing much better now. Part of the challenge is that there were many structures damaged or completely lost that construction companies are very busy and it takes a long time to rebuild.

I bet now we’re having all of these delays in shipping and everything. That’s a shortage in steel or in the nails. We’ve experienced that moving in here. Our electrician is like, “I can’t get this wiring or whatever.” All the equipment we bought had to come from a place where they had to have metal. I don’t think I ever could have imagined this and I am afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets any better.

CMBB 69 | Fashion Industry
Fashion Industry: There are other things you can do besides give your clothes to Goodwill.

Are you doing things like creating swag items for some of the corporations that you talk about serving, like t-shirts and things along those lines that are considered more basic?

We don’t do a ton of swag items for other companies. We make Portland Garment Factory swag and the reason is costing. If somebody comes to me and they’re like, “We have a launch and we want to put a free t-shirt in every bag.” It’s a trade show. A t-shirt made in Portland is going to be way more expensive than a t-shirt made in China.

A lot of people are not educated in how long it takes to make things, what the materials are or why it would be? Why has a canned tomato cost a certain amount and why does a tomato grow at a local farm cost a certain amount? There’s a reason and our reasons are very similar. We don’t do a lot of that work because it’s not enough. It’s an affordable thing.

When I get approached by people that want to do trade show swag, I’m always saying, “I have an idea. Why don’t we make one cool thing that you give to everyone? One thing and put all that budget” I know they have like $60 per person. If you think of everything, a water bottle, the pen with the name, all of the crappy tote bag and all of the things you can get, we could make one cool thing, but we’ll see. We do have sustainable options for swag items. It’s hard. That’s my job is selling that idea to the people.

It’s a balancing act because it’s like, “What is the return on investment in the mind of the corporation if they’re trying to create something?” It’s a balancing act I’ve had with the show because I’m looking at what I might want to make and what did I end up with. I ended up with a coffee mug because it’s going to probably be around for a very long time. It’s utilitarian and it’s made of ceramic.

I could have it custom printed in the United States. It’s probably originally from China, but it’s ceramic and it’s pretty basic. It’s a tough one. I’m working on a project right now for a brand I’m about to support the launch of, and we sourced a company in Northern California that makes organic t-shirts. We’re going to print it with algae ink. It’s more sustainable and we’re not using petrochemicals in it. The cost of that t-shirt is a lot more than what a typical swag item is.

Our intention with the brand launch is to sell them and to use that as an education point, as well as provide it to key influencers as part of the lunch. That they understand a little bit and create that campaign around what it took to make this beautiful organic cotton, simple t-shirt, but that’s well-made in the United States and printed with algae ink that is also made in the United States. All of those things open the door to having a deeper conversation if you’re willing to spend the time educating on it. A lot of people aren’t or a lot of corporations aren’t removing their thing.

I do get a little bit of a glaze over when I talk about that stuff. It depends on who you’re talking to and what the actual project is? Some people that come to us are very passionate and they’re decision-makers within their organization. Sometimes they’re not decision-makers. They’re a project manager. Project managers make a lot of decisions, but let’s say this is a person who’s like, “I need to get this done. I need you to do this. I can’t go down this road.” I get that too.

I’m always working with different people and there are different backgrounds where they’re coming from and trying to do what we can control, like what Portland Garment Factory can control in our interaction with these companies because yes, we do work with large companies. We have to focus on what we can control when in that conversation. We’re not able to move the dial. We’re going to move the dial inside the factory. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it.

I feel like that was a natural way to do business for me because I want to do things the way I want to do them. I know when I can’t move a dial with another person’s business, that makes sense. I’m going to keep making decisions within my company. That’s how we got to the zero-waste and all of the different initiatives we do within the company.

You can better connect with bigger picture issues by bringing them down to your personal life.

Within the last few years, we also adopted some bioswales, which are on the sides of the streets. They’ve been putting them in here in Portland and you can adopt them. You can go and clean them up. The city will give you vests and the little garbage grabbers. We bought everybody thick gloves and we go out there as a team, rain or shine whenever. We get all of it, unclogged, all the drains if it’s in the rainy part of the season. That’s something I can control. I can pay my employees to go do something for the environment that is important. It’s like helping with the downspouts and all of that. It’s helping with the rainwater runoff.

You’re speaking to my heart now because one of the drains in our home got clogged from the roof and as a result, my office flooded. This space had about two inches of water everywhere and we soaked it up with all the towels. We had the house and did what we could, but it was a result of a single downspout at our house getting overrun. All of the water on that side of the house, dumping down that side of the house and ending up at our foundation, causing all sorts of problems and potential damage. In the scope of things, it was a relatively minor issue.

We were able to get out of it but when you have that happen in the city streets, suddenly the city street is flooded. You know who does that impact and how hard is it then to recover from something as simple as that, especially with the types of storms we’ve been having. These increasing severity and they’re calling them atmospheric rivers now. Things along those lines, we have to develop a new language to describe the types of storms that we are seeing now.

That’s very interesting and I know that’s a different topic, but I love talking about that stuff. It’s part of our dining room conversation in the evenings. I find it very fascinating what city municipalities do to combat things like storm-water runoff and how does that affect our salmon. It does it’s. I love learning about that stuff.

The clothing you choose, if you shop used, and what you commit to bringing into your home because one of the topics that we could easily tie to from garments to storm-water runoff is things like microplastics that end up in our oceans. Some of that comes from the laundering of our clothing and other bits that come from decomposing plastic that is in the streets and then runs into our waters. Minimizing the unnatural fibers that you have in your closet, buying used, or even using as Patagonia suggests they’re special bag that prevents their fleeces from allowing microplastics into the water, which is novel but maybe long-term, they should stop producing polar fleece.

A lot of the “Manmade fabrics non-natural fibers” have a lot of use to them. They have the longevity of their own, and while they are admitting microplastics, when you wash them and maybe when you’re wearing them. They also protect us from the elements and they allow us to do things like see nature and connect with nature, which makes us want to be better to the planet and all of these things.

For me, I wonder if it’s a multi-pronged approach and maybe you have the fleece but if you can have that special bag, I did not know about that. It sounds cool. I don’t have a polar fleece, but I do have technical fabric items that I wash. I do like to use a laundry detergent that isn’t hard on the environment.

We talk a lot here over the lunch table about hang-drying our laundry. We all love to hang dry our laundry. That’s not that hard and it sounds like it’s a big chore, but for me, I feel like it’s a more intimate situation with my clothes, it’s not my intimates, but it’s like all of my clothes. I’m hanging them up and going, “You’re cute. I can’t wait to wear you.”

That connection with my stuff. The stuff I’m in charge of in this world. I’m connecting with it and I’m liking it more. That’s only a positive thing because I’m going to take care of it better. We can do a lot of different things. I look to Patagonia as a huge inspiration. They should be for other large companies that have a lot of space to explore things like a worn-wear program. That’s where I think it’s headed. Utilizing your local factory, like me, to bring in those items, fix them up and ship them out. That’s what we have down. I’m also a business and I have to keep money coming through my company. I have to get projects that pay us. It’s complicated.

It’s a balancing act for sure and I agree with you on the worn wear piece too, because what Patagonia is doing is normalizing used clothing and a way that is very healthy. They also repair all of their items and can do so via mail or if you go buy one of their shops. I think that’s all healthy and ultimately reduces waste across the board. I like my synthetic fabric workout gear more than my cotton. I’ve tried, but I do my best to wash them delicately and make sure that I’m air drying them too. I introduced less microplastics into our environment and I kept them for a long time.

CMBB 69 | Fashion Industry
Fashion Industry: If we’re not able to move the dial, we’re going to move the dial inside the factory.

They do last, I will say that, but it’s still something I’m trying to work to minimize in my own wardrobe and that of my boys. We do a lot of laundry here, though. I got to say, “When you’ve got two kids and a husband who wears Levi’s cotton jeans and you try to air those dry. They take forever and take up a lot of space. Those go right in the dryer.”

My trick for that is when I air dry things that don’t want to be air-dried, like jeans or towels. I will leave them for 48 hours and then I’ll zap them in the dryer for ten minutes. It fluffs them up and gets the heat on them enough that it gets them all wrinkled-free. I do that with a spray bottle of water and then zap it in the dryer, even if it says, “Dry clean only.” Actually, you can zap it in the dryer and get the wrinkles out. You don’t need to go to the dry cleaner and you can get the smells out some other.

My trick is you take a washcloth and you get it damp. Put some essential oil on it and throw it in the dryer for a few minutes with it. That is very helpful. A lavender, lemon scent or something like that, something that’s natural but it helps to take that edge off. That’s something I’ve done too.

It’s cool that your show is a lot about connecting these bigger picture issues but bringing it back down to our personal lives and how we can do small things. Be activists in our own way each day in our lives and maybe we don’t realize that. I make my kids wash out their Ziploc bags for their lunches because I can’t always give my children reusable like a glass jar for their lunch, with the plastic topper because teenagers do not always bring home the lunch you packed for them.

I had the same issue with my boys, where I put it in their lunches. We got these reusable zipper pouches and I put their name on it and everything. It’s plastic but reusable multiple times. We put them in their lunches and we used to have eight, now we have two. They didn’t come home with them. How much greener is this if it’s going to end up lost, maybe they tossed it in the garbage or it got put in some other kid’s lunch on the way home and now I don’t have it anymore. It’s a constant balancing act that you run through.

I’ve enjoyed this conversation with you. I wanted to ask you a couple of final questions. One that I like to ask all my guests is if there’s something that we haven’t talked about or a question that I haven’t asked that you wish I had, what would it be? If there is one of those, you can go ahead and answer it, and if not, you can tell us what are your closing thoughts or the sorts of things that you would want our readers to walk away from this discussion now thinking about?

I think that something that you could have as a takeaway is that you can have a very abundant, fulfilling fashion lifestyle and fashion. You can do your fashion. You can wear your clothes without going to buy everything at big box stores, malls, online. I have a teenager and I have all of her friends coming over telling me about these Fashion Nova. It’s like the Forever 21 type of thing. I’m like, “It’s only $4.99.” We have the conversation right then and there. How on earth do you think this mini skirt is $4.99? I think that’s a big takeaway is that you should be asking yourself the question when something’s too good to be true. It is like everything else in the world.

If it’s too good to be true, 99% of the time, it is too good to be true. There’s somebody who’s losing out in this it. Oftentimes, it’s a human person. That’s a takeaway and that it’s not cool to have more. What’s cool is how you wear what you already have. How creative and inspiring you can get with wearing your winter clothes in the summer and flipping them back around. Mixing up your looks and to me, that’s more inspiring than people that have huge closets and have 30 pairs of heels or something like that. It doesn’t inspire me.

Agree with you and I think that’s a good note to leave our readers with. Think about what you’re bringing into your home, what it says about you and more isn’t always better. Who paid for that $20 dress? It was somebody that made it that sacrificed their time, energy, and effort, their working conditions, perhaps a lot more and also the environment.

If we’re borrowing from our future to live in the now, what type of world are we leaving for our kids and for the next generation. I think we all need to shift our thinking. Ultimately, adapt and change a little bit when it comes to how we use textiles and the sorts of things that we commit to bring into our home. That’s what I’d have them take with them anyway.

If it’s too good to be true, 99% of the time, it is.

You can get a cute shirt even at Goodwill. I’m a testament to that here.

I also love your chair and the story behind it is marvelous. I’m so happy. I asked.

My jacket is from the Goodwill from about several years ago and it is falling apart, but I’m still wearing this leather jacket.

Leather can last forever if you treat it well.

I’ll take care of that. The cobbler’s children don’t have shoes.

At this point in the show, we’ve certainly come to a great stopping point. Britt, I want to thank you so much for taking this time with me. Thank you for all of your efforts. This has been incredible.

Readers, I’d like to invite you to it. It doesn’t have to be huge. It could be as simple as sharing this show with people in your community that you think would benefit from reading it. You could think a little slower, get on board with a slower and more sustainable fashion. Care a little bit more and be a little bit better together.

We can create the future we want, and I encourage you to visit my action page on CareMoreBeBetter.com. Lean into discovery. Stay curious, ask questions, and get involved. Thank you now always for being a part of this show and this community, because together we can do so much more. We can care more and we can be better. We can even slow down fashion and regenerate the earth.

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Guest

  • Britt Howard is a visionary artist and entrepreneur who combines creative problem solving and a down-to-earth approach to make the work Portland Garment Factory is known for. PGF is an award-winning, zero-waste, B Corp and Climate Neutral Certified full-service factory that bridges design and production to create experiential marketing installations, soft sculpture, high-end custom garments, and more. Britt is involved in social infrastructure and community aid and sits on the boards of Business for a Better Portland and the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, where she directly engages with community issues.

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