Do you ever think about where or how your clothes are made? Do you ever wonder why it is so cheap? After the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013, Founder of Thread & Silk, Chloe Guss decided enough was enough and wanted to improve the impact fashion has on the environment.
“Consumers need to become more conscious of the impact their fashion decisions make on the supply chain.”
“By no means am I moving the needle with my brand, but it is still a positive example of how you can be creative and help contribute to saving the planet.” Not to sound over dramatic but we are running out of water, resources and landfills due to our high rates of consumption. The American economy is based around one word: shopping. When we go through an economical crisis, what does the government tell us to do? Buy. Brands such as Zara and H&M are changing the way we purchase due to the rise of fast fashion and lower prices. But what is the true cost on the environment by implementing this economic model? (Hint: watch the documentary, The True Cost, to get the full background on how fast fashion is affecting the fashion industry).
“I didn't want to produce something that requires making new materials since the production of fabrics is very toxic to our environment.”
Built on the idea of not creating any additional waste, Thread & Silk is a fashion based company founded in October of 2013 that recycles old denim and vintage silk scarves to produce shirts for men and women. “I always wanted to create a product with a combination of a utilitarian fabric mixed with a high-end luxury fabric.” At a price of $150 per shirt, Chloe replaces the denim fabric with square vintage scarfs from luxury designers such as Hermès and Chanel. She then reuses the remaining denim material as a bag to deliver the garment in. Talk about zero waste!
“Thread & Silk came into being out of a series of circumstances.”
Chloe graduated from Tufts University in 2007 where she majored in American Studies. Consumed by wanderlust, she then took some time off to travel to Madrid for eight months to become an English teacher, took up a job in Boston for three years helping international students transit to the U.S. and then got lost for one year in the Sub-Saharan region of Rwanda working for Indego Africa. “I was always intrigued by artisans in the developing world. I had already traveled to Africa, Latin America and was always so drawn to local artist’s craftsmanship.” As a hopeless romantic dating a French man in Rwanda, Chloe decided to follow her heart and move to Paris. “During my time in Rwanda, I started working with a woman in Paris who had a young emerging brand in which she partnered with artisans in India and Tunisia. She was looking for someone to assist her develop products in Sub-Saharan Africa and I helped her create a line so that when I moved to Paris I would have something to do.”
The Aha Moment
New in town, Chloe’s first plan of action was to learn French! Just like Nasty Gal CEO, Sophia Amoruso, Chloe loves to hunt for vintage clothing and was constantly thinking of how she could make something different by the things she gets inspired by.
One Parisian afternoon, back in 2011, she stumbled upon a beautiful silk vintage blouse and thought “there are so many scarves that look just like this blouse. You know, scarves used to be an iconic piece in every woman's wardrobe, in every culture. It was then that I had this idea of turning them into blouses.” Since denim was making a big comeback, Chloe decided to combine the classes of the fabrics by mixing a utilitarian, casual property with a sophisticated iconic one. “Both of these fabrics have a lot of history to them and like two sides of a coin, they represent both the upscale and lower scale of fashion.”
Why The Name
“The name was inspired by the materials. I liked brand names with two words with an “&” sign such as Rag & Bone and Alice & Olivia. I used the needle and thread because it shows something that has been reworked and goes with our tagline which is refound, reworked, reinvented.” In the beginning, it was called Thread & Sequence because Chloe was extremely obsessed with sequences, but later thought it sounded juvenile and wanted something more sophisticated. Hence, Thread & Silk was born.
“It took me a long time to get things off the ground. I got really tangled up in wanting everything to be perfect before I had even sold one shirt.”
Chloe tells us how she has faced a lot of challenges when starting her company. “Because the shirts are one of a kind, each fit and size is different and that is something I have struggles with, especially from an e-commerce point of view. However, the biggest challenge I have had is working alone.” Being cash poor as a company, Chloe has had to rely on her friends to call in favors. As business women ourselves, we know the importance and gift of having the opportunity of working with a co-founder.
RADICHE GUIDE: The Importance of having a Business Partner:
- Helps move the business along faster (divide and conquer)
- Holds you accountable
- Gives you more financial options than self-investing
- Provides open communication for brainstorming
- Adds new skill sets that you may be weak in
Chloe is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Strategic Design and Management at Parsons, specifically to learn the management skills needed to develop her company further.
Are you driven and motivated by sustainability with a love for fashion? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll put you in touch with Chloe to potentially join her team and help her grow the business.
Photo courtesy of Thread & Silk.