Good Cloth, LLC was founded by Stephanie Hepburn a freelance journalist and New Orleans, LA resident. Her passion for educating people on human trafficking led to the idea of founding a company that only offers clothing that was ethically sourced. Stephanie decided to open Good Cloth in 2011 so that everybody has the opportunity to shop responsibly and be certain that every product is created with consideration for workers, the planet, and consumers. Each of Good Cloth’s products has transparent supply chains so that designers can fulfill their sustainability missions. Stephanie buys and sells other designers’ products that she knows has a 100% transparent and sustainable supply chian. She sells these products through her own website.
Nicholls State University
Using an online platform, she launched her company. She only showcases and sells items that are “ethically sourced”, which she defines as having a clear supply chain, more than just saying the manufacturer runs a “nice” warehouse. Instead of relying on the companies, she has become an expert on the labor laws of different countries. “It’s not that I don’t trust companies, but sometimes I don’t think they know where everything is coming from themselves,” she said. “Most of the time work is subcontracted so while the initial manufacturer is clean and up to standards, the factory that is subcontracted might violate labor laws. It is my job to know that." GoodCloth only works with designers that can prove where the clothes are coming from. If a company’s order is subcontracted and they cannot prove that it is ethically sourced, then she does not sell the piece. By standing firm to her personal and professional ethics she holds designers accountable by not selling everything they have in stock. “Sometimes it is challenging but I have to say no to pieces that do not have a clear or ethical point of origin," by not taking all offered pieces she says these forces designers to think harder about their sourcing.
Photo from Good Cloth's online platform
Hepburn found her niche as a freelance journalist reporting on human trafficking. It is a common misconception that sex traficing is the only form of human traficing. This is not the case. Human trafficking has many forms including labor violations and child smuggling. According to the Good Cloth website, while conducting research for her book, “she began to vet designers for her own shopping needs and that of her family." As she listened to the interviewee’s responses, she noticed there was little to no transparency in their products supply chains, making it “an ideal opportunity for human trafficking." It is hard to identify which clothing brands are ethically sourced. This is what gave Stephanie the inspiration behind Good Cloth.
Hepburn found that having frank conversations about human trafficing was difficult. “Human trafficking is a touchy situation that makes most people uncomfortable. After writing my book I realized that it is an issue that no one wants to talk about, so I tried it in a different way,” she said. Revamping the way she approached people about the subject has drawn a different reaction. Instead of walking up to them and talking about it outright, she makes them think about something they wouldn’t normally think about: their clothes. By changing the way she approached the problem, she changed the reaction. According to Hepburn, the feedback she receives shows a change in thinking about human trafficking. “It opens people's mind. Human trafficking is thought to only be about sex, but labor laws are much bigger," she said. Not only is this reflected in her relationship with her customers, but it also in her relationships with her designers. She is able to spot when a designer is not completely sure about a factory, so she is able to educate them not just on the history of the factory, but also labor laws in that country/state. This puts the designers on notice and there is a change in thinking and sometimes also in sourcing.
Acting as a third-party retailer, Hepburn is able to hand pick everything she wants in her online store, as well as pick the designers she wants to work with. Sometimes this requires her to break relationships when there are discrepancies in sourcing information. Stephanie’s niche market targets “regular people like you and I." She targets people who may want to make an impact but never could afford too. For instance, when a product is labeled as green, many think that it is better for the environment but still don’t have any knowledge of its supply chain. With GoodCloth, the consumer is ensured of the impact of their purchase because its entire supply chain, including contractors and subcontractors, delivered a product that was fair to both the workers and the environment. She also targets regular consumers for affordability reasons. Hepburn strongly believes that these sustainable products shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.
By sharing her knowledge with people that care, i.e. her designers, Hepburn is advocating for clothes that are up to the standards of everyone. Her customers however, are a different story. She is reaching out to people who probably do not care. By showing a clear timeline and providing history on the company’s website, she is able to invoke an emotional reaction that results in a change of thought. She refers to this as “appealing to Ethos." By taking a topic people in this country rarely think about and combining it with statistics, laws, and a clear timeline, she has given people a reason to think twice about where they get their clothes from. All of the products on Good Cloth’s website show the journey that each product had so the consumer can decide if it fits their ethos. For example, a pair of watermark earrings states that they were handcrafted by women artisans in Rwanda, that they were made of banana leaf fiber and sisal plant, and that were pulled from the artisan’s backyard. It even goes as far as explaining that,
“the designer employs over 150 under-resourced women in Rwanda to empower and encourage them to be economically independent and that many artisans are able to buy land, health insurance, and send their children to school for the first time. Artisan wages are fair and determined through negotiations with artisan cooperatives. In Rwanda, cooperatives are their own separate businesses. They pay their own taxes and government laws prevent business partners from having any influence on how the cooperative is run. They handpick cooperatives to work with that ensure fair treatment of their artists."
Stephanie Hepburn, CEO/Founder
Keep this story going! Share below!
New Orleans, Louisiana, US
Business Website: https://shopgoodcloth.com/
Year Founded: 2011
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Good Cloth, LLC is a clothing store that specializes in ethical clothing sources and supply chain transparency. The company serves primarily the New Orleans area, but since it is an online store, it can serve anyone.