Amidst the buzz of sewing machines and cutting tables Rob Lohman and Matt Belk talk to me about fashion and style, branding and marketing, and basically everything else that has to do with the Fashion industry. We talk about everything but the elephant in the room. We don’t talk about the environmental effects of the cotton industry, we don’t talk about slave labor in developing nations. We don’t talk about any of the unsettling details of the fashion industry, at least not at first. As Rob has just returned from a trip to India to try and source organic cotton he is passionate about his company being socially and environmentally sustainable, it’s just not all there is to talk about. Groceries Apparel is a fashion basics brand that makes comfortable, sexy, quality garments that also happen to be good for the planet.
” The issue is that so many ‘eco-brands’ use that as their selling point and sometimes their goods aren’t as appealing as the rest of the stuff that’s out there.” , Rob explains in reference to the eco industry. You have to concede the point. In order change the way things are done in business, don’t we have to move past preaching and guilt? If you asked the average person what their priorities were when it came to picking out their favorite fashion pieces, eco-friendly would probably rank less important than its, cost or even, how the garment looks or feels. “We don’t consider ourselves to be competing with other eco brands. Groceries is in the market with other fashionable brands that are not environmentally conscious, and we present that alternative.” says Matt who runs much of the business and sales functions.
That’s not to say social and environmental implications are not absolutely important, which is why they go to the lengths they do to create a brand that is sustainable, they just aren’t waving a massive flag about it. Every business has the obligation to educate their consumers on what the brand stands for and Groceries has certainly been able to stay cool and conscious. With high end stockists like Barney’s New York and Kitson they have secured a place adjacent to brands that in some cases double their price point. The question that looms in the air is What are we actually paying for? By now we know we are paying to be cool by association. Groceries is supplying fashion product with a moderate price point and isn’t skimping on the style.
Rob notes, “Organic cotton, is just cotton. What we call ‘regular cotton’ is chemical cotton. Its been renamed because the chemical cotton is now more common.” The Groceries guys admit is is difficult to source and keep inventory of their organic fabric, and nearly everything on the market is GMO. Their supplies can sometimes be less reliable and in short supply but they are making a statement beyond the one that might seem most apparent. Groceries is asking us to consider where our clothing comes from its greater impact but they are making sure we look good doing it. They are sending both messages at the same time and both are being received.
The idea behind fashion is not just function but also form. Groceries approached the market in the form of an apparel company but they server the function of reminding us how businesses are supposed to look. Not only serving our desire to play with the cool kids, but also keeping a sharp eye one that that means on a larger scale.