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“Loomstate focuses on our connections as people. Our partnerships bring out everyone’s best, and help everyone succeed. We’ve addressed and improved a lot of what’s wrong in the industry, and we’re still able to make great clothes.”Scott Mackinlay Hahn Founder, Loomstate
Clothing labels talk a lot about how their fashions are “sustainable,” but what does that really mean? They throw around green buzzwords like “reduced impact,” but usually offer little proof of what they’re actually doing, which makes it hard to know what you’re really buying.
Today, vast “monoculture” farms — those that just grow one crop over and over and over on hundreds or thousands of acres — are the norm for raising cotton. But their single-minded focus on productivity leaves them ecological dead zones, with soil that’s closer to dirt and biodiversity that’s nonexistent. Negative impacts are everywhere.
In fashion, “sustainable” describes a clothes-making technique or tool with a neutral impact on the environment. It doesn’t contain or create any toxins, perhaps, its ingredients break down more easily, it uses less water—things like that. On a global scale, the United Nations has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals to offer worldwide standards for taking care of people and the planet as companies and communities grow.
A key global nonprofit that verifies companies’ sustainability claims, the Textile Exchange, notes that in 2020, 88% of clothing companies aligned their strategies with these UN goals. That’s a good sign that the industry is taking notice. But less than half of brands—just 45%—have actually turned this intention into verifiable action. The rest simply note that their strategies are aiming there. Loomstate is one of the clothing brands making change happen in real ways.
Working to be an antidote to monoculture farms, Loomstate applies the concept of sustainability to its entire process around making clothes. They don’t just ask “can we use less water” or “is our carbon footprint low for shipping,” but “does every aspect of everything we do put the planet first?” For them, sustainability means renewing or restoring everything that’s touched—a complete system focused on ensuring that all contributors meet the same high bar.
ADDING SOCIAL IMPACT
But the environment is just part of the equation for Loomstate. “If you’re making good products in a process that harms the people who make them, or that hits just one sustainability target, it’s not enough,” says Scott Mackinlay Hahn, founder of Loomstate. “The world needs systems that help keep everyone rising, not just those at the top.”
By establishing partnerships with farmers, workers and communities, Loomstate has helped create such a system, using innovative, long-term solutions to making high-quality clothes in the cleanest, fairest way.
But even among brands working hard to do things right, the terminology gets confusing. Farmers cultivating organic cotton consider the environment at every step of production. For an entire garment to be considered sustainable, though, it must be made considering both ecological and social criteria. Fair Trade cotton—probably the hardest certification to earn—is sold through buying/selling partnerships based on mutual support and fair prices for farmers, giving them long-term financial security. Loomstate cotton meets all three standards.
“Working this way brings self-sufficiency for our small-scale growers and producers, and it promotes long-lasting, self-sustaining international partnerships,” Hahn says. “The payoff for our customers is big: they get an item that’s durable and high-quality, there’s an honest, very cool backstory to what they’re wearing—with connections to people and places all over the world—and they have increased comfort and confidence in what they’ve bought.”
In agrarian cultures with smaller land area and dense population, soil fertility and nutrient replenishment is essential to human and environmental health, what comes from the soil goes back to the soil. This is very much the circular concept we’re aiming for. In agrarian cultures with smaller land area and dense population, soil fertility and nutrient replenishment is essential to human and environmental health, what comes from the soil goes back to the soil. This is very much the circular concept we’re aiming for.Scott Mackinlay Hahn, Founder of Loomstate Scott Mackinlay Hahn Founder of Loomstate
A BRIGHTER FUTURE
It’s more challenging for mass consumer brands with slimmer profit margins to shift over to Loomstate’s model, but Hahn still sees opportunities for sustainability efforts, not dead ends, and says he has good reason to be hopeful. “More and more, consumers are expecting proof of sustainability claims,” he says, “because they’re on to brands that greenwash. As things become more market-driven, companies are saying to their factories, ‘retool or we won’t give you any more work.’”
Old factories made new with clean energy, upgraded water effluent systems, chemical tracking and good treatment of labor are all steps in the right direction, he said. And with more certifications that actually hold the industry accountable and new regulations arriving that have real teeth, much of cotton production is moving back to the low impact it had generations ago.
“We’re just adding technology and other innovations to make it more efficient in positive ways, and to get rid of more aspects of production that are negative,” Hahn said. “Really, all cotton used to be organic.”
Loomstate is one of the foremost brands today innovating sustainable, planet- and people-friendly ways to make high-style, high-quality clothing. Their capabilities start with creating custom sustainable apparel in 100% organic cotton and go all the way to uniforms, e-commerce, third-party logistics and more.