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#180  - How to Get from a Linear to Circular Fashion Economy With Asheen Phansey and Monica Park of Eleven Radius

June 29, 2021

#180 - How to Get from a Linear to Circular Fashion Economy With Asheen Phansey and Monica Park of Eleven Radius
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Fashion, as we know it, is linear. From material extraction to textile production, design, manufacturing, sales, marketing, and end of life, the fashion industry is designed to maximize clothing sales. But what if that business model could shift?


Fashion, as we know it, is linear. From material extraction to textile production, design, manufacturing, sales, marketing, and end of life, the fashion industry is designed to maximize clothing sales. But what if that business model could shift?

Changemakers are reimagining the business of fashion, designing circular systems, and disrupting the status quo to build a truly sustainable industry. 

Cory spoke with two of those changemakers on the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast, Asheen Phansey and Monica Park of circular fashion business consultancy and Public Benefit Corporation Eleven Radius. This discussion of the circular fashion economy and how business solutions can help us break the fast fashion cycle is the newest installment of our Impact of Fashion series in partnership with Dhana.

Check out earlier episodes to learn about the Rana Plaza Collapse, Inclusivity & Sustainability in Fashion, How to Avoid Fast Fashion, and the concept of circular fashion, then listen to this great conversation all about the business of circularity in fashion!

Full Show Notes & Episode Bonuses:

https://growensemble.com/circular-fashion-economy/

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πŸ—£ TOPICS DISCUSSED

  • What is Circularity?
  • Linear fashion economy
  • Circular fashion economy
  • Business solutions to fast fashion

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Transcript

Cory Ames  0:07  
Hey y'all, it's Cory here with the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast. And as well, here once again with another addition to our series, the impact of fashion where we are exploring the social, environmental and economic challenges facing the fashion industry. And we're doing so with our partner, Dhana, a fashion technology company that aims to unite humanity through fashion, and reduce the impact of fashion industry has on climate change. In today's episode, we are talking about circular fashion, a circular economy in the fashion industry, and what impact that will have on reducing waste in fashion overall. And to do so, I'm speaking with a Asheen Phansey and Monica Park. She is the CEO of Eleven Radius. And Monica is the Chief Product officer and co founder of 11 radius, and 11 radius is an action focused industry group of dynamic innovative circular fashion brands, who are collaborating to displace linear models. And Monica is a veteran brand manager with expertise in take back and resale. She lived in Hong Kong for 10 years worked for a leading private label manufacturer, and has extensive experience with scaled global manufacturing in the fashion industry. Asheen previously spent over a decade in corporate sustainability. He formerly served as the Global Head of sustainability for the $4 billion tech company to Dassault Systèmes, which was named number one on the global 100 most sustainable corporations lists in 2018. He also contributed to the higg product ego index as a tech partner to the sustainable apparel coalition, and serves on the boards of net impact in the environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund. And so as mentioned today, we talk about circular economy methods and practices, end of life for products in fashion disposal methods, and so much more as we are jointly on this journey to make a more circular economy, no matter the industry and circular economy specifically to the industry of fashion. So before we dive in, if you would like to keep up with our series on the impact of fashion go to grow ensemble.com There you can find our page impact dash of dash fashion where you can enter your email address to keep up with the release of interviews like this. In Depth articles we have to come and so much more again, that's grow ensembl.com backslash impact of fashion. Alright y'all without further ado, here is Monique bark and machine fancy from 11. radius.

Asheen and Monica, I am so grateful to have you all here with me on the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast and specifically here for our series on the impact of fashion. For folks who are not familiar with y'all and the work that you do. Could you briefly introduce yourselves to make it easy since we're here on video in all different places, Monica. Have you kick it off for us?

Monica Park  4:00  
I'm Monica Park. I'm co founder of 11 radius and I am responsible for our product critical and putting great programming out into the world to make sure that circular fashion is accessible, more easy to understand and implement in the space.

Cory Ames  4:15  
Wonderful than ashame Cory. Thank

Asheen Phansey  4:17  
you. This is really exciting. My name is Asheen Phansey. And I'm also co founder and CEO of 11 radius. We are a circular fashion group. So we are founded with the idea that the circular economy for fashion is nascent. And it needs support and structure. There are a lot of really good fashion brands out there and entrepreneurs out there that are building incredible things, incredible products and brands and services that are going to really further our ability to create the circular economy. What we think that we provide bringing them together, creating this platform where we can allow them to collaborate with each other to share practices. I joke that we're not quite at sharing best practices, yet. There's only knows what's best. Nobody knows what works yet. It's nascent. And so we're sharing things that we tried, maybe they work, maybe they don't. And so we create some information and structured information, what we call actionable insights, to kind of distill all that all those words out there, on circularity, to things that are really meaningful and actionable. And we bring in experts to help create this sense of knowledge and shared knowledge and shared language. And we consider ourselves an action tank, we give people the space on the partners that they need to really do test to pilot to create and to scale their circular fashion activities and brands.

Cory Ames  5:52  
In a second, I think I'll bother y'all for perhaps some some definitions or explanations. So we can work with some of the same language here, myself and the listeners included. But to kick us off, I'd be interested to hear more about the inspiration for starting 11 radius. There's a bit of it in your explanation there machine but as well, why were you two with 40 years collective experience in sustainability and in apparel? Why were you all such a good match for this?

Monica Park  6:22  
It was really a problem. I had myself Cory. And I was always working really hard as an operator in apparel and sort of had my activation moment, seven or eight years ago, I was trained in fast fashion, I worked in Hong Kong, I learned that model very well. And sort of woke up to maybe this isn't the way forward maybe this isn't the model I want to work in even though I had a great life. And I learned a lot about the industry, which I love working in, I sort of wanted to see what was new. And so I was sort of on a individual path, which was a lot of us that happens to us, we sort of have an activation personally. And then we sort of go out into the world and try to find the right decision and path forward. That's different from where we are. And like I said, I was always a worker and operator, and I ended up getting a job in resale. And I was you know getting my hands dirty trying to learn the model. And it's like Asheen said it's so early stages, people haven't figured these things out yet. And I was so busy working, I really didn't have a chance to talk to my peers and talk to other people who were having this trying to solve the same problems I was trying to solve. And just being in one company, I think it's limited to what you're exposed to. Because this is a wider thing, this is bigger than company, this is bigger than all of us. And that means you need to share and you need to learn and you have to have an open forum to do that, you have to talk about the hard thing. So it really for me, came out of sort of a problem I or something I always wanted to be a part of. So when I met Asheen and help explain his path, I would have never met somebody like Ah in my professional silo. And I learned so much from him and other people we've engaged with, because we're outside of our company, you know, modes. And so for me, it was a real thesis thinking that two other people have the same problem I do if we all came together and really had a place to convene? Could these models be adopted faster? Could we all get better at what we're doing in our day jobs, I think it's true. And we've seen the last six months that we're not alone in this. But that really is how I came to it was really personal problem that I had myself.

Asheen Phansey  8:14  
My background kind of mirrors and complements Monica's where she spent this has just deep expertise in being really in the trenches in apparel, my background is from the other side my experiences is I haven't an engineering undergrad and I came up kind of through the tech space from biotech, a little bit of work in aerospace, and in software. And for the last 15 years, I've spent that time in corporate sustainability. So doing things like carbon accounting, doing lifecycle assessment, which is a scientific approach to understanding the social and environmental impacts of products, and doing things like sustainable design and supporting sustainable design. So I worked a bit with the parallel sector, and I worked a bit with the aerospace sector on these, what we'd call pre competitive collaborations. So in on the aerospace side, it was the international aerospace environmental group, which is a great organization that collectively tries to an end is succeeding in establishing standards for the aerospace industry, took that kind of knowledge to our collaboration with the sustainable apparel coalition. You know, when I was at a previous job, this was in the context of being the Global Head of sustainability for a $4 billion tech firm. But as I started to walk away, you know, I spent eight years as the head of sustainability for that company, I've really started to understand that corporate sustainability is doing really good things and is directionally really headed in the right direction for how people say about some of the large companies and and blame them. I think they're headed in the right direction. But if you look at the IPCC reports on climate change, if you look at our biodiversity numbers and species loss, if you look at microplastics in the oceans, you realize their direction is not enough. We need a faster pace of change, we need more than just incremental change. Incremental change is important. But we need to really fundamentally rethink a lot of our business systems. Our social systems are just the way that we interact in our lives with products and with the things, we wear things, we eat everything. And so we can start kind of talking about definitional, but I really came to believe that circular economy is something that encompasses a lot of what we talk about in sustainability, but goes beyond and starts addressing conversations like consumption, and the way that we behave as customers of products, and so on. Because right, you know, we happen to meet and we happen to have such complimentary backgrounds that are from totally different spaces and perspectives. And I learned everyday from Monica, because I'm not steeped in the apparel space, sometimes I kind of texture or, you know, behind the scenes of a discussion, say, like, hey,

Cory Ames  10:55  
what is that word? I

Asheen Phansey  10:55  
don't really understand this concept. very gracious, but saying, okay, Asheen, here it is, here we go. But from my perspective of bringing sort of the tech world and the corporate sustainability world, and what's missing from those is this idea of, we can create a circular fashion, industry and ecosystem, I mean, it is possible, and there are brands out there doing small aspects of that, we can create that. And we can scale that to the point where this linear system of you know, take make waste, we can prove that that is just not a viable way of doing business, and living on this planet. And so that's what really excited me about Monica's deep expertise and knowledge of the industry, sort of my perspective from, here's where it can go. And here's what we can bring to circular economy. And as we start to partner with all these brands that have their own visions, and their own exciting forays into this, we realize this is something that we can scale. And we can develop and we can do and and it's just so much fun to be in it and seeing it happen.

Monica Park  11:57  
I'll say one thing, Cory, if I may, to, to step to end on that is, we also looked around in the market, and there's so many great, there's so much amazing work out there. You know, like I said, like I sort of woke up, but she's been working in the space for a very long time more than me, but I sort of woke up about seven or eight years ago to this idea. And I was trying to read and learn everything. And we're at a moment when there's so much amazing work out there. But it's overwhelming. There's so many reports, there's so many new headlines, everyone feels bad that they everyone has tabs up of things they want to read, but it's just a lot. But I want to say that it's amazing work out there. So we also looked around to see like, okay, there's all these NGOs out there that are producing these great reports. And they they partner with the big companies to work on systemic change. That's amazing. But what about this band of people in the in the middle, these dynamic, innovative brands, the brands of the future may be small and medium size, but we think that they can sort of maybe jump over where the big brands are because they don't have problems that they companies, they don't have to turn things around, they don't have to sacrifice certain things they can build in and they are building in these practices from the beginning, and then inspiring the next generation of brand builders to adopt these practices early. So we're in a amazing point of when all this amazing work is coming. There's good research out there, but it's overwhelm. There's these new companies coming up who can quickly adopt these models now. And we just thought, Well, what if we focus on that underserved population of people? What if we've convened those people, it's not like we've all engaged with bigger companies, but they have everybody already. And they're engaged in their bigger initiatives, we just wanted to see if like, if we bring all these people together, and we're more fast and dynamic and agile, maybe we can prove something out faster, and have the bigger companies follow us or see what we're doing over here as a collective.

Cory Ames  13:36  
And so I guess very quickly, I'm curious, what was the feeling of opening the doors for 11 radius like,

Asheen Phansey  13:44  
well, exhilarating, I will say that it wasn't a moment necessarily, because we met a lot of really amazing people doing work in this space. And we decided, we think we can add value to the space. But let's do a pilot and figure that out. And make sure that our thesis is shared by other people who actually are willing to pay for it. Right? This is I think, the struggle of every entrepreneur, which is, there's a balance between having your own vision that maybe other people don't see, maybe sometimes your business partner is sort of looking at you strange, too, that's happened for sure. In hewing to that vision and holding to that, but also being like, you know, I don't want to just be in my own world. And you know, the two of us bouncing ideas saying this, everyone's gonna love this and then taking it to market and realizing, oh, we need to go back to the drawing board. So what we did was we spent two months and did a pilot with 11 companies, is before we even came up with our name, or really our core offerings. We did this pilot, we said, you know, let's, let's do some weekly conversations and seed discussions. Let's bring in professors, you know, to have to have discussions, let's let's do panels, let's do workshops, let's pilot you know, different ideas with them that we kind of take and launch and run with and we learned a tremendous About about what they wanted, what they needed, and what was missing in the way that they approached circularity in their brands. So when we open the doors, as you say, it felt like just a natural next step, if there's a, I don't necessarily want to be spinning lessons here, because let's be successful before we say, hey, you should copy us. But it was one thing I've learned, at least from my career, it's that, you know, you come up with an idea. And then you got to get a test, and you got to go and do to learn more about the idea. And then once you've learned more than you would reformulate the next experiment, and you go, and you do that experiment. And you think about, you know, what's my affordable loss with this? Do I want to put in a month, three months? Do I want to charge right not want to charge? Can I not draw a salary for how long? And these are all the questions of like, that make the opening the doors more like, you open it away, and you throw some out, and then you open a little bit more, and you kind of take a step? And then you open up more, and you step through and you say, Hey, is it still sunny? As long answer to your question, I think

Cory Ames  15:58  
it's appreciated because it's it's different for all folks, for sure, especially the transition from you know, what might seem some sort of more traditional path in in business or their career to focus on something that kind of spoke to you in the realm of impact, whatever that might be. And so I guess so we can stall start to imagine together, what is more of this utopian vision for a circular fashion industry folks listening in as well? Can we start to build a bit of a definition of what is a circular fashion industry? What does that supposed to look like? And what are some defining characteristics in Asheen, you briefly mentioned, what is the status quo of that linear model, perhaps contrast that a bit if you wouldn't mind with what that is particular?

Asheen Phansey  16:42  
Sure. I'll start and left for Monica, then to jump in. And I'll say, upfront, I don't think anyone knows what the exact definition of this is, I don't think anyone holds that vision, exclusively, I think it's up to all of us to continue to refine and define what that means. But this is, this is how I see it, we have optimized in our world, for just a part of the process of bringing, you know, bringing apparel, and footwear and accessories to market. And that's, you know, taking sort of lower cost materials as low as we can go on the cost of goods, and then bringing them to market, you know, marketing them to people that want to buy them. And then it sort of leaves the door of the distribution center or the retail shop, that sort of, we may continue our relationship with the customer in the linear model, in order to get them to buy other stuff. But in terms of that thing that we've sold them, traditionally, there's no sort of continued experience with it, or interaction with it. In a circular model. It's different, we continue to be responsible for the things that we put out in the world. It's, you know, part of Monica's experience to have sort of working in the factory and saying, like, what happens to this after it goes to the customer? And so it's what we're building and sort of the definition of circular economy is I mean, I think it's easy to define, in theory, right, which is that materials always cycle through an economy. In practice, that's much harder, because then it raises all these questions like, Okay, are we using recycled material in our products to begin with? And if it's recycled, that means it's probably synthetic? Because right now, there's a lot of polyester that's being recycled? Can we, you know, mechanically recycle natural fibers? If so, how do we do that? Or how do we source from things that are lighter in the environment? So that's the first step. And then as you go through and say, Okay, we're producing them, you know, using processes on them? How do we use processes that are lower energy, less water, lower carbon emissions, less hazardous industrial chemicals? Those are sort of the traditional aspects of sustainability and sustainable fashion. But then the key question is, once we sell it, what happens to it? Can we encourage our customers and help our customers resell it when they're done with it, but there's still life in it? Can we look at mechanically or chemically recycling it if there's not useful life in it, but there's still material that is useful in a different garment? If not, what do we do with it? How do we get it to avoid landfill? Right? If you look at the the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which has some really great definitional work on circular economy, you see that 73% of the apparel that we were eventually ends up in a landfill right now. Another 2% is lost in the collection when you try to get it back the collection and sorting and that process, that's something that's a leak we need to look at as well, then 12% is what they call cascaded down to other recycling farms where we might call down cycling. So typically, it's shredded up and using as insulation, or it's, you know, put into it's used as a cushioning for something right it's kind of shredded and stuffed in Something, it's typically that's what percent is, it ends up in a lower value garment, if you will, less than 1% will end up in a new garment that is of equal or higher value. And that's what we're trying to address is how do we build technology, human behaviors, and business models, models like rental, like peer to peer resale, like recycling, upcycling, that are built into the process? How do we build those things, in order to get that less than 1%, much higher, so that the majority of material is cycled back. And there's another piece, which is that a lot of the existing definitions don't talk enough about people. They don't talk enough about not just circular economy, but inclusive and equitable, circular economy. And that's something that we are really trying to focus on as well, which is, there are people that touch this material, this fabric, this product, this recycled content and every step of the process, they touch it. And so, you know, we'd like to ensure that we have concern over their health, they have their livelihoods and working in it, we need to ensure that they're in good working conditions being paid a living wage, and that we think about racial equity and environmental justice at every point of that process. It's not enough for just to be good circular material also has to be enriching the lives of the people that touch that material. So this is a long winded way of saying, There's no clear definition of circular economy. I mean, there's a few out there. But it's a nuanced thing. And it touches a lot of different aspects of the process of bringing fashion to people.

Monica Park  21:39  
I think I like it like you setting it up as a contrast to how the linear economy is currently and how the industry was built and how it operates. Because we're at a really critical moment of when the industry has really been brought to its knees at least, I've been working for 20 years, it's a moment, I've seen it through a lot of different phases. And this one is really particular meaning that the old way of doing things, it was sort of a bubble, we all knew it. But now it's really the the the weaknesses of an expose, and a lot of things that we thought were going to last forever are really crumbling, and they don't exist anymore. So new things are coming out new models and new ways of business. But for people understand the way the industry is built, I mean, we all buy things, we all wear things, you know, functionally weave our clothes, but also for identity and fun and enjoyment. But these things are the way that we were taught to consume was created by the industry, the whole industry is powered by this insatiable need to buy, buy, buy, buy more, buy more things that we don't need. And the way it's set up is, you know, the factories and the means of production were all over seas that were localized within overseas. And then there's sort of all this money that goes into the dream, making the brands and the vision and the beauty of these worlds that we want to be a part of that sort of beautiful and up in the sky and very expensive. But then also the meat, you know what go where the actual garments are produced. It's a margin game. And there's so many middlemen in between, and everyone's being squeezed along the way. So that's sort of the unsexy truth of the whole industry and how it was made. And it's really behind the scenes that consumers only been brought into the conversation or people who don't work in the industry be like this is how it always has been this is how these are the criteria and the guidelines of how to operate and how to do it. Well Believe me, I was trained on how to do it in the fast fashion Hmm, way like we were taught. And it works, that you bring in new stuff very early. So when people come they want it, you want them to get to come back every Thursday. So they'll buy something more, and you make it cheap, you make it amazing, you make it branded, you put Beyonce with it, everyone wants it. And it's $5. Like it's kind of a brilliant model to make us just get that dopamine hit of buying more stuff and feeling like oh, I can afford it, I can buy so much. And I think a lot of us had those heaving closets at one point and then you feel like you have nothing to wear. So I think it's an amazing moment that realize that this whole way of being and consuming and have a profit driven model that squeezing margins on the inside of the industry and then having the consumer just mindlessly by buying. Everyone's waking up to being like, hey, maybe this is not so great. Maybe this is not what I want to be a part of, maybe this doesn't make me feel that great. Maybe I'm having emotions that when I walk into a fast fashion store, just like maybe when you want to eat healthy, you go into McDonald's, and you're like, Oh, I don't think this is that good for me. You know, it's great, it tastes good. But that's not actually how I want to live my life, I'm gonna make a different choice. And collectively, there's now this awakening. And now what's exciting for Asheen and I, and why we feel really grateful where we are, is the industry is actually waking up and people like us, who are business people. We need to build in the rigor to make these models profitable and scalable so that customers don't have to sacrifice. They don't have to feel bad. But we as an industry have to look inward and be like, Okay, if that's the way that's the big scalable model. Now, what's the new way? And how do we make that viable business where people can be employed will be people who make a profit, profit isn't a bad word. It's just how much and who gets what and at what expense. So all of these things are self awareness moment, but it really depends on the consumer. We're understanding that we've been taught to consume this way mindlessly. And the success of it depends on our mindlessness. And now, a lot of us don't want to do that anymore. But it's up to the industry to provide the options for people to shop better. And there are so many incredible new platforms, new people, new brands. Asheen and I talk to people every week, or who have been doing this worked for a long time, some are new, some are very, there's just so much coming. And I'm excited for the customer to have choices. Now, it's not going to be an either or they can go back to choosing blue or red, because we're going to make sure that we disseminate and teach people to make it the right way. So the consumer can just go back to choosing what they want to wear.

Cory Ames  25:36  
Oftentimes, when you think about circularity, a circular economy spreading whatever industry, I think there's an early tendency to lean strictly to the environmental component of that. But what I appreciate in each of these explanations are both the social and cultural implications of it, you know, whether that's the culture of relationships to close and consumption, or Likewise, the equity if, you know, we're tracing a supply chain from start to finish as to how all workers and stakeholders are represented and affected, both from environmental implications and in working condition implications. So it's, there's so many subtle things that continues, it's so deep, there's just so much depth to it. I understand why it's so all consuming, and and exciting and very inspiring, and love to talk about the industry as a whole. So we can understand, as Shane, you mentioned, some components of the end of life of these garments in Monaco, with your experience in fashion, perhaps you could start us off? Where is the most waste in the process? Is it in disposal? Is it in the end of life? Or is it somewhere else? For us to kind of help contextualize?

Monica Park  26:48  
Oh, well, from what I understand, it's really it's the post consumer end of life, the pile at the end of when everybody uses stuff, what really happens? And I remember learning from the Nike sustainability team, they kind of chunked out all their impact areas, you know, making their buildings certified, like how much the imprint of their of all their footprint and stuff. And I remember seeing at the end was this post consumer waste bar being very high, and people being like, yeah, that's the problem we need to solve with all this stuff going through. So she knows much more about tracking it as a company perspective. But I just remember from personally, just as my own education, seeing that even a team like Nike was like, yeah, that part of the end, people are just consuming a bunch of stuff, getting that back into what can be recycled, what can be sorted, what can be reused, that's me back in, you know, four or five years ago with something I'm like, okay, I want to I want to focus on that bar that's really high. And that's why I went into go into resale and re commerce, to understand how to get people off that drip of just consuming, consuming and consuming. What do you do afterwards? Because I think that's the behavior shift for the customer to understand. And then for the industry to figure out well, like, what do I do with my stuff? Well, we have to have a solution for that, and have it be scalable. So that's my take on it.

Asheen Phansey  27:57  
Yeah, Mike is absolutely right. I mean, let's be clear, there's wasted every step of the way, right. I mean, from the very top, when you're growing cotton, you know, not 100% of that cotton goes into the yarn that you use to spend at cetera, et cetera, right. And the challenge is, if we just zoom out a little bit and just look at it was like a natural system, what we're doing is essentially we're taking materials and we're adding more and more value to them, we're changing the more and more might be, you know, we may spin the cotton into yarn, we may, you know, weave the yarn into fabrics, we may weave those fabrics with other yarns to make blends. And it's all been designed to appeal best to the consumer to make that point of sale. Right. As we start to close that loop, and address that huge mountain of clothing, and shoes and accessories that are out there with the consumer, what we start to realize is we haven't designed this stuff to be circular in the first place. So if you take a shoe for example, a shoe has some leather components that are tanned and so they may not be compostable, it may have some natural rubber, that out of the context of the rest of the components could be compostable, if you can remove them. It may have some neoprene or other materials that are petroleum products that again out of the context of the rest of the materials, you might be able to grind them up and reuse them if there are certain type of plastic that can be remelted and reformed. Particularly all those things are glued together. And so we have this amalgam of things that are hard to separate, that could go in different streams. It's really hard. And when I say hard, I mean not economically feasible to take them apart. So for example, you know, we have a brand that we love called bendy by Ashbury skies, whose founder Mary Sue, first of all produces in the US, which we all know is really hard. She does her manufacturing here in California, and she made her shoes with zero or very little glue, using more expensive techniques to stitch them together. for the reason of recollecting them and being able to break that stitching and Separate the components to spread to the different eventual recycling pathways. So the waste is not just in, you know where it is in the process, it's in what form, right. So it's all the stuff that we have in our closets. You know, we can, you know, sometimes, you know, Nike or others will do these collections where we send back our sneakers and I'll grind them up and you know, make them into practice surfaces or different things. It kind of satisfies our guilt of consuming materials. But if you really think about it, not all that material is going to end up in a good place, right? no naka, Nike, they're doing some great things with that. And it's better than not, but it's not an end solution. Right? It's not a circular solution. Circular solution is really thinking about waste throughout the process. So part of my training is in this space called biomimicry, which is nature inspired design. And there's a couple things that I love that the biomimicry world brings to the table. One is the simple definition of sustainability, the simplest one that biomimicry community has voiced To be honest, it's all the way back to Frank Herbert and Dune actually said this line where he said, life creates conditions that are conducive to life. And so if we think about it that way, and the other thing biomimicry teaches us is, there is waste in nature, but there's no trash. In other words, the waste is always something if you think about a dandelion seed 100 of those little tiny seed pods may disperse to the wind, three of them may grow no dandelions, but the other 97 will biodegrade into nutrients that enrich the soil, we can do the same thing. I mean, nature has been doing this for 3.8 billion years, and hasn't gone bankrupt. we, as humans, creating a clever economy can do the same thing. We can design components, to have second and third and fourth lives and then be reground composted, reformed in some way re woven into new materials, we just have to incentivize that throughout the process and address how we build those systems.

Cory Ames  31:58  
And be curious to dive deeper into some of that nuance in the context of design as well as a consumer customer relationship to clothing, and apparel. Because I think it comes up of like, Where's the accountability or the responsibility? Like, who's supposed to make the change here? I think inevitably, it's it's all different sectors and in my opinion, but I'd love to hear from y'all like, where do you find that, that balance of that relationship, both consumer and customer as well as the brands themselves, and what it is that they design, both in their process and product?

Asheen Phansey  32:32  
Yeah, I was gonna say I'd love to talk about design, but Monica's expertise really is that customer relationship. So let's talk about that first. 

Monica Park  32:39  
Perfect, thank you. I think I'll jump wider. It's what's so beautiful about this model is that requires all of us. It's not just one person pinpointing it's all of us understanding that we're connected in this way. And Shane and I, and all the people that we partner with, and how we, when we, when they work with us, we really push that holistic way of thinking, because you can't do this without looking at it that way. It's a systems approach. It's a we say, mindset, company, mindset is important, not purpose, a mission, that's something you can put on the wall. A mindset is something you think about every day in every process. And that's why this is complicated right now is because we haven't really figured out all the pieces that how they move together in conjunction and then become new models. That's what's exciting about it right now. But that's what's difficult and challenging. And what we do is we're really trying to break it down for people to make it simple. So people feel empowered to start. And to feel clear and not feel like oh, I don't really know, I'm not going to be I'm going to be judged. If I can't do this piece. No one can do all of it perfectly, it has to be sequenced in and it has to be considered you have to be it's nuanced to your model. But there are some some facets of circular fashion that are pretty comprehensive and clear. We know that now we round our programming in this sort of talk about a little bit about designers. So I just want to give a shout out because they are so wonderful, and that they are the creative creative minds in the wheel, typically, you know, in the industry, but they're not the only ones too. I want to say the business people to have to be creative in their thinking the marketers have to be creative in their thinking because they're used to being trained in their disciplines to sell new things. But they are so critical. And we bring them to the table. Maybe they're the last ones usually get in this conversation. Normally it's focused on designers, right? They do touch the product, their decision making in their rooms do affect how the product is built, what Asheen talked about, if you do have to think about that, that is technical, that is what falls in their domain. But when you look at all how all of this is going to be successful as a business and if we're trying to supplant the linear way. Everyone has to bring their A game and understanding their function. They're part of it. Because design has to hang up to merchants, the sourcing team, it's all orchestrated to work together and they all have to be thinking the same way in this new mindset. And they all have to come to the table and then do their part and see what they do in their normal day to day jobs selling new and see okay, what can I do to bring out this new way of behavior and decision making because it's Really about the people in the room and their mindset. And I want to keep stressing this as people get into the space that are interested, remember it there, there are people who make these decisions. It's not a company position, if anybody has, what company is great, I'm like, I'm going to see a company, I'm gonna name my friends and the people I know who are doing these certain things, because that's going to ground it for people. They are going to talk about just like I could talk about when I was in a room deciding left or right, well, I'm going to choose the better option. How am I going to make this better? In my anything I touch as a professional? How can I make the better choice? And when I was in a leadership position? How do I push it, then? How do you use that influence to make sure that in the room when the decisions could be easily made in the old way? Or people could say, Yeah, but we can't do that. everybody laughs and we say, Well, why not? Well, what if we do it this way, I'll show you how we can work, we might have to test it out. But I think this is possible, and for people to put it on their backs to push those through and push through that new thinking in the rooms. That's where it happens. So I hope I answered that well, but it's a holistic thing. But it's also the people. And you have to identify yourself when you're that person, because it does come across. And sometimes you're put in that position. Sometimes you seek it out, sometimes it's forced upon you. But when you're in the seat of decision making power or some influence or to speak up, being armed with the knowledge and also having a path to be like, I don't think this is as scary as people think. Why don't we try this? It might be a little gnarly at first, but I think we're going to get there. That is the magic I've seen in my experience. That is what I've tried to do in my own work life. That's the only time I've seen things actually get pushed through. It's one of the people in the decision making see it, push it there.

Asheen Phansey  36:32  
Monica is experienced totally dovetails with my own in previous work, I remember speaking with an engineering team about teaching us some, you know, sustainable design techniques. And they made a comment, like, we don't cause the carbon footprint of the product. That's manufacturing, when they make it, they you know, incur the emissions. And I'm like, What is manufacturing making? They're making the product of which you design the blueprint. And so when we really started to get into it, they're like, Oh, yeah, they're just sort of following our instructions. So we have to get us both in the room to say, do you have to manufacture it this way? What about this? And then the opposite? Do you have to design it this way? What if we just use the same color on these two? Is that okay, that's going to cut down on our pain. And so it's getting these people into a virtual or physical room, when we can get into a physical room and sharing the same conversation, the same challenges the same constraints, the same language, getting past the just throwing it over the wall, and saying, well, we just do our part. As Monica said, it's holistic. It's a systems approach. And the system's approach requires people talking to each other, and building together and collaborating in a way that says, We all want to do this, this is our new mindset. We all want to do circular. How do we do that? What are the barriers? What are we addressing? What are the challenges in behavior, the challenges in the business model and profitability and margin? What are the challenges in the lack of technology? What sort of new tech do we need? Those are all surmountable, once people get together and decide they want to do something,

Cory Ames  38:06  
I'd love to prod into that a bit of those challenges those barriers in kind of the status of circularity and fashion as it is now, I keep touching back to even what you said, originally, of how much y'all learned in that pilot program that you ran before. 11 radius was even in proper existence. So I'm wondering, what are some of the greatest challenges or barriers that these brands will come to y'all with that you can identify and help them correct? What are often maybe some of our lowest hanging fruit, so to speak, first off, and then maybe we could transition to like, what are some things that are kind of yet to be figured out? I suppose, I'm not sure who's who's more equipped to jump in. But I'll leave that to y'all.

Asheen Phansey  38:48  
We're often left brain right brain things. We both we co create solutions here. First of all, if they were really super common problems, I think we'd be further along in solving them. A lot of these are unique to companies, to the way they do business, the products they design, and the way they interact with their customers. That's part of the reason why circularity is hard. It's really nuanced. It's in the context of how individual brands approach things. But I think there are some universal things that we discovered. So the first challenge is that awareness and understanding among end customers is low for understanding what is sustainability and what is circularity? And how do I even if I have the same values and want to shop more sustainably or more, more with my values more ethically, I don't know how to do that. There's a lot of certifications out there. There's a lot of public statements out there, as Monica says a lot of information out there. So distilling it in a way that is understandable and palatable to the end customer is a challenge for a lot of our brands. It's understanding how to speak about what they do, even if they do the right thing. So that's one of the key problems because ultimately that's where the demand comes from. That's where the pull is for a lot of the circularity solutions is people wanting a better world. That's one thing that we see. Another thing that we see is, no one can do this alone. You know, if you think about, for example, building a recycling infrastructure, it's daunting to think about, what do I do? You know, how do I collect my things? You know, once they're in the end customer? How do I incentivize my customer to bring them back? How do I sort them clean them? You know, understand, okay, what happens when customers send me random stuff? Like, you know, I've got, I'm asking for underwear, and I've got forks, like, what do I do with that? You know, like, the customers are expecting me to treat everything responsibly, you know, what happens when I get other stuff, then some of the stuff will be even new with tags? How do we treat that most responsibly? How do I resell that some of the stuff will be branded for a specific event, if you just took off that patch, or that stitching, maybe it's now a good generic thing that we could reuse in a number of different ways. Or some of the stuff can be torn beyond repair, you know, we're saying how do I how do I interact with that? And so there's just a lot of nuance around? How do I build the right behavioral and business models, and use the right technology? And so what we're finding to boil it down to a specific challenge, whom do I work with, because I can't do this alone. One of the things that seems really valuable for the people we're bringing together is for them to say, here's my problem. And for us to say, Hey, we spoke to a person three weeks ago, that is really smart about that problem. Let's bring you together and figure out how we can pilot something where you take a little bit of your knowledge, and your experience in a box of your product, let's say like your actual stuff in production, and their knowledge, their factory, their method, their machine, and put it together and see what happens, we will learn something, we may not arrive at the solution at the very beginning. But bringing players together will learn something. Okay, so then, let's say we pilot that and we can re spin your socks into something new. Great. How do we scale this? Okay, let's bring in a third party logistics, a three PL to say, Now let's talk about collection points and collection and transportation, make sure we're not flying stuff around, and invalidating all of the carbon savings that we're doing by recycling them. Make sure that we're collecting them and transporting them responsibly, try to get some empty trucks coming back filled with us product, and all of those aspects. Okay, we'll bring in that, you know, that discussion for transportation and logistics, distribution and transport and logistics. Okay, now, we built this cool program, it's scalable, how do we communicate to the customer? So we can you know, we can bring it out? You know, we know a branding agency that's really smart about how to talk about circularity, and how to talk about your incentives. Let's bring those guys in and build this sort of partnership. That's one of the big challenges that we see. And I'll just

Monica Park  42:48  
And I'll just add some specifics too, Cory. I love that question. Because our pilot was a real, we're really lucky to have a mix and Asheen and I also curated it well, I'll say, just so people understand, people who are just looking to grow their customer base and sell more product wasn't really right for the pilot. We wanted to talk to people and test people who are really trying to dig into the model. Of course, we did some programming of a talking to customer messaging and relationship because it's important, but if that was their goal, at that point, that really wasn't the group that we wanted to assemble. And we also had different stages of business intentionally, you know, people were really early stage startup, where they're working, you know, they're trying to keep their head above water. And we're like, oh, can we really help these people? Are they too early, and then we have people are really established, like she talked about bendy and Mary Sue. She's an industry veteran, and then moving into her own brand. And then other companies that were big on social mission, but looking to adapt circularity being like, what is this? And how I know I'm aware of it? And how would it make sense for my business? So a couple specific problems. One was like we had a lot of social mission businesses, you know, the impetus for them existing was to solve a social problem. And they know circularity and sustainability is in the same world, but kind of understanding when to sequence that in, that is very smart of that founder to just happen, and he's very busy, but he's still made time to be like, I know this probably coming. I think I do some circular practice, but I want to know what's coming. And when I can sequence these things for when I'm ready. We also had a company who was very established, very successful, but their social mission, these are high growth right now the margins tight because we donate and we have this model. I think circularity should be part of it. But can you help me come up with a way to test this out? To prove out to my company leadership? How do I make the case what are the scenarios? How do we have a path to success? I mean, it was a very high level and very real problem that I think a lot of brands face. And then like she said, very technical problems. I need a partner to help me take apart this shoe in this way. And what we also tested in the pilot was bringing service partners in as well as brands so they could actually meet each other and we removed all that icky sales anything, but just saying like if we got you all around the table and people were just throwing out problems, could you help and it really happened really naturally and organically and they actually spun off into started to do some pilots themselves. And now we're going to structure some pilots and do that lift for a couple people and bring them together because that's a need people have come to us with. It was really that we'd like to be tinkering. And we'd like to say like, What's your problem? Did they, if they didn't have a problem with knowing who their suppliers was, and the people in our pilot, they're like, No, I know who they are. I see them every month, we're like, okay, that's not their problem, that might be a problem for a different company. So it was really great to be able to be that agile and just throw the question out and see what people needed. And then we would come back the next week and have a solution or like Asheen said, We'd be talking to somebody, we connect them to somebody else. That was the whole point is to break down all those barriers and make that move faster.

Cory Ames  45:39  
I'm interested in what you'll feel about the quantity of brands who are open and willing to adopt or even begin learning about in those examples, some awareness of circularity practices, a willingness to learn and begin along that journey of adopting more circular practices. Do you feel like the quantity of folks moving that way is healthy? Does it need to be at a much greater pace? I mean, moving the behemoths, the multinationals, the h&m, you know, so and so that's a different kind of conversation. But just speaking to quantity, small midsize brands, how do you feel about that flow in that trend?

Monica Park  46:18  
I think, you know, to be totally honest, Asheen and I, we're in our bubble. So for us, it seems like so many, but I have to be real. I don't think there's that many and especially talking to consumers, or even my family and friends. I say what I'm doing I have to explain splain it, it's really nice. I don't think it's widely understood yet. That's just where we are. So it needs to accelerate. And that's what we're here to do as well. And we're kind of lucky in the sense that, wow, it's the trend, you can read read articles about it. It's on the high level, there's a lot of noise, a lot of interests, I'll say interest and noise, because some of us just what it is. So there's a lot of interest, but it's also not so big an unmanageable, because we haven't really figured out how to do this yet. The circular economy doesn't exist. Let me be clear, like it's not, we need to build it. And it's going to take, you know, effort and time, what we're trying to do is just accelerate and make it smart and grounded in some principles, take it out of theory, take it out of just trends and people being like, Oh, what is this? I think the consumer wants this. But is that really true? So it's still small, I think relatively for sure. Because Fair enough, the practices haven't been proven out. So how can it be big if people we don't even know what a circular fashion brand is really, you know, apologies to those out there who are absolutely furious, and they're doing it. But I think those are the niche still, and we're trying to make it mainstream, we want to make it the default way to do things. I think it's accelerating and happening, but it's still early. Would you agree, Asheen?

Asheen Phansey  47:43  
Yeah, I totally agree. And I'll add a couple of things. One is that I view that in a sense as a positive, because that means that there's space there, there's opportunity. You know, I think there are more customers looking for these brands, than there are brands to fulfill those needs at the moment. And I think that that's a real opportunity for brands existing and new to say, this is how we're going to do business going forward, because this is the future. And so it's really exciting to be in sort of cutting edge of that. And the second, the second comment is, we are totally in this bubble of playing with with really good circular fashion brands, I do take some leading indicators by the people that reach out to us, right, so there's a couple groups that have been interesting. One is I've had a lot of individuals professionals reach out and say, hey, my brand, doesn't really focus on this stuff. But I've been trying internally to get them to think more about it, you know, can you point me to some resources, to some other individuals, to some connections to some examples out there that can really spur their competitive juices and help me educate my peers and my in my senior executives, to say, look, this is the future, we should be going in that direction. There's a lot of internal pressure as well. And we can't discount, particularly from younger people who are like, we mean, you're not doing this right. Do you ever want to solve anyone younger than x age? You know, as we think about circularity, that's one signal. And the second signal is, I can I have been surprised by the number of larger brands that are starting to come to us larger than we intended to work with that are saying, we're interested in the circularity stuff that we see from you guys and others, can you train our designers on how to think in a circular way? Because we would like them to be ready. Once the industry really starts to move in a mainstream fashion. We want them to know what they're talking about. We want them to, you know, to further some of these quiet experiments in pilots that we're doing maybe in a couple different retail outlets, or maybe, you know, in a separate line or maybe in a smaller brand that we own. That to me is a signal when the larger players are starting to look to some of the smaller brands and folks like us to say, can you teach us about this particular way of doing business? That's a signal to me that some of them are really starting to realize that this linear model is not going to last forever and that we might need to be ready for change. 

Cory Ames  49:59  
It's a Interesting that both consumer and it seems industry side of sometimes the terms in the language kind of move faster than we can understand them. Especially when we're in the bubbles too, of the space of sustainability and circularity. Then there's regenerative and you know, eco friendly, like all these different things that can take a moment to really understand the subtleties of those. And then just as well, it's an interesting thing from consumers, if that term gets introduced circularity, there might be a demand of like, why hasn't this happenened now? No, you all here, kind of in the trenches working through constructing this, it's like, well, it's, it's a complex thing. That doesn't just happen overnight. But there's just a lot of different dynamics going on. And Monica, you did mention a few things like what seemed to be pain points for a lot of folks, folks who kind of seem to tip over the edge and invite y'all to participate with moving them along their their circularity journey. But, you know, margins are a concern, it seems like not knowing what they don't know, is kind of a concern. Where else do you think there's resistance from other brands who may be exploring the concept or the ideas, were my else there be resistance to them kind of tipping over the edge to be like, Alright, you know, we're doing this and we got to figure out who, and you know, how we move forward.

Monica Park  51:18  
I don't want to get too abstract. But I really believe this is true, right now where we are is, it's breaking up the routine of doing it the way we've always done it, that cannot be misstated as like the number one barrier to bringing in anything new. Because what we're bringing is really challenging how they do business already, or what the successful brands do. It doesn't mean that it's impossible, but you're up against inertia of an industry of how things are set. And you're up against the behavior of the customer, the inertia of like, Yeah, I know I have that stuff in my closet. But how do you get them to start thinking like, Oh, I got to trade that in, and oh, there's a bunch of areas, I could just like, put it in the bag and put it out with the trash. So inertia and routine. And you know, in any behavioral design, if you study that stuff, which is starting to and it's really interesting, you have to put that on the table, because that's going to that's going to need your clarity, your fortitude. That's why when Asheen and I are in this space, but either we can talk so big, but we have to bring it down for people, we have to make it feel clear, and people have to feel empowered of what they're trying to do. So the main pain point is that you're up against that you need to know that to which is the clarity of what is it? What is this term I keep hearing about? What does that mean? And also, to be really clear, with everybody listening from the biggest companies to smallest, they're like, what should I do? How do I do this? What am I in for? It's these basic questions that anybody can relate to, if you were in their position, where do I start? How much is this going to cost? Who do I need to be in the room? It's like anything that's going from ambiguity, it's going to be messy. So to empower people to know that that's part of it, and not to get stopped. And then to be really clear, because not everything is we always say, Oh, it's so complicated. Not everything's complicated. Some things we have figured out. Some things are simple, actually. And simpler to do. That's for people like us to help people understand, which is complicated, which is simpler. And it doesn't mean complicated means impossible, it just means it's going to be a little more entailed, it's our job to help them lay everything out and say like, Okay, this this is that this is this path. This is this, maybe I can do this. This one's a little easier, like packaging, for example, we always say it's low hanging fruit. It's outside of the main core of the business. It's something that procurement team and the marketing team touch. There's so many options out there for better ways to package we talked to distribution, logistic people all the time, like what are the concerns, everybody's willing to help solve these problems? So it's demystifying it. And just really being okay, asking those seemingly basic questions. That's where we are. So I just want everybody to take away that like, that's the smartest thing to do is to ask those so called basic questions. But what does this mean? How is that going to change, but what I normally do, lay it out next to what this is, that's where we have to operate right now. So everyone is clear. And so everyone feels empowered, and that they can see a path forward.

Asheen Phansey  54:05  
A great example of what Monica is talking about is the seasonal calendar. Know, there's inherent churn in producing pieces for a specific, you know, seasonal calendar. And so when we ask, why do you do that? A lot of the answer is because that's the way fashion is done. And so, you know, clearly creating timeless pieces that you know, can be continued to be sold and resold is better for circularity for the environment. And so that's, that's, that's just one of those small practices that it's, we just asked brands to question, you know, in the way we do things, to pluck another thread from Monica pundants, already mildly intended. One of the challenges is, as you said, it's just being overwhelmed when a brand says, I want to do this feels like boiling the ocean, because you're thinking about everything you're thinking about sourcing and materials and trim that you're using and how you produce and who produces and where and how you transport it, how you sell it, how you market it, what you do afterwards, how you incentivize. I mean, it's seen All all consuming, right? And so one of the things we've done is created kind of a framework for how we think about circularity. It's an 11 point framework, a lot of what we've talked about today, nothing, you know, it's not rocket science. But one of the aspects of that framework, one of the one of the 11 facets is packaging. And the reason that we call it packaging is because, you know, is packaging the most impactful step when you do a lifecycle assessment of a product? Usually not. But there's two things, one, it's accessible. So it's usually not core. And so companies can say, Oh, we can buy a different package, or wrap it differently, or try something new. And second, it's the first thing that your customer touches when they open your product. And so it signals your intent and your intention as a brand. You know, if it's wrapped in, you know, six different kinds of plastic, and then you're like, let's talk about our circularity on the hang tag inside. It's a cognitive disconnect, right? And so when we start talking about this whole framework for a brand that's just starting, that's an entree point where we can say, let's talk about what you package in where you source it. Is it from recycled content? Or is it something that's recyclable or compostable? And look at that and just do some experiments around that? That's an access point. So I think that's a way to address one of the behavioral challenges of adopting circularity of just, you may have to change everything all at once? Well, no. As Monica said, it's something that you can sequence.

Monica Park  56:23  
I just want to say one more thing, to Cory, if I can, I think Shane and I are really excited about something recently that's developed is sort of the art of the pilot, we're really going to go after and how people can test into this, I can empathize with the person who works with a brand new thing, I'll just send me your stuff, we'll see. That's true. But also like, I need a little more shape and structure around what we're trying to do. And the industry has, you know, we say everything's new, there's no best practice. But we've been testing into this for, you know, I know, at least three years or four years when I've been working in this industry. And I think there's an art of creating a great pilot, and just to understand the landscape of where you can start. So that's really something a pain point that we're going after to help serve the people in our community is to help them frame that what does that look like? And we don't know that even so I'll be honest, we're going to test into that. But I think that's really critical is that those first steps you don't you people need wins, they need to know what they're going into, you can't miss that chance. Like it's high stakes. We've also been looking at like if a brand is based in Europe, but they have a business in the US maybe do the pilot regionally in a different place, and then bring work out the kinks, and then go back to HQ and bring something back. We need to think like this, and help brands look at things this way, because you don't know what's going to be best for your business. So there is an art to testing well, and we hope to stand in that gap and help people do that.

Cory Ames  57:39  
There is something extremely important about momentum, that's certainly true. The level of overwhelm, I think that's something that consumers are as well, brands resonate with, you know, if you're trying to make sense, and you're making a purchase of the eight to 1216 different materials that you know, are in one garment, you know, I I kind of just want to trust the brand, maybe you know, like and make that right selection. There's a lot to source through. But before we wrap up, y'all I want to be respectful of your time. I appreciate you chatting with me here. Are there any other kind of solutions that y'all can point to being implemented by brands that y'all are working with, at an agile pace? so folks can kind of crystallize more of what some of these circularity practices look like out in the world?

Monica Park  58:26  
I'll talk a little bit about in terms of if we know the question that people ask is, I want to start a takeback program. Where do I start? Right? We're really liking the peer to peer model, because I think it's interesting, it's less risky to eke out a bunch of inventory, you don't have this high platform lift, we have friends and partners to be totally transparent, who are doing that when we think it's an interesting model to test into. Because again, it's it's not new, but I think more brands are looking at that as a way to, I would say test into to resale. Because the most important thing is for to gauge demand, these programs maybe take longer to obtain because you don't have the unit's right away that you might but I think if you're a an established brand, and you have a lot of demand for what you're selling a peer to peer model is really interesting to test into, in my personal opinion.

Asheen Phansey  59:11  
One of the things that I think is really interesting is we're seeing this trend of brands that have figured out a way to profitably do a circularity step, and are starting to get requests from other brands to do it for them as well. And so they've sort of become these sort of hybrid brands and service providers to other brands. So here's a couple of examples. We have a friend who recently relaunched a heritage brand of hers, called the brand is called the big favorite. It's a circular underwear brand. And I'll give you a moment to let that sink in. She doesn't do resale. She's creating a takeback infrastructure for that. And she's getting requests from other intimates and other producers that are saying, hey, if you've configured this out in New Zealand, we'd love to partner with you and do it here. Another example is a great German brand called the guestlist which is a high end cashmere brands. And what they've realized is, we can build a service around extending the life of cashmere sweaters that we sell as our high value items. And we care about our customers and other customers. And so they offer this program called the cashmere spa, our friend Anton, the CEO is German. He said, I wanted to call it cashmere, refurbishment cuz I'm German. But my marketers convince me Who are the marketers are based in South Africa, they're much better at this, we're gonna call it the cashmere spa, which is a term I love. And what the spa does for these sweaters, is it goes through like an eight to 10 step process of deep pilling. I mean, they literally take a magnifying glass on a razor blade and D pill, you know, the entire sweater, they disinfected you know, because cashmere can get dust mites and things. And I think with this whole, they amended the whole process to basically make it like new as much as possible. And here's the interesting thing. From a circularity, business model perspective, he offers this to his customers for free. And so he's now increasing his touch points with customers, because he says you can send this back every season. soon as it starts to get chilly out, send your sweater back, we'll refurbish it, we'll take it through the spa. And you will have it as fresh as possible for the warm sweater season. For other cashmere makers, designers, brands, they've started to come to him and say, this is a great process, can we be involved? Absolutely, he says, and he sells the service to cashmere brands that are not their own brand. So for customers that aren't customers, or the guest list, or you know some other well thought through Brand Partners, those he's charging. And so he's actually created a revenue stream around this idea of making the products last longer. And this kind of service of providing longevity services for cashmere, so that he can kind of fund doing it for his own customers. And of course, once you create multiple touchpoints, like that post sale, all these other opportunities open up. Like he's saying, Look, when we get sweaters back, and it's past the point of refurbishment, we can call the customer and say, Hey, can we mechanically recycle this responsibly, and give you a discount on a new sweater because it is so well loved, we can't fix it. And so that creates this continuing relationship and a revenue point, you know, changing it from a cost center to a profit center. And also this this ability to then add new services and do more for the world.

Monica Park  1:02:24  
I just want to jump on that. Because I love that example. And Cory I think like if anyone wants to test into this, just looking at your business as like a service to not just selling stuff. But once you put it out there, people, if you give them the opportunity to take care of the garment that they buy from you, if you give them a way to do it. And you actually are generous and offering that service, I believe people are going to pay money for this because they just they want to do these things. They just want to make sure that you do it well. And it makes sense. It's not just something you're sticking on, or it's really complicated or a lot of friction for them to do. So what I hope I want to say to everybody out there, even at the marketers out there, when you're selling your stuff, do some content about how to take care of your garments, like once you buy it and like it's not that maybe not that fun, but talk about like how to launder something well and like our how to repair I think there's going to be a whole resurgence of more of that being mainstream, that people are going to have really great sewing kits and like, no, they're cobbler. I mean, I love mine and like no have a have a seamstress that you know what if you buy a dress, or someone gives you something they like, Oh, I just have to take it in and like have somebody take it who knows how to do, you know, have an amend or didn't do it well, and work with the darts and everything. I mean, I think this is really exciting. And I think it's a lot of things that I've seen the last couple years is when you lean into those things that normally commercial people think, Oh, well, I want them to buy more stuff. You know, like that's what we've been taught is like don't don't have them replace it. Or I don't want them to buy reused or used because I want them to buy my new stuff. There's going to be cannibalization, I have to say every time I've seen a brand lean into those pain points of like, Oh no, I'm going to give up something actually, when you lean into the customer rewards you because they know that it makes sense. They're going to buy new when they're going to buy new, I don't think there's a world where no one's going to buy anything new, it's going to be a mix. So the leading brands that I've seen are really obviously Patagonia, you know, don't buy this sweater again, it's like they put that out there. And I've really seen that in practice that the customer will reward you if you if you go into those tactics and say, You know what, you don't have to keep buying from us take care of that skirt or take care of this or how to pass it to your sister and get it mended somewhere. I think that's really interesting territory for brands to embrace. As the business catches up and builds the models to be able to take these things back. I mean, we could imagine every brand store has a take back point. I don't know. Sure the recyclers out there cringing when I say that because it is it has to be aggregated, it is complicated. What the customer is looking for is a trust point. If I bring my stuff here, or what are you going to do with it, just tell me and don't lie about it. And I'll do it, they might even pay you to do it. I think that's going to be the future. And I'd love to see more brands test into that trust because this really is a customer loyalty that you know, like I'm a marketer and a business person too. It's a customer loyalty play. It's customer acquisition or new customer base. Maybe Who didn't find you accessible, they enter through resale at a lower price point. But then you get them and they convert to new because they like what you're about. These are business tactics, but they are very generous and circular at their core too. And I just want to empower people. That'd be like, just test into that and see if that's right. Because I think, from what I've seen, the customer will follow you.

Cory Ames  1:05:19  
Yeah, I think both points are really important to stress in the sense of how many kind of creative avenues can present and reveal themselves in this adjusted economic model. You know, if what is the status quo must go away? There is certainly this sense of, especially people in the industry of like, Well, you know, what do we do now, but there is a lot in, Asheen, your example, on the business to business side, you know, providing those services for others, especially if you take the time to figure out what are kind of complex processes in the realm of circularity, other people be like, hey, that'd be cool. If we could do that ourselves. But you already did it. You know, is there a way that you can work that out for us and Monica same stressing that experience, it's like, for example, I should have gotten that sweater out of there. I noticed that in the back of my video for folks watching. But my my Patagonia sweater sloppily sitting back there, I have some reassurance that you know, they're going to take care of the garment with me, I think I pay for the repair process, whenever it happens. I'm not sure what kind of margin they have on that process. But nonetheless, there is some confidence that I have that it's like if something happens to my beloved, you know, essential a sweater back there, that, you know, I'm still connected to Patagonia in some way. Yeah, I reached out, some of them will get back to me. And they'll figure out how I can get my favorite sweater back and repaired and re stitch or whatever it might be. It's weird, you know, you you stressing that really made me think about is like I'm deeply connected to Patagonia. And because of that product purchase there.

Monica Park  1:06:48  
And I just want to say working with a team, they do walk that talk, they really are that way. It's so seamless and the way they do everything. I saw it up close. And I know everybody feels dejected. They're like Well, everyone would love to be Patagonia growth and have these great margins, and also do everything. But I think like but they make it real. And I think people can learn from them. They are our gold standard. And a lot of ways we look at how they do everything. It's still relevant. And it's great to look at them and not to be like, Oh, well, I can't do that. And I'm like, well, they are so transparent with what they do. Like I said, I know behind the scenes, like it is possible. And it's good to see that the possible and like you said, I think they don't charge you for that repair. Corey, I think they they build that in because that's not the most important thing for them to do. They told us when we are partnering with them, not have seen an item previous life and we want to reduce, you know, we want to go right after climate change. And that's what we're going to do. And we're going to do it through resale models too. So that they didn't tell us about their margin their profit goals and revenue targets. They're like, well, we want to change the world. And we think this is one vehicle to do it. So like that's how they lead with their goals, and then build everything down from there. So it's possible.

Cory Ames  1:07:49  
It's hard to wrap up this conversation here, so many good things. But I mean, I see Patagonia partner with much smaller producers and specialists in all sorts of different respects. So it's also like, they haven't figured everything out to you know, as much as people admire them, like there's they do, certainly, you know, walk the walk, but there's a lot of opportunity within all that in in they seem to be very open and receptive to it. Yeah, and investing it. Yeah,

Asheen Phansey  1:08:15  
there's a great trend of these brands that are figuring things out. And then saying, We figure this out, you know, in some cases, let's profit on it. But in some cases, let's just share it with the world. Because the world that in which this exists is a better world and a world that we want to live in, you know, if you look at allbirds is another great example, they just recently released the lifecycle assessment spreadsheet that they use and said, Hey, this is hard. We put some time and money into it. But we've tried to figure out pieces of it. Please use this because it's better. There's that famous example of when a certain large online retailer ripped off some of Allbird's designs. And, you know, the founders sent an open letter saying, hey, please rip off our sustainability program along with our designs. And so, you know, it's great. I mean, you know, other companies like Eileen Fisher with their renew business, like they share a lot about, here's what we figured out. We've been doing this for a while, here's what has worked and take this and run with it, and they're very collaborative. So there's some great brands out there that are sharing that gift with the world, and it's lovely to see

Cory Ames  1:09:19  
Asheen, Monica, thank you to so much for your time. One last question for y'all here. Where might folks go to keep up with your 11 radius and perhaps dive deeper into this topic of circular fashion?

Asheen Phansey  1:09:34  
Yeah, I think that the best way is 11 radio comm You can also look at our LinkedIn page and see some of the stuff that we will continue to start to share stories, especially from the brands that we work with in the in the partners that we work with, you know, just to look at those stories. There are some other great organizations that that you know, companies should look at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has done a lot of work in circular economy, the global fashion agenda, sustainable apparel coalition, and have really good organizations out there that we should all track.

Monica Park  1:10:03  
We're going to be coming out with more content. We've been behind the scenes just making this beautiful process. But we are going to very soon share more of the stories of the people we're meeting and what's out there for people. So I'm sharing a lot of resources and information because we've been asked to do even more content to help people along the journey. So just much more to come and help people come along and join us.

Cory Ames  1:10:24  
Perfect, and we'll all be looking forward to that. So, Asheen, Monica, thanks once again. I appreciate it. 

Asheen Phansey  1:10:30  
Thanks a lot, Cory. It's been a pleasure.

Monica Park  1:10:31  
Thanks, Cory.

Cory Ames  1:10:33  
Okay, that is a wrap another episode of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast in the books. I hope you enjoyed it. As always, your host your Cory Ames. I always really enjoyed knowing that you're you're out there listening to this episode, engaging with the content, perhaps the folks that we featured doing this exceptional work in the world. If you enjoyed the show, and you haven't already, please leave us a review wherever it is that you get your podcasts and hit the subscribe button if you haven't already that really helps other folks like yourself, discover the show. And lastly, if you have not yet sign up for the better world weekly newsletter This is our weekly discussion of building a better world with our global community of changemakers and innovators from all sectors in all walks of life. So go to grow ensemble comm backslash newsletter to get the next Better World weekly in your inbox. Alright y'all, we'll talk next time

Asheen Phansey

CEO, Co-Founder

I’m a sustainability professional, and have worked in the sustainability field since around 2006. I’ve overseen chemical safety in the biotech industry, commercialized biomimetic technologies in the aerospace industry, and led my own consultancy in sustainable innovation. I serve currently as the global head of sustainable innovation for a $3B software company. I also teach sustainable entrepreneurship to MBA students as an adjunct professor at a globally ranked b-school.

I specialize in sustainable innovation topics, including biomimicry (nature-inspired design), life cycle assessment (LCA) and carbon footprinting, cradle-to-cradle or closed-loop production, and green marketing. I have degrees in chemical engineering and business, and training from the Biomimicry Institute.

Monica Park

CPO, Co-Founder

Monica Park is CPO & Co-Founder of Eleven Radius, and is a veteran brand manager with expertise in take-back and resale, and war stories from scaled global manufacturing in Hong Kong.