Notes from the field. Faces, Places & Spaces.
The philosophy of Workers, Ecology, Ideas with Iris Alonzo & Carolina Crespo. An Interview with the founders of Everybody.World
Published October, 2021
Your philosophy "Workers, Ecology, Ideas" defines how you conduct your business. It's a great way to describe how human beings relate to one another, the planet, and the cosmos. It seems like women are at the forefront or more likely to found a company that puts "sustainability" and equity at the forefront. Would you agree with that sentiment?
We don’t know the statistics but as natural nurturers and creators of life, it makes perfect sense!
"There are parts of the world which have worked with circular and sustainable manufacturing for generations, but they’ve done so due to necessity and scarcity of raw materials. Those cultures have been incredibly inspiring to our approach."
Another thing that stood out was how you actively tackle consumer-discarding. I think the intentionality behind everything you do is what makes the brand so singular in its mission. For example, you offer lifetime guarantees to mend or fix any damaged goods. How did you decide that you were going to offer this service?
We design our products to last a lifetime—to be the vintage of the future. We imagine kids finding EVERYBODY.WORLD pieces in a thrift store decades from now and feeling like it’s a score that they’ll enjoy for another lifetime. There’s such a disposable culture nowadays which is built upon false understanding of the availability of global resources and the true cost of making new stuff. It was important for us to make a statement about the quality of our products, enough to stand behind them for life, and simultaneously promote the virtues of repair and reuse. And actually, it’s so easy to fix up small wear and tears, so we decided to go for it.
One of the things we’ve been grappling with is the need to express our creativity through clothing and the need to consume and make less. How did you reconcile those two opposing views when you decided to launch a clothing business?
As makers, we make thousands of micro decisions each day, each of which have a positive, negative or neutral impact on people or the planet. Our goal is that the sum of our actions are overwhelmingly positive, and each day is a step in the right direction for our industry. You can’t make progress without making moves, and having our pillars of Workers, Ecology, Ideas has been an extremely helpful guiding light as we do our thing.
I think most people think that we just don’t have the capability to make a change or we have to wait for a magical technology to help us reduce waste. A lot of the necessary technology exists already. I think The Trash Tee is a great example of ingenuity and perseverance. Can you tell us a little about the development of the tee and how long you spent on research and development?
You’re absolutely right! There are parts of the world which have worked with circular and sustainable manufacturing for generations, but they’ve done so due to necessity and scarcity of raw materials. Those cultures have been incredibly inspiring to our approach. We recently were able to forge a partnership and build a new supply chain for recycled cotton woven fabrics with a small family business in Colombia where they provide expertise in the areas of recycling and manufacturing, and we both design into their capabilities and build a customer base to support the supply chain. For the Trash Tee, we spent about a year sampling, testing and trying again, but it’s never perfect and always an ongoing experiment.
Although many brands are upcycling now, I think you're one of the first companies I noticed that took damaged goods and reinvented them with embroidery and graphics? Can you tell me how that came about?
There’s so much waste in the apparel industry, and there’s always a percentage of goods that are damaged. We live with a “perfectly imperfect” mentality and apply that to all areas of our business.
There is a quote by the founder of Patagonia that goes, “There’s no such thing as sustainability. It’s just kind of a path you get on and try — each day try to make it better.” The concept of sustainability gets thrown around pretty loosely as there is no industry watchdog patrolling how these words are used. Do you think corporations should be regulated on how they use language around sustainability?
To a certain extent, yes. The language we share is incredibly important and greenwashing just ends up being really bad for the environment. When no-one’s checking under the hood, you end up seeing a lot of marketing from other brands that’s a stretch at best or willfully misleading at worst. On the other hand, even talking about "sustainability" can be helpful because it creates more conscious consumers and that awareness leads to consumer demand, which is sadly, usually the start of real change.
Pre-covid, decades of globalisation and trade policy have encouraged brands to outsource production, and with it they have lost oversight and ownership of their supply chains. What has the impact been like for you as manufacturers based in the USA? Did you see a boom in business as you regrouped? Also, how did it impact your community of workers early on in the pandemic?
We have designed our model around what’s referred to as “the first mile”—how and where things are made, as opposed to “the last mile” which is how it’s sold—since day one. It makes absolutely no sense that we should rely on 4 separate continents to produce one of the most ubiquitous items on the planet—the white t-shirt. As supply chain issues and the impact of climate change are getting more and more dire, people are looking for businesses that are well positioned for consistency and transparency. We are.
Our community of workers were sadly not seen as a part of the front line workforce until many months into the pandemic. At the onset, it wasn’t really understood that apparel manufacturing should be considered critical, yet as imports were shut down and Amazon was unable to get enough masks and PPE to everyone in the US, the local apparel sector was under intense demands to make these things happen. Simultaneously, our local, state and federal government did an inadequate job of communicating critical information about testing and other safety measures to people who are not native English speakers or did not have a smart phone. It was truly horrifying to watch this unfold and realize how undervalued our manufacturing community is.
Finally, community is a big part of what you do; from product ideation to marketing. How long did it take to build your current ecosystem of creatives who help design and develop your products?
Some of our creative community are longtime friends, like Delores, who we’ve known for many many years, and Akira, who’s the son of some of our good friends and we’ve known since he was born. Others are friends of friends, or people we’ve met along the way. It’s an organic ecosystem that’s always growing and evolving, and that’s the beauty of it.