For the very first time this weekend, when I was getting dressed in the morning, I thought to myself: where did my shirt come from? Where did the materials come from to make my pants? Were the people that manufactured my clothes fairly treated?
I had never really thought much about this topic before, but I now can’t help myself. Am I really being a responsible citizen, or am I using my consumer purchases to promote the poor treatment of animals, unsustainable farming practices, and unsafe working conditions?
These new thoughts all started when I purchased a sweater from Teel Lidow – founder of Boerum Apparel. Teel, who happens to be the brother of one of my colleagues, sells clothing under a now-familiar mission: sustainable and fair practices. However, Teel goes one step further than most and actually shows his full supply chain – complete with videos, pictures and descriptions of the exact locations where his clothes are produced. It’s obvious from his website that he has actually visited the physical location of each step along his supply chain and that his business is having a positive impact on everyone (including all the animals) involved.
Teel’s business represents more than just a responsible clothing brand; it represents a new form of entrepreneurship that goes around traditionally established supply chains to produce higher quality, more cost-effective products.
Years ago, retail supply chains were bloated with different companies playing the roles of producer, distributor, wholesaler, and retailer. Each entity took a cut of the end profits and provided a different value-add along the way – mostly related to the transportation and warehousing of the goods. Sometime in the last 30 years, with the reduction of shipping costs and rise of digital communication, distributors and wholesalers started to blend together into a single entity. The combination of distributors and wholesalers left a supply chain with only two intermediaries separating producers and consumers. Teel’s business represents the natural conclusion of that trend by eliminating the wholesaler/distributor entity all together, leaving only a single company separating the producer and consumer.
The reduction of intermediaries not only gives Teel better quality and lower cost than many of his competitors, but it also gives him more control over the production of his product. Control, which he uses to make sure his products do no harm to animals or humans along the way.
Also – I have to mention that the sweater I purchased from Teel is the single highest quality, softest wool sweater I’ve ever worn. I just wore it all weekend in Burlington Vermont in 40-50 degree weather and it kept me warm all weekend.
Overall, it’s a great business and a really awesome idea.