Can eco-friendly clothing be made at an affordable price?
This is the ultimate question in the industry, and one of the biggest points of frustration for people who want to participate but can’t afford the heavy price tag. Is there also a concern that you could make clothes ethically at a discount?
One California company hopes to do just that. Instead of cutting profits from producers, they cut out middlemen. That means the goods are delivered directly to the customer from the factory floor, said Quince founder Sid Gupta.
“That’s where we make savings and build a revolutionary supply chain. We skip all the steps – and all the carbon emissions, I might add, in between. “
Since they don’t have to have large amounts of inventory because they are factory-made and shipped out, Gupta explains that they can transfer the funds into the supply chain and materials. That means Quince can afford to use organic cotton in their sweatshirts and sweatpants, for example.
“We don’t consider ourselves luxurious, we consider ourselves premium, and focus on long-term clothing.” As well as durability, they tick the box when it comes to certification: These third-party partners include Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Oeko-Tex, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), and Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) to name a few. (Note, sustainability veterans can question the depth of some of these standards, but they are a starting place for fashion brands. Currently 80% of Quince organic cotton comes from GOTS or BCI certified supply chains.)
Regarding leather, a material that can divide public opinion, Gupta said they chose factory partners “who put ethical, environmental and labor standards at the forefront of their business – those who work to reduce the amount of water used and who pay fair wages. That’s why we spent the first two years building a brand focused on selecting our outstanding manufacturing partners. “
Although the journey is far from over, Gupta repeats it, they are trying to combine as many ingredients as possible – as quickly as possible. “It’s a work in progress, but our business model is what makes it possible.”
But for Gupta, Quince basically solves some of the main problems for consumers: it regulates the selection, making it easier to shop; it promises a certain level of quality and responsibility in the supply chain not available in e-commerce markets such as Amazon and eBay; and lowering prices, making clothing more affordable which is an important point in the world of sustainable fashion.
Much of this learning and adaptation to Quince comes from Gupta’s own experience of online shopping, he says, arguing that there are three waves of shopping on the Internet: first, the emergence of the Internet itself, which makes e-commerce possible; second, the D2C model; and third, marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.
But the problem with Amazon, for example, he notes that it doesn’t ensure you’re getting the best product at the best price. “The search results make money, incentivizing those who can pay more to stand out at the top of the list. So, I spent 45 minutes, for example, looking for a frying pan there, but got so confused by all the reviews and what to believe, that I went to Target and got it. “
As Quince starts experimenting with more product categories, such as home, it aims to preserve the shopping experience, while incorporating as many eco-friendly ingredients as possible. “We think the fourth phase of the Internet will take place: from factories to consumers in the chosen way.”
To make this happen, Gupta raised $ 8.5 million in 2019 from Founders Fund, 8VC, and Base Set Ventures, and rebranded from “Last Brand” to “Quince” with site updates, a wider selection of items, and a new vertical.
The realization for establishing a company, he said, came from staying at hotels. “When you stay in a good hotel, you enjoy towels, sheets, a good bed. But why don’t we do it in our homes? Why do I sleep on not-so-great sheets the other 364 days of the year? “
Quince hopes to change that by marrying premium quality with an environmental focus at a mid-market price point so that more people can enjoy these “everyday luxuries.” Can they really do it, without compromising social and environmental standards? That will be the final test.