Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Designer Spotlight: Indigenous


Knitting in many cultures is a time-honored tradition that has significant cultural meaning and purpose but sometimes does not yield the financial rewards that Indigenous feels it should. They are proud to be part of the partnership which continues to elevate knitting and hand looming artisan cooperatives in some of the poorest regions of South America. They allocate more of their production cost to the artisan than typical conventional textile companies. This means the artisan makes a fair, living wage well above what they might earn working independently. In addition, they partner directly with non-governmental organizations and others that provide training, educational materials, and equipment that otherwise could not be afforded. Many partner organizations also offer no interest assistance loans in these communities. They place great value on their partnerships with artisans and the traditional knitting skills of their community. There are now over 300 artisan groups as part of their highly skilled production network.


The development of their clothing, however, starts from the ground up—literally. From the very beginning, Indigenous has been an all natural fiber company utilizing organic cotton and other fibers created by nature. Their organic cotton is certified by Skal. Conventional cotton is one of the most pesticide-dependent crops, making the growing and harvesting of this fiber harmful to the water table and local communities. They were the first clothing company to blend organic cotton with Tencel, a breakthrough fiber made of sustainably harvested tree pulp. With all of their fiber blends, they take great care in procuring the materials into knittable yarns as close to the cooperatives as possible so that they can further benefit these local communities.


In many cases, Indigenous utilizes the natural colors of organic cotton, eliminating the need for dyes to achieve complex color schemes within our fashion collections. Indigenous also develops low impact dyes which contain no heavy metals and are Azo - dioxazine compound free. Indigenous ensures a qualified system for waste water filtration. Again, these choices are in alignment with their sustainability goals and are designed to best serve the local communities that participate in the creation of their clothing.


The communities that they touch, however, are defined beyond the care they take with each garment. They have partnered with Green Mountain Energy, committing to purchase local "green power" from the Real Goods Solar Living Institute. The green energy obtained from the Solar Living Institute—located just 50 miles from Indigenous' Santa Rosa, California headquarters is projected to offset over 33 tons of CO2 emissions generated over the next two years and prevent the sequestration of roughly 4,300 trees.


Indigenous founder Scott Leonard was also instrumental in developing Green Steps (www.greensteps.org) in the Outdoor Industry, an initiative designed to help the industry exchange, elevate and practice sustainability ideas.


Finally, they understand that one of their most important communities is their customers. Their customers expect only the highest quality and fashion detail. You shouldn't ever have to sacrifice fashion and style to be a good global citizen. Their commitment to fair trade practice, knitting traditions and procurement of the finest natural fibers is unprecedented. Those who wear an Indigenous garment feel the special care taken to create each piece. By bringing together fashion and style with artisan handmade quality, their customers receive a combination unique in clothing.


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