Fashioning a sustainable future

After 30+ years in the fashion industry, Tracy felt called to embrace a fresh model for her new brand. Hope for Flowers is conceived around the idea that when we know better, we do better. The collection is designed and produced following the 3 guiding principles of sustainability: the health of people, planet, and equity in profit. Hope for Flowers begins this journey embracing responsible practices. Tracy plans for the brand to grow in sustainability with each collection.

Ethical sourcing

For Tracy, sustainability means designing and producing clothes more responsibly, which entails being more mindful of sourcing and fabric choices as well as ethical conditions for workers in the fashion supply chain. It also means growing an ecosystem of partnerships with other businesses that embrace responsible practices.

woman's hands holding flower

We hear the word sustainability being used quite a lot these days. Can you help us understand what sustainability means for Hope for Flowers?

With Hope for Flowers my first goal has been to work with textiles that cause minimal harm to the environment and the people who produce them. Refining my approach to textile sourcing was a huge starting-place for me because, in the past, I designed whatever textiles I wanted, visiting fabric fairs, and experimenting with new textile innovations. I didn’t really think about where the fibers were coming from, or the impact of textile production on the health of the planet.


What kinds of textiles are you using that are better choices?

I’m using organic cotton and organic linen. Organic cotton and flax crops are grown without pesticides that are harmful to the earth and the people responsible for harvesting crops and producing fibers. Linen is also very durable and requires less water to produce than cotton. I’m also using cellulosic fibers. Tencel™ lyocell, is made from wood sourced from sustainable forests. The pulp goes through a manmade process to become a fiber. Cupro is similar in origin and process to Tencel™ .


What is different about how Hope For Flowers is produced compared with your previous lines?

My choices are more thoughtful. Instead of picking from an endless array of fancy textiles and new developments purely for their beauty, I find myself asking: will this textile biodegrade? How will production of this textile impact both people and the planet?

For example, while I have never been a huge fan of polyester, it lends resiliency to a lot of weaves and fabrics. Polyester does not biodegrade. It also emits micro-particles into the air and water when it’s washed. So I have decided to eliminate it from Hope for Flowers.

I’m not using leather anymore because I don’t want to use animal hides. From the agricultural standpoint, the methane released into the atmosphere from farming animals for meat and skins is a huge issue. I wear leather shoes and I carry leather bags, but I don’t need to design leather clothing. There are so many other things that I can work with.


What does “slow fashion” mean?

It’s about slowing things down, not over-producing, delivering products closer to need and not having to be present in every category of fashion. I’m also focusing on styles that are more flexible and able to fit more sizes and body types.It has always been important to me to design clothes with enduring style. I don’t believe in throw-away fashion, I never have. With Hope for Flowers, I’m creating smaller collections with tighter stories. I am more comfortable narrowing my focus, knowing that my collections are carefully and responsibly-designed and thought-out.

It’s not that our practices in my old business were so bad. They weren’t really. I think we were really one of the better players but sustainability wasn’t part of our design agenda. I think that in order to have responsible design embedded in your decisions, you have to make it part of your planning and your mission.

While I believe that existing businesses can take incremental steps to design more responsibly, it can be more challenging to change course. Being able to start fresh has been a great opportunity for me to begin with less overhead. As time goes on and I begin to master what I’m doing and have more sustainable resources in my supply chain, I can layer-on even more responsible practices. I can take it one fabric, one factory at a time, one collection at a time, without having to bite off everything at once.


What do you mean when you say “layering-on more responsible practices?” 

For instance, right now we are shipping clothes from the factory in normal poly bags, and everything is imported by air. Down the road I want to be able to afford biodegradable bags.

Ideally, you lessen your carbon footprint by producing closer to where your customer is, so I would love to be producing more in the U.S. That would be a more responsible choice, and that is something I am working toward being able to do. In the meantime, we are off-setting some of our carbon footprint by donating a portion of profits to organizations that are working to reduce carbon emissions starting with Detroit Dirt!


What does it mean to make responsible choices with regard to the people who produce Hope for Flowers?

The people making our clothes must make a living wage. When we look at fast fashion, we know that the workers in that supply chain are not making a living wage, but most consumers aren’t aware of that. People see something cute and cheap and they want it, and they’re not thinking about where it came from, or the people along the supply chain who suffered so they could get that great bargain.

But let’s put ourselves in the place of those workers. Would we want to be in this position of getting paid pennies to make garments? Of course not. So I want to only work with factories I know are paying their workers a living wage, and where the workers have the opportunity to have a life! I mean, in many factories the workers work super-long hours, seven days a week. We ALL deserve quality of life. We need our weekends off, and should be paid for overtime work. This may seem obvious to the average American, but for many people, especially in Asia, Africa, and South America, workers don’t always have options.


Are you concerned about the costs of producing more sustainably?

We have to accept that clothes will cost more if they are made in a more responsible fashion. My hope is that my customer is discerning, and looking for items that are made to last, that are going to serve a purpose in her life for a longer period of time, instead of just a fleeting moment of satisfaction. As consumers begin to demand more transparency, and better practices, I’m hoping that the cost for some of this will also start to go down, so all of these wonderful things can become more widely available.

At present, the process for textile suppliers to have textiles certified organic by most governing bodies is long and expensive. Many small suppliers can’t afford the certifications even though they might be doing everything by the book. I am hoping that with greater demand, that cost will decrease because it's a cost that gets passed along to consumers.


Any suggestions for things we can do to be more sustainable in our daily lives?

There are a number of simple things we can do to change some of our habits. When it comes to clothing, we can select items that we need, that really bring us joy, that we will keep and wear for a long time. We can be more curious about the brands that we buy from. It is easy to go online and get an understanding of a brand’s practices, goals, and mission.

The way we care for clothes is an easy thing for us to address. Most sustainable, or responsibly-produced textiles are hand-washable; so most of Hope for Flowers designs are hand-washable. Hand-washing garments, hanging or laying them out to dry is so much better for the environment because you’re not using as much water, you’re not having to generate a lot of electrical heat that releases fibers into the air. Spot-cleaning, damp sponging, hand-washing - those are really simple practices that everyone can follow. If you are looking for more ideas for sustainable living, I recommend going through this article from The Guardian.