In a sea of sustainable clothing brands, it can be difficult to navigate the waters. What companies are authentic, and which ones are just greenwashing? What does that certification mean? And why is that organic t-shirt so darn expensive?!
Enter in: Grove & Bay. They’re a new online marketplace for eco clothing that makes shopping consciously simple. They do all the research and break down all the different standards, certifications and marketing claims so that you can shop with ease and peace of mind.
Read on to learn about Grove & Bay, the brand’s founder Chris Welch, and his thoughts on growing the sustainable fashion movement. And, when you’re ready to shop, be sure to use code CLIFE15OFF for 15% off your order for the first 50 Conscious Life & Style readers.
Tell us about your background. What led to your decision to launch an ethical fashion site?
I spent 15 years in high-tech working with large brands here in New York. So, I’m definitely not a fashion insider. There are a lot of stylish tech guys, believe it or not, so I really have a passion for quality clothing.
The idea for Grove & Bay all started with a pair of socks. I was a typical Whole Foods shopper, and over time decided that I should explore where the rest of the products I bought came from. I was buying a lot of clothing at the time, so in looking at sustainable fashion I decided to start with something easy, like a pair of socks.
After spending an entire day trying to figure out what it means for clothes to be “sustainable” and “ethical” I came away with even more questions and wasn’t sure that I had made a good choice. When I received the socks, I didn’t love the quality or the way they fit.
I knew there had to be a better way, and so began a journey to find brands that care about all aspects of how their clothes are made – the design, the workers, and their impact on the environment.
What makes you site different from other online marketplaces?
There are three things we’re doing at Grove & Bay that really set us apart. First, 100% of the products we carry are designed for sustainability. We only work with brands that focus on improving environmental or working conditions. We do the homework on each product so you can shop with confidence.
Second, we want our store to make sustainable clothing more accessible, so we only carry products that can fit into the budgets of most shoppers. Right now all products through our spring and summer collections will be priced up to $120.
We also want to make online clothes shopping easier. Everyone recognizes that sizing is a huge challenge. We use best in class sizing technology so you can get the right fit with your first purchase. But, if you don’t love the product for any reason, we have a “crazy-easy” FREE return policy. A pre-paid return label is included with every order, so if you don’t love it, just send it back within 30 days no questions asked.
What does your research process into these conscious fashion brands look like?
We review each brand against three broad categories: Product, People & Planet.
We want to make sure the product is mainstream, affordable, and high quality. We’ve researched 1,200 sustainable brands and seven out of eight don’t pass the first cut just on these criteria. Most often, we pass on a brand because their clothes either don’t look great or are wildly expensive. In our view, a brand doesn’t solve any problems if its products aren’t practical for most consumers.
Many brands are also cut because they don’t go far enough in their commitment to sustainability and transparency. We have a 14-point sustainability checklist, which we’ve included on our site, and a brand must concretely meet at least one criteria – and we like to see 2-3 at a minimum – but to be honest some product categories don’t have many affordable choices yet (like men’s belts).
Before purchasing, the process culminates in a brand contractually agreeing that the concrete claims they make are true, and they will be held responsible if any claims ultimately turn out to not be true.
A peek behind the Grove & Bay process
Given all the different labels, terminology, certifications, etc., determining which brands are truly “sustainable” or “ethical” can be difficult. What are the criteria you use to determine which fashion brands will make it on your site?
Yea, everyone values different things – I think “ethical” is especially problematic to define. For us, the idea is really simple: do as little harm as possible. The only truly sustainable product is the product that doesn’t need to be made. So, we’re pragmatic. Use natural resources, but manage them wisely. Use dyes, but don’t dump them into a river. Use animal-sourced materials, but treat the animals with respect. It’s about stewardship.
That’s the philosophy behind our 14-point criteria.
Your site has clothing priced from $12-120. Why have you decided to focus on providing affordable ethical fashion for Grove & Bay?
We want to spark real change in the industry and so we feel that a key part of that is making sustainable fashion accessible to more people. Buying sustainably shouldn’t cost a fortune. And, as more people vote with their dollars that they want change, the fashion industry as a whole will have to move towards fairer labor practices and better environmental standards.
The conscious consumerism movement is certainly growing, what do you believe it will take to continue this momentum and make ethical shopping mainstream?
Diversity of organizations. In order to create a movement, we need lots of organizations to create sustainable spaces for themselves and become sustainable voices. Not just brands, but non-profits, standards organizations, content creators, retailers, governments, and more. Europe is much more developed in this regard. In the US we have some established and new organizations like Textile Exchange and Project JUST and brand incubators, and I would like to see more collaboration to support each other.
Second, I think there needs to be more clear information being published, especially by research-based institutions. I see a lot of misinformation being put out there even after it has been debunked like clothing being the 2nd most polluting industry after big oil. The source often cited behind this claim came out and said their research didn’t show that. Clearly the industry is doing harm, but I think consumers deserve more concrete data points.