For today’s meet the maker interview I’m chatting to Katina from the ethical fashion brand Unity Outfitters.
Could you introduce yourself and tell me about your brand?
My name is Katina Gad and my brand is Unity Outfitters. I began Unity Outfitters in 2014 after leaving my career in the textile industry, I had to get out of the fast fashion world after seeing in person the damage done to people and the environment. My first two collections were produced using fabric that was Woven by Casa Flor Ixcaco, a women’s weaving Cooperative in Guatemala that I was first introduced to during a study abroad there back in 2010. I had been volunteering and helping them sell products for a fair wage in the USA since then, so they were a natural choice when it came to sourcing fabric for the launch of my line. I am currently developing similar partnerships with groups in other countries, these new collections will launch later this year.
Why do you think Fashion Revolution and the slow fashion movement are important?
Fashion revolution has been a catalyst of change for the world of fashion, it was a long overdue movement that is helping everyday people realize the importance of choosing to shop quality over quantity.
Could you tell me about how you ensure your brand remains ethical/sustainable?
I visit with my weavers and speak with them one on one, and whenever possible I visit with the farmers who grow the fabric and spinners who produce the yarn. All of our clothes are currently produced bespoke (made to order) in the USA using this material, so I am able to touch and see every single part of my value chain and process.
Price is often given as a barrier to ethical fashion. Could you tell me the average price of your pieces? (If they are £100+ please explain the higher cost eg fair wages, quality, materials etc)
The price range for my pieces is between $100 and $300 for dresses, pants, and blouses because I always pay fairly, and each piece is made using natural or organic materials. The pieces are made to order in the USA by myself or one of the single mothers here that I employ when large orders come in. The quality of my garments are guaranteed to be high, and I offer free repairs for the life of the garment (minus shipping costs). In the future I would love to explore the option of training a sewing group of non-weavers in Guatemala, because there is a lower cost of living there this would bring the price of these pieces down but allow me to still pay a fair wage. In my future production in other countries I am also exploring the possibility of what it would take to cut & sew there while paying a fair wage. The designing, patern-making, and sample-making are all done by myself, and I hope to stay involved with this part of the process while my brand grows in order to continue guaranteeing the highest quality.
What are your top tips for consumers looking to make more ethical purchases?
Research before you shop. I like to scope out a brand and fall in love with them and their process for a while first, and then I start picking out what they make that I love and think about the purchase until I know I can’t live without it! I know this is counterproductive for me to say, but quality over quantity is so important to keep in mind too, finding statement or classic pieces that will last your lifetime should always come before buying up whatever is currently in style. Just say no to fads for the environment’s sake!
In order to grow my business and introduce my next collection of products I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign later on this year. More details will be shared about this exiting new partnership little by little over social media, the expected launch month is November. I also sell lots of one of a kind items and jewelry pieces through my etsy shop that have lower price points, most of these are made with upcycled materials or fabric remnants.
* Photos shared with permission from Unity Outfitters