It matters where you choose to spend your dollars. I know you probably know that already. And, if you’re like me, you get a good reminder of the impact of your consumption every now and then (maybe you watch a documentary or read an article), change your behavior for about a week, and then go back to buying stuff on Amazon because it’s easy, cheap and convenient. I think it’s unfair to put the burden exclusively on consumers. It’s not realistic to expect people to act in service of the greater good when it goes against their short-term interests. I think there should be more regulation, better certifications, and incentives for the folks doing it right. But in the meantime, fighting with your dollars is the best weapon you have.
Since starting Hera, my eyes have been opened to the staggering levels of human and environmental abuse in the fashion industry. Most of our clothing is made overseas, using toxic inputs, in sweatshops where people do not earn a living wage. In the worst cases, literal slave labor is used to produce the clothing we wear, or harvest the fibers used to make the cotton, or to spin those fibers into fabric. People die, go blind, and give birth to severely handicapped children, all in the name of bringing us cheaper clothing that we simply do not need; clothing that ends up in landfill after one wear and takes 200 years to decompose.
This is the tragedy of globalization. We tolerate these abuses because they are largely invisible to us and they happen to “other people” far from home. If a factory in your neighborhood were dumping carcinogenic fabric dyes into your local waterways, you would be out protesting. If the state of California had corralled ethnic minorities into forced labor camps to work harvesting cotton, you would not stand for it. But the shirt on your back is very likely made from cotton, and this cotton likely comes from China, and about 80% of that cotton is harvested by Uyghur slaves working in forced labor camps.
This is why, in founding Hera, I have chosen to build a 100% domestic supply chain. Ethics and sustainability mean different things to different people. There’s a lot of Greenwashing out there, and everything comes with trade-offs. In my opinion, the most important thing is transparency and accountability. I choose to work locally because I can see the process. I know which farms my cotton comes from, that it was organically and sustainably grown by farmers in Texas, that it was harvested using machines and sold at a fair market price, that it was spun and milled in North Carolina by a family business, dyed in Pennsylvania using organic, regenerative materials, and then cut and sewn in Los Angeles by people I know by name. It would have been much faster, cheaper, and easier for me to buy my fabric from a wholesaler, whose policy is never to share their source, and to market it as “sustainable” because it contains 50% recycled polyester. But instead, I get the satisfaction of sitting down to pay my invoices at the end of the week and knowing that that money is going into the hands of hard-working, deserving people who share my values and want what’s right for their employees and the planet.
My promise to you is that I will never compromise on this. I may expand beyond the boundaries of the US, but I will only ever work with suppliers who are transparent and accountable and who share my values. I will regularly feature our workers and partners and share their stories, because they are as much a part of this brand as I am. My hope is that when you buy from Hera you will feel the same pride and satisfaction as when I pay my invoices, knowing that your hard-earned dollars are supporting good people and good work and a clean future for our spaceship earth.