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As calls for sustainability within the fashion industry swell, some brands have been quick to vocalize their sustainability strategies, while others have taken a different approach by working to meet sustainability goals in silence. In the case of Faherty, a sustainable clothing brand launched in 2013, “It’s less about making political pronouncements, and [more about] putting our energy and words and actions behind the things that we care about,” said Kerry Docherty, co-founder and chief impact officer at Faherty, on the latest Glossy Podcast.
As CIO, Docherty’s focus on the brand’s sustainability and cultural initiatives was magnified in the past year-and-a-half. The brand opened 13 of its 30 stores at a time colored by the pandemic and the social justice movements that simultaneously took precedence.
“It was a real opportunity for us as a brand to put a stake in the ground and say, ‘What are we standing up for? What do we need to do internally to get to where we want to be?” she said.
The Native-American community is one community, in particular, that Faherty has invested in. “[The focus is] how we, as a brand, can differentiate ourselves as someone who’s [allying] with the Native community, instead of exploiting it,” said Docherty. Rather than “appropriating” Native designs, Docherty is learning about Native culture and art and “focusing on long-term impact” and relationships with Native designers, she said.
In terms of sustainability, maintaining a sustainable brand means “holding ourselves accountable” for the materials and lifecycle of the clothing items, said Docherty. Faherty has done so with its concrete benchmarks of having 85% of fabrics be sustainable and 90% of packaging be “plastic-free,” she said.
“[For] our generation and the generation coming up, intentionality and sustainability are important, as are giving back,” she said. “The more brands that feel accountable for that, the better it is for all of us.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
On the effect of her background on Faherty
“I’m very much of the mindset that much of our life experience informs anything that we do. And for me, [it’s] my legal background — and I still work in a legal capacity, outside of some of the impact work. But social justice has certainly informed how I think about how Faherty is showing up. Every team meeting we have, we end with a short mindfulness exercise, which makes our team feel like mental health is being valued. We still are in a fast-paced environment, and it’s important for people to take those moments for self-care. And then my focus on sustainability, that’s been ongoing. There’s much of sustainability [that] is centered on science and what technology people are using and what information is out there. And it’s split, in terms of how brands are handling it. A brand like Patagonia might be thinking more about using recycled materials that are synthetic but might be based on polyester, versus another brand [that] might focus more on using organic, compostable, biodegradable fabrics. And there’s a lot of debate in the industry on what’s best. For me, it’s coming in with curiosity and trying to listen to experts in the field to figure it out.”
Who is the Faherty customer?
“They live everywhere… We don’t have one specific age demographic. People talk a lot about the psychology behind consumers. It’s someone who appreciates quality and is interested in feeling and looking good, but isn’t necessarily obsessed with trends. There’s real practicality, but intentionality to our customer. They want to buy things that are going to last a long time. It’s more about the psychology of what they’re looking for.”
On promoting social justice through partnerships
“We’re continuing to expand and deepen our work with our Native designers. We’re launching with Steven Paul Judd, who’s an amazing Native pop artist who’s Choctaw. This year, we also launched She Does Him [with] a woman named Allison Graham, whose tagline is ‘Masculinity is Not a Gender.’ That was super successful for us. It’s about finding people in our community who we already know and trust and bringing some of their design flair into the spotlight. We’re going to [also] do a collaboration with Surfrider by bringing in some of Surfrider’s old vintage prints and redoing them in a new way that supports and raises money for ocean conservation.”