We had the honor of getting to ask Molly Hardwick from The Simple Kind a few questions - here's what she had to say.
What originally drew you to ethical garment manufacturing?
Fashion has always been an interest of mine, and I always had a feeling I would be involved in it somehow, but I knew it had a dark underbelly of human rights abuse that made me hesitant to get involved. I heard whispers of the fair trade movement and was always curious to learn more. I spent five years traveling with a Christian humanitarian organization and started to see what ethical fashion looked like on the ground via NGOs and social businesses in developing countries, and that led me to working with a company in Austin, Texas called Raven + Lily for a short time. It was there that I saw the real mechanics of ethical fashion, as well as its true potential for community transformation.
One of the things I love most about fashion is that it’s a means of celebration. I believe that we have unique aspects of the beauty and goodness of God inside of us, and as trivial as it may sound, I think what we wear can be a testament to those. Self expression is important! Something you’ll see very often in the ethical fashion industry are garments that are simple and versatile, and that’s because those pieces are made to stay in your closet for a long time. I started to research for ethical brands that represented my personal style and kept coming up short. I love bright, floral folk dresses-- I find them at vintage stores and wear them till they fall apart (literally!). My initial inspiration for starting The Simple Kind was to provide another voice of design in the fair trade movement; another option for socially-conscious consumers (and parents) to celebrate from the inside out with bright, colorful, ethically made dresses.
Can you share about your business – The Simple Kind?
The Simple Kind is an ethical fashion brand that celebrates women and children around the world. Our specialty is dresses! We started off just making dresses for little girls, but this year we are expanding to include dresses for women as well. From the very beginning, our heart has been to empower economically vulnerable women. As I was researching and dreaming about starting The Simple Kind, I heard a very valuable piece of advice, “If you want to start a social business, focus on the business part first. Then, once you are established, develop the social part.” The heart behind this advice was that it’s unwise to invite economically vulnerable people into something that may not succeed. We heeded this advice, and for the past year and a half we’ve been working to lay a good foundation so that we are able to provide a stable opportunity to our production partners. We’ve produced all of our pieces in house up until this year, 2017. Our SS17 collection is being produced in partnership with an organization in Latvia that empowers women coming from at-risk situations. We just returned from spending time with these ladies and are full of reverence for the creativity of Latvian culture! Gorgeous textiles, embroidery, and handicrafts of all kinds are common place all over the country; it’s an honor to partner with and learn from people with such a rich culture heritage.
Another thing we value as The Simple Kind is education & mobilization. We’ve tried to be as intentional as possible to listen and learn from stories of individuals and communities who are involved in garment work, because we don’t want to assume we have all the right answers. We’ve been able to travel quite a bit in our research across Southeast Asia and Europe; the lessons we’ve learned from individuals, NGOs and businesses have challenged, changed, and molded us. We’ve started hosting “house shows”, or really mini seminars, where we draw people together to talk about what we’ve learned and give them a chance to speak as well. I think cultivating an inclusive community where we can discuss the complexities of our global trading system is so important!
What are some of your hopes for The Simple Kind in 2017?
I think I’ve spent the past two years dreaming and working so hard that my hair has started to fall out (I kid I kid!). I think we’ve come to a place where our footing is a little more secure and we can spend more energy being creative, placing one foot in front of the other and doing really well with what’s in front of us. We have some really wonderful pieces coming to our store in the Spring; I’m excited to show them off! I’m also so excited to continue our partnership in Latvia and see those relationships grow deeper.
For those wanting to connect more with The Simple Kind where can they go?
For folks wanting to learn more about The Simple Kind, please visit our website: www.thesimplekindclothing.com! We write blogs about different aspects of the ethical fashion world pretty regularly; we love to share what we are learning. Our Spring/Summer line is debuting this May! We’ll post updates and sneak peeks on our Instagram, @thesimplekind, as well as information regarding different pop-up shops and opportunities to see our pieces in person!
Thank you Molly for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing about The Simple Kind!