The Road to Building a Sustainable, Organic, and Ethical Brand

Written by: Mackenzie Wade

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Time to read 6 min

When I initially felt led to build a product-based business on the foundations of sustainability and ethical values, I had no idea where to begin. I had this idea of what it would become, but I needed to come up with a plan for execution. It's safe to say that dreaming up a big idea is a whole lot easier than taking action to make it a reality. Well, after many months of planning, researching, networking, making mistakes and reaching goals, I learned exactly what it takes to create a business with a truly positive impact. It's an ever-evolving work in progress, but even arriving at the beginning of a purpose-driven brand takes a lot more than one might expect. Now, I'm pulling back the curtain, giving you a realistic look at all the steps it took to bring Take Heart Textiles to life.

Recognizing the need for sustainable, non-toxic and ethically-made products

It's impossible to create anything for the purpose of big impact without first knowing what the big needs are. When I acknowledged to myself how paralyzed I felt buying anything made with fabric, that's when it clicked for me. I carried an endless fear that the items I brought into my home and lived in were made with toxic chemicals that could lead to major health issues for family and me. I also knew those chemicals and microplastics were destroying the planet and causing massive harm to textile workers. 


There's a certain point in one's experience when the feeling is simply too unsettling to wait for someone else to solve their problem. At least, that's what it was like for me. I had done my research to understand what materials to look for and what to avoid when shopping, and when I read the fine print of otherwise reputable brands, I felt tricked. "Natural" doesn't actually mean organic. “Designed in” USA doesn't indicate anything about ethical or domestic manufacturing. "Organic blend" is an improvement when it comes to sustainability, but it's hardly a solution. And what makes a garment or home good sustainable anyway? 
 

I didn't think it made sense to leave the research up to consumers. Sure, I understood doing my due diligence, but even then I still felt it was up to me to rule out negative materials that most brands won't disclose…or simply don't understand themselves.


You can see that I obviously care deeply about the subject, and I think that's partially what it takes. While I don't believe that every consumer needs to be an expert in organic textiles in order to live eco-friendly and chemical-free, I do think brands should carry this responsibility. Being passionate about solving a major problem is a key ingredient in the recipe for an impactful brand.


However, the vision is only the first step.

Researching materials and self-educating

Prior to the creation of Take Heart Textiles, I had already done a fair amount of research from the perspective of the consumer. When I embarked on the journey on starting Take Heart, I was fortunate to carry this knowledge with me. Still, I needed to learn more in order to source responsibly. I relied to a great degree on the massive amount of publications available to help me self-educate and to challenge my assumptions. 


As a lifelong learner, I also decided to further my education. My formal background is in design, but I felt that I needed to understand the subject of sustainable sourcing of plant fibers and general resource management to truly understand the challenges and opportunities. By enrolling in Yale University's Tropical Forest Landscape Conservation program, I've gained new perspectives on how land management impacts communities at the local level, what it looks like to sustainably harvest raw materials, and just how complex this subject really is. It's not an area that most interior or fashion designers understand at a deep level, so stepping into the world of conservation is both a privilege and a competitive advantage. I've also had the incredible fortune of forming friendships with knowledgeable practitioners around the world who have helped guide me in this journey.

Connecting with potential suppliers

In June of 2023, I traveled to the London to attend the Future Fabrics Expo, a remarkable showcase of thousands of textiles, fabrics, and innovative materials with a low environmental impact. The expo and other trade shows throughout the US presented opportunities to connect with both global and domestic suppliers, to learn more about sustainable materials, and even discover some unusual yet innovative materials still in development.


The research and continuing education have proved remarkably valuable in knowing what materials and suppliers to look for. For now we have selected a small list of reputable suppliers local to the northeast US to help keep our footprint small. Working with suppliers aligned with our values helps us to keep our products entirely organicfrom the thread, tags, fabric and even the zipper tape sewn into several of our products. 


Zero Waste Take Heart Textiles
Image credit: Cottonbro Studio

Designing Zero-Waste Products

The natural fabrics used in the production of our products are all biodegradable, but we still make every effort we can to eliminate waste. For this reason, we designed our ornaments to help make use of leftover materials from our production process. 


It is also our mission to design unique products that don't go out of style, which involves designing pillow insert sizes that are compatible with other pillow covers, allowing them to be swapped out as one desires a seasonal change. As we continue to evolve and add new products, they will be designed with the same objectives in mind.


Additionally, many garments, home furnishings, or other goods can sometimes get tossed out relatively quickly from tears or other damage. To extend the life of our products, we not only use durable materials meant to last, but we will repair minor tears as a complimentary service on all our products.

Our made-to-order model

Keeping low inventories helps us to further eliminate waste. Excess inventory is another reason why the fashion and textile industry has become a massive contributor to environmental pollution. Unlike mass-produced brands, we have the ability to produce conservative volumes of inventory. This prevents products from going to waste and allows us to closely monitor the quality of each and every order.

Plant With Purpose Partnership Take Heart Textiles
Image credit: Plant With Purpose

Making a bigger impact through partnership

Impact is always best achieved in partnership. Take Heart Textiles is passionate about making a positive impact on our local and global community. Given that plant-based fabrics are deeply tied to the earth and the farming communities that harvest them, we are committed to donating a portion of sales to Plant With Purpose for a more tangible impact and to support a cause that is bigger than ourselves.


Plant With Purpose, a Christian development organization, reverses deforestation and poverty around the world by transforming the lives of the rural poor. For more than 35 years, Plant With Purpose has been a leader in linking international community development and environmental solutions, working with smallholder farmers in strategic locations where environmental degradation and poverty intersect. Plant With Purpose currently works in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, and Thailand, and employs an integrated methodology that combines environmental restoration, economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal. Activities include watershed restoration, reforestation, sustainable agriculture training, savings-and-loan groups, local leadership development, and outreach efforts with the local Christian church.


Know that when you invest our products you are also investing in a better world and future. Read more about Plant With Purpose to learn how they're making a difference.


Room for growth

At Take Heart Textiles, we maintain a willingness to learn and iterate, to build a culture of collaboration and empowerment, to work towards greater supply-chain transparency, and to deliver quality products and services that enrich lives and our overall well-being. 


We invite you to partner with us in this journey as we grow and involve. Send us your thoughts, feedback, questions, and requests! We look forward to hearing from you :)




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Mackenzie Kuck

Mackenzie is a professional designer, lifelong artist, and sustainable materials aficionado for the interiors and fashion industries. She is passionate about bringing organic, non-toxic materials into the market and empowering others to live and shop sustainably.