Lazlo, an apparel brand run by a sibling duo in Detroit is taking the most familiar items in a man’s wardrobe and rethinking each step of the manufacturing process to consider its impact on local economies and the environment. The result is a premium t-shirt with a lifetime guarantee.
Brother/sister duo Christian and Kathryn Birky just launched their Kickstarter campaign this week and are already a third of the way funded.
The two chose to set up production in Detroit, the heart of American manufacturing and operating under the belief that everyone deserves access to living wage jobs, they will integrate formerly incarcerated citizens into Lazlo’s workforce.
“When we learned that sewing programs had been set up within Michigan state prisons, we recognized a mutually beneficial opportunity,” Kathryn said. “We could hire trained sewers who would otherwise face tremendous barriers to finding employment.”
In addition to being made from 100% organic Supima cotton, the indigo dyes they will use are none other than Botanical Colors.
We’re so proud to be part of something so positive and wanted to ask Christian a few questions about what Lazlo hopes to accomplish moving forward.
Here’s what he had to say:
You talk about growing consumer values and relationships with “meaningful goods.” Why do you think this is a growing field in retail?
I think that people are looking for meaning across the board – it’s part of human nature. We are reacting to a reality where material goods are disconnected from where they are made and who made them. That’s not exciting! Within the realm of retail, I think we are growing tired of stuff that we have no real connection to. It’s hard to feel strongly about things that we treat as disposable and know very little about. We may get a buzz from making a purchase and having something new, but that doesn’t last. However, it’s easy to be passionate about goods that combine a great product with a meaningful story. Our goal is to create clothing that has a lasting impact on the people who make it and the people who wear it.
How easy is it for consumers to trace where clothing (and even color) comes from?
It’s not easy for consumers to trace where their clothing (and colors) come from! It been a challenge to put together a transparent supply chain for one item in two colors. Doing that for an entire collection (or several lines) is incredibly difficult. I think it is easier to for consumers to trace their clothing with smaller brands who value sustainability at their core. I feel strongly about the role of small boutiques in curating brands and providing information. At the end of the day, sustainability and transparency have very different meanings to different people, and we each have to be comfortable buying and wearing. It’s up to us as consumers to find brands that reflect the values we live our life by.
You are working with formerly incarcerated prison inmates to create the t-shirts. When it comes to the idea of “sustainable clothing” how does supporting this group add to the value of your core sustainability?
From day one, Lazlo has been about rethinking the clothing we wear every day. That includes the quality and design of products, our environmental impact and our social impact. All of these things are very important, but the driving idea is to create a meaningful business model. We wanted to start with a clean slate and feel great about each decision we made while building Lazlo.
Hiring former inmates comes from the same motivation as using organic cotton – it’s the right thing to do. Without getting too deep into the public policy and economics background, there is a strong correlation between the outsourcing of jobs in search of cheap labor (and prices) and the boom in our prison population.
We see hiring returning citizens as an opportunity to work with a diverse, dedicated and trained workforce. The Michigan Department of Corrections is training inmates to sew in several state prisons; many of these inmates will return home to Detroit to seek employment. It’s a win-win situation: Lazlo can hire experienced sewers, and a marginalized population becomes an asset. We hope that integrating returning citizens into our team will inspire other companies to do the same.