04 November 2010

Interview with Indigenous Designs co-founder Matt Reynolds

It’s a cold rainy October day in San Francisco, the World Series is playing and Indigenous Designs is showcasing their new fall collection at Cavallo Point Lodge which was the first stop on their Fashion and Passion Tour, in spite of having to compete with the energy of the World Series Indigenous Designs had a great turn out.

The social-conscious fashion label has hit the road for their six-city Fashion and Passion tour to spread the word that aesthetically pleasing clothing can be purchased with a clear conscious.

Indigenous Designs President/Co Founder Matt Reynolds was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for This Dish is Veg.

TDIV: Where did the idea for Indigenous Designs originate?

Matt Reynolds: The concept was to find ways to connect directly with handicraft communities in developing countries so as to circumvent middle men that were exploiting artisans. We wanted to find a way to elevate infrastructure through providing design, training, fiber, and finance to artisans at the bottom of the pyramid. Our designs blend modern contemporary fashion with traditional handicraft skills.

TDIV: Why the name Indigenous?

MR: Part of our mission is to work with small scale disadvantaged artisan groups, many of which are consisting of Indigenous talent from the Andes.

TDIV: What challenge/ obstacles have the company faced?

MR: In the early years we faced a huge obstacle with financing these small scare artisan groups. The groups had no access to capital and required advance payments. This made it nearly impossible to scale our business. A few years ago we created a revolutionary production finance model with Root Capital where we are now able to provide production financing directly to the artisans.

TDIV: From your current clothing line what is your favorite piece and why?

MR: From our Fall 2010 collection my favorite article of clothing is Style #68817 - Mix Knit Coat from our Door to the World Collection.

TDIV: How does it feel to have your clothing labeled as fair trade?

MR: Empowering - Our vision from day one was to be a leader in Fair Trade & Organic Fashion. We have always put living wage and respect for culture at the top of our priority list.

TDIV: How difficult was it to accomplish?

MR: You could say we have suffered a few "fair trade" penalties through our efforts in sticking to our mission and not sacrificing the integrity of our brand over these last 15 years. Costing is always a struggle and explaining to the consumer the "real" value in a Fair Trade Garment. Another difficulty is to consistently remind ourselves to be patient with our artisan groups and work through the bad times as well as the good in order to elevate skills to the level of best in class in Fashion.

TDIV: What does this mean for Indigenous Designs?

MR: It means that each piece we produce has an incredible amount of thought and care put into every step of the supply model. We believe the care of our garments starts long before they are ever taken home and worn.

TDIV: Why choose to make your clothing line organic and fair trade?

MR: It is what we were meant to do from the beginning. The passion that keeps us driving and building this revolutionary apparel model is fueled by the fact we are organic & fair trade.

TDIV: How did the idea for going on the tour come about?

MR: We wanted to find ways to appeal to the cause related passionista and the style conscious fashionista, alike. This was our way to connect to both!

You can check out Indigenous Designs on their websites www.indigenousdesigns.com or www.facebook.com/indigenousdesigns.

Jodi Truglio
Jodi has a degree from UNLV in Journalism and Media Studies. She has been a vegetarian for 15 years and now a strict vegan for two years. In Jodi's spare time when she enjoys yoga and pilates.

Photo credit: Indigenous Designs