Living an organic lifestyle has never been easier, but that doesn’t mean everything comes in pesticide- and toxin-free versions. Take high-quality office clothing, for instance. Sustainable sporty brands abound. But where do you get dressier earth-friendly work wear?
Amanda Rinderle and Jonas Clark had been asking this question for a while when they decided to pursue their MBAs at Yale School of Management and follow their dream of starting a socially and environmentally responsible company. They agreed to try their hand at making upscale clothing crafted by well-paid, well-treated employees and free of toxic pollution and waste that dogs the mainstream apparel industry.
The couple decided to start with men’s dress shirts and began scouring the world for organic cotton fabric suppliers and employee-friendly clothing manufacturers. They finally settled on one of Italy’s best broadwoven mills, which gets organic cotton from Egypt (grown and processed without all the chemicals used on regular cotton), and chose a decades-old textile factory in Falls River, Massachusetts, that employs second- and third-generation garment makers.
Rinderle and Clark, who plan to marry in September, also decided to legally incorporate their core values into the business by becoming a benefit corporation. They dubbed their fledgling enterprise Tuckerman & Co. after one of their favorite hiking spots, Tuckerman Ravine in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (named for prominent 19th-century botanist Edward Tuckerman).
It wasn’t just Tuckerman’s ties to the natural world that resonated with them. “When we learned that he’d also been a professor at Amherst College where I grew up, and he’d gone to Harvard Divinity School where Jonas went to grad school, the pieces came together,” says Rinderle.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the couple began selling shirts online in May.
Besides organic cotton, Tuckerman & Co. shirts offer other eco-features including sustainably certified interfacing in collars and cuffs, buttons made of natural corozo (“vegetable ivory”) derived from tropical palm nuts, and sustainable bamboo collar stays.
There are also “reimagined” design features, including a hem adjustment so shirts look stylish tucked into dress pants or untucked with jeans. Plus, buttons sport a signature green cross-stitch to subtly symbolize the company’s sustainable principles.
Future offerings will include women’s work wear, as well as additional men’s apparel like sports coats and ties. The goal: to green the mainstream fashion market by offering consumers more sustainable-clothing choices that expand demand.
“To do something about the apparel industry you have to involve consumers in a meaningful way,” Clark says. “We’d like to help bring that about sooner rather than later.
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