Sustainable Fashion And Future Challenges – An Entrepreneur Speaks

Greg Horowitz is the Founder of Double Espresso Textiles (“Double Espresso”). With a Bachelors Degree in History from Binghamton University and a Masters in International Business from the University of Leeds, Greg leverages his wide range of professional experiences in Politics, Entertainment and E-Commerce to make ethical and sustainable fashion a far more achievable reality.

Here we talk about ethical and sustainable fashion, and Double Espresso.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How is ethical and sustainable fashion moving forward now, especially with more attention to plastics not only on the seafloor but in landfills and other areas?

Greg Horowitz: What I believe is that we are seeing something resembling a consumer-led revolution, businesses are now, for the first time, being forced to consider their customers as not simply judges of price and name-brand, but as educated and engaged consumers who will hold any given product to a higher standard of quality, production standards, and environmental-impact.

I must insert a cautionary note here and emphasize that we cannot feel that the revolution is here and in full swing, there is still a long way to go to make the massive and all-encompassing impact that we all aspire to, but the seeds have been planted. That is a major step in the right direction.

In our business, Double Espresso, we have found that with the rare exception of a large brand such as Patagonia or the occasional line of products produced and made available by a major retailer, environmentally-friendly change is largely driven by smaller and medium-sized brands who have a greater ability to model their organizational image and focus their brand in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

They have the ability to play to their customers wants and needs, and continually grow and develop without altering or horse-trading their values with their sales. The fact that there are so many brands determined to continue to grow without compromising their values is an incredibly encouraging development.

While it can be questioned what impact the smaller and medium-sized brands may be able to have, if you ask me, I believe that it is the perfect place to start. We want to see these smaller, ambitious, and aggressive young brands, who not only have the motivation but the upward trajectory of growth, to continually build out their businesses with an embrace for the values they hold most dear to be cleaner and greener. Today’s small brands are tomorrows big brands. If they see consistent success through their promotion and production of green and environmentally-friendly values and ideals, they’ll continue carrying these through as their consumer-base and audience become larger and more viable.

As I like to say, “Cotton is no longer simply cotton,” and a lot of the brands we work with are embracing this idea. Today, we live in a world of endless technological development and environmental awareness, which is fueling an extraordinary amount of innovation towards the re-imagining and re-engineering of old-style fabrics into new constructions and new ideas, which are “clean and green.” It’s amazing the types of products they are producing today. Polyester produced from plastic bottles captured off the seafloor. Leathers made from various types of fruits such as apples and pineapples. Cotton is no longer simply just cotton, but a GOTS-certified organic cotton that meet a wide variety of specifications and “Fair Trade” standards.

Jacobsen: What would you consider your main product at present for Double Espresso?

Horowitz: We work with many different types of brands looking to make their mark in the sustainable fashion industry who need us to handle different types of fabrics for them and get involved with sourcing at different points in their supply chain so it depends. If I had to pick one product that may be our “main product,” I would say that is a classic: GOTS-certified organic cotton.

Organic cotton has been around for a while and many different products use cotton. In the current marketplace, cotton is only acceptable if it is produced and sourced having met a wide variety of specifications and statistics. Brands no longer simply say, “Send me some cotton and make it kind of heavy or light,” it doesn’t work that way anymore.

Now when a brand says they are interested in organic cotton, they will specify the certification they want (usually either GOTS-certified or OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified). A specific weight range they want it to be in; a specific cutting width range that they can handle. Often, a variety of additional requests such as topical finishes, cloth qualities, and so on. These can be produced using an eco-friendly dyeing solution – which, incidentally opens up a whole other series of questions as there are several variants in eco-friendly dyeing with complications and specifications.

As well, with many of our clients, there is a growing interest in ensuring that their products are produced from situations which are ‘Fair Trade’, essentially ensuring that they are buying their fabric from organizations who pay their workers a fair wage, ensure that their workers are working in sanitary and kind conditions, and that the workers are NOT being dehumanized.

Jacobsen: Who are the main certifying authorities? What are the main certifications now, in terms of the sustainability of the textile?

Horowitz: It seems like every day. There is a new certification floating around the marketplace. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that certifications themselves are a profitable business. As new certifications enter the marketplace and engage consumers on their priorities, brands and organizations will be encouraged to acquire them as consumers begin to look for them. The second reason is that with the advancements of technology and the changes in the marketplace, there is more room for businesses offering certification to build a reputational base and solidify their status as the most important certification that is relevant to a specific technological and/or market advantage, essentially creating their own geographical and market-oriented niche.

But to be clear, it is not simply a matter of signing up and paying for the right to the certification, it is not that easy. These certifications hold their users to extremely high standards and will continually seek to ensure that the user, whether you are a manufacturer, supplier, or end-user, is maintaining the correct standards – the industry risks losing its appeal as contributing the sustainable fashion trends otherwise.

Jacobsen: You mentioned organic materials earlier, just to follow up on that – What is fruit leather?

Horowitz: Fruit leather is one of the finest innovations to come out of the textile industry. For large portions of the fashion and apparel industry, traditional leather is quickly becoming a symbol of yesterday’s fashion interests and is not conducive to a new generation of eco-friendly brands and consumers. From both a fashion standpoint and an animal-rights standpoint, which is a concern which many brands bring to us when discussing various types of fabrics and products, leather is no longer considered “cool” or as “cool” as it once was.

I also think, with the growing acknowledgment among the media and consumers, that we have a problem with the way we handle “food waste” for the first time we are actually seeing a sincere interest and attention from both a political, industrial, and a local level as to how much food is being wasted. With the larger amount of attention being paid to it, the issue has inspired several eco-friendly textile engineers to reevaluate how waste can be reimagined and reincorporated into the sustainable fashion industry. You see it not only with fabric such as ‘fruit leather,’ but also in the dyeing industry where food waste is being reincorporated into the dye used in clothing. Amazingly, they have done a damn good job.

So when you combine the two major issues, you get fruit leather. There are various types of different fruit leather being produced, whether from organic apples, pineapples, banana peels, and others.

Jacobsen: If you look at the political discourse surrounding fashion right now, we see a lot of public concern with plastic. Fascination, but at the same time challenges with the ideas of circular economy and how it changes global supply chains is growing. Does this, basically, imply the need for a multipronged approach to the pollution and production problems currently facing us?

Horowitz: Absolutely, there is no question about it. The environmentally-oriented and pollution-focused problems we are facing in our world are overwhelming. If we are not prepared to seek a multi-pronged and multilateral approach to these problems, the earth will cease to exist as we currently recognize it. Sustainable fashion is only one of the major economics sectors in this fight.

But I do believe, whole-heartedly, that solutions do not lie in singular approaches. Historically, it usually never does. It lies in a multilateral and multi-pronged approach stretching across the boundaries of politics, business, and people, where everyone has to get on the same page and act without question or self-interest. We have to be willing to share the common goals, and make the necessary adjustments to reach said goals.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Greg.

Horowitz: It’s a pleasure.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.