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Sustainable Brands + Modern Retail

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What even is a sustainable brand?

In the bustle of consumerism, a word that either gets lost or overused is sustainability. Given the amount of greenwashing that happens in marketing, it’s easy to think that anyone can be a sustainable brand or source sustainable products.

But not all products or brands are sustainable. And the best people to learn from in this space are the ones who have actually played the game. Our friends, Kohl Crecelius and Travis Hartanov are two such people. They’re veterans, having started and grown two brands Krochet Kids and Known Supply.

After years of learning, Kohl recently wrote and dropped an eBook as a primer for how to think about building a sustainable brand, and you should absolutely check it out.

Part of why we love what people like Kohl are doing is they take a holistic approach to sustainability in building their brands. They see merchandise as more than just something that’s transactional.

They actually consider the people who go into making a product.

Kohl Crecelius and Travis Hartanov, founders of Known Supply

If you want to build a brand and you’re on the fence about where to start, or second-guessing whether you should because of sustainability concerns, start by reading Kohl’s eBook.

Kohl and Travis have built Known Supply, a blanks company that sells DTC and offers wholesale options, along with Krochet Kids, a knit and headwear company.

Sustainable materials for your brand

If you’re not in a spot to make sustainability you’re entire focus but want to dabble in it, starting with alternative materials is a good idea. You can look into packaging as a way to eliminate waste, or even dig into physical products, as you consider materials, regardless of your industry.

Here are some examples:

Magical Mushroom Co offers custom sustainable packaging. What we enjoy most about it is that there are several off-the-shelf options for boxes, round containers, and more for brands that want to start working with sustainable packaging without fully committing to a large number of custom units to start.

Natural fiber welding is the source behind sustainable products from Unless, the cursed Allbirds, and more. They offer multiple materials:

Mirum — a leather alternative

Clarus — performance textiles

and Pliant — a solution for shoe soles

For brands looking to seriously invest in sustainable materials, this is a great option to approach.

If you’re producing consumer packaged goods this is a good option to start exploring biodegradable consumeables packaging overseas.

Manifesting your brand into physical spaces

Not really sure if there’s a term for this, but one of the ways you can make your products stand out as a brand is by creating physical spaces that align with your values and aesthetics.

If you already have a physical storefront, that’s great too, but if having one isn’t an option and you want to do something a little differently, consider how Ghia has set up their own “House” in Los Angeles.

Honestly, we’re obsessed with this space. It works well as a showroom, or for hosting meetings, events, photoshoots, launch parties, and so on.

Ghia has mastered this for their products, and it’s exactly what you’d expect it to look like, given the brand’s existing branding.

The Ghia House in LA, photos by Domino Mag

The Ghia House in LA, photos by Domino Mag

But this begs the question: what is the future of retail and physical experiences?

1. Split experiences — Newer brands are subsidizing their retail costs by offering a traditional services-based business to accompany it. Beyond Aimé Leon Dore or KITH, we love the experience Jack Henry’s skin and hair brand has created with their combination wellness studio and shopping experience.

2. Shared experiences — Multiple brands collaborating together (and sharing costs) on a space with far more foot traffic than they could afford separately. In the near future, we foresee many independent, smaller versions of a Dover Street Market. These collaborative retail experiences could exist in normal leases, or be a great solution to take over temporary vacant space.

Looking for resources to ideate on physical experiences? Check out Superfuture’s retail curation.

If you want to gett the most out of retail, you have to ask what kinds of content and experiences you’re hoping to generate with it. Physical spaces have so many different use cases. They can become:

  • A hub for creating content more easily—built-in studios and backdrops for photo and sets for video or live streams

  • A space for fans to congregate to build an IRL community

  • A destination for those in your target demographic beyond just shopping

  • An opportunity to story-tell online about the process of building and the idealogy behind design decisions

One of our favorite examples of storytelling around retail comes from the extremely comprehensive Taxonomy of Design guide that Aesop launched in 2015. Worth looking into and clicking around.