Cloth & Co founder Caroline Poiner on owning her own business, ethical fashion and women empowerment
We absolutely love the timeless designs and ethical ethos Cloth & Co’s brand represents. In this blog post we interview Caroline Poiner, founder of Cloth & Co, an ethical clothing company with a mission to design quality, sustainable pieces, provide dignified employment and empower women.
Tell us a bit about yourself! What inspires you?
I grew up in the world of textiles, my father imported some of the most beautiful textiles from Europe and Asia so I think my appreciation for the craft is in my DNA. The extraordinary people we work with inspire me, for me India has been a huge part of my life and the connections with the people has had a profound impact on the path I have traveled.
What lead you to where you are today and owning your businesses? Was this something you always dreamt of doing?
There have been so many moments where I have realized this is my purpose and my absolute passion, I don’t think I could have dreamt of this being my reality but I am so happy it is. Artisans of Fashion was a side project – I was in branding & design at the time - founded with the specific purpose to promote the extraordinary artisan skills and give a voice to the marginalised in the context of the highly influential fashion industry, I saw it as an opportunity for fashion to do good and not only provide dignified employment to these people but to give the artisans the acknowledgement and respect they deserve.
Cloth & Co. was then founded in partnership with my daughter Daisy who has a Masters in International Business with the objective to make our work with the artisans and women’s cooperatives sustainable, we wanted to prove (as much to ourselves) that it was possible to have a truly sustainable business that could actually have a fundamental impact on people’s lives as well as have a minimal impact on the environment.
70% of the people we work with are women and from a humanitarian perspective, knowing the work we do is making a positive impact on these people’s lives is highly rewarding and is key to what motivates us.
Can you tell us about the women’s cooperatives, communities and ethical factories you work with?
We work with a number of different groups from across India and in Nepal where there are specific skills that we feel are a good fit for Cloth & Co. and where we feel confident we can provide ongoing work. From our weavers in Lalitpur in Nepal who weave our beautiful signature hand loomed linen scarves to the all-women design, manufacturing and skill development ‘eco system’ we work with in Delhi that trains and employs migrant women from the slums and are now working on our new linen collection that will be launched in Spring.
We are in love with the gorgeous and versatile designs you have created for Cloth & Co. What was the inspiration for your pieces?
Simplicity is at the core with the concept behind our designs based on creating timeless pieces that are versatile and flattering on most body types. From our classic crew T-Shirt to our ever popular slub jersey lounge pants, we love the idea that our pieces can be worn for lounging or working from home and are also easily dressed up with a scarf or a denim jacket to wear out. Our colour palette is based on hues from nature and can be interchanged within the collection.
Do you have a favourite piece that you have created? (I personally love the Raspberry Beach Towel)
Our hand loomed scarves are definitely up there as a favourite, and of course our signature linen scarves are an accessible luxury - for a number of reasons but mainly because the group of women who produce these for us are incredible, the quality is exceptional and they have achieved this against all odds. Most of these women have come from extremely vulnerable situations and worked so hard for their independence, it’s so inspiring to work with them.
How is it working as a mother and daughter team?
Daisy and I are quite different with complimentary strengths and have always had a close relationship. She’s the Yin to my Yang or vice versa. We travelled to India when she was 15, and spent a few weeks working at an orphanage, really I think this was the seminal moment for us. It was on a train trip to Rishikesh where we dreamt up the concept for Artisans of Fashion and once she had finished her Masters, Cloth & Co. came into being.
We love that two of the main values behind Cloth & Co is to be ethically made and empower women. Can you share a little about these values and how you work to meet them?
Women’s empowerment was what Cloth & Co. was founded on. We have built long-term relationships with the people we work with and only work directly small organisations and cooperatives that provide continuity of employment, skills development and a safe working environment for the women and in turn their children. Where we work with artisans, they are generally families of weavers and the production is done in their villages or as in the case of or linen scarves, they are woven in a small unit run by an incredible Italian woman who has dedicated her life to the Nepali people. It has taken many years to build these relationships and they are at the heart of everything we do.