Interview with Jess Davidson, Founder of Full Circle Clothing

Our thanks to Cara Des Granges,  founder of the Importance of Being Green, for running this interview with our founder, Jess Davidson, and providing a snapshot about our raison d’etre: 

What made you decide to start your business?

During the lockdown I was sorting through mounds of my kids’ outgrown, yet perfectly wearable clothing, and wishing there was a better way to both procure and pass along clothes. I was missing the opportunity to shop secondhand, as everything was closed, as were the options for donating gently worn items. I distinctly remember folding a pair of red sweats, my youngest’s favourite, and wishing there was an option to have used clothes delivered (in an eco-friendly way, of course!), just as easily as it was to order from the big box stores… but then also picked up and donated (the dream, right?). And then I thought, why not try it out myself? See if there’s a market? 

As the idea percolated, I wondered if there was a way to run a successful small business ethically. I’ve always enjoyed a good critique of Capitalism, but being an armchair critic can be easy. So, this is both the start of a small social enterprise and an experiment to see how we can operate in a way that always puts people and planet over profit, but still be successful. Is it possible? We’ll find out!

It seems like your business is centered on some core values, can you tell our readers about those?

The climate crisis is terrifying and as a parent of young children it fills me with both dread and guilt. I want to be able to look my kids in their eyes and say that our family is doing something real in response. This is one step, but I see more advocacy and activism as a key part of this work. While I think as consumers we can all make a difference, or at very least, send a signal, real change needs to happen at the corporate level and through policy changes. However, for anything to change there needs to be a clear public groundswell of support for greener offerings. That’s where we can start to move the needle as individuals. 

All that to say that supporting the environment is a key driver and core value, as is supporting local businesses, especially women and/or BIPOC-led companies, and in turn making supporting local businesses accessible to parents who don’t have easy access to the lines we carry. 

Here are some of our objectives, which you can also find on our website

  • To help subscribers shop in a way that is sustainable, easy, and reliable with clothing that is comfortable and looks great.
  • To promote and grow local businesses, and local garment manufacturing options in Toronto and other cities in Canada.
  • To provide a truly circular option for children’s clothing.
  • To help parents become more conscious consumers through consumer education initiatives and transparent business practices.
  • To buy better to help subscribers buy less and dress better (better for the earth and the garment workers).
  • To provide a platform to push corporations to commit to more socially conscious practices.
  • To bring slow fashion to fast growers.

What ages does your subscription children’s clothing rental program cover? And where does it ship?

Right now the size range we offer is from baby to size 10. We are focused specifically on Toronto at the moment, as we have some green delivery partners that have practices in place aligned with our eco-focused values. Once we can expand our partners we will expand our delivery range, but we do plan to keep things small-scale so as to keep our overall footprint small. 

Can you tell us a bit more about some of the clothing brands you’ve partnered with? And why you’ve chosen to work with them?

I am so excited about our partners, and there are three in particular that I think are really worth highlighting. These three partners are all run by inspiring women, all of whom are supplying us with beautiful made-in-Canada pieces. 

Lemon Butter Babies designs beautiful, timeless and nostalgic luxury children’s wear using ethical, sustainable and fair-trade practices. Their pieces are just so dreamy, so the name of their 2020 collection, “The Beginning of Dream,” is so apt. Little Thunder Clothing, a sustainable and ethically-made baby and children’s clothing brand, makes pieces that are stylish and functional. They have two particular patterns I just love–Speckled Fawn (I proudly sport a toque in this pattern!) and Diversity.  first threads’ pieces are functional, fun and durable–the brand is all about supporting local and is committed to ethical practices and to environmental sustainability. I love this brand so much that my son was outfitted in one of their sets for his JK school photos! 

These are partners that really reflect our values–eco-friendly, locally produced, women-led, and focused on slow fashion.

Can you explain why you’ve decided to focus on Canadian producers? 

There are so many benefits to buying from local producers. In addition to the social, environmental and economic factors there is also the simple fact that the craftsmanship is usually far superior. That’s why we’re so proud to partner with local children’s clothing companies who are working to achieve the same socially conscious and eco-friendly goals we are–while making your kids look darn good doing so!

Clothes send a signal, and I found that while I could buy a well-made sweatshirt at a second-hand shop, often this sweatshirt would have a huge logo on the front. That logo represents so much–including garment worker conditions, which are often pretty grim. I don’t want my kids to be billboards for companies that turn a blind eye to such practices, or to brands that participate in greenwashing to sell even more products. 

To be able to circulate second-hand clothing and support local really feels like the best of both worlds. I want to carry clothing that parents feel good supporting and kids feel good wearing. 

What are some possible misconceptions people might have about using the service?

I want to touch a misconception, or a warped perception really, about how much clothes should cost. 

Fast fashion is so pervasive and accessible right now thanks to apps and the ease of online shopping and the fact that ultra low-cost fast fashion brands are churning out thousands of new pieces each day with price points that are on par with a (fancy) cup of coffee. While surely this says something about the quality of the fabric they’re using, more importantly, it says A LOT about the labour conditions. It’s just not possible that these garment workers are being paid well to be able to sell clothes at these prices. Something in the supply chain has to give–and it’s usually working conditions and pay, in addition to the quality.  

Well-made clothing that is designed to last does cost more. Not only are consumers paying for better materials, they are also supporting a higher hourly wage. The good news is, better made pieces are built to last, which means the need to keep buying is lessened. That said, we all know when it comes to fast growing kids, well-made clothes usually outlast their ability to squeeze into them–and that’s where we come in ?

What advice would you give to aspiring green entrepreneurs?

If you have an idea that helps push back against the climate crisis–do it. Don’t leave it to others to make real change–be a leader. Now is absolutely the time. 

I’m so impressed by the young activists fighting for climate justice–but it troubles me that the youth have to take on so much of this fight. So many young people are already facing climate anxiety. Their future is dependent on the action we take now. As in right now. It’s not too late–but it’s getting there, so we all need to act. We need to listen to experts, including climate scientists, Indigenous leaders, and others on the frontlines of this fight, and we need to take the advice seriously and act accordingly.

If you have an idea and can make a difference–go for it. You can start small. It doesn’t need to be full-time work, but get started, try it out, and join in on the work of building a better future for these youth working so hard to turn things around. 

 

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