Thought Collective Design

Thought Collective Design: An ethical fashion company employing and empowering women in Tanzania

Austin, United StatesTanzania
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Thought Collective is an ethical fashion company employing and empowering women. We provide educational training and fair wage employment to mothers that are out of work in Arusha, Tanzania. We are unique in design, consistent in quality and powerful in our purpose.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the millennial generation had the option to buy trendy, affordable, ethically made clothing? Could they tilt the consumer market to a new consciousness in fashion?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We are trying to reduce the number of women working in unfair conditions for unlivable wages, diminish the costly environmental effects caused by fast fashion production and creatively educate consumers, specifically young people, on the power they have to make a largely positive impact through their purchases.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

By creating an ethical, fair wage apparel company, we are providing training and careers to women that were out of work and therefore working to alleviate poverty in Tanzania by increasing education opportunities for their children. By being the first affordable, trendy ethical fashion line specifically targeted to young people, we will create a movement of conscious consumerism amongst the millennial generation that will encourage brands using unethical practices to drastically alter their supply chains and in turn, significantly reduce sweatshop employment and the resulting harmful environmental effects. The only hope we have of living in a world that demands ethical fashion is by giving young people the chance to participate.

Awards

Published in Austin Women Magazine, Tribeza, C-Heads Magazine, What Do I Wear, and more. Featured on Buzzfeed’s favorite ethical fashion companies. Chosen to speak at the StartingBloc Fellowship and TEDx Events.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Lana, a 21 year old college student, is looking to add some new items to her closet so she goes online and begins looking at sites that are trendy for her age group. The TC collection has an edge and is comparable in price to her and her peer’s favorite brands. She sees how big of an impact her purchase at TC is making globally, so she closes the other sites and makes her purchase at TC because she can still get her favorite styles at a reasonable price AND feels good about her purchase. Through social media and college rep marketing, TC starts to catch on within the millennial generation so our demand increases, we are continuously employing more women in need of jobs and inspiring other fashion companies to also produce ethically.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In one year, we have now employed ten women that were struggling without a job. Because of our high salaries and safe working conditions, we have watched our employees become able to afford education fees, enroll their children in school and obtain proper healthcare. We have opened up a discussion amongst young people about conscious consumerism. We have had several wholesale and partnership requests from many popular brands eager to propel TC forward (Serengetee, TGK, Whole Foods, TTV, etc.), so as we gain funding and growth, we will be producing on a larger scale which will open up hundreds of employment opportunities. With increasing popularity among the younger generation, they will demand all of their clothing be made ethically and we will inspire both current and future brands to do the same (reducing sweatshops, environmental damage, and increasing jobs in developing countries).

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We plan to increase wholesale partnerships, getting our clothing in several stores (in the hands of a large amount of young people) and establishing a campus rep program. We have just hired an incredible designer that will continuously make sure our styles align with the most popular for millennials ahead of season so that they will feel compelled to purchase Thought Collective, even if they feel indifferent about our cause. We have brilliant ideas for youth marketing campaigns that will engage young people in the conversation of changing the fashion industry.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have an accountant and business advisor that have helped us shape and establish a business model that ensures financial stability and success. We have taken major consideration in setting our prices so that we will always remain affordable, but are just high enough to keep creating fair wage employment opportunities and increase profit as our demand increases.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We believe the reason that an ethical fashion movement hasn’t fully taken off is because there has yet to be a brand that is comparable in style and price to the most popular millennial brands until us. Young people have the power to create substantial change, and ethical companies that are unaffordable or selling outdated styles aren’t going to create the impact necessary to propel this shift. Companies such as Sevenly or KK (targeted to youth) have proved that the demand to "do good" through fashion is there, but we will be the first that delivers to that demand while remaining 100% ethical.
Team

Founding Story

Audrey was running a sponsorship program enrolling orphaned children in private schools. She decided she wanted to provide a workplace that allowed women to escape the cycle of poverty with dignity and pride as she had witnessed each day in the kids, so Thought Collective was born. It wasn’t until creating TC that she became aware of the horror that happens in the fashion industry. She then took a vow to shop ethically, but consistently struggled finding companies that she could afford and styles that she was willing to pay for. So, not only did she see the need to create a workplace providing fair wages, but to open up a discussion and change the meaning of fashion amongst her age group.

Team

Audrey Hickey, Founder and CEO: Audrey is from Los Angeles, California, studied Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas at Austin and now lives in Arusha, Tanzania. She worked as the Sponsorship Coordinator and Manager at a private school in Arusha before founding Thought Collective. She is a StartingBloc Fellow and Mentor, has been chosen to speak about Thought Collective at StartingBloc and TEDx Events. She has a major passion for fashion, women’s rights issues, and education. Shea Weaver-Grubbs, Operations Management: Shea has lived in Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, California and New York City (and frequently visits Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). Shea has worked with World Vision (Austin Women of Vision) as the local projects director working with local survivors of human trafficking, Urban Connection Austin, a non profit working with low-income families new to the United States and has years of operations and management experience with both non-profit and for profit companies. Jacklin Thuemmler, Merchandise and Wholesale Distribution: Jacklin has worked in the fashion industry as both a general and department manager for Free People in New York City. She has years of general and account management experience working with a large corporate company, European Wax Center. Rachel Barish, Lead Designer: Rachel is a graduate of Parsons New School for Design in Fashion Design and is from Austin, Texas. She has most recently worked for Espirt as a designer in Dusseldorf, Germany, BeeKeeper Global, an ethical backpack company in Melbourne, Australia, and Holmes & Yang, Rebecca Minkoff and Ralph Lauren all in New York City. She was the winner of the Sagas Fur Sponsorship where she was sent to Copenhagen, Denmark to work with Saga. She is currently running Born and Raised, a children’s knitwear company based in Melbourne, Australia.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Brand Representative, Consumer, Designer, Researcher, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - contractor, Supplier - subcontractor.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Children, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Researchers, Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Specialty Store, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Retailers - Discount Chain, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - subcontractor, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Essential Services (i.e. Healthcare and Education), Access to Finance, Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Gender Equality, Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking, Disaster and Humanitarian Relief, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Standards, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders, Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?

yes

If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Our customers become changemakers through every day purchases and our team of women the changemakers of their families.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

We have partnered with over ten ethical fashion companies publishing interviews/spreads together on ethical fashion and styling.

Comments

This is a fantastic project - putting design and the end-user first is always a winning approach for any business; but doing so in order to achieve the goal of providing dignity and a living wage makes this golden.

I imagine that this also makes Thought Collective a beacon in Tanzania - demonstrating to other workers there that they have options and don't need to accept anything less than a living wage and a place to work that is filled with love and respect. That impact is so valuable - not only does this inspire the consumer's peers to shop responsibly, it inspires the employees' families and friends to demand fair employment.