In 2016, we launched the Levi Strauss & Co. Collaboratory, a fellowship program designed to bring together entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs in the apparel industry to collaborate on social and environmental solutions for their organizations.
Each year the program tackles a different sustainability challenge facing the industry, with our inaugural class focused on an area that is critically important to the future of the apparel industry and the planet: water.
Tasked with understanding and looking for new approaches and innovations to address the water impact of the apparel supply chain, the first class of Collaboratory fellows exceeded expectations not only through their solutions but through their willingness to go above and beyond when it came to sharing best practices.
The first class included John Moore, co-founder and creative director of Outerknown, a sustainable menswear brand that blends function and style starting at the supply chain.
As we get ready to welcome the new class, we caught up with John to chat about his experience with the Collaboratory and what it’s meant to work side-by-side with industry leaders passionate about doing the right thing for people and the planet.
Unzipped: How has the Collaboratory impacted you and the way you work?
John: Growing up in the fashion world, you’re taught to keep your resources close to your heart. Don’t give out any information that could give a competitive advantage to other designers or brands. Imagine if we didn’t collaborate and instead shared ideas and learnings around sustainable practices?
I’ve always believed the more you give out, the more you get back, and the Collaboratory is one of the greatest examples of collaboration and sharing I’ve ever been involved with. The Levi’s® brand is one of the greatest brands in the world, so to have company leaders sharing their learnings, resources and inspiration from with our fellowship of emerging designers, brands, suppliers and entrepreneurs was everything. Imagine that. It happened.
What are your biggest takeaways from being a part of the Collaboratory? Best part of being a fellow?
We worked hard, days were very long. But what I remember the most is that we shared ideas, and 17 months later I’m still collaborating with some of the other fellows. Outerknown is on the verge of publishing The Blue Book; a call-to-action from Outerknown to the industry to join forces in an effort to make benefit fibers (recycled, regenerated, organic) more affordable for brands big and small. This would not be possible without the Collaboratory challenging all of us to think big. Really, really big.
What advice do you have for the incoming class?
Shed your preconceptions. With so many responsibilities back at home, I was really worried about not being present. But I plead with you to leave everything at the door, put your phones down, and get out a pencil and paper. Open up your mind to the greatest possible outcome. Listen intently, but also speak when you are afraid to speak.