How One Ethical Brand Puts People First: KNOWN SUPPLY

At Eco-Stylist we love every ethical brand we recommend to you. Ethical brands humanize the fashion industry and make us feel good–inside and out–about what we wear.

When we discover an ethical brand that looks like it might be a good fit for our customers we first research that brand using Remake’s sustainable brand criteria. This ensures that they align with our values and meet your standards when you want to shop sustainably.

The brands that pass our criteria are progressive on ethics and sustainability while also showcasing great style. Brands this driven by a mission must have great stories–right?

To share one of those stories with you, we recently chatted with Kohl Crecelius, the CEO and co-founder of KNOWN SUPPLY. If you care about the ethics and sustainability of your clothing, you’re going to enjoy this conversation.

Eco-Stylist: Why did you start KNOWN SUPPLY?

Kohl Crecelius: I had been working in the ethical fashion space since 2007 (which wasn’t even called this back when we started our first brand). After 10 years of operating our headwear brand Krochet Kids intl., we surveyed the space and the challenges facing the future of ethical fashion and its growth. We realized that there were a growing number of small, independent brands popping up and doing some great work in producing quality, sustainably-made items. However, all these efforts felt very isolated and we didn’t see an easy bridge for more companies and organizations to jump into the space.

We decided KNOWN SUPPLY could fill this void by focusing on apparel and establishing ourselves as the brand that not only sells direct to consumer, but that provides ethical apparel for other entities through our basic apparel or custom projects. We believe this will help expedite ethical fashion as a whole, and most importantly to us, the opportunity for shoppers to meet the people behind their products.

Eco-Stylist: How did you personally get into sustainable fashion?

Kohl-Crecelius_KNOWN-SUPPLY-Co-Founder
Kohl Crecelius, CEO

Kohl Crecelius: I got into this space in a very roundabout sort of way. 

My friends & I initially saw product creation as a tool to provide economic empowerment opportunities to women and communities in the developing world. 

We started our first empowerment project in Uganda in 2007, which coincided with our brand Krochet Kids intl. We knew how to design and make crocheted headwear, so we started by teaching women in Northern Uganda this skill and employing them to make hats for our brand.

It was only from here that I learned more about the global fashion industry and how dark its methods really were. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were actually pioneering the future of what ethical fashion could look like.

Eco-Stylist: What does sustainable mean to you?

Kohl Crecelius: The common mistake I see in the general sustainability conversation is that people are only focused on environmental impacts. To me, sustainability has just as much to do with the human inputs as it does the material inputs. Many of the things we purchase–and especially clothing–are manufactured and handled by human hands. 

We can’t stand behind the label of “doing good” if our products are organic, but aren’t providing fair wages to the person who made it.

And yet, this is what’s happening constantly today.

KNOWN SUPPLY Maker
K. Lakshmi, Maker

Eco-Stylist: Where does KNOWN SUPPLY manufacture its clothes?

Kohl Crecelius: We continue to work with supplier operations that we helped found in Uganda and Peru through a direct trade relationship. These partners are making the majority of our accessories. Our apparel is made in Fair Trade Certified production facilities in India. The Fair Trade certification has been a great new way for us to continue to deliver on our promise of empowering employment, while being able to operate at a larger scale. 

Many people don’t realize it, but the Fair Trade certification is a relatively new opportunity in the apparel and fashion space.

It wasn’t even around when we started our first brand.

Eco-Stylist: Why is transparency important to you?

Kohl Crecelius: Transparency is everything to me for one main reason: people won’t want to change things they don’t understand and they won’t understand things they cannot relate to. Our whole brand is built on the idea that you should be able to know WHO made your clothes. If we as shoppers can see the humans behind our purchases, and we can empathize with all we share in common, we believe our purchases will be made with this in mind.

Empathy has the power to shift behavior in a way that statistics simply can’t.

Discover Who Made Your Clothes
Discover Who Made Your Clothes

Eco-Stylist: Which one KNOWN SUPPLY garment is your favorite, and why?

Kohl Crecelius: I’m going to cheat and say two…

I wear the red Brady beanie from Krochet Kids intl. everyday (which is a brand of KNOWN SUPPLY). Our organic cotton unisex t-shirt in black is the other staple in my closet. Simply put, these make up my everyday style.

Known Supply Unisex T-Shirt
Organic Cotton Unisex T-Shirt

Eco-Stylist: What’s coming next for KNOWN SUPPLY?

Kohl Crecelius: 2020 is going to be an incredible year for the brand. We are rolling out a number of new products both for our online shop, as well as our B2B partners–or as we like to call them #KNOWNSUPPLIERS. Visit the SUPPLY HOUSE to learn more about how you can access bulk orders and these latest releases.

Eco-Stylist: What excites you about the future of sustainable fashion?

Kohl Crecelius: You can really see the movement accelerating at a pace that is incredibly fast compared to the conversations taking place 10, or even 5 years ago. I look forward to the ubiquity of sustainable fashion, but

I think we should all be more cautious of the claims surrounding “sustainability”.  The more it is popularized, the more corporations will be looking for ways to ride that wave, albeit in inauthentic ways.

*Kohl Crecelius is the CEO and co-founder of Eco-Stylist approved brand, KNOWN SUPPLY. KNOWN SUPPLY is re-inventing clothing in a way that dignifies the people who make our clothes.

Who’s Next?

At Eco-stylist we want to support an industry that allows for individual creativity and expression, while also working with the people–not against the people–who make our clothes. How could fashion make you feel your best if you know there was underlying harm caused to make it?

That’s why we’re highlighting brands with great style and great stories. Eco-Stylist approved brands give you the comfort of knowing your clothes were made ethically and in a more environmentally responsible way. Furthermore, they’re helping to drive change in the industry.

In order to keep this conversation going let us know which ethical brand we should interview next. Vote in the comments and we’ll pick one brand for an upcoming article!

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5 thoughts on “How One Ethical Brand Puts People First: KNOWN SUPPLY”

  1. I’m always happy to learn about new brands that strive to be ethical, but I’m also always disappointed when brands don’t seek third-party ethical certification (B Corp, etc). The only ostensibly good reason I’ve heard for not getting certified is because small businesses can’t afford it, but that’s just not true. All the major ones have sliding scales specifically so that small businesses can participate. B Corp certification starts at $50, for crying out loud!

    I’d love it if your reporters would start asking interviewees if they think third-party ethical certifications are a positive force. And as a separate question, I’d like them to be asked why they did or didn’t choose to seek it for their own business. If they have certifications, then they should say what they are. If they don’t have any, then I want to know why not.

    This is something that I care very much about because I think that we can all benefit from having a third party to keep us accountable and help us to become better. Plus, I’ve never heard of a company that DIDN’T tout themselves as being ethical. So, I wish this was talked about more. Frankly, I think we should be a little bit pushy about it. Not everything needs to be softball questions!

    1. James – thank you for your question!

      While B Corp is a great certification, the reality is that B Corp wasn’t designed specifically for fashion brands. Using our criteria we have both passed and failed brands that are B Corps.

      Something to keep in mind on that point – the fashion industry is complicated and has a myriad of industry specific issues.

      Eco-Stylist has it’s own brand certification for fashion brands – we use Remake’s Sustainable Brand criteria to research every brand we promote. This criteria looks at fashion specific questions like 1) Living Wages 2) Sustainable Fabrics 3) Sustainable Manufacturing and 4) Worker Well-Being, to name a few. B Corp certification on its own doesn’t verify these things.

      Other certifications, such as Fair Trade and GOTS, do verify some of these items. For that reason, we look at a variety of certifications when we research brands. KNOWN SUPPLY for example works with Fair Trade certified factories in India.

      KNOWN SUPPLY is already an Eco-Stylist approved brand, meaning we’ve already asked them the tough questions. So for the purposes of this interview, we wanted to learn more about their motivation, their story, and what inspires them – and then to share that with readers.

      That being said, it sounds like you’d like to see some of the tougher questions. I’ll keep your comments in mind for future interviews/articles!

      You can learn more about how we research brands here:

      https://www.eco-stylist.com/sustainable-brand-criteria/

      1. Thank you! I appreciate the thoughtful reply. Very insightful!

        As you can tell, I’m a big fan of third-party ethical certification and B Corp is my favorite, so I’m wondering if you could clarify one of the things you said about them. Knowing that B Corp aims to comprehensively review companies from many industries, would you please expand on the point you were making when you wrote that “B Corp wasn’t designed for fashion brands”? Specifically, does that mean that you are implying that you think they do less than a good job of learning about the industries of the companies they review and tailoring their evaluation process accordingly? For example, why do you think some companies would pass Remake’s criteria but not B Corp’s and vice versa?

        If the question seems a little bit aggressive, that isn’t my intention. Not exactly, anyway. I think it’s ultimately a good thing that different reviewing bodies have different views on how the reviewing ought to be done. I’m trying to coax those critical views of B Corp out of you because I think that’d be a fast lane to learning more about third-party ethical certification in general. I think you probably know a lot more about all of this than me, so I want to get as much from this interaction as possible. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

        But yes, I for one would absolutely love to see not just a recognition of companies that are good, but also a bit of pushing on areas where featured companies can improve—not just you asking what they want to do better and leaving them to bring up whatever domain they like, but you digging to find something that YOU think they could do better than them exerting one or two question’s worth of pressure to nudge them on it. I know that there are lots of considerations that would have to go into how to do it, but I think you could probably think of a way to do it without scaring them off.

        I’d also love to see some reviews and criticism of companies and products that DON’T meet your standards. I really think that’d be valuable.

        Thanks again for replying to my comment, and for hearing out my wishlist, haha.

        1. Hey James,

          Thanks again for your thoughtful questions. What I meant to say is: “B Corp wasn’t designed specifically for fashion brands.”

          I don’t say that to bash B Corp – I love B Corp too. B Corp was designed for multiple industries, and I can only speak first hand about the fashion industry. When it comes to the fashion industry, B Corp certification does not tell you as a consumer enough to know if the brand is ethical or sustainable.

          All of the things I pointed out above: living wages, worker well-being, sustainable fabrics, and sustainable manufacturing – none of them can be directly inferred simply because a brand is a B Corp. These are really important points when it comes to fashion and consumers would like to know when brands are doing these things. So – how do you go about finding these things?

          For starters, you look at certifications like the ones I mentioned: Fair Trade, GOTS, SA8000, Bluesign, etc. There is no one certification for fashion brands that will tell you everything you need to know and that is also widely used across the industry.

          Remake’s criteria on the other hand, was developed specifically to look at fashion brands – paying special attention to the issues in that industry as well as the solutions.

          I hope that adds some clarity.

          Thank you for your content ideas! We have reviewed Everlane and H&M with a more critical lens (if you haven’t seen those articles already) but definitely open to doing more!

          Cheers,

          Garik

  2. Hi there! This post could not be written much better!
    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept preaching about this. I will send this information to
    him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many
    thanks for sharing!

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