Caroline Poiner and her conscious fashion label, Cloth & Co.
Cloth & Co. is an Australian fashion company ethically and sustainably crafting comfortable, versatile and timeless basics, though there is absolutely nothing basic about this incredible company. This is thanks, in large part, to Cloth & Co.'s incredible founder, Caroline Poiner.
Cloth & Co. is an Australian fashion company ethically and sustainably crafting comfortable, versatile and timeless basics, though there is absolutely nothing basic about this incredible company. This is thanks, in large part, to Cloth & Co.’s incredible co-founder, Caroline Poiner.
What made you start Cloth & Co.?
My love of travel, working with communities in India. It was the women we were working with in a village outside Jaipur and our desire to uplift them in an empowering way.
They are so resilient and watching them find their voice and confidence through our designs and their new found skills was what inspired us to contribute to this through a business; providing a market and supporting their training and education to create products with meaning and purpose.
Our goal was always to be more than just a fashion label, we never set out to produce more stuff, it was to use business as a force for good.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I find walking the best way to set myself up for the day. Being in nature inspires me, makes me feel grateful no matter what else is going on in our world. It’s grounding, literally.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
I think the biggest barrier has been finding the right alignment with our suppliers/artisans/women’s cooperatives in creating products that meet our quality, environmental and delivery time expectations. But also just teething issues and finding our way as a small business that doesn’t want to compromise on what we believe in.
Competing in a market where there’s a lot of competition in the sustainable and ethical space with brands with big marketing budgets that leverage ‘organic’ and ‘ethical’ without any real substance or transparency to greenwash confuses the consumer when it comes to their expectations of price.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Cloth & Co., who made your garments? Can you tell us a bit about them?
We specifically work with small organisations that provide women with equal opportunities and dignified employment with a living wage, along with other benefits to provide a better standard of living. All of our suppliers are independently audited and require certifications including SEDEX, SA8000, GOT’s and Fair Trade ensuring they meet the highest social and environmental standards.
Our passion projects are with a number of small women’s cooperatives and Self Help Groups (SHG’s) where we specifically design products that we know will sell all year round and we can just introduce them to the market when they’re ready.
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
We love natural fibres and have never considered using anything else. Cloth & Co. has a strong environmental agenda and have focused on circularity in our product designs from the outset to minimise our carbon impact. We only work with natural fibres with a low impact on the environment such as linen and for our cotton we only use certified organic.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
A woman I worked with in India for 9 years had this quote as her email footer, it was a good reminder:
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene
What’s next for you and Cloth & Co.?
We are always looking to improve, how we can positively impact the people we work with and how we can not only minimise our impact on the environment but to do something to make it better.
We are working on a partnership with Regenerative Cotton farmers that we hope to be launching in Summer 22 – we are literally planting the seeds this month so it’s very exciting! More on that soon.
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
Although there have been many since, The True Cost is a game changer and I truly believe it should be screened in every school & university – it is something that just can’t be ignored.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
I’m inspired every day and just read an interview with Greta Thunberg in the Guardian – Greta Thunberg: ethical fast fashion is ‘pure greenwashing’ it’s a must read.
Bandana Tewari – Watch Woven Threads: Conversations On Slowness, Sustaining Culture and Creativity with Bandana Tewari for Lagos Fashion Week.
Vandana Shiva – An Indian Scholar and environmentalist who just makes so much sense.
Grace Forrest – founding director of Walk Free, an international human rights organisation working to eradicate modern slavery, which affects over 40 million people globally.
She is awesome!!