CEO’s choice to launch digital clothing business tailor-made for the pandemic
The last thing consumers needed in 2016 was another children’s fashion brand. But former Gymboree CEO Matt McCauley saw an opportunity for classic, vintage clothing that would be passed down to the next generation, rather than landfill. He insisted that the clothes be made from organic cotton to reduce the impact of chemicals and pesticides. Also, the product needed an attractive price, like $ 24.95 for a girl’s skater dress or boy’s separate clothes. Broadband has been a key component of this start-up which competes in the broader industry of sustainable fashion, estimated at $ 6.3 billion in annual revenue and growing 6.8% compared to the broader “fast fashion” industry of $ 3 trillion.
From the start, Hope and Henri was a fully digital company with low overhead and no physical presence. “Broadband has helped us recruit the best talent. People want to work where they live, ”he explained, noting that the chief clothing designer is based in Vermont. However, investors balked at the idea that employees would only work from home (WFH) and wanted to see the head office. McCauley knew real estate had to be ditched from the start to keep costs down. After the pandemic, it became the norm for many entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
Hope & Henry employees, many from Gymboree, worked for sweat equity for two years until the business was up and running and a bonus could be paid to cotton growers and factory workers. . There was no need to transition when the Covid-19 lockdown took hold; Hope & Henry had been a pioneer of the WFH for years. Broadband was also essential to reach customers. “If the vast majority of our customers didn’t have broadband, our business model wouldn’t work,” says McCauley, noting that many customers buy with smartphones using mobile networks.
Hope and Henry took advantage of a Amazon storefront and its services to create multi-page business environments coupled with logistics and distribution. Remote work is enabled through Box, the cloud-based content management and file sharing platform. The team meets through Google Meet, video calls integrated into the “G suite” of productivity and collaboration tools. Other essential tools include PayPal and Shopify. However, not all software is plug and play. Now, with a dedicated website, half a dozen branded physical locations, and a partnership with Target, Hope & Henry are hacking their own inventory and order fulfillment apps because business solutions just don’t fit. to a small business. McCauley’s vision for a single dashboard for finance, sales, inventory management, and other metrics does not yet exist.
The brand has since evolved into adult clothing and a popular “Family”With coordinated pieces for family photos and vacations. He learned to take advantage of marketing opportunities such as back to school with riding vests and pants, tea dresses, rompers, cricket jumpers, wing-tipped oxfords, quilted leather ballet flats. and other items inspired by British school uniforms.
Hope & Henry performs at Global organic textile standard (GOTS) which defines the requirements for certifying the organic status of textiles throughout the production life cycle, socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing practices and labeling. As McCauley focuses on achieving the mission and awakening the industry as a whole, the company could be an attractive acquisition for a clothing conglomerate that wants to buy an eco-friendly brand.
The story illustrates the challenges of building brands online, even with a full range of tools and expertise. The situation is even more difficult if one wants to manufacture clothes in the United States, because the factories and the workers no longer exist. the Relocation index 2021 just released by the Coalition for a Prosperous America, shows America’s manufacturing trade deficit hit an all-time low, with clothing hit the hardest. As author and economist Jeff Ferry explains, “Gross production of clothing manufacturing fell 73.5% in real terms between 2002 and 2020 to reach $ 19.4 billion in 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clothing manufacturing employment fell 90% from 938,000 in January 1990. to 93,400 in May 2021. Even more tragically, black Americans have made tremendous strides in the textile industries and clothing in the southern states in the late 1960s and 1970s, only to see most of these jobs disappear from aggressive import penetration from the 1980s. Half of all jobs in the The clothing industry in the United States was lost in the 1990s and most of the other halves in the following years. ”
The loss of jobs is attributed to the easing of import restrictions and the growth of large-scale textile and clothing production in China, Bangladesh, India and other countries. The largest source of US clothing imports is China, a benefit provided by a widespread manufacturing subsidy for export. Census data from last year shows that China accounted for 28% of U.S. clothing imports, or $ 20 billion out of $ 72 billion. Next on the chopping block appears at PPE mask industry on the verge of being wiped out by subsidized Chinese imports.
A recent executive order highlighted China’s stealthy use of subsidies to evade World Trade Organization rules, some $ 200 billion for semiconductors alone. This seems to be standard practice for the country since joining the world trade regime in 2001. US policymakers have the power to end the abuses. The question is whether they will.