One Tee At A Time

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There are thousands of ways how one can contribute to the improvement of our planet and tackle environmental as well as social issues. Sometimes this can be overwhelming. The three following brands have realised that small steps lead to success and they try to change things, t-shirt by t-shirt.

Cuipo is a US-based label that offers t-shirts and accessories for both men and women. The brand has dedicated its work to preserving the rainforest and fighting deforestation by buying patches of tropical forests. The three co-founders Gus Hurst, Tom Murray and John Oswald believe the easiest way to save the planet’s most vital ecosystem is also the most straight-forward: acquiring land and preserving it. So far Cuipo together with its foundation and non-profit organisation One Meter at a Time has purchased 3,300 acres of rainforest in Panama and aims to continue accomplishing its mission one square meter at a time.

This is how it works: For every Cuipo t-shirt a consumer gets hold of the label buys one meter of rainforest. The owner of the t-shirt has the possibility to see on a map what land has been acquired thanks to their help and can watch the area of saved rainforest grow.

The brand’s name comes from the Cuipo trees, which can grow to up to 60 metres in height and are therefore difficult to handle when it comes to cutting them in the process of deforestation. Hence Cuipos are often left uncut after clearing woodland – just like a tiny glimmer of hope.

ER4The label Eclectic Rhythm has devoted itself to a social cause: 5% of their net profit is donated to the Alzheimer’s Society. The brand’s beautifully designed t-shirts are all about social and environmental sustainability – they are produced of 100% organic cotton, hand screen-printed using solvent free inks and all the packaging is made of recycled material. Eclectic Rhythm only creates limited editions with 250 pieces per design. Originality is more important to the brand than mass produced goods for the crowd.

Face This is a t-shirt brand that goes even a step further when it comes to social involvement. The Holland-based label invests their profits into schools and educational material for kids in Indonesia. The founder of Face This, Jos van der Hoek, was born in the Asian state and adopted by a Dutch couple at the age of two months. The first time he went back to the country of his origins he was hooked and is visiting regularly since. He recognised the lack of means in regards to education and created – inspired by the positivity of Indonesians – Face This.

Face FinalIndonesia consists of at least 15,000 islands and more than 700 languages and dialects are spoken in the country. However, its inhabitants stick together – togetherness is ingrained in Indonesian society,’ Jos states. ‘In their language this is called gotong royong. Everybody within a community works closely together in order to achieve a higher goal. We find this very inspirational and believe that the world would become a better place if we cared more for each other. Hence Face This tries to do as much gotong royong as possible.’

The designs and illustrations on the GOTS-certified t-shirts that Face This produces are inspired by drawings from the children that go to the schools the label backs. ‘We really wanted to create a foundation together with the kids we support. We want them to play an important role in our concept,’ Jos explains.

To ensure that the donations of Face This reach the right people and are invested in the right projects the brand has a local coordinator in Indonesia. The educational advisor makes sure that developments run smoothly and all appointed tasks are accomplished. The schools that Face This works with need to fulfil three criteria: they need to have strong leadership and community support, they should be in high need (i.e. be affected by poverty or isolation), and have a plan on how to address their issues. ‘We are trying to support schools that are located in different areas and vary in terms of their context in order to be representative of Indonesia’s diversity,’ says Jos about their partners. ‘Interestingly, one of the schools we work with is Catholic, while another one in West Java is Islamic.’

Jos is seemingly proud of what Face This has accomplished so far. He is fascinated by the eagerness of the children to learn and their motivation to go to school every day even if in some cases walking there takes them three hours. ‘Last June we received the message from the Darul Funun school in Bogor that all students had passed their exams,’ Jos says about the achievement he is most pleased about. ‘Although I know our initiative is small on a global scale, the past five years around a thousand kids were able to go to school thanks to Face This. And for those kids this has a huge impact.’

Cuipo, Eclectic Rhythm and Face This are only three labels part of an ever-increasing movement of social entrepreneurs that try to address socio-economic and environmental issues through fashion. The best about this development? By purchasing one of the brand’s pieces you can join them in their endeavour.

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