Photos by Quinn Wharton
The name Glass House begins to make more sense when you delve further into the key values of this team of shirt makers: transparency and sustainability. Their tailored, high quality shirts are elegant and well designed, with precise attention to detail – from high arm holes to taller collars. But it is their long-term environmental and ethical goals that really caught our eye. They already focus on local production, using US-based vendors, suppliers and distributors to get hold of the best materials they can, including reclaimed fabric. Yet they want to push those objectives even further, to make their artisan-quality shirts from 100% organic fabrics produced, from farm to shop, right here in the US. They also hope to run their whole studio with renewable energy and provide happy incentives such as yoga and alternative transport for their employees. All in, it sounds fantastic. But how did they get to this point and how what’s their plan going forward? Founder Daniel Bernardo generously spoke with Ecouterre about all that and more.
How did Glass House begin?
Glass House began in my apartment in Chicago after I moved from New York City. I’d always been designing, making art, re-sewing secondhand clothing, making clothing of my own, but when I came to Chicago looking for work in the sustainable development field, which was my discipline at the time, I couldn’t find a job for nine months. So I checked in with my passions, my resources and my skill set, and came up with the idea for Glass House.
I began doing tons of research and started networking. I met some greatly supportive people in the industry in Chicago, and knew a couple of people in the fashion industry back in New York City. I started developing the fit, found local manufacturers to work with, discovered great fabrics, and so on. From there we started building a presence and products.
What’s the ethos behind Glass House?
The primary objectives for Glass House are to bridge the gap between style and sustainability. We want to offer consumers and also show other clothing companies that a product that is completely consciously designed, sourced and manufactured can be also be stylish, contemporary, cutting-edge, and have a modern appeal.
You have some ambitious long-term goals. How do you plan to achieve these targets?
Our long-term goals are huge, yes! The more we grow the more of a positive impact we can make. The pathway there isn’t entirely clear yet, but we know we will get there on the exact path we are supposed to take.
The big picture, let’s say by 2020, is to have all of our fabrics grown, milled, spun, dyed, and woven right here in the United States. And, eventually, we’d love to have our own manufacturing facility run on alternative energy like wind, solar, and geothermal.
As we continue to grow, we aim to provide more benefits and incentives to our employees like yoga classes, communal lunches, support in alternative modes of transportation, and the list goes on. We believe that providing a high quality of life for our employees, as well as providing premium shirts for you, are the key aspects of how this brand is run.
Right now, we want to have products offered in more local boutiques all around the country—that’s the biggest goal for 2015, which will be a huge stepping stone toward our long-term vision and goals.
How do you plan to evolve your collection?
We do have plans to expand the line in Spring 2016, still within the shirting category, but we want to be sure we can bring those pieces to life in the same way we always have: completely conscious and sustainable.
Will conscious manufacturing eventually be the status quo?
The millennials and parts of Gen X definitely see the value in doing things consciously and sustainably. There are some fantastic designers out there who are manufacturing in a thoughtful way. However, those designers and brands, like Glass House, are paving the way and fighting an uphill battle.
The consumer market hasn’t shifted yet to a place where people are reading all the labels and asking questions about manufacturing processes and materials. So things are shifting towards sustainable manufacturing. It’s at a slow pace, but the value is being seen there.
Any advice to other designers who want to create more sustainably?
Advice I’d offer to designers who want their production process to be more sustainable is to know the faces that are actually making the products. Connect with them. Know your fabric distributors. Build relationships.
In this typically superficial industry, building authentic relationships with all the people involved in the production process makes it a smoother undertaking, they will take ownership and want to do a great job because they know you’re honest and kind, and support them and their needs however you can. Create a win-win scenario for everyone.