ethical fashion

Style with a Purpose, with Hamilton Perkins, Hamilton Perkins Collection

Hamilton Perkins Collection is a certified B Corporation offering designer travel bags at an affordable price. Each bag is made from recycled plastic bottles and lined with vinyl from upcycled billboards.

Hamilton Perkins, Hamilton Perkins Collection

Hamilton Perkins, Hamilton Perkins Collection

Hamilton Perkins found his niche early with retail sales. During university, he had a sneaker business on eBay. He made and sold leather bags. After college he entered financial services, rising through the ranks at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Yet, he had an entrepreneurial itch. So, he enrolled in an MBA program at William & Mary while working full-time.

Not only was Hamilton working full time while pursuing his MBA, but he also had a side-hustle business creating leather bags. To make sure he was creating something that customers would want, he conducted over 1,000 customer interviews. Hamilton describes his strategy, “I spent every break, and every lunch and every happy hour with a customer throughout business school.”

One of the key learnings was that consumers wanted their purchases to have a social impact. “A lot of people want more out of the companies they support,” Hamilton explains.

Hamilton consumed a lot of water from plastic bottles. “I saw what eight plastic water bottles every day for a week looked like,” he says. Hamilton researched and found a company, Thread, that makes material out of water bottles. He found a source of used billboard vinyl. He put them together into a prototype bag.

To test interest in the bag, they set up an event at a new art gallery and invited potential customers. That evening Hamilton gave a 90-second speech. That night they received a couple dozen orders. This gave them the confidence to move to a Kickstarter campaign. They launched the campaign with a goal of raising $10,000. They hit their goal in under a week.

With the upcycled billboard liner, each bag is unique. But, Hamilton says, “We’re not making a bag that is eco-friendly and crafty. It’s eco-friendly and stylish. It starts with style, then it’s quality, and then it’s impact.” For every Hamilton Perkins Collection bag, they use material from 17 plastic bottles. The inside is lined with one square yard of upcycled billboard vinyl.

Customers have responded. “We just need to make the product,” Hamilton says. “Once we make it, it sells out.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Hamilton Perkins

“Everything I was trying to do was pointing me in the direction of ‘Why don’t you go start a company?’”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“A bag came to me because I needed it. I wanted to travel.” @HamiltonPerkins”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“No two bags are ever exactly the same.” @HamiltonPerkins”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s cleaning up the environment. It’s also providing dignified income opportunities.” @HamiltonPerkins”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The real business plan was, would people buy it?” @HamiltonPerkins”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We wanted to make a product that mattered.” @HamiltonPerkins”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I learned a whole lot about patience in the first six months.” @HamiltonPerkins”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

132, Nina Smith, GoodWeave International | End Child Labor with a Market-Based Approach

Nina Smith has been thinking about social justice since she was eight years old. It’s natural that today she is working to end child labor.

You might think that child labor is a thing of the past, relegated to black and white pictures from the 1940s. Unfortunate for millions of children around the world, that is not true. According to the Global Slavery Index, 45.8 million people are enslaved in the world today. In the handmade carpet industry alone there are nearly a quarter of a million children who are being exploited.

Nina Smith grew up in a Jewish household, where her grandmother taught her the Jewish tradition of tzedakah, or social justice. As an eight-year-old, she was first introduced to her cousin Mark. She was told by her mother and grandmother that Mark would tell her and her sister a story. The story, as it turns out, was the story of the holocaust. “That was the first time I understood about the injustices in the world,” she told me.

Nina sees echoes of this injustice in the lives of modern-day slaves. “Very much my childhood influenced the way that I respond to this kind of thing now. People all over the world knew it was happening, the information was there, but people didn’t act soon enough or strongly enough.” She said of child labor, “It’s touching every one of us through the products that we buy.”

GoodWeave is transforming the rug industry by certifying child-labor-free rugs. To earn the GoodWeave label, manufacturers must meet certifications standards. They must also agree to random, independent inspections.

GoodWeave has freed more than 3,700 children from slave labor. They have reduced child labor by 80% in the handmade carpet industry of South Asia. Children who are rescued, are offered schooling and other basic needs. GoodWeave also prevents child labor by providing opportunities to at-risk children.

GoodWeave is expanding their market-based approach to eliminating child labor to new sectors such as apparel, home textiles and agricultural products.

Social Entrepreneurship Resources: