As shoppers, we're all becoming more aware of the downsides of fast fashion: the environmental degradation, the labor issues. Shopping from ethical brands seems to be one answer, but it can be difficult—if not impossible—to understand what it means when a company claims to be "sustainable." Ana Kannan, the founder of the luxury e-commerce platform TOWARD, has come up with her own solution.
Kannan’s upbringing inspired her passion for sustainability. Her car seats were pleather, her whole family was vegetarian, and her mother always emphasized keeping clothes in your closet for as long as possible. She went to the University of Southern California to study STEM, but when she took a class on sustainability in fashion, her mental wheels began to turn.
“I found myself asking questions,” Kannan explained, “like what percent of [a brand's] supply chain do they really trace? Are these materials really certified responsible? What stops a brand from lying? And I realized that there needed to be a kind of a space where brands could be independently vetted, and consumers could trust that these brands were really responsible.”
She created TOWARD to tackle this mission. On the website, TOWARD's clothes offer a delicate balance of earth tones and more modern hues—think elegant slip dresses, wide-legged trousers, and puffy pastel baby bags. The digital store has tabs labeled "Clothing," "Shoes," and "Bags & Accessories" like any shopping platform, but it also provides consumers with a "Responsibility" tab, outlining what sustainability means to the company. Kannan says that for her, the term "responsibility" extends so much further than simply sustainable branding. “It really refers to the holistic impact of every element through the supply chain. Our framework is how we assess whether a brand is a fit for us.”
To help conduct this assessment, TOWARD’s team developed nine pillars to assess all areas of a brand’s sustainability, making sure each and every designer TOWARD carries meets their standards. These pillars include workers rights, organic materials, water conservation, and animal welfare.
In order to ensure that a brand is responsible enough to join TOWARD’s platform, Kannan’s team, along with environmental experts, created over 100 questions that must be answered by every brand with document proof. From this sustainability questionnaire, TOWARD determines which of their nine pillars the brand meets, and whether they qualify for inclusion on the site.
Not only do these pillars act as markers for the brands TOWARD carries, but, as Kannan elaborated, they also act as a roadmap for all brands “when they're looking at improving their responsibility practices going forward. They can see ‘Which pillars am I excelling at right now? Which pillars do I need to work on?’ and they then can tailor and adjust their plans going forward.” Her company is successfully defining a universal standard of sustainability for the fashion world, while educating luxury consumers on brand transparency and responsibility.
In addition to opening its first store on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, TOWARD has big plans for the future. Remaining committed to sustainability means ebbing and flowing with our world, and, says Kannan, “we are working on revamping our responsibility framework right now based on the most updated information on climate and all sustainability research.”
She hopes that TOWARD can act as a "one-stop shop for responsibly buying fashion and beauty"—but she also sees it as a resource for anyone interested in updating their knowledge. The hope is that consumers will be inspired to move entirely into the sustainable fashion space.
“I'm very excited for the future of sustainable fashion,” Kannan says. “I believe that transparency is the number-one priority when it comes to fashion. If brands are not able to disclose anything and everything about their practices, then it's harder to trust them. So, I imagine a very transparent future for fashion. One where all brands are using the latest and greatest in materials, and innovation, and are really moving the needle forward TOWARD a more responsible future.”
You can shop TOWARD here. To get you started, these selects are some of Ana Kannan’s current favorites from her site.