Welcome to episode six of the Fairware Changemaker Series, where we highlight entrepreneurs and thought leaders that constantly inspire us through their passion for using business to better the world.
This week we’re featuring Mark Trotzuk, Vice-President of Boardroom Custom Clothing. In this episode we learn what it takes to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainable promotional apparel.
How did you become involved in the promotional merchandise industry?
I started this business with my partner back in 1996. We were a private label manufacturer for the likes of Hudson Bay, Roots and Lululemon. We were doing a lot of cut and sew work and some of my clients began to place orders for custom jackets. We found out that there was a whole industry for promotional products, so we got into designing for that space but with a focus on fashion and style. A lot of products in our industry aren’t fashion forward and we saw an opportunity to grow the business.
Can you tell us about Eco® mark?
In 2005 I had a child and started looking at what I could do differently. Denise Taschereau and I discussed what I was doing with eco apparel and sustainable manufacturing, and she opened my eyes to the impact the industry has on our environment. It was around that time that I really started to find out what my business was all about. I decided to create a set of policies for sourcing and manufacturing product, including everything from how we ship it, and how to disseminate information about our products, which evolved into Eco® mark.
Do you see a shift happening towards sustainable practices?
Yes! A shift is happening and companies are implementing sustainable practices in many different ways. They’re letting their clients know what they’re doing and they’re putting information on their website. The shift is driven by the community of consumers who want to be able to buy sustainable products or services. At Boardroom Custom Clothing we take social compliance very seriously, especially with the materials we use in our products. The facts are out there and conscious consumers are realizing the environmental damages that go into producing raw materials. We’re trying to do it the best we can in a sustainable manner!
What did you discover when you made the shift?
I discovered companies such as bluesign® that set standards for sustainable textile production. By purchasing from mills that meet their standards, we know that the materials are sustainable and mitigate damages to the environment. This ensures that the final textile product meets very stringent consumer safety requirements worldwide and provides confidence to the consumer that they’re aquiring a sustainable product.
Tell us about the product you make?
The products we make here are engineered with quality materials to last long. It does cost more, but the customer knows that they’ll have the product for a long time.
Where do you see the industry going?
What we’re finding is that the best way to recycle apparel items is to have another human-being wear it again. A lot of what we’re trying to do is collect back as much clothing as we can, and use those garments to support companies like Big Brothers Associations and UNICEF. We see this movement especially within the younger generation who don’t feel obligated to buy new. There is a lot of great clothing out there, and purchasing second hand is sustainable and doesn’t contribute to the fast fashion cycle. We don’t have enough resources on our planet to keep Fast Fashion going; that’s what people don’t understand. Unless we start recycling, we’re going to run out. As far as goals for the future, it’s to continue spreading the word, trying to get clients who I don’t have right now to see what I’m doing. And if they like what I’m doing with my product, awesome.
What does being a changemaker mean to you?
Being a changemaker for me is about learning. I still have a lot to learn about the new processes involved in converting my raw materials into sustainable products, and I guess that’s also the shift that is happening. There are a lot of changemakers out there and it’s about getting them together to collaborate. I don’t necessarily think I’m a changemaker, but maybe I am, I’m really just trying to do my best by researching, and trying to learn and talk to people.
Change what you’re doing from your existing practices because there are better ways to do things.
Mark’s goal at Boardroom Custom Clothing is to provide a safe, fun and rewarding place to work and to manufacture apparel in the most low-impact way possible. As an entrepreneur, Mark is aware of the importance of staying flexible, thinking big, taking risks and leading by example. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and we look forward to sharing our next one in the weeks to come.