Twin Brothers And Family Run A Sustainable Fashion Brand That’s Raking in $15 Million In Revenue – Forbes
On the surface, Faherty is a beachy, casual brand with shops in ritzy locations on the West and East Coast. Dig deeper and this is a brand that’s geeky about recycled plastic fabrics, ethical manufacturing, and human rights.
Led by a family — Alex and Mike Faherty, who are twin brothers, Ninie Norris, their mother, and Kerry Faherty, Alex’s wife, the apparel startup is trying to infuse sustainable fashion into the market without harping on about it.
“Most of our customers have not bought a swimsuit, for example, because it’s made of recycled plastic. They just liked the design. So we keep trying to do as much as we can while not compromising on design, and quality, which is what brings customers in,” Kerry says.
A Yale and Pepperdine grad with a law degree who spent her 20s traveling to places like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Burma, Rwanda, and Nigeria, learning about human rights violations and social issues, she is pretty clear about her priorities: “We are only going to work with ethical factories. That’s number one on our list of priorities as a brand.”
That’s why Mike, a designer who worked at Ralph Lauren before launching Faherty with his brother, spends long stretches of time on the road, about two months a year are devoted to visiting factories, and designing alongside seamstresses and workers. Faherty emerged out of Mike’s lifelong dream to have a retail brand; he even wrote about having a clothing company in 2000 for a college essay. In 2013, after having logged in hours at Ralph Lauren, he and Alex decided to launch Faherty, inspired by their coastal upbringing in New Jersey. Mike spent one year researching all the sustainable options, and the best options for manufacturing.
Perhaps, that’s why their products are not cheap, and they’re not shy about it. “Our average customer is typically someone in their 30s or older. But rather than age, it’s someone who really respects quality,” says Kerry.
In addition to using repurposed plastic waste in their swimwear, the brand has adopted natural indigo dyes for some designs, as well as organic cotton.
“Whenever we can [use sustainable materials], we do,” says Alex. “75 percent of the time organic cotton will work for a design. There’s the one in four chance that it may not be available or suitable. But we try to go for what’s the best option for the planet, and people.”
Fans of Patagonia, Reformation, Maiyet, and other apparel brands challenging the fashion industry, Alex says that it’s important for them to build a brand that’s more than just about the bottom line.
“We’re going to do be doing this for life. We’re not looking at making a quick buck or selling anytime soon. So, of course, we want to do something that can really impact the world in a positive way,” he says.
Keenly aware that this is a long-term pursuit, the trio are hesitant to take money from anyone. With Alex’s background in private equity, he’s learned to juggle the finances of the company. Bootstrapped and supported by friends, family, and a few angel investors, Faherty has been rolling based on sales and these injections of capital.
“I don’t really want someone telling me what to do,” says Kerry, cheekily, referring to investors who could influence business decisions if they took on VC money. That, she notes, would not work with the way they roll.
Recently, the company adopted a generous give back policy. In one month, they donated over $50,000 to a school project in Haiti, where they shot their fall catalogue. “We don’t always make financially lucrative decisions. 5% of total sales went to that project. We’re barely breaking even as a company but we felt that was completely worth it,” she says.
This year, the four-year old startup is finally inching towards profitability. “We’ve been putting alot of our profits back into the business the last few years. We’re now getting to that break even point,” Alex adds.
Revenues this year are at $15 million, he reports, doubling each year since their launch. This comes from a variety of revenue streams: e-commerce, retail (they have 6 shops), and wholesale. Though they’ve clearly made a mark, particularly in casual wear, he is very much aware that they are a small player in the colossal apparel market.
In fact, despite their attempts to make the brand as sustainable as possible, Alex recognizes the limits of the industry. “99 percent of the industry doesn’t care about sustainability in the same way, nor do they do spend time marketing or saying anything about it. So it’s hard for us, a small player to change the industry as a whole, but customers are slowly becoming more aware, which could be the driving force.”
As the company matures, Alex notes that they will think more deeply about how they can use their purchasing power to influence agriculture (i.e organic cotton), and improve factory conditions.
“What most people don’t realize is that we’re still a very small team. We do a lot, have six stores, do wholesale, e-commerce, retail. We’re lean, scrappy, young. But we are still a very small team. As our resources grow, we definitely want to dig into these issues more,” Kerry says, who also just became a mom, and thus, Faherty launched a kids line.
Next up for this family-led company is a real focus on content; this fall, they’ll launch a magazine that will feature travel, interesting personalities, and lifestyle tidbits.
“Our end goal is not to only make clothes, but to create experiences that make customers feel more alive, more mindful, and more connected,” says Alex.
That sums up today’s new generation of retail brands — it’s no longer just about shopping for things.