Kate Fisher was making eco-conscious clothes in the ’90s. “I do this because I believe in it. Not because it’s a trend,” she says.
For over 20 years, Fisher ran a company, Synergy, that made clothes from primarily natural, organic fibers and sold them widely in stores such as Whole Foods. Now, she’s launching a new brand, WVN (pronounced as “woven”) that has more modern, design-forward styles ranging from athleisure wear to block printed one-of-a-kind dresses.
“There’s been a certain amount of greenwashing happening over the years as it becomes more trendy to be sustainable,” Fisher says. “I welcome all the growing interest and new companies getting into this, but I do feel that true authenticity is missing in some of these brands. They’re not doing this because it’s at their core, it’s more because it’s a trend.”
She notes that WVN has a series of certifications and standards — which not only take time but also effort and investment. These include being a certified B Corp, GOTS (pertaining to organic cotton supply chain), Fair Trade, and Green America, among others.
“And this is all of the clothing we do, not just a sprinkling of styles or a few collections,” she adds, referring to high street brands who debut a few pieces each season as being more eco rather than creating company-wide change.
Fisher started traveling to India and Nepal 20 years ago (and sold some of the clothes from those trips at Grateful Dead concerts in the early days) to personally see who was making her clothes and how. It’s these countless trips to the subcontinent that have framed her apparel journey, she says, into being more “authentic.”
“And sometimes, you go to factories, and you’re like, no, this is not going to work because the conditions are not right for us. That’s OK too, that’s why I go in person rather than using a sourcing person, which is so common in the industry.”
These sourcing trips have also helped her understand more nuanced issues in making fashion more eco-friendly: for instance, even organic cotton fabric can be colored with dyes that are toxic. So is that garment really planet-friendly? It becomes tricky, she says, as she looks to others in the industry who have clothes made of colors that would require a heavy-hand of chemicals to achieve that neon effect or bright pop — yet it’s on organic cotton.
Taking all this into consideration, Fisher self-funded WVN with the help of well-wishers and supporters of her previous company to create women’s apparel that filled a gap in the sustainable fashion market. While there’s countless outdoor brands looking at sustainability, few fashion-forward brands are combining timeless, elegant style with attention to environmental and social practices.
Plus, WVN offers alternatives to polyester-dominant athletic and activewear; theirs are made with certified organic cotton, using spandex and stretch only in small quantities to produce a similar result. “It just feels much better on the skin,” Fisher says, speaking to the softness of these fabrics, especially during a workout or yoga session.
Most recently, they’ve added block printed designs to their collection, paying homage to the famous artisan communities around Jaipur that specialize in this art.
While the pricing is more “premium,” it reflects the brand’s efforts to produce high-quality pieces, ethically made, with good fit, and durable enough to last years, not just seasons.
That echoes Fisher’s career as a whole, focused on longevity: “Fashion and doing good can go hand in hand. This has felt naturally the right way for me for a long time. I didn’t do it because I wanted to make a statement, or because it was the thing to do. It wasn’t some kind of competitive advantage. I believe that we’re stronger, if we work together as an industry towards change.”