Positive Impact Awards: Teel Lidow, S. LAB Award for Sustainable Strategies

teel lidow2

This year, to celebrate the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator’s first year in operation, we want to acknowledge some of the individuals who have been alongside us, have inspired us and are part of the journey forward. With that, we are launching the first annual Pratt Institute/BF+DA Positive Impact Awards.

BF+DA Venture Fellow Teel Lidow, founder of Boerum Apparel, has won the s. LAB Award for Sustainable Strategies.

We asked Teel how his experience (coming from being a lawyer wanting to know where a shirt was made to a designer) has given him a new appreciation for supply chains and how clothing goes from concept to creation.

“When I started Boerum as a complete clothing industry newbie, I went to a consultant who gave me a roadmap for making clothes. It went something like this: find a fabric you want to work with, draw a picture of what you want to make with it and take that to a factory. The factory, he told me, will handle the rest. That blew my mind – what about making the fabric and sewing the clothes? If clothing companies were just coming up with designs and selecting fabrics, who was taking care of the actual making of the clothing?

From outside of the industry, it’s easy to assume that the clothing companies we buy from handle the whole process, but they actually just sit at the very surface. Before a piece of cotton clothing lands in your closet, it generally passes through a farm, a gin, a spinning factory, a textile manufacturer, a finisher and a cut and sew factory. It wasn’t until I was inside the industry that I realized that most clothing companies aren’t involved in any of that directly – it’s all outsourced, and usually the clothing company doesn’t know who it’s outsourced to.

I got into this business because I had questions about where my clothes were made that I couldn’t get answered. I assumed companies were choosing not to answer my questions, but when I started Boerum I realized I was wrong. Other companies weren’t withholding anything – they just don’t have the answers because they aren’t involved in the process of making their own clothes. As I’ve grown my company and learned many surprising things about this industry, that first realization still stands out – it’s crazy that, in a world where it’s so easy to gather, find and spread information, an entire industry could still be in the dark about its own inner workings.”

RSVP for our awards ceremony here.