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Meet the mother-daughter duo behind Cloth & Co

What constitutes a ‘sustainable’ wardrobe is largely subjective and based on personal values. For me, it’s about choosing pieces made from natural fibres that were grown and harvested in planet-friendly ways, and manufactured with an ethical supply chain. That’s why I was excited to speak to Caroline Poiner and Daisy Burgess, the mother-daughter founders of the emerging label Cloth & Co.

Not only are the brand’s pieces made from sustainably sourced natural materials (think yak, alpaca, recycled cashmere and 100% organic cotton), Caroline and Daisy have partnered with Women Fibre to Fashion, a small stitching unit in India that provides a safe environment for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, training them to learn new skills and work in ongoing and dignified employment.
While the brand may have officially launched in 2014, it has a much longer history, and chances are you’re about to see much more of them.

Caroline: We didn’t set out to create a brand

Daisy and I had been working in Jaipur with a group of women who we’d been developing programs for. They’re rural women, it’s the sort of male-dominated society where women didn’t work. We actually were involved with an orphanage over there and the woman who ran that orphanage was really concerned about the women from the village communities and surrounding areas. She decided that it was really important to look at how we could provide employment for these women and engage with these communities because there were big problems with domestic violence and the women feeling oppressed and not able to be independent.

They had lots of ideas around developing products, but they were products that we really thought were not saleable. It was popular at the time for NGOs and women’s self-help groups to make things like little pouches and phone cases with recycled saris with hand stitching, so people would buy these things but they’d end up in people’s drawers or donated to charity bins when they took them back to their country.

Because it was Jaipur, and block printing is indigenous to that region, we thought ‘why don’t we look at doing a training program for the women that they could learn how to block print?’


It was a huge success; 300 women were trained over a period of time. We raised funds through different partners and they had equipment to work from home. Then Daisy and I thought, well this is really fantastic but we need to provide a market because otherwise they’re just producing and they’re not getting any feedback apart from us going ‘wow that’s beautiful’. It didn’t seem to have a purpose and we felt that it would run out of steam if there was no opportunity for them to build on their business. We were empowering these women and telling them to be independent, financially independent, so we thought maybe we should do something here.
Daisy: We’ve really only relaunched as a brand this year in the fashion space and it’s something that we’ve been working on for a really long time

The relaunch has happened now because we feel that the women’s cooperative that we’re working with to do all of our stitching in Delhi are ready. They’re producing the most beautiful work and we can really confidently launch this label as a fashion brand in this space.

Q: How have you sustained your energy and passion over that time?

Daisy: I think it’s definitely because we’re purpose-driven. If we didn’t have the purpose we wouldn’t be able to stick it out that long. Every time you kind of have a hiccup or a hard moment you really reflect on your why, and we’ve got such a strong why that there’s no doubt that we’ll keep going. Also, our business structure is not the norm. A lot of people don’t start off in the way that we did and we’ve got incredible support from our family and the team that we work with here and our team in India. We’re all in it together, it’s not the normal business journey, but that’s really why we feel like we can keep going, even when it gets tough.

“We do spend a really long time sourcing the fabrics and often the entire design process starts with that. It starts with mum walking around our offices holding little swatches, going “What can I do with this? This feels divine.”

You use 100 percent certified organic cotton, linen, hemp, recycled cashmere, alpaca and yak. Why have you chosen to work with those fabrics?

Caroline: I’m third generation in textiles. My father never even thought about anything but natural fibres because when he started out, things like polyester weren’t a thing. Natural was always something that was really important to us.

I started researching into the cotton because I grew up thinking cotton was a beautiful fibre, it’s so versatile and it’s breathable, so you think of cotton as being pure and natural and beautiful – until you actually look into it and understand conventional cotton farming and the impact it has on biodiversity the whole ecosystem, it’s actually horrifying. So it was really important to us that we got independently certified. You see organic cotton everywhere, and actually, that’s my bugbear. I remember a friend once calling me to ask, “I just saw beautiful baby clothes, and it says they’re organic cotton but do you think they’re ethical, because they’re only two dollars for a T-shirt?”. It’s such a complex question because, firstly, some part of it might be organic at some point but there’s no certification, there’s no registration or traceability, you don’t actually know which bit is organic. And secondly, everything that piece of garment has gone through to get to you and the fact that it’s two dollars or five dollars, think about it, someone must be paying for this somewhere and if it’s not people in the industry, the makers, or the workers, it’s our planet. There’s a cost, nothing’s cheap and I think that this understanding is so important.

We encourage people to really understand, think about it and not actually use labels as an excuse. Recycled polyester has been the latest big thing. So many brands use recycled polyester, it’s even promoted as being sustainable and ethical. It’s simply not, it can’t be, it’s petrochemical-based, we all know all the microplastic problem and you’re wearing plastic, and that’s just it.

The materials, and the community, are the at the core of what we are, so it’s Cloth and Co.


Coming back to community, tell us more about the relationship you have now with your suppliers

Caroline:We’re all in it together, with every decision we make, and everything we discuss. We have daily zooms, and I’ve just spent five weeks there with the women in Delhi, sitting there every day and talking about anything and everything, all the challenges, all the possibilities. That’s how the relationships have started, it wasn’t us seeking out a supply chain or supplier, it was more like: okay, we’ve been doing this together for a long time, so how can we do something that’s really worthwhile and that we can all be excited about?

Daisy: Which is why it took seven years, because it really was about those relationships and building up the skill sets of those women. Women Fibre to Fashion is our stitching unit, and they employ women that have come through a rehabilitation program for people that have lived in slums or experienced domestic abuse, or human trafficking, which is a huge problem in India and also in the fashion industry.

We have 13 women working there full time now and their skill set has grown to the point where they’re doing these really beautiful, quality garments. They relate to the garments as well, they’re as passionate about this as we are. We’re really proud to have grown the business together to this point and to be launching it into the world.

How do you go as a mother and daughter working together?

Caroline: We just get on really well. We’re a good and yin and yang you know with our personalities.

Daisy’s got a masters in international business, which was really exciting for me to have someone to work with that has all that to offer, and she’s level-headed while I’m emotionally driven, so she snaps me out of it really.

Daisy: Mum’s really creative and then I come in with the more rational side. But it’s a really good dynamic because we don’t step on each other’s feet, we’re really respectful of each other’s strengths. And you can’t stay mad at your mum for too long!

Caroline: I think it’s working relationships. Once again it comes down to trust and knowing that someone’s got your back. And we’re aligned in why we get out of bed every day to do this. Sustainability in a business being profitable is really important, and you need to be smart about that, just like the people you choose to work with.

Daisy: And it’s not a sustainable business unless you can provide continuous employment for the women, for example, or unless you can create products that are not going to be damaging to the planet. Profitability is a really core part of that; you’ve got to be a successful business in order to create success along the entire supply chain and for everybody involved. So I think we’re both equally as passionate about it and I think that’s really why it works that we’ve got the same intention, the same goals and we’re just constantly working towards that together.



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