I was lucky enough to score an interview with Jessica Kelly last Friday afternoon. Jessica serves as the CEO, Chief Everything Officer, of THR3EFOLD, a sustainability as a service platform servicing the fashion industry. Unsurprisingly, she’s an extremely busy woman- her Friday was spent on back to back calls with investors, partners, and interviewers (like me). Although our meeting was only half an hour, I was able to gain some incredible insight about the motivations, experiences, and industry knowledge of an inspiring business woman. 


Recognizing a Problem…


After working in fashion for 10 years, Jessica explained a sense of detachment in the industry  between her job and any deeper meaning or impact it was having. She started consciously seeking out work that would be more fulfilling. As fate would have it, she was given the opportunity to go on a trip to Zimbabwe, where the “original spark” for THR3EFOLD happened. There, she observed the harsh realities that a lack of sustainable employment has on a community. Despite ample hard work and generosity, she met families who were forced to make difficult decisions and sacrifices, like deciding which child would be granted the opportunity to receive an education. She was inspired to create jobs for people in developing nations but hadn’t yet discovered how the fashion industry could play a role. After returning to New York, Jessica began seeking out solutions. 


Finding a Solution…


It turns out 97% of apparel sold in the US today is made in developing nations where these jobs matter most. Jessica came up with a brilliant tech solution to connect brands in the United States with suppliers around the world that can ensure sustainable employment and THR3EFOLD was born. This idea was inspired by Jessica’s R&D trip to India, where she encountered wonderful factories that operated in a way that valued people and the environment. One example she gave was a small-scale factory employing women rescued from sex trafficking. Another was able to dye denim from merely one glass of water.  Despite offering their workers with personal finance education and career planning, their ability to market these impressive aspects was lacking. They had unimpressive websites and there was little available access to new business opportunities. THR3EFOLD would offer the connection so that these local suppliers are available to be discovered by brands who want complete transparency for their supply chain. The suppliers all work in some capacity to provide job security, fair pay, and equal opportunities for workers. 


Encouraging Change…


If I have learned anything from my time working in fashion, it is that it’s an extremely complex industry. It is a common misconception that our garments are made in a factory abroad and then shipped to a store near us, maybe stopping through a middle man along the way. In reality, there are likely more “middle men” than you can count on both hands. These “middle men” form the extensive, complex, and often hard to track supply chains of fashion brands. In fact, even brands who have ensured ethical and sustainable practices in their supplier agreements could have their production sub-contracted to an uncertified facility without their knowledge. Subcontracting can happen during peak busy season to complete orders on time when the factory has more orders than workers to meet the deadlines. The outside factories aren’t necessarily regulated or certified in the same way as the supplier that provides the goods. Therefore, brands could be given garments made in unqualified sites with unsafe conditions, low pay, and even slave labor, without necessarily knowing it. This is a terrifying realization and a subject that requires far more coverage than its receiving. Production is a complex and complicated process that spans multiple countries and countless hands, this fact alone pushes brands to do more in-depth research and due diligence to ensure their standards are met. THR3EFOLD is trying to help make this easier. 


Conclusion…


It is extremely motivating to hear the story of someone who recognized a problem, found a solution, and initiated real, tangible change. I’m inspired by the work of Jessica Kelly and aspire to find a similar sense of fulfillment in my work. Here at Emilia George, we are taking the next steps to ensure that our supply chain is transparent and reliable, without any monsters hiding under the bed. We are looking into membership with FLA, Fair Labor Association, and will continue to monitor our facilities abroad. Every step counts.

August 01, 2022 — Liana Malinowski