We had the good fortune of connecting with Holli Gibson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holli, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
We built Direct To Source on a triple bottom line philosophy of people, planet, profit. It was important to us to look at our business and our impacts holistically. We went beyond creating good paying jobs in a healthy and safe working environment. We built on modular apparel production systems, which provide lots of flexibility for our customers by adding more to the human element for the employees. How do you positively impact the people who actually do the work? We set up our people systems by following the Golden Rule, honor people and treat them as you would want to be treated. The result has been increased productivity and quality, which in turn allows us increased profitability with which we can support local non-profits and faith based organizations doing more good work in our communities. In addition to supporting ethical apparel manufacturing, our customers are also supporting sustainable/recycled apparel initiatives. And everyone can support this – it all starts with you! When you recycle that plastic water bottle instead of throwing it away, we have an opportunity to turn it into amazing apparel! We’ve been a part of the Unifi program that’s recycled more than 10 Billion plastic bottles. By using recycled plastic in our apparel, we not only keep the plastics out of the landfills and the oceans but we also help improve air quality by reducing carbon emissions, reducing energy consumption over using virgin fibers and we’ve helped save over 231 million gallons of water.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I started this journey 30 years ago as a patternmaker. Worked my way up to be a designer, then a head designer at a company called Russell Newman, where I ran a $30m division. I don’t think I was a more talented designer than others, I just outworked everybody. I really became a student of the business, which is about so much more than great design. About 15 years ago I saw opportunities in eco-friendly apparel. This business is historically very dirty and messy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Why not make apparel that people and planet can feel good about? And after spending 20 years in factories around the world, I had some unique views on running apparel production in a better way. It was about 10 years ago that my path crossed again with my now partner, Tulio. We had worked at the same company back in the 90’s, it’s funny that no matter the fact that this is a global business it’s still a pretty small world. We’ve both seen the bad and the good in this industry and saw an opportunity to change things for the better. We decided to be a catalyst for that change for better. Any business has its challenges, and there are plenty in the apparel industry. We really spent a long time setting forth the principles that were important to us. We look at all opportunities through that lens (and reminder each other about that when we start to get off track). It helps us stay focused on the important rather than the urgent. We help each other stay focused on the journey so that we stay on the right path instead of chasing things that don’t align with who we want to be. We love what we do, we love the impacts we get to make. We feel blessed.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite place to hang out in the city is the Denver Design Incubator! It’s an amazing non-profit that I and others founded 11 years ago that supports emerging designers and the entire state’s sewn product makers. Check them out at www.DenverDesignIncubator.com After that we’re headed into the foothills. Our front range is so beautiful and so many opportunities to hike and camp and ride horses. Golden Gate State Park is absolutely one of my favorite places.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve been blessed in my career, with so much support from so many. God has blessed me with an amazing supportive family, I could not have accomplished all I have without them.