Jessica Kelly, founder of Thr3efold, is intent on offering emerging brands the resources they need to make ethical choices. | Photo courtesy of Thr3efold
As of Thursday, July 8, 2021
Ethical fashion manufacturing is at the core of Jessica Kelly’s Thr3efold software-as-a-service business-to-business platform, which affords access to responsible supply-chain partners and invaluable guidance for apparel and soft-accessory brands.
Founded in 2015, the company was backed by Kelly’s 10 years of fashion experience in New York City. With a network of factories throughout Asia, Europe and South America—some of which offer minimums as low as 100 units and others that can handle high quantities—it is now time, according to Kelly, for Thr3efold to shift the ethical-brand-building experience.
“The ethical fashion space is still very community oriented for the most part. You are having a lot of people helping each other make some inroads there,” Kelly explained. “You’re going to have the old-guard luxury houses that have their supply chain and are going to keep it under lock and key. I don’t think that means they’re hiding something. I just think it’s how things have been done for a very long time.”
Member brands of Thr3efold vary in size, and the company is gaining recognition from leaders in responsible fashion. Following the June 10 launch party, Kelly, who is now based in her childhood town of Charlotte, N.C., revealed that Mara Hoffman Vice President of Sustainability for Product and Business Strategy Dana Davis has joined the platform’s board of advisers. For Kelly, leading brands through their evolution is an important component of developing an ethical, sustainable fashion industry.
“A lot of those smaller brands are coming with limited to no experience in the fashion industry so they are really navigating blindly on how to do this,” Kelly said. “This side of the industry is so insider focused. It’s who you know. It’s all referral based. It’s exclusive—but not in a good way.”
One of those smaller brands is Reversibles, a San Diego label founded by Caroline Morrow, who was inspired to create a more-responsible, sustainable brand for women after she reflected on the reversible clothing she wore as a child, yielding more clothing options in a single piece. Morrow has been working with Thr3efold for a year and participated in the company’s four-month Coaching Club, a fashion-industry educational intensive.
“Thr3efold is a one-stop place where you can get all that information from and get connected to a whole network that you wouldn’t have been able to get connected to without it,” Morrow explained. “They connect you to really great sustainable resources, and they have an ethical-factory directory that you get when you join Thr3efold’s platform.”
Reversibles’ first collection is planned to be released later this year or early 2022, yet it has been building momentum through Instagram @ReversiblesTheLabel. While certified ethical manufacturing was once notoriously costly, Thr3efold does consider the limited resources with which many emerging brands are working.
“They are really great with always trying to hone that down back to what’s the most sustainable way we can do this process and how does it fit into your budget,” said Morrow.
To join the Thr3efold platform as a factory, potential supply-chain partners must retain an ethical certification that is granted through an audit by a third party. The Thr3efold mission focuses on ethics in labor—no indentured workers and no child laborers—and Kelly notes that many factories whose practices protect workers are often more ecologically responsible.
The company’s Deadstock District Community is also growing. Currently hosted as a private Facebook group, Kelly envisions an online marketplace on the Thr3efold site through which dead stock can be bought and sold. There are also plans to eventually add certified sustainable mills to the Thr3efold sourcing mix.
“The [Deadstock District Community] was something I wanted to get started once I learned there were leftover bolts of fabric lying around in every brand office and factory around the world,” Kelly said. “Eventually, as we gain funding and traction, it will go onto the platform, and there will be a dead-stock marketplace where the Deadstock District will live.”
A Thr3efold membership costs $4,000 annually, charged in monthly payments, with a 15 percent discount for brands that pay upfront for 12 months. Emerging brands are also provided opportunities for an emerging-brand scholarship. Acceptance into the Starter Scholarship program affords a reduced membership cost of $1,500 upon application approval. Memberships include access to the Thr3efold ethically certified-factory database, with more information available at thr3efold.com. The platform’s software maintains a strong connection that affords clear communication between brands and their factories.
“We are creating an environment where people can tap into this ethical supply-chain system that is not exclusive. It’s there for everyone,” Kelly said. “No matter how many years you have or haven’t worked in fashion, you can still gain access to really incredible factories.”