Since Lauren Bush cofounded FEED Projects in 2007, her career has ventured far beyond the runway. The donation built into the price of FEED's organic cotton totes and other accessories makes the benefit of each sale tangible—purchasing a FEED 2 Bag, for example, feeds two kids in school for an entire year. Continuing her efforts to combine style with social good, Bush recently launched her own fashion label, Lauren Pierce, which sources fabrics hand-dyed by artisans in Africa. VT talked with Bush, veg since age 4, from FEED's offices in New York.
Q What has been your greatest challenge so far with FEED?
A I had the idea to start FEED when I was in college. I'd seen the reusable bag movement about to take off, and I was involved with the United Nations World Food Programme; I'd fallen in love with their project providing meals to school kids. When I discovered that the U.N. couldn't run a reusable bag business—they're too busy feeding children!—my business partner, Ellen Gustafson, and I decided to launch our own company. So, because FEED is an "accidental" company, the entire process has been a challenge. Every step along the way has come with a learning curve.
Q Could you identify a turning point for the project?
A I had my sights set on working with Whole Foods from the very beginning, especially since I grew up in Texas and the company is based in Austin. In May 2008, Whole Foods debuted the FEED 100 bag nationwide. (The sale of each FEED 100 bag provides 100 school meals to children in Rwanda.)
Q How do you envision FEED evolving over the next five years?
A FEED is just coming out of its infancy. Last year we moved our four-person team into a real office space; before, we were working out of our apartments. I do see us becoming smarter and more streamlined in the future.
Q You've created your own fashion line; what inspires you as a designer?
A I travel often and am so inspired by my travels. I'm particularly inspired by the local artisans I meet, by the colors and the techniques they use.
Q You once said that, like the slow food movement, there is a slow fashion movement. Can you explain what that means?
A The slow food movement began with an increased awareness and concern for where our food comes from and how that affects the world. The idea can also apply to fashion. Producing a garment for Lauren Pierce is such a lengthy process; each piece is truly one of a kind. The line features locally sourced fabrics hand-dyed by a group of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And the tag for each garment shows the handwritten signature of the artisan who dyed it, so there's a sense of connection.
Q What do you predict for the future of eco-conscious clothing?
A I see the eco-friendly niche continuing to grow. I think people want to know not just where their purchases are coming from, but also how they are making a difference.