Behind every great brand is an inspirational story that makes us want to create change in the world. Alison Cotton, the founder of First Base, is no different. When her dream of becoming a pro-surfer was cut short due to an injury, she turned to her second love: fashion. Cotton made a commitment to slower fashion because she believed in the need to shift the narrative on the inherently consumer-based society she lives in. Creating beautiful activewear that survived everyday life wear-and-tear allowed her to decrease First Base’s carbon footprint and focus on their mission of creating a brighter greener future.
Alison! Thank you so much for allowing us to chat with you. Let’s talk about your journey. What inspired you to start First Base?
Thanks for having me! Through First Base, I wanted to create a brand and a product that had a longer shelf life than a few months or a season. Essentially, I wanted to create basics and foundation pieces that would stand the test of time while still being aesthetically pleasing.
Why First Base? What’s behind the name? What’s behind the X?
When I started the brand, I was at a bit of a crossroads in life and felt like I was starting again, like I was back at “first base”. For the branding, I wanted you to be able to instantly recognize our gear when it walked down the street, without having to have a huge First Base slapped on it. So, I developed the X branding as a subtle way to do it.
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What is the goal behind First Base?
To create a sustainable, classic and innovative product that you want to wear over and over again.
Name 3 things you think fashion entrepreneurs need to focus on for success.
- Culture – Building something that you and other people believe in and want to be apart of
- Innovation – Keep evolving and making things better. Don’t just settle for what is or what has always been.
- Costs – It’s not how much you sell it for, it’s how much you buy it for
You’re someone who was really keen on knowing your impact, working with the factories to learn about it and with us to measure it. It’s a bit unusual in the fashion field and I’m sure you had some push back. How did you overcome those challenges?
It certainly is a process, but something we, at First Base, are passionate about is discovering and creating transparency across our supply chain. We have had a lot of conversations surrounding sustainability and had to do some deep diving into the practices of our factories to better understand how things are being done across our supply chain.
How hard was it to find the right suppliers? How did you go about securing them?
This is honestly an ongoing process and it is not easy. It’s really all about having values that align so you are working towards a common goal. Through this, you can ensure that every step of the process is intentionally designed with the most impact in mind.
People think that green fashion is expensive. How do you respond to that?
I would say that is true! The cost to us to supply sustainable and ethical products is vastly greater than the non-sustainable/ethical counterparts. However, the reason it costs more is that things are being done the right way; therefore, the financial cost isn’t really the cost we should be talking about. The environmental cost is what we as a society should be reflecting on and putting more value behind that. Having a low environmental footprint should be the focus of consumers. When you consider the importance of lowering your footprint, the cost of the actual product starts to make sense.
How green are you in your own life? Any tips for those looking to lead a greener lifestyle?
We have made big and small changes from only using reusable cups, eliminating straws, shopping at local farmers’ markets, and using reusable bags. We continue to be conscious of the power and water that we consume. I love to cook and there is so much wastage around cooking so it’s important to me to really try to limit wastage, compost more, and purchase products with the least amount of packaging possible. We shop mainly at farmers markets and bulk food stores and always put things in our own bags and jars. I am also conscious of consumerism and try to lead an overall minimalist life.
I’m not really into ‘stuff’. But when I do need ‘stuff’, I try to opt for the eco-friendly version. My biggest contribution to sustainability is really expressed through First Base and the practices we have put in place into the brand. That’s my platform for trying to spread the message and show that it is possible to do good while doing business.
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