Editor’s note: To check out other Style Q&A pieces, head here.
In recent years, it seems that consumers have been paying more and more attention to the little things: how and where (and why) their clothes are made, for starters. And the type of impact that clothing companies have on the world outside the style and fashion sphere has grown increasingly important, too. During a stop at the outstanding Pop-Up Flea trade show and exhibition earlier this spring in NYC, I came across an eyecatching booth outfitted with rustic décor, durable chore coats and soft T-shirts. It quickly became apparent that United By Blue wasn’t any ordinary clothing company schilling at trade shows, though. Founded in 2010, the brand aims to create a direct impact through the sale of each and every product by removing one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through clean-ups organized by the company. It’s a rather astonishing and inspiring mission, and it goes without saying that the product they sell to make it happen is pretty neat, too (I’ve previously written about their Stillwater Board Shorts for GearHungry). They also stock an extremely well-curated selection of home goods ,bags and outdoor gear while simultaneously running a coffee shop at the brand’s Philadelphia flagship, among other Northeast-based retail locations. I caught up with co-founder Brian Linton via email for a few brief questions to learn more about the company’s roots, what makes the brand tick and what plans they have for the future.
The Style Guide: Talk to me about the founding of UnitedByBlue and the ‘A-ha!’ moment that led to its creation?
Brian Linton, United by Blue: UnitedByBlue started after I was running a brand that was donating a portion of proceeds to ocean conservation. It lacked impact because I wasn’t able to measure the environmental goodness of what the money achieved. UnitedByBlue was a way to get our hands dirty. It is a brand created with a focus on creating the infrastructure and systems within a for-profit business structure that would normally only be present in a non-profit. We organize and host cleanups on an ongoing basis, all from within the company. We don’t outsource or donate money to others to do environmental good in our name.
TSG: What has it been like to run a company equally focused on clothing and social/environmental good? Has it been difficult to merge the two?
UBB: Certainly it’s been a difficult but fun journey! Merging the two works because we consider ourselves an outdoor brand. And being in the outdoor industry, our customers love and care about the outdoors. Therefore, the overlap is more natural than it may seem. We are able to often partner with the retail stores that sell our products on cleanups in their local communities, mobilizing customers to become volunteers and attend a UBB cleanup.
TSG: Are there certain product categories the brand isn’t in currently that you’d like to expand in the future?
UBB: As a lifestyle brand, we are constantly expanding our offerings. This past season, we launched an awesome line of men’s board shorts and will be expanding the swim category in the future. We’ve also put a lot of energy and focus into developing more women’S dresses, which will be launching over the coming seasons. You can also expect more gifts and home goods later this year.
TSG: Are there areas of the country where the brand would like to expand in terms of either a retail presence or stockists?
UBB: We are an East Coast brand and are therefore much more prevalent there. Although we have some solid distribution along the West Coast, this is definitely an area that is a reflection of our brand vision and a place we would love to grow.
TSG: Any upcoming collaborations or partnerships you might be able to discuss briefly?
UBB: We just launched a collaboration with Roots Canada that will be sold through our stores as well as their stores through Canada and the US. It’s a line reflective of our shared passion for the outdoors and the importance of protecting it.
Check out United By Blue on Instagram if you have a hankering for beautiful lifestyle and scenery shots (paired with durable and stylish products), or give them a follow on Twitter, where they frequently run giveaways and other neat promos.