Last month I was fortunate enough to visit Encircled at their office in Toronto and interview Kristi, the founder. The office is as beautiful as you will see in the photos. Kristi also has a great vision for what is already a fantastic company, in terms of continuing to be ethical and sustainable in every aspect of business.
Introduction! Tell us a little bit about you.
“I’m Kristi, Founder and CEO of Encircled. I started Encircled in late 2012. Encircled started as a side project while I was a travelling management consultant. Through my job I fell in love with travelling and started to travel light. I questioned why there weren’t more business casual options available for women. Why be seen in the same outfit twice? What is so wrong with that? Men can get away with wearing the same look to work over and over and I thought how would that versatility look on women. The Chrysalis Cardi was the first piece to have versatility with wear to work and dress down options. I launched with that piece in two different colours for a year and a half. After that I slowly started expanding the line. I continue to produce and evolve our products while refreshing designs with new colours and improvements.”
What inspired you to create Encircled?
“At the beginning we focused on travel. The saying, ‘Doing more with less’ is something we aspire to follow. Most women don’t wear half of their wardrobe and doing more with less is personally inspiring to me.”
What is your favourite Encircled item?
“My favourite Encircled item is the Nomadic V. I’m a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl and wanted to make the “perfect” t-shirt for everyday wear. I also love the Sleeveless Revolve Dress; I wear it all the time.”
Where do you find inspiration when creating a new design?
“It comes from our customers. They are an active and engaged group who contribute their ideas on social media. They are the starting point for new ideas. Our bandeau bra was a customer idea and we added the reversible idea because it couldn’t just be a bandeau, it had to be versatile. We want Encircled to look like more of a collection of what the customer wants and a core collection of products to Encircled. It is very important to the brand that we add pieces that honour our values of multi-way clothing and versatility.”
Your line is Made in Toronto. Why is that important to you and Encircled’s values?
“It is critically important to have great relationships with your manufacturers. Not only for quality, fair treatment of workers and controlling everything from the ground but, to make sure everything is happening the right way. Being close to our manufacturers is something we take pride in. A small number of Canadians are wearing made in Canada apparel today (around 2%) and because of this part of the economy has disappeared. More craft needs to be revived in Canada. In Canada, we are protected by labour laws so you know clothing made here was made ethically. We don’t push out apparel that was made cheaply and usually our demand is higher than the our supply. There are not enough factories in Canada and we need more factories to keep up with demand. We need to get more people interested with the made in Canada ideal.”
How are you planning on growing Encircled and continuing to be a part of the ethical fashion movement?
“We doubled in the past year and moved offices. The move into the new office happened a couple months ago. We want to focus on more in-house production. I would love to open our own production facility in Toronto or add our own production section to office to make more samples. We want to mindfully expand our collection to serve our customers properly. This holiday season we are planning on launching a Men’s t-shirt to test a new market. We want to make sure all of our pieces fit together into a core capsule collection and don’t want to have any gaps. Currently we are working on products that will help to fill our current gaps.”
“Next, considering improving the sustainability of the company and receiving the B-Corporation Certification is something we strive for. We want every angle of what we do to be sustainable because we are not a fast-fashion brand. We want our end to end brand experience to be as sustainable as possible. Sustainability is a strong value of ours. We want to get more into mainstream media to inform a larger audience about ethical fashion/fabric and sweatshops. We have a responsibility to take on and inform our customers and potential customers. As an ethical company we need to educate them to think differently about fashion.”
What advice would you like to give to today’s women?
“Think before you buy. Be more mindful about your wardrobe. Progress towards something better. Check the label, don’t be afraid to ask questions to brands and hold them accountable for the answers. If the brand can’t tell you where something was made, that’s a problem.”
Need help starting your ethical fashion journey or creating a capsule collection?
It will help with cultivating your own personal style, reducing clutter in your closet and respecting the clothes you already have.
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We welcome you to share your thoughts about Encircled and if you already own anything in the comments below. We would love to start a conversation with you!
Peace and Love,