Interview with Kay Wen, co-founder and marketing manager at Siizu.
Siizu is an eco-friendly, high-quality line of women’s clothing. It all began when Kay Wen, Kelvin Lai and Anny Wang felt that something was missing in the sustainable fashion industry. They asked themselves if high quality, sustainable apparel could be made at more affordable price points.
In 2015, they began to travel around Asia sourcing raw materials and investigating factories that complied with their guidelines for environmental sustainability, fair working conditions, and waste reduction. In July 2017, they celebrate their first year since launching their online store.
Q: What was the main reason you started Siizu?
K: It all started when I began to make some lifestyle changes. Switching to organic products can be really easy when it comes to food and daily habits like recycling, but clothing is tricky. There are a limited number of fashion brands that offer truly sustainable products, and they do amazing work, but their prices can be a barrier for many consumers.
It’s hard for someone who wants to transform her lifestyle when she encounters new brands at high prices that are only available online. If sustainable fashion is going to become more mainstream, we have to deal with the price. That is why we started this business. I would say that Siizu is the Trader Joe’s of fashion.
Q: What does Siizu mean?
K: Siizu is a Finnish and Japanese term. In Finnish, the term “sisu” means bravery and steel-like determination. In Japanese, “Shizu” means to be serene. We feel our styles evoke these qualities perfectly and that is why we named our line Siizu.
Q: What makes Siizu unique?
K: We aim to design classic and timeless styles by re-thinking and re-creating pieces that already exist. A lot of our pieces can be translated into different styles. For example, our linen Classic Vest Dress can also be worn as a long vest and when it’s a little bit colder outside you can wear it with a long sleeve blouse underneath. Linen is considered a summer fabric, but our linen vest is very versatile. Our goal is to create the highest quality basic pieces that last longer.
Q: Why start buying sustainable clothing?
K: It’s all about delivering real value. People buy more clothes now but they throw it away faster. Where’s the value in that? Siizu’s main focus is on fabric quality and timeless design because we really want our garments to stay in your closet for a long time.
Q: What is your best-selling item?
K: The Vina Turtle Neck Sweater in pink is by far our best seller. The sweater is rendered in 100% Merino Wool. Our fibers come from a cruelty-free Italian source where they raise sheep in a traditional manner. The price is very good, too. You get a sustainable, cozy cashmere sweater – produced using a non-toxic, water-based dye – for $90 in a fun and unexpected color.
Q: Are there any misconceptions customers might have about your products?
K: A common misconception is the narrative that everything made in China is low quality. That just isn’t the case anymore. All of our manufacturing partnerships are based on our mutual commitment to great craftsmanship and understanding of fabrics.
Another misconception applies to our silk pieces. Some customers might ask themselves “Why would I pay $100 for a silk top on Siizu, when I could pay $40 dollars for one in Uniqlo?
There is an enormous difference between cheap and expensive silk. High-quality silk has specific indicators. For example, Siizu’s silk is dyed organically, has a higher on ‘momme weight’ – meaning more silk per yard of fabric and it goes through specific finishing details for a longer-lasting luster. This is why we are committed to educate our customers about fabric in our blog section, Fabric Talks.
Q: What is your best sustainable practice outside work?
K: I love to buy in thrift shops! There is also a new store in Brooklyn that I am in love with called the Package Free Shop. It promotes zero-waste practices and every product they sell is either compostable, recyclable or meant to be used over and over again. It’s one of the few places I can buy toxin-free laundry detergent!
Q: What’s next for Siizu?
K: The next step for Siizu is an organic beauty category. Currently we are in an early stage and we think it could take us a year to launch the category. We are doing our research and sourcing possible factories to partner up with. Looking forward, I see Siizu being a leader in fabric education. In the future, we want to offer a workshop for people who might be interested in organic dying.
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