Canada-born designer Chelsea Claridge is making her mark in the outerwear market. After identifying a need for fashion forward, slight and sustainable outerwear, Claridge sought to create her own line, Caalo, a New York-based brand that offers ultra-cool coats that are transformable, trans-seasonal and non-gender specific.
Claridge spent 10 years in the industry as a designer, but was inspired to create Caalo after battling wet and frigid winters in New York and Canada while wearing bulky, sporty outerwear that felt unfashionable. Caalo’s first collection is for fall 2019, and offers shoppers minimalist, almost futuristic-looking coats that are backed by peak performance and sustainable production. Chelsea Claridge, founder and creative director at Caalo, told WWD, “We believe that when we create something, we need to be conscious of its impact on everything it touches, throughout the whole lifecycle. To have the largest impact, we focus on product materials, quality and a sustainable production process, both environmental and social.”
Caalo’s coats are made of Thindown, a new down technology hailing from Italy that is RDS certified and Oeko-Tex class 1 certified, which enables greater traceability. “Not only does this fabric innovation allow us to create a new silhouette for warmth, but it’s completely sustainable and is held to strict guidelines where the geese are treated humanely since hatchery,” Claridge noted. Caalo also uses “Seaqual,” a fabrication made from upcyling plastic bottles from the Mediterranean Sea. “We are constantly looking at advancements in material sciences to see what new fabric technologies have become available and how we can utilize them,” adding that Caalo exclusively scouts high quality fabrics that are recycled whenever possible.
Caalo’s commitment to the use of more costly, well-made materials is less about luxury and more about being sustainable. Claridge told WWD, “We believe if you make garments timeless with high-quality materials, people can and will wear them for a long time, and as a result will keep more clothes out of landfills. This is critical, as the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. Also, because our jackets are transformable, they can be worn for multiple seasons and climates, which helps reduce waste and over consumption.” In a way, Caalo’s garments have a lifetime guarantee: “For those customers that no longer prefer to wear their garments after a number of years, we have a ‘2nd Home’ initiative, where customers are able to return their garments to us to be resold or donated in exchange for a credit toward a future purchase.”
And the brand’s small batch production policy aligns well with its careful selection of factories, one of which is based in New York City, that “supports our local economy and helps reduce our CO2 footprint.” Claridge told WWD, “We have made the conscious effort to only partner with sustainable factories to produce our collection. When selecting our factories, we wanted to make sure they were both environmentally and socially responsible. This means they utilize as much of their energy from renewable resources as possible — [such as the use of] solar panels — and are as close to our core market as financially feasible. They all provide a clean and safe working environment for their staff with adequate space around their desks, access to natural light and are paid a living wage. Surprisingly, these things we tend to take for granted are not a given for most factories. We [also] produce in small runs, allowing us to be a part of the process, reduce waste and maintain our high standard of quality.”
Regarding the fashion industry-at-large, Claridge offers sage advice: “Every brand can start contributing, however small, in their own way. For us, it’s a core aspect of our brand and we are glad sustainability is becoming more and more essential for our customers and the fashion industry as a whole. We are dedicated not only to our initiatives, but also to actively improving upon our sustainable practices as new materials become available and as we grow.”
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