How does one person tackle challenges as large as the health of the planet and systemic gender inequality around the world? For Loskey founder Lori Cunningham, it began with an everyday challenge that was right in front of her.
Perpetually in search of the perfect t-shirt, she set out to create a line of shirts and tops that were organic, ethical, and sustainable, without sacrificing quality and timeless style. The result is a collection of go-to essentials that women can wear year after year — while helping to foster economic empowerment for women in the developing world.
The Watercooler talked to Lori to get her “change agent” story. Be sure to check out our Change Agents page for a watch list of film and TV titles that embody the spirit of Loskey and its mission.
What motivated you to create Loskey?
Cunningham: Directly following university, I spent three years working in International Development. I loved what I did but grew frustrated with the bureaucracy involved. I ended up leaving it behind and working for the next two decades in business, but I never stopped thinking about how there had to be a more effective means of driving development than working with an intricate web of government agencies and NGOs.
From my time in the field, I knew that the most effective way of driving international development is the economic empowerment of women. When women have financial means and are able to make decisions about how household finances are spent, investment shifts to children’s health and education, benefiting society and future generations. From this knowledge, the idea of Loskey was born.
Who are some of the women who have helped bring your idea to life?
Cunningham: I have been fortunate to partner with so many wonderful people on this journey. And I’ve made a deliberate effort to work with women whenever possible, as women’s empowerment is the core purpose of Loskey. I celebrate each of my many collaborators as Women of Loskey on my website. However, there are a few key women without whom I would not have been a turn my vision into reality.
The first is my supply partner, Sonica Sarna. Sonica herself represents everything that Loskey is about–women’s empowerment, and ethical and sustainable production. As an Indian woman, she is breaking the cultural norms by starting her own business in cooperation with her family’s factory. She has a deep and personal commitment to organic fabrics and artisanal design developed over decades of working with fair trade cooperatives across India. And, most importantly, she has a long-standing commitment to women’s empowerment and training through her amazing #projecthrive initiative–a sewing center for at-risk women from the slums of New Delhi aiming to empower women with no socio-economic opportunities.
The second is the California-based photographer Melissa McArdle. Given that Loskey is all about effortless chic, California style is my inspiration. The Californian aesthetic is the epitome of stylish comfort, and no one is better at bringing that to life than Melissa.
How are your products different?
Cunningham: I’ve always believed that a t-shirt worn and styled well is the epitome of effortless chic, and this was my inspiration for my initial capsule tee collection. I have read many articles over the years that have peddled the idea of women needing to suffer for fashion. Whether that meant tottering in heels that were just too high, or wearing styles that made breathing difficult, it was all in the cause of making a style statement. I believe that style and comfort should be synonymous, and there’s nothing I love putting on more than a well-made t-shirt. To me, the chicest outfits are crafted from a collection of pared-down essentials. I’ve designed Loskey’s collection of elevated essentials to form the building blocks of any woman’s wardrobe.
The collection is comprised of three key styles, in a number of color-ways. The first is our High Scoop. Somewhere between a crew and a scoop, it’s designed as the perfect intersection of style and comfort. We think this is the ideal neckline to flatter but never strangle or reveal too much. The body is perfect for every shape. Not fitted or too loose, it looks great tucked in, left out, or somewhere in between.
The second is our Classic V, designed to flatter everyone. The neckline is the perfect depth and the A-line body shape skims, but never clings, making it the perfect tee to wear tucked in, loose, or with a cheeky half-tuck.
Finally, there is our Layered Cowl, the perfect combination of comfort and elegance. The base layer is our organic white slub cotton, while the cowl is made from handloom cotton woven by our artisans in Kerala. We think the combination is pretty stunning.
The Plot Thickens
How is Loskey acting as a change agent in the fashion industry?
Cunningham: Loskey is a change agent in three key areas: fair trade, organic materials, and sustainability across the entire supply chain.
Our core mission is the economic empowerment of women through fair trade, which is not simply about the price paid; it’s about the overall wellbeing of the workers. It means not only treating them with respect and care, but also protecting their culture and traditional artisanal skills while helping them to share those skills with the world. We are proud to partner with suppliers who treat their workers with dignity and value them as human beings.
We are committed to the protection of the planet through the use of GOTS-certified organic cotton in our products. The Global Organic Textile Standard certifies the organic nature of the fibers, environmental criteria for all dyes and chemical inputs (e.g., bleaching), as well social criteria for the workers involved in its manufacture. It’s not just about doing what’s best for the planet, it’s about ensuring that the workers involved with production and harvest are safe and not exposed to toxins
We are sustainable across everything we do. All of our tags are made from sustainable paper using elephant and rhino dung and our letterbox packaging is made from 100% recycled cardboard. We even use the off-cuts of our t-shirt manufacture as the ties in our packaging pouches. Our tees are designed and made to be the antithesis of “fast fashion.” Clothes should not be disposable. They should be high-quality, timeless pieces that can be worn again and again.
Photo credit: All images provided by Loskey