An Interview with Joyce Hu of Wildlife Works

Wildlife Works’ objective is to advance economic and social solutions for communities where both wildlife survival and forest preservation is threatened.


Tell us about family background – geography, culture, language, and religion.

California native. Chinese descent. My grandparents have many war stories from China. They finally settled in Taiwan, where I spent some time in my childhood.

Tell us about your story – education, prior work, and so on?

Studies sociology at UCLA. I always wanted to get into fashion but knew I had to find my way through a non-traditional path. I started my career in consumer marketing and always worked with small business so I picked up an entrepreneurial perspective and work ethic. On a fluke, I started modeling and styling on the side. It started to pick up and I quite my full time job to pursue modeling, styling and creative fashion production full time. It paid off. Not only was I modeling, I became art director for a couple small fashion magazines, as well as doing marketing for small startup fashion brands.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

In New York, I was recruited to do global marketing for a boutique fashion brand based in Hong Kong. I moved with one month’s notice. I was ready for the adventure. But the work environment turned out to be completely soul sucking and unfulfilling. I quit, moved home in search of something that gave back to the world. I met the founder of wildlife works years ago and got back in touch and it was perfect time.

What seems like the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?

They are important as “proof of concept.” To create a consumer movement that pressures the big companies to produce more ethically.

What seems like the importance of fair trade?

Fair Trade is an important bar of measurement for all production to measure against. Are the producers at the end of the supply chain getting a fair and sustainable wage? And certification is important for transparency.

What seems like the importance of a (relative to the country) living wage?

It’s the only way people can sustain their livelihood on a job.

What makes slow fashion better than fast fashion?

More thoughtful, less volume, less is more – promotes longer use and sustainable production practices.

How can ethical and sustainable fashion contribute to the long-term sustainable future for the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the environment?

Continue to move production towards sustainable means, as well as train consumers to not demand fast fashion – but this would require a huge industry and paradigm shift. I am hopeful we’ll get there or be forced to get there when we finally deplete our natural resources.

The wildlife works factory in Kenya produces quality made garments 👗 that support the local rural population and protect wildlife and trees 🐘🌲 Their workers get paid a Fair Trade ‘premium’ for every certified order. This money helps to further local empowerment and economic development and has made a big impact on the lives of our workers in rural Kenya.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition invented The Higg Index. It assesses some products’ sustainability throughout the products’ lifecycle. The European Outdoor Group and the Outdoor Industry Association developed an index of products’ impacts on the environment throughout their lifecycle, the Eco Index. Large regions with serious attempts to implement standards and quantitative analysis of sustainability of products throughout their lifecycle. What seem like the importance of quality tests, or metrics, such as these and others?

Metrics to measure movement on a scale is necessary to have all parties speaking the same language so that the goal is clearly defined.

Certifications, or standards and labelling, remain important, which associate with analysis. These include Fairtrade International, MADE-BY, the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, the Soil Association label and the EKOlabel, the Oko-Tex standard 100 mark, and the European Eco-Label for Textile Products, and more. There’s many. Do these help systematize and clarify, or obfuscate and confuse?

It’s definitely confusing to the end user, when it’s supposed to do the opposite. The danger with too many levels of labeling with different standards, consumers are still left with the confusion of which labels are truly legitimate, i.e. organic food label has started to lose consumer trust, but it’s better than nothing or the standard conventional.

The Ethical Fashion Forum developed the Ethical Policy Framework. An ethical policy framework tool for those devoted to enactment of ethical and sustainable purchases, production, and business decisions. What do services such as these perform for the public, consumers, producers, and businesspeople?

These organizations are great to help consumers sift through the labeling overload.

Who are personal heroes, or heroines, within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?

Safia Minney of People Tree.

What is Wildlife Works?

Conservation company that protects forests and wildlife by providing sustainable jobs in rural areas with human-wildlife conflict. On our Kenyan conservation site, we have the world’s only carbon neutral Fair Trade factory that protects wildlife.

What inspired the title of the organization?

The founder’s, Mike’s, basic idea is that if you want wildlife, you have to make sure it works for local communities.

What are some of its feature products?

Our own bran: organic, easy to wear.

Our main business is producing for other brands. Our customers include: Puma, Uniform, Raven ad Lily, Greater Good, and Lalesso.

Kitenge Tote from Kenya

What are the main fibres and fabrics used in the products?

For our own brand: organic cotton.

Who grows, harvests, designs, and manufactures the products of Wildlife Works?

For our own brand: Chetna in India grows cotton, Rajlaskshmi Mills, we design and cut and sew.

What topics most interest you?

Inspiring as many people as possible to consume less and more consciously in all areas of life.

Why should ethical and sustainable (and other) fashion designers and companies include the Triple Bottom Line analysis in individual and business performance?

Considers and sustains the health of our planet!

There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). How do tragedies shed light on work conditions in garment factories?

Helped to ignite consumer outrage, awareness and demand for better working conditions.

What is the importance of the status of women in the ethical and sustainable fashion world too?

They make up the majority of the global fashion work force.

WIldlife works nursery school

What seem like some of the explicit and implicit forms observed in personal and professional life to you?

This says a lot. ;P

Thank you for your time, Joyce.


About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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