By Jake Weber
To celebrate her Albion graduation in 2008, Mallory Brown did some backpacking through Asia and the U.S., then to South America. She set out as a tourist—but wound up an entrepreneur.
Brown traveled through remote locations where she expected to meet people concerned with acquiring food and water. But "most were interested in my clothes, which shocked me," she said. "Clothing is a real issue for many people around the world. That's what got World Clothes Line started."
Brown's for-profit company is a new twist on a still-new business trend of consumers "giving back" with their purchases. Other companies may donate a percentage of their proceeds to charity, but World Clothes Line donates one-for-one the casual clothing they sell. Buy a T-shirt from the Indonesia collection, and one of those same T-shirts goes to Indonesia.
"When customers purchase exactly what's given away, there's a connection between the clothes they buy and the clothes other people receive," Brown explained. "If everyone in the world bought two of everything they were going to buy and gave one away, how much better would the world be? I translated that into my business plan."
Another unique offering for World Clothes Line is the "Tracking Club"—for an additional $10, a club member can follow the path of a donation through photos and a personal message from the recipient. "This will give people a real vision of what they've done, that they've helped," Brown said. Through her travels, she has established personal contacts in Indonesia, Peru, and the U.S., and will deliver the clothes herself beginning in 2011.
A French and economics and management major, with a Gerstacker Institute concentration, at Albion, Brown is using Albion connections as a valuable part of her startup. She created three design collections with CreateMyTee, an Internet-based business started by Josh Fales, '06, and is supervising Gerstacker intern Anne Buckley, '12.
Since its launch in September 2010, World Clothes Line has sold more than 300 T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants aimed at the teen-to-young adult market. The clothing is American-made, and "mostly Americans are buying, so it's a way for America to give its products to the world," says Brown with a smile. "Not many people in Indonesia have made-in-the-U.S. clothes."
"When I look for companies that are role models for me, half are clothing companies and half are nonprofits. I try to create my own little world between them," Brown reflected. "There aren't many companies that are for-profit but model everything on giving. I think I'm unique in that market, and hopefully it'll take me far."
Brown and World Clothes Line were recognized this fall on WJR Radio’s “Breaking the Cycle” series. This regular feature highlights individuals or organizations in metropolitan Detroit that are making a positive difference in the local community and beyond.