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Rivet 50 Radio: Tony Tonnaer

The Covid-19 pandemic underscored the need for local supply chain partners and a better focus on sustainability. For Tony Tonnaer, founder and CEO of Dutch denim brand Kings of Indigo (KOI), these were the principles upon which he first formed his brand.

But while these values are celebrated now, they weren’t always regarded so highly. Tonnaer noted that he and his team were called “hippies” when they first launched a sustainable movement 18 years ago during his time at sustainable garment company Kuyichi.

“First you’re regarded as somebody who’s crazy and now, as someone who is brilliant,” he said. “We were swimming upstream so many years, and finally, we’re starting to swim with the stream. It really gives me a lot of energy.”

KOI is now regarded as a sustainable leader, with more than 95 percent of its offerings composed of sustainable materials. It uses 100 percent GOTS or Organic Content Standard certified organic cotton, and was recently approved by PETA as a vegan brand.

While many companies struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic, KOI was mostly stable, thanks in part to its sustainable setup. In fact, Tonnaer reported that the company’s online business grew 30 percent last year.

But no company came out fully unscathed. He noted that the pandemic did cause the business to decrease the size of its seasonal collections and increase its core basics offering to appeal to changing consumer needs.

Most recently, the brand launched a capsule collection with Candiani featuring biodegradable stretch denim.

Click here to listen to the full conversation with Tonnaer.

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This podcast episode is made possible by Cotton Incorporated, a not-for-profit company funded by U.S. cotton producers and importers, and whose mission is to increase the demand and profitability of cotton. Discover What Cotton Can Do.