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Up Close: In Conversation with Suku’s Isa Spies

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Isa Spies, product marketing specialist at authenticity and transparency solution provider Suku, talks about how to better trace the apparel supply chain and her company’s move into NFTs.

Isa Spies Suku
Isa Spies, product marketing specialist at Suku Courtesy

Name: Isa Spies

Title: Product marketing specialist

Company: Suku

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

My company, Suku, uses blockchain technology to support companies in their commitment to transparency and traceability. We help brands increase their sales and promote visibility for their products by connecting on a personal level to the conscious customer. This is accomplished through internally tracking a brand’s supply chain and then providing information on the supply chain to the end-user through a scannable tagging system that a user can access through their smartphone. Our technology provides brand information to customers who value and want to learn more about sustainability, ethics and transparency through a simple scan.

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?

Single ingredient products usually have a good hand at their supply chains because their system is easier to trace. Take organic, certified fair-trade coffee, for example: The beans can be traced to a specific farm where workers are paid fair wages for their hard labor.

Apparel can fine tune from looking at the food and beverage industry. Just in the way food is grown and processed, as are the fibers that weave together our favorite shirt. It’s important to create a web of players within your brand’s ecosystem that you can effectively track and trace, which may mean incorporating new technology, establishing a closer-to-home supply chain, and maintaining close-knit relationships with your suppliers.

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How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

I am very focused on the ethics behind a brand coupled with the price and functionality of the product. I am very trusting of recommendations from family and friends and usually read reviews before purchasing something. I am a smart consumer, but also enjoy testing and trying new things!

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

I want a brand to be aligned with my values and also be trustworthy. I also want my purchase to be worthwhile and meet my satisfaction requirements. If I’m happy with my purchase, I will most likely buy the product again.

What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?

Although I am mostly in a comfortable ensemble during my work day in glam sweats like Issey Miyake Pleats Please or a vintage tee, on the weekends I enjoy styling up. I love a neutral outfit with a pop of jewel tone, and I most likely have on my Z-Coils.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

Nineties fashion, for sure! I collect vintage runway and designer pieces from this era, so the fashion of this time period is close to my heart. The wearable art by designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Miuccia Prada, and Ann Demeulemeester, etc., created during this time is like nothing else and continues to inspire the current fashion trends of today.

Who’s your style icon?

I really love how Bella Hadid is styled, especially her more casual day-to-day outfits. Since I have an obsession with ‘90s high fashion, I also love how the supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss were styled at the time as well as Vanessa Paradis.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

As a high-growth startup, we are constantly evolving. This year, with the boom of the NFT market, we decided to home in on our sneaker authentication app and expand our use of the blockchain to create our own NFT marketplace as well as offer it as a white-label solution.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

We are an innovative group of minds, where there is no hierarchy. I mean this in the sense that every voice or opinion has the opportunity to be heard. We work collaboratively, but also in specialized silos, meaning we have the opportunity to mix with everyone within the company.

What can companies learn from Covid-19?

The pandemic brought about huge shifts within every industry. As a result, we are more prepared for adaptation. This means that we must constantly be open to pivoting if the opportunity presents itself. We must also come back to our core values and honor the work and people that get the job done. This time period also taught us that working virtually is highly effective, and more and more companies are taking on this approach.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

Transparency. But under the umbrella of this word comes ethics, sustainability, inclusivity, social impact, and support for all players in the supply chain. Fashion is constantly evolving, and it is vital that the industry shift to mirror the times we live in. We can’t keep creating waste because of the state of our planet, so technological innovation and creativity must be at the forefront to drive the industry of the future. Overall, we need more vibrancy, barrier breaking, and accountability!

What keeps you up at night?

As someone with an entrepreneurial spirit and curious mind, I am always thinking about what’s next, whether that be personal goals or career orientation. I am forever trying to expand my mind with new information. Currently, I am very obsessed with fashion philosophy—why we wear what we wear and the social, cultural and even political implications for the garments we carry.

What makes you most optimistic?

I am optimistic about the future of the fashion industry. There is so much positive innovation happening in the space with the rise of resale, fashion tech, sustainability and supply chain transparency. I am so happy to be a part of the vision for a rewritten industry.