Interview- Cynthia Mann, CEO & Creative Director of Birch Fabrics
Birch Fabrics is one of our favorite organic fabric companies. We got a chance to interview Cynthia Mann, Birch Fabric CEO & Creative Director, recently and pick her brain about the organic textile industry.
1) How do you think buying organic benefits consumers, communities, etc.?
Buying organic supports consumers and their families, and communities alike, immensely by supporting healthier practices in farming, which translates to everything from the clothes we put on our bodies to the food we eat.
2) Why is supporting small businesses important?
Supporting small business is important because it supports our community and makes it possible for small families to be in control of their own futures and livelihoods so that they don't have to depend on corporations and jobs in an ever changing economic environment. It shows our children that we promote growing our community by making better choices where we choose to put our spending so that we are empowering our neighbors and people that are close to us.
3) What motivates you during challenging times?
What motivates me during the most challenging times is the humility, endurance, and motivation of my hard working staff that never give up, no matter how hard things get. We love what we do and we fight to exist because we feel like we are the luckiest people on the planet to be able to work in such a fun and mutually respectful environment. Our community is like none other! Crafty, considerate, and loving. And the people that work in our industry fit right in!
4) What would you do differently (if you could) with Birch Fabrics at the beginning of your business venture?
I wouldn't change a thing!
5) What lessons have you learned?
The most important lesson that I've learned in my business is to always be positive and never underestimate the power of an individual. It's the people that make a business.
6) Do you think organic is the way of the future? Is the demand going up?
I wish the answer to that question was a resounding "yes." However, with the economy the way it is, it’s hard to see the demand changing too much. We've definitely seen the demand in Europe go up extensively, and the US usually follows suit, but sometimes takes a bit longer.
7) How do we educate quilt makers and handmade apparel businesses and crafters to use more organic products?
To educate sewers on the importance of using organic fabrics you have to start with educating them on the effects of the farming of traditional cotton, but even more importantly the harsh chemicals used in the finishing process of traditional cotton textiles. You don't have to be an environmentalist to be concerned about harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde and heavy metals being absorbed in to you or anyone else in your family's skin and body. With instances of environmental cancer on the rise I think that buying and sewing with organically produced textiles is something that will likely become just as much about our long term health as the environment.
8) What are your thoughts on the higher costs of organic fabric?
I know it is frustrating for consumers that organic fabric is more expensive than conventional cotton. However I think that the price difference relative to the long term alternative consequences of not buying and using organically produced vegetables or textiles is worth it. Over time the costs have begun to bridge a gap. As you have seen in the stores, organic produce is nearly the same cost as non-organic produce. I do believe that textiles are working hard to get to this place as well. We can all dream can't we?