One of the strangest (and most fun) aspects of this blogging gig is the way I form connections to people and their brands, without ever meeting them in person or trying their product. Today's interview bloomed out of a relationship just like that.
I've been following along with THOM KELLY's journey for longer than I can remember, before they had a physical product or even the finalized designs for one. I remember being so intrigued by the concept of an ethical, high quality plaid shirt and knew I had to watch their journey unfold. As time went on, I connected with Megan, the one-woman-show behind Thom Kelly, and (probably too often) let her know how excited I was for her brand's launch.
Despite the many road blocks that come with launching a USA-made, eco-friendly company, Thom Kelly launched their first collection of plaid shirts at the end of last year and is waiting for their first production run next month. It's an honor to give you a behind the scenes peek into this incredible brand (seriously, I think you'll be impressed. They're one of the very few who make ethics a priority in every area).
Over the next few months, you'll be hearing more about them, but for now, meet Megan and her sustainable-dream-project, THOM KELLY:
What inspired you to create THOM KELLY? Tell us a little bit of the story behind your brand!
I can remember very vividly the day this idea got sparked. My husband and supporter in this
venture (Ryne) came home from work one day and started talking about something he read
about sustainable clothing. I had never heard of sustainable clothing before, so I think my exact
words were “what are you even talking about?” So, that next morning I started my Google
search and the rest is history. I quickly became obsessed with educating myself about the world
Like many, I was doing my part to help the environment and my health by reselling my clothing, eating all the right things, recycling, and staying away from toxic products. As I started to learn more about the devastating impact of the fast fashion industry, I couldn’t believe I had never
given much thought about the clothes on my back.
I wanted to start purchasing more responsible clothing, but through my search I couldn’t find a
lot that fit our everyday style. So instead of settling, I decided to create my own. When I ran this
idea by Ryne he was immediately along for the ride and never questioned how it could be done
even though we had absolutely no fashion experience.
We needed a product to sell and I wanted it to be something he and I would wear all the time. I
looked at our closet one day and took a quick inventory of the clothing. There was plaid, and a
lot of it. This was the moment a light bulb went off in my head. In our efforts to find more
responsible clothing we could not find a lot that we could picture ourselves wearing, so it was
obvious a plaid shirt would help fill this void.
Is there a story behind the name?
Coming up with a name was challenging because it needed to be gender neutral since we
planned to sell both men’s and women’s shirts. I made long lists of names that gave nod to our
eco-minded mission or plaid, but they all felt forced and none really stuck out. I finally gave up
on this idea and decided to keep it personal. THOM KELLY is a mix of our names. When I first
said it out loud we both knew it felt right. It’s nothing clever or fancy, it's just us. We also decided
to name the first collection of shirts after our two dogs, Sawyer & Axel.
I've been following your brand's launch for so long (yay!) and loved seeing the behind the scenes you shared along the way. What was one of the hardest parts you dealt with in building your brand ethically?
Oh gosh, there have been many hurdles during this journey to build an ethical brand! Aside from
it being more costly and time-consuming, I’d definitely say our fabric was the hardest piece. We have been committed to using eco-friendly materials since day one and when I decided to create plaid shirts, little did I know how hard it would be to find eco-friendly plaid fabric. I started contacting every fabric supplier I could find asking for their eco-friendly plaid samples.
The eco-friendly plaid that already existed was very, very slim pickings and none of colors and
patterns fit our vision. We either needed to scratch the plaid idea or come up with a solution. We went the solution route and decided to create our own plaid fabric from scratch.
Easier said than done for a one women show who has no fashion background, but I was determined and love a good challenge. After a lot of learning, many fabric samples, and even more mistakes, the custom fabric was finally created. The fabric was woven specifically for us using the patterns we designed, the colors of our choice, and the yarn we selected. It has been amazing and so rewarding to see our plaid designs on a computer screen turn into real fabric that we now wear around in our daily life.
What does THOM KELLY do differently than other plaid shirt brands out there?
Some brands use eco-friendly fabric, some make their shirts in the USA, some create custom
fabric, and some give back, but we haven’t found a brand yet that does all those things. That's
where we come in. Our plaid shirts are made in the USA, the fabric is custom designed, we give
back a portion of sales, and we use all eco-friendly materials.
We also are a little biased toward the fit of our shirts. There was always something a little off
with the plaid shirts in our closet (like sleeves being too short, or not enough buttons to help with
gaping) so we ended up not wearing them much. We set out to fix these issues and created
shirts we truly feel comfortable wearing every day.
Where do you see your brand in two years?
In two years I’d like to still be focusing on our core product (plaid shirts), but with more designs
and styles. Eventually, I would like to expand into other items, but right now I am anxious to get
more plaid styles made! I really love creating the one-of-a-kind designs.
We are committed to giving back a portion of each purchase to environmental non-profits as
part of our 1% for the Planet membership, and I would love to expand more around this mission
and be able to give a sizable contribution in two years.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee all the way! My daily dose usually comes from the same pot reheated about 4 times
throughout the day.
And just for fun, what is something that most people don't know about you?
I’m a new mom! I was pregnant during much of the time I spent building the brand, then when
we officially launched our website I had a 4 month old (which also explains the re-heating of
coffee multiple times a day).
*This post was sponsored by THOM KELLY as part of an ongoing Ambassador partnership. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this site running!*