When Grace Steer’s business-professional work wardrobe gave her contact dermatitis, she knew something was very wrong with the fashion industry.
“At first I thought it might have been the construction of the clothes, but it turned out to be a huge combination of factors,” Steer says.
In an effort to combat the epidemic Steer describes as “poisoned clothing,” she put her art education and business experience to work and founded Wear In Good Health. A clothing line dedicated not only to comfortable, wearable pieces, Wear In Good Health is also locally produced and toxic chemical free.
Skin is the body’s largest organ, Steer stresses, and humans are porous.
“I wanted clothes that are literally healthy for you,” she says. “Walk into a Forever 21 and take a good whiff — that’s the smell of poison.”
Steer was especially inspired by the documentary “The True Cost,” an unedited look into the garment industry. Focused on the byproducts of the fast fashion industry — rampant human rights abuses and the endless environmental atrocities — “The True Cost” has guided Wear In Good Health since its inception.
“As awareness grows about the abuses of people and the environment in the production of textiles, the public seems to be more and more interested in learning about companies they can patronize that are not exploitative,” Wear In Good Health social media and marketing coordinator Chelsey Sklare says in an email.
Wear In Good Health is proud of the fact that it employs highly skilled sewers who make the entire collection and works only with textile mills that have undergone the stringent OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification, an independent European organization that certifies textiles and other materials to be free of everything from illegal substances to known harmful (but not legally regulated) chemicals.
From the fabric itself down to the last zipper or button, every item from Wear In Good Health is an ode to ethical business practices “from production to consumer,” Sklare writes.
But it’s not just that the clothes are ethically made — discerning shoppers love the sleek, classic designs and the sumptuous textures.
“The best thing about Wear In Good Health is how it feels against my skin,” says Make It Better Founder Susan B. Noyes, an enthusiastic first-time shopper. “It’s like silk, but more practical.”
Steer now wears very little that doesn’t come from Wear In Good Health — mostly knit sweaters and shoes, she says. While they’re currently working on rolling out a men’s line, progress is slow because the staff is so small.
That’s one of the biggest challenges of running Wear In Good Health, Steer says: trying to scale up their output while still keeping their conscientious business model intact.
“If you don’t have enough people, the work isn’t easy,” Steer laughs.
Although the only Wear In Good Health storefront (located in downtown Highland Park) is incredibly popular, Steer is turning her focus to an attempt to ramp up their brand exposure, starting with a pop-up at 900 Michigan Ave. that runs from Nov. 15 through the end of December. She and her staff are also launching a trunk show initiative that she says will bring Wear In Good Health “to a city near you.”
Ultimately, she wants consumers to know that you get what you pay for when it comes to fabric and the construction of clothing.
“I want to educate the customer about what we produce and the difference between us and them,” Steer says. “We purchase the same fabric as Chanel but we don’t have Chanel prices. We’re within reach for normal women.”
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