Meet Kay Wen, Founder of SiiZU

SiiZU is a small fashion label with a big vision for the world – making sustainable and ethical fashion affordable to the conscious consumer. Founded by Kay Wen, the company is built on a foundation of beautiful and low-impact fabrics that are as impressive to the touch as they are on the environment. We sat down with Kay to better understand her frustration with fast fashion and how she has managed to produce a responsible line of beautiful clothing at a palatable price point.

SiiZU is clearly committed to minimizing the environmental impact of the fashion industry.  Your clothing is environmentally responsible but also silky soft. We’d love to hear more about the consequences of traditional production and how you’re trying to minimize that footprint.

Indeed, we have founded SiiZU based on the commitment to do our very best to bring beautiful clothing to our customers without sacrificing the environment. Our commitment truly begins at the source; an example for this is our decision to opt for using organic cotton and Tencel in place of conventional cotton for our collection.

We have made this decision based on the massive impact that conventional cotton has on our planet: it is responsible for 11% of the entire world’s pesticides usage, while a staggering 24% of the world’s insecticides is being used on cultivating cotton. Organic cotton, for its part, can be grown without the use of pesticides and insecticides. Tencel is an entirely innovative fabric that is made from sustainably-harvested trees and is also extremely versatile. In replacing traditional cotton, we have featured both of these fabrics heavily throughout our collection.  

We have made a similar commitment on our manufacturing process as well: our fabric is dyed with water-based ink, while all of our manufacturing partners are also STANDARD 100 certified – a certification from OEKO-TEX that ensures no harmful chemicals were used in the production process. 

To further our commitment, SiiZU also partners with American Forests in order to further offset our carbon footprint. We hope that with these steps, SiiZU will eventually become an entirely carbon-neutral company.

Your thoughtful fabric selection is clearly integral to the foundation of your brand. Your casual modal t-shirts are soft and flattering while your silk blouses are luxurious and still machine washable. Tell us more about this commitment to quality fabric that is both attractive and responsible.

Another trait of natural fabric is its ease of care – this is perhaps nature’s way of thanking us for wearing green! 

We have always aimed to make shopping consciously an effortless habit, all while making our clothes look and feel incredible. When paired with our simple yet modern designs, the fabrics that we use naturally elevate our pieces from the crowd. Our Japanese Banshu-Ori organic cotton, for example, offers extremely vibrant colors through its use of the traditional Japanese dying process. Fabrics produced through this method offer a level of clarity that is simply impossible for digitally printed fabric to imitate. Another trait of natural fabric is its ease of care – this is perhaps nature’s way of thanking us for wearing green! 

In addition to responsible sourcing you are deeply committed to bringing transparency into your production process. We love the stories and insight you share into your factories. How have you selected your production partners and what do you want your customers to know about the process?

For SiiZU, there was nothing harder than to find the right partners to fulfill our vision. Traditional fashion houses would normally hire auditing companies to scout for factories. However, in order for us to build a deeper understanding beyond just a balance sheet and quality metrics, we have traveled extensively to visit our manufacturing partners in person. We not only make sure that all of our partners are paying fair wages to their employees and providing acceptable working environment, we also prioritize partners that are as committed to the sustainable cause as we are. 

This extensive scouting process has proven to us that there are no shortcuts to us archiving our goals. However, the incredible people that we have met along the way and the beautiful end products that arrive at our doorsteps truly more than made up for those long nights!

We not only make sure that all of our partners are paying fair wages to their employees and providing acceptable working environment, we also prioritize partners that are as committed to the sustainable cause as we are. 

So many of us assume that responsible production comes at a cost. You all have managed to minimize your impact while maintaining a high quality clothing line. How do you balance eco-friendly fabrics, thoughtful design, and a palatable price point?

It is inevitable that our responsible production model will come at a higher cost – we knew from the beginning that our stubbornness would be quite an expensive trait! In order for us not to pass on the higher cost to our customers, however, we knew that we could never operate as a traditional fashion brand, where a product is often marked up 8x before it ever reaches the consumers. We have therefore opted to operate as an online based, direct-to-consumer operation that cuts out the traditional middleman and wholesalers in order to pass on the highest quality products directly to our customers at the most attractive price point.

Let’s get personal. From high fashion to casual clothing, what inspires your personal sense of fashion? What do you find most beautiful?

I have personally always been inspired by the casual elegance that Jane Goodall has exuded throughout her career. I have also always been stricken by Jane Goodall’s confidence, kindness and beauty. Her style too, is functional yet undeniably chic. What is the most beautiful for me, however, is really her kindness and impact she has in the world even to this day. 

What do you project is the future of the slow fashion? What’s next for SiiZU?

We have been very encouraged by the rise of slow fashion: already, we have witnessed a huge influx of consumers becoming increasingly attuned to the slow fashion movement. Many of them are rejecting big brands such as H&M and ZARA and are consciously making the decision of buying better, not more. 

SiiZU’s goal for the near future is to continue to increase our brand awareness and spread the love to an ever-wider audience. We have priced our pieces at very approachable price points so that more consumers can fall in love with the idea of shopping consciously. At the end of the day, we really believe that every person that we touch represents a small step towards a less polluted world.