Philly Rising: Local sustainable clothing line puts compassion into fashion

Antionette Lee
December 13, 2019 - 4:00 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Kimberly McGlonn, the founder of the sustainable clothing line Grant Blvd, is on a mission to change the way we consume fashion. While the cost of fashion is more affordable to Americans today, it comes at a price to the environment. 

Today, Americans buy 68 pieces of clothing a year — five times greater than in 1980 — and each piece will only be worn seven times before being tossed out, according to Dana Thomas, a fashion journalist and author of "Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes." 

McGlonn said when she began researching fashion, she learned how costly the fast fashion industry is to the planet and to human life. 

"So much waste is created, so many pesticides are used, so much fertilizer is used, so much negative impacts on brown people overseas in the production of fast fashion,” she explained.

She said that’s why Grant Blvd uses no new waste, no new water, and no new chemical processes — but all new style. Used items like curtains, pillowcases, and old ties are personally handpicked from thrift shops and carefully repurposed into unique pieces.  

"The ambition is here to show that we can take fabrics that already exist, oftentimes garments that were made for men. We can reimagine them for a woman’s body and do something that doesn’t have a negative impact on the planet," McGlonn said. 

Screen-printed shirts and sweatshirts are all printed on secondhand fabric. The shirts read messages like "mad sustainable," which she said gives customers a chance to wear their values. 

"We use our screenprinting basically as conversation starters and as points of education," she said. “As a consumer, I can wear my values. I can look fresh and in that choice, the way that I vote with my dollars, I can do something that resonates in a really meaningful and long lasting way." 

McGlonn said her all-female team strives to do what’s good for the planet and what’s good for people. 

She offers training and employment to women who have come into contact with the criminal justice system, offering them a fair wage and a trade to help them live healthy and whole lives. 

And for every garment purchased, they send a book to Books Through Bars, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that ships books and educational materials to incarcerated people around the country. 

McGlonn said the name Grant Blvd is in honor of her upbringing and the street she grew up on in Milwaukee, which was her first introduction to activism — through her father who set up an organic garden across a KFC to help people access healthy foods and her mother, who volunteered and counseled women at correctional facilities on weekends.