The Riverbend Textiles Sustainability Design Leadership Award
It all started with ‘Hello’.
I like to keep what I do in the wheelhouse of sustainability. Found by the Pound Vintage, a sister company to Mednik Riverbend, is a fairly unique concept store that sells vintage clothing by the pound. Well, it started that way at least—but as we grew, we added a retail store offering individual items.
One day I was walking through the store, and in keeping with what I feel is good business practice, I said “hello” to everyone I encountered. Occasionally, I offered advice or assistance if a customer was looking for something in particular.
As I walked through the store, I saw a young man looking at our Carhartt outerwear. I said hello as I walked by—nothing more. It wasn’t really a notable experience, just a simple hello to a customer.
A month or so passed, and as I walked through the store on the way to the factory, I happened to see the same man. I thanked him for returning and, through conversation, I learned that he was a metal sculptor, and that he worked at Washington University in St. Louis as the shop manager for the School of Architecture and Fashion.
It was serendipitous timing. I’d wanted to approach local colleges and universities to pitch an idea of supplying vintage clothing to their classes and working with teachers and students on sustainability and upcycling. I hoped to work with them to employ vintage apparel into their class projects so that they could privately label their work. I would sell it in my stores, providing a feel-good, win-win opportunity for all of us.
I told him about my idea and gave him my business card and thought, well, that’s probably the end of that.
A few weeks later, to my surprise, he called. He’d kept his word. Brice, as I came to know him, connected me to the fashion school and helped to set up an appointment with Dr. Mary Rupper-Stroescu, associate professor and Fashion Design program coordinator at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. I could hardly believe that this was actually happening.
When the day came, I walked in with a little bravado and swagger and was quickly evened out. Quite a talented woman, Dr. Rupper-Stroescu seemed to push back a little. She had to have questioned letting a ‘rag guy’ come into her state-of-the-art academic surroundings to push some old denim jacket idea, but I believe she saw my passion.
What she realized is that I actually am the real deal when it comes to recycling and the circular economy, and I think that, by the end of our conversation, she actually felt that I might have an idea that would be beneficial to her curriculum.
As we spoke, I became interested in learning what was taking place in at Washington University and other fashion schools. By the time we finished, I knew that we could form a partnership that could work.
Not long after that, I got a call. She liked the idea and had added some thoughts of her own. I would provide the goods and her students would modify them as a part of a sustainability class.
Toward the end of spring, I received an email inviting me to the 90th Annual Washington University Fashion Design Show. My immediate idea was to make this special, so I contacted Dr. Ruppert-Stroescu and offered a scholarship to the student who showed the most promise as a fashion designer promoting sustainability in their work.
My wife and I attended the fashion show, sitting in the front row next to the dean of the fashion school. I was quite proud of the synergy we were able to create between Mednik Riverbend and Washington University.
The concept had come full circle. From idea to fashion runway, it was a heartwarming experience.
At the end of the ceremony, I stood and spoke before hundreds of guests about the impact of fashion on the world. I presented statistics and industry trends, and noted the many challenges that we face over choice and the impact of fashion on the environment.
I presented our first Riverbend Textiles Sustainable Design Leadership Award to Maggie Miller, who was chosen for her understanding of the value of upcycling and the importance of sustainability in fashion design. I was proud, to say the least, and we now have made a commitment to make it an annual scholarship.
We hope that, as a company, we can continue to inform the public of the importance of sustainability, and how we, as consumers, play a greater role in the problem than we’d like to admit.
Mednik Riverbend is committed to the future. We are committed to the cause. We are committed to sharing the wealth of information gained from decades of experience in hopes that we can help save the world, one piece of fabric at a time.
And it all started with “Hello.”