September 18, 2006, 12:00 AM

Former Lands’ End execs launch fair-trade retail apparel site

Fair Indigo, an apparel e-retailer co-founded by Bill Bass, former executive of e-commerce at Lands’ End and Sears, launched today specializing in the sale of fair-trade products from manufacturers known to provide livable wages to their employees.

 

Fair Indigo, an apparel e-retailer co-founded by Bill Bass, former senior executive of e-commerce at Lands’ End and Sears, launched today specializing in the sale of fair-trade products sourced from manufacturers known to provide livable wages to their employees.

“Fair trade is in its infancy, and we’re the first mainstream apparel retailer to do fair trade,” Bass tells Internet Retailer. Bass and his partners have spent over a year traveling the world to find apparel manufacturers and manufacturing co-ops that meet fair-trade standards, he adds.

Fair Indigo will initially offer about 800 product SKUs in just under 100 categories, mostly from manufacturers in markets including Peru, Costa Rica, Macau and China, Bass says. The retailer launched online at FairIndigo.com on a platform developed in-house. It will mail an initial run of 250,000 catalogs later this week, following by another 250,000 in November.

Fair Indigo will also operate a single physical store this year in Madison, WI, near its home base of Middleton, WI, but then expects to begin opening more stores next year after learning from online and catalog sales the geographic areas of its strongest customer demand, Bass says.

Bass is joined in the venture by former Lands’ End CFO Don Hughes, who has also invested in Black Wolf Group, a holding company he and Bass formed earlier this year. Black Wolf is financing Fair Indigo in addition to a moving company serving the southwest.

The idea for Fair Indigo was initiated by Rob Behnke, a former Macy’s and Lands’ End executive who had worked with Bass in developing international markets, Bass says.

The retailer will sell mostly women’s apparel, footwear and accessories, but 25% of its products will be for men. Although there are no organizations today that are capable of certifying fair-trade practices among apparel manufacturers, Fair Indigo is working with a team of experts at the University of Wisconsin in Madison to produce economic reports that the retailer can use to compare the wages paid by its suppliers with an acceptable living wage in each of its sourcing markets, Bass says.

 

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