Eco-conscious fashion entrepreneur Samantha Martin of Agathos Athleisure is combatting fast fashion’s waste problem.
Samantha Martin has a big problem with fast fashion — and she aims to slow it down with an e-commerce startup that promotes eco-conscious fashion brands.
Martin, 26, launched her ethical online boutique, Agathos Athleisure, selling trendy athletic and casual clothes in September 2016. The Nashville-based business owner was driven to launch her company after learning about the toll the fashion industry’s waste takes on the environment.
That toll is large. The practices behind making “fast fashion” — or apparel that is manufactured quickly to keep up with hot emerging trends at low cost — often result in water contamination, textile waste and harm to aquatic life, research shows. And that’s on top of poor conditions suffered by factory workers. The problem is “these clothes are viewed as almost disposable,” so corners are cut to keep costs low, says Martin, who previously worked at a Fortune 500 fashion company.
She launched Agathos, which acts as a distributor, buying clothing wholesale from seven brands — all small, eco-conscious fashion ventures like her own — and then selling them at a markup. By making sustainably made clothing more readily available to the masses, she hopes to inspire customers to be more mindful, in every aspect of life, about “what your dollar is supporting, what you’re eating — consumption in every sense of the word.”
Martin’s interest in fashion was sparked as a child while watching her grandmother sew. The matriarch was an expert — she made her daughter’s wedding gown and her granddaughter’s Halloween costumes and Easter dresses — and Martin liked to sit beside her and sketch designs. “It was so special, from an early age, to be surrounded by sewing machines and fabrics and textiles,” she says. She admired “the resourcefulness of it.”
That interest became a career path when she attended Middle Tennessee State University. There, she took courses on textiles, apparel and design. “It was kind of like being on ‘Project Runway’ for 4 years straight,” she says.
Then Martin took a class that centered on newer practices in the fashion industry — and it grabbed her attention. At the time, she had been more focused on keeping up with trends, than on “how clothes were actually made in mass production — what the average customer is buying, where that comes from and how it’s sourced.” The class showed her that “we don’t know, when we’re giving someone a dollar, what we’re supporting,” which might be child labor, unfit work conditions and the release of toxic chemicals into the environment.