Jaclyn Jones opened Clover & Cobbler in Los Angeles to have complete control over the manufacture of her shoe brand, Californians Footwear. Californians are made to order, or in small batches, to reduce waste at every stage of the shoemaking process, including by minimizing, if not eliminating, unsold stock.
We asked Jaclyn about vertically integrating her business from manufacturing to sales, why she is so far ahead of the “reshoring” wave that is moving manufacturing back into the US, and why her Californians Footwear brand is the antithesis of fast fashion.
GD: What goals did you have in mind when you opened Clover & Cobbler?
Jaclyn Jones: When opening Clover & Cobbler, my goal was to create a new standard in U.S. manufacturing that revolved around sustainability and slower fashion. Frustrated by the inefficiencies and challenges I previously experienced manufacturing my own brand in Los Angeles, I felt compelled to create the footwear factory I always wished existed as a designer.
Our aim at Clover & Cobbler is to breathe the life of a new generation into this beautiful, centuries-old craft. At the center of Clover & Cobbler is sustainability, creativity, and an openness to brands large and small. We offer emerging designers and existing footwear brands a refreshed, organized approach to manufacturing in the U.S. while incorporating sustainability throughout the process. We strive to redefine the perception of a long-standing industry and bring it into the modern day with an emphasis on eco-conscious, mindful manufacturing!
GD: What makes Californians Footwear “sustainable” fashion?
Jaclyn Jones: At Californians, we hold sustainability at our core, upholding the utmost standards of respect for both the Earth and its people. We feel it is our responsibility to make eco-conscious decisions every step of the way. For example, our shoes are made in small batches or made-to-order. By eliminating overproduction, we minimize our contribution to the fashion industry’s waste. Similarly, we do whatever we can to minimize our material waste. Rather than throwing away our leather and materials scraps, we repurpose what we can internally and then pass along anything else to other businesses or local artisans who reuse the pieces for items such as bracelets and dog collars.
Additionally, our vegan collection consists of ethical, cruelty-free, animal-free, non-toxic, and biodegradable leather alternatives that are made with recycled energy and materials, reducing waste and energy consumption. Additionally, we have made sure our packaging is eco-friendly. Our shoe boxes are made from 100% recycled cardboard and are printed with only water-based inks which are less harsh on the environment and allows them to be recycled again after use. Our packaging and footwear are all produced in Los Angeles, supporting our local communities, and reducing shipping distances which helps minimize our global carbon footprint. We are continually looking for ways to mitigate our effect on the planet.
GD: There has been a lot of reporting and discussion in recent years about “fast” fashion. How does Californians avoid this label, and what can the wider fashion and shoe industry do to produce more ethical clothing and less waste?
Jaclyn Jones: We’re all about slowing fashion down! The industry is currently facing a range of challenges including high minimums which leads to huge volumes of inventory (and eventually waste at the end of the season), increasingly long lead-times, supply chain issues, unethical working conditions, and environmental effects of cross-global transportation and pollution. I’m excited to see a shift that the consumer is becoming more and more aware of the gap between them and the manufacturing process and is gravitating towards more transparent brands and supporting slower fashion!
Our shoes are handmade in small batches or made-to-order, rather than mass-manufacturing. By eliminating overproduction and creating high quality items that will last far more than just the season, we minimize our contribution to the fashion industry’s waste and counteract the concept of “fast fashion.” In addition to our sustainable production efforts, we focus on classic styles and materials that live on past a single season. We aim to make footwear that our customers will love year after year, transcending the ‘trend of the moment’ for lifelong style.
The industry can further this movement by making conscious decisions throughout their supply chain. When brands shift their needs at the factory level, the changes in manufacturing will ripple out, making sustainable practices the baseline. Brands can also further this initiative by continuing to educate the public. When consumers are involved in the conversation, they can make a difference by supporting brands they believe in.
GD: How did the pandemic affect business at Californians, both in terms of workplace routine and sales trends?
Jaclyn Jones: At the beginning of the pandemic while our factory was closed, we took the unexpected down time to focus on our digital strategy, hone-in on our customers, and increase our ecommerce presence. When we were able to safely reopen our Los Angeles factory, we focused on adapting our styles to the ‘new world’ consumers were living in. In Fall 2020, we launched a collection of slippers that were exactly what consumers were looking for in the new work-from-home era. Beyond just tapping into slippers as a fleeting trend, we have found our slipper collection to continue to be successful year-round because we focused on quality, longevity, and versatility. Our slippers combine built-in comfort, cozy shearling, and rubber tread outsoles that can be worn both inside and outside. Our customers can’t get enough!
Our ability to shift quickly because of our local operations was key. From the timely launch of our slippers, to capturing the growing online shopping movement, we were able to keep the momentum going amidst the pandemic. While people have grown to embrace the work-from-home casual trends, we’re now seeing consumers who are excited to get out of the house with a refreshed wardrobe that makes them look and feel good, which is exactly what Californians represents. With our unbeatable 6-mm foam insoles, even our 4-inch heels are all-day comfortable! Striking the perfect balance of comfort, style, and sustainability has fueled our continued success through these pandemic years.
GD: What made you decide to keep your businesses in the USA?
Jaclyn Jones: It has always been extremely important to me that I upheld the highest standards in ethics and quality. Manufacturing in the U.S. offers me the most transparency and comfort in the fact that the manufacturing process itself and the environment we’ve created for our artisans upholds the core values of our brands. By supporting U.S. workers and local communities, I can ensure that all those who work on our products are receiving fair wages and benefits. Other huge advantages to manufacturing locally are quicker turnaround times, smaller minimums, lower shipping costs, and a reduced carbon footprint. Additionally, our high-end facility is conveniently located in the fashion hub of the West Coast – Los Angeles. Here, we are surrounded by like-minded designers, pattern makers, textile suppliers, and more right at our fingertips.
GD: Are there any special initiatives you have planned for Earth Month?
Jaclyn Jones: Yes! Each Earth Month since we launched, Californians has supported The Canopy Project, an organization that promotes our shared environment by planting trees across the globe. For every $1 donated, The Canopy Project plants a tree in some of the world’s communities most at-risk from climate change and environmental degradation. In previous years, we have supported The Canopy Project by planting a tree for each new Instagram follower we received during Earth Week, and we will certainly be continuing the tradition this year! Additionally, we have decided to take our donations one step further this year by planting a tree for every pair of shoes purchased on our website during Earth Week from April 16th through April 22nd! Make sure to sign up for our email list on www.californiansfootwear.com to be notified when our donation period starts!