Social Enterprises Are Revolutionizing
the Fashion Industry
Expertly Crafted pieces from Worldwide Destinations.
Natural Rough is on a mission to tell a story, but in an unconventional way–through fabrics. Each of the brand’s pieces offer a unique opportunity to tell generational stories of indigenous lands and highlight the artisans who occupy those spaces. Founded in 2017 by Philippo Gifford, Natural Rough is dedicated to building a connection between ancestral handcrafted products and modern society.
Although the brand is just five years old, Philippo Gifford is not new to the fashion industry. In fact, he has spent his entire life in fashion. He began his career many years ago in Italy, moved to Spain to work for Custo Barcelona and eventually found his way to the United States to work for SMCP. He has a diverse and experienced background in the world of fashion, but his specialty and expertise lies in fabrication. It is no wonder that he now runs a brand that places an extremely high value on the quality of materials and pays careful consideration to the processes and people behind producing each piece.
craftsmanship Led by Fair Trade.
After spending so much time in the fashion industry, Gifford eventually found it to be hyper aggressive and unhealthy. In building his own brand, he wanted to instead help people, and create a great work environment for his employees. With this mission in mind, Natural Rough was created.
And his move couldn’t have been more timely, with “86% of millennials now looking for responsibly sourced products, Fair Trade based brands,” are increasingly sought after according to Forbes writer Amy Schoenthal.
As a world traveler, Philippo Gifford loved exploring the local markets and was always impressed by the beautiful items he saw. The pieces were so unique and well-crafted that they were each individual works of art themselves. But time after time, Gifford began to observe a common trend amongst the indigenous artisans he encountered. No matter where he travelled, he recognized that the indigenous people weren’t being paid for the true market value of their work. Even with all of the recent exposure that movements like #PayUp have provided on the issue, “fair trade processes are often vulnerable to exploitation, without anyone able to confirm if the profits really went back to workers -or more cynically, straight into the pockets of the tourists who brought them back,” according to Forbes.
Gifford’s brand stands to be a testament against this norm. As he traveled to various indigenous lands across South and Central America he focused on educating local artisans on their worth and providing them with the market space to earn a livable wage. Many of the artisans he came across assumed a correlation between handmade and inexpensive because of the low wages they were accustomed to being provided for their work. However, quite the opposite holds true. Philippo knew that each custom piece was much more valuable than any produced commercially by machine because of their handmade origin. Fueled by the feeling that the living conditions of the local artisans didn’t match the level of work that they were creating, he set out to generate a better quality of life for these communities through production based partnerships.
Needless to say, his efforts of good will have been returned ten fold. The brand’s mission recently caught the attention of HBO Max and garnered a collaboration with And Just Like That Costumes, the style powerhouse responsible for bringing back the nostalgically iconic fashion statements of the Sex and The City reboot.
Localized Production: Naturally Derived + Sourced Fabrics
Today, Natural Rough remains on a mission to support the ancestral communities that it partners with by offering expertise and knowledge to help them produce garments more efficiently, and access to better quality materials. Even more impactful, Natural Rough is a bridge between ancestral and modern societies and can communicate their stories and connect them on a larger scale to customers who understand and value unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.
Natural Rough distinguishes itself by more than just beautiful garments. Philippo states that “we are not a fashion brand” and expresses that his ideal client is one that understands the project, their mission and wants to become a part of the movement. By shopping sustainably with local artisans, customers are able to provide abundance to communities in need.
Natural Rough makes it easy to support their mission because the brand provides high quality works of art. Each piece uses 100% organic raw cotton fabrics, is processed without any chemical treatments and everything is constructed by hand. The result is unique clothing and one-of-a-kind accessories that feel amazing to touch and are incredibly comfortable to use. From items that are hand-knitted to hand-painted and even hand-knotted, customers who join the Natural Rough movement can expect products that cater to their individual style and will also last for years.
Sustainable Retail + Shipment Centers
Because Natural Rough was already sustainably and responsibly sourcing their garments post COVID, Gifford shares that his supply chain was not significantly impacted by the changes brought on by the global pandemic. “The artisans we work with were already working from home, so we didn’t see a big shift here [as the world scrambled to adapt to the pandemic.]” He did note however, that the pandemic slowed sales for their retail store in Tulum, eventually causing them to close doors. Gifford states that they may reopen the doors to their original retail location in Tulum, but at this point he is unsure. For now, customers can shop at their brick-and-mortar location in Los Angeles to experience the Natural Rough brand in person.
In a world where most brands have relied on online sales to drive their business, Philippo states that for Natural Rough, selling online isn’t as high of a priority for his business. Because all the items are hand woven and handmade, customers need to be able to touch the garments and experience the quality. Otherwise, they don’t understand the value of the product. He states that “it is only when you touch a dress or cape, you can understand the value behind the work. It’s hard to convey this unique value with just a photo.”
Though Gifford’s reasoning for maintaining a local supply chain is largely an ethics based decision, it is not without its economic benefits. According to Business of Fashion, “changes in consumer preferences are happening faster than ever before. Localized fulfillment can help to weigh this forecasting challenge.” For Natural Rough localized fulfillment means that ecommerce orders are satisfied from the company’s closest hub to the customer which cuts down on their shipment costs.
This is a business principle that the founder lives by.
Gifford believes that one of the biggest ways to truly be sustainable is by producing and shipping locally. In fact, even their commercial items are made right here in U.S. to maintain true control over the brand’s sustainability practices. After spending many years in the fashion industry, Gifford notes that larger companies talk about sustainability but it is really hard to be sustainable and primarily utilize factories in other countries.
Predictions For 2022
Consumer Led Style Trends
Consumers have an opportunity to follow their own style and taste; when it comes to style and diversity, there is something for everyone. Whereas in the past, we all used to turn to the larger brands and magazine publications for guidance, he states that they are no longer driving the fashion industry in the same way.
Consumer Led Style Trends
He also anticipates the growth and influx we’ve seen with sustainability will continue to rise. This, Gifford states “is not a trend but a new way of doing things.”
Meet The Founder
Gifford has over 22 years experience in Retail Management , Marketing , Visual Merchandising , retail operation manager , Brand Manager, artistic director, and currently serves as Creative Director + Co-Founder of Natural Rough.