This week we spoke to local business owner Zale Epstein about his sustainable streetwear label, This Is Your Brain on Plants, and how they are helping people unable to self-isolate during COVID-19.
Zale Epstein of This Is Your Brain on PlantsWhat is your business called and what does it do?
I am the co-founder of This Is Your Brain On Plants, a Toronto-based, sustainable streetwear brand. I am also a Grammy Nominated Music Producer and Songwriter I’ve worked with: Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Partynextdoor, Meek Mill, and more.
What made you want to do this work?
I have been involved in vegan activism for a couple years now and a lot of my research led me to realize that Fast Fashion was a major environmental issue as well. In my personal life I noticed a void for sustainable fashion choices and my partner Stacey Lee and I wanted to start a company that could be part of the solution.
What problem does this solve?
According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away 16 million tons of clothing and textiles per year. By choosing to purchase and upcycle used clothing we are doing our part to help divert textiles from landfills. We are also protecting the environment and the use of precious resources by avoiding the use of new materials for our garments. Our garments save an average of 2,700 litres of water per unit – that’s the amount needed to grow enough cotton to produce one new t-shirt. The majority of cotton used to produce new clothing is grown using pesticides. Studies show that pesticides contaminate ground and surface water. Pesticides also cause soil acidification and agricultural run-off, which causes hypoxia in nearby surface waters and subsequently disrupts ecosystems. Cotton farms cover 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land but uses 10-16% of the world’s pesticides, more than any other single major crop. This includes herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants.
Who are your clientele/demographics?
Our clientele is international. Currently most of our products are only available for sale online. We have been fortunate to have personal relationships with many influencers and prominent musicians who have shared our story and worn our clothes publicly. We have many clients in the 17-40 years old age range.
How does your business make money? How does it work?
This Is Your Brain On Plants is not even a year old. We are currently spending a lot of money to build out our brand and our catalog. Being truly sustainable takes a ton of research and is often an extremely expensive endeavor to manufacture our clothing. With that said I’m very confident in our brand and I’m excited for our capabilities and inventory to continue to grow as we evolve as pioneers and innovators in the sustainable fashion scene.
What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services?
I think it’s important for customers to do their research on their clothes. There’s a ton of ‘green washing’ currently going on in the industry. Being ‘sustainable’ is definitely a trendy term in the marketplace. Often companies will mislead their customers, so I would recommend really looking into the clothing you’re buying, what it’s made of where the materials were grown or created, the dyes that were used and the factories that sewed the garment.
What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?
The best part is definitely the opportunity to innovate and at the same time know that we are helping to push the sustainable fashion industry forward. It’s important to me that people know the truth about their clothes- fast fashion is not only an environmental issue but also a social justice issue.
The worst part is the fact that our governments and business systems are currently situated to perpetuate and prop up big businesses who are polluting our waterways and natural resources at astronomical levels. We are definitely programmed as a society to believe that certain items should cost a specific low price, but we are not privy to the awful true costs associated to these low prices.
How has your business responded to COVID-19?
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we pivoted production to focus on making reusable and washable masks made from 100% GRS CERTIFIED Recycled Cotton. Our masks are washable and reusable, filling the void in the market for sustainable masks, while others are simply filling landfills and littering our communities. Our masks have an opening on the inside where the user may add a filter if they want, and are outfitted with soft and stretchy fabric ties for closure and do not cause ear fatigue.
We started an initiative called Protect We Project. With every purchase of a mask we are donating to non-medical essential workers whose efforts are more important than ever during this time; social workers, food banks, women’s shelters, shelters and supportive housing providers, etc. Visit our website to learn more.
Do you have any events coming up?
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?
Bio Raw is an incredible Certified Organic, Plant Based Meal service that is local and independently owned. Their food is amazing and they are available at many retailers from Whole Foods to Loblaws across the city.
Animal Justice is a local charity that I think does amazing work.