by: Nicki Patel | 3.16.18
After 3+ weeks of contemplating, writing, deleting, and rewriting this piece, I have finally found the courage to share our truths. Major shout out to the amazing, and sweetest community of ethical and sustainable bloggers, writers, activists, and advocates, especially the ones I am lucky enough to call my friends who continue to be the supportive and help push me beyond my limits.
I wanted to share a bit of behind the scenes that normally isn’t reflected on as often enough as it should. I truly believe in transparency and feel that it is important we share the good, bad and ugly with yall.
What to do?
So what would you do if everything you had worked toward for the past year and invested all your time, energy, and money to see a dream become a reality shattered in front of your eyes within seconds?
Well, it happened to me with milo+nicki.
It was never going to be easy, and I was prepared for that. I knew there were going to be highs and lows, and was prepared for the good, bad and ugly; the naysayers, doubters, haters, etc. But I was never prepared for losing the one thing that held everything together.
Days before our official launch date, we had a fall out with our local fabric supplier.
You may be thinking, “wow that isn’t really a big deal, find a new one.” But, oh my word it is everything. When you are a sustainable, ethical, cruelty-free brand, trying to do it all, your fabric supplier is like the one piece of thread that holds your whole business together. They can make or break you as a brand and destroy your business.
With some good faith and intense drive to see milo+nicki come to life, I was committed to not go down without a fight.
I began on the internet, the way I knew best – Google search. I slayed away for hours and hours, staying awake until 4 or 5 am weeks at a time connecting with fabric manufacturers across the world in China, only having Google translator as our primary method of communication from English to Mandarin. I was focused and nothing was going to stop me. I searched for natural, organic, GOTS certified, vegan, cruelty-free, and so-on endlessly making sure I was doing solid and thorough research before moving forward with anyone new.
The universe felt my energy and answered. A new small fabric manufacturer from India connected with me on Instagram. It was almost too good to be true. They were a French and Indian duo who shared the same values as milo+nicki – sustainability, ethicality, cruelty-free, good for the planet and people. They valued artisan work, creating a safe and equal workplace for their team, and doing everything in the most ethical means possible.
Everything that had been spinning around me finally seemed to be falling into place. After a few weeks of back and forth, and receiving various fabric samples that we approved, we moved forward with our launch date. It was a wild rush and I was thrilled to find some sense of relief to the end of a major fiasco.
This rush came too soon because what unfolded in the next few months no one could have prepared me for. We hit major delays, 3-4 months delays, with reasons ranging from monsoon season to the fabric being lost in transit. I stayed awake hours, and days at time with no avail of the slightest form of communication from our team abroad. It was the most gut-wrenching, awful experience knowing that these individuals held the livelihood of milo+nicki in their hands.
After almost 4 months, we found a small light of hope as our fabric slowly begin to appear in the States, weeks apart at a time. I was finally able to breath.
I continued doing what I knew best, grinding away to create what I had always dreamed – cruelty-free, ethically-made sustainable clothing inspired by my Indian and Zambian roots, designed in ATX, and made in NYC for women by women. I kept going because I wanted to create something that was bigger than fashion. I wanted to inspire and push other women to follow their dreams as I pursued mine. I wanted to bring hope to other women and remind them that they can do it all. We can have our cake and eat it too ladies.
As push came to shove, we created a beautiful first collection with its snags, ups and downs. I am grateful for the patience our customers had. It was as if they were my cheer squad (minus the pom-poms) without even knowing it. They and Milo kept me going.
My dream wasn’t going to be shattered by the mishaps, the missteps, and the road bumps. I kept designing and created a second collection I felt fit all types of women and lifestyles. I knew the only way to keep going was to move on, but the team in India begged for a final chance.
Being the person I am but with great hesitation, I decided to give them one last shot. They created a contract with terms that we both promised to abide by, and I felt a little more assurance as we began to see new light to this partnership. As we began to design the first ever Bandhani collection using banana waste in the world, I felt excitement, revived energy, and a bit of pride knowing that I had designed something that no one had ever seen, felt or created before.
This excitement dimmed fairly quickly as delivery dates began to be pushed and delayed, fabric widths and quantities we were receiving were dramatically shorter than what was promised and purchased, some fabric was unusable due to rips and stains, and my factory began to question my supply chain, but we continued to wait with patience. I held on to hope, hope that this was happening for a reason, and it was to make me stronger. I tried to remind myself of what I was creating and why I was creating it. I want to empower women, and inspire change. I want ethicality and equality to be a standard in the fashion industry. I kept feeding myself these positive vibes, and then it shattered.
As we waited for our final batch of fabric a little over 3 weeks ago, my team in India disavowed our contract. They used anger towards the agreed upon contract terms to discredit my brand, undermine my integrity and purpose, and most of all, they placed blame on milo+nicki and we stand for. I was in utter shock and disbelief. I had been patient, understanding, and most of all, had continued faith and trust in them. I began to crumble, and my health followed. It was the final straw and they pulled it.
Share your truth
Everything I believe true is what I put into milo+nicki. I don’t fake it to make it. I will do everything in my power to make sure our clothing is as ethical, sustainable, and cruelty-free as possible. I will do everything I can to share the story behind the pieces of clothing we make from the farmer to sewer (which I couldn’t with this supplier). And I truly hope, that our story will continue to empower you to conquer your fears, take a leap of faith, never give up on yourself and live a life of color.
The reason I am sharing our truths isn’t to complain, or cause trouble in anyone else’s business or brand. I want to build awareness and share the reality behind starting an ethical, sustainable brand, and that not everything is perfect. It is hard work to do something you love, and succeed at it. It is hard to let relationships you have vested so much time and energy into to see evaporate in seconds. But if I can, you can. And I got your back. Relationships come and go, and some seem more painful than others, but it is a learning experience and it gives us the opportunity to grow which is what I am most thankful for.
What are some of your truths (can be anything)? Comment and #shareyourtruths below! I would love to hear from yall!