What is your life’s purpose?
To live a life that is in harmony with the earth and to do work that serves the earth.
How are you living your purpose?
I have made the environment and social justice a part of my career for the past 14 years. I get to work on environmental issues with the apparel industry—from organic cotton fields to textile recycling.
I started out my career at the apparel company Patagonia. I had just completed my Master’s in Environmental studies and wanted to put what I learned into practice with an actual company. My work focused on human rights in the supply chain. I spent time with our factories to review their labor practices and offer help in areas where it was needed. After four years, I had the opportunity to manage both environmental and social sustainability for prAna. We focused on crafting a strategy that the entire company could work towards delivering on. The focus was on the materials that we made our products from, the people who made those products, and the integrity with which it was all done. prAna was the first brand to offer Fair Trade Certified apparel to the US and led the way in industry practices for chemical management in the apparel made.
Now, I have started a company, The Renewal Workshop, with the goal to change the apparel industry from a linear system to a circular one that mirrors how nature behaves. The Renewal Workshop is a new kind of apparel company that makes discarded clothing and textiles into something new. We partner with apparel brands and retailers to recover value from their unsellable returns and excess inventory.
Our Renewal System takes discarded apparel and textiles and turns them into renewed apparel, upcycling materials or feedstock for recycling. Data is collected on everything that flows through the system and is shared with our brand partners to help them improve the production and design of future products. Renewed apparel is sold direct-to-consumer at www.renewalworkshop.com or through the brand’s sales channels. We’re the certified renewal partner of our brands and our accompanying labeling in the garment acts as a seal of trust and quality.
The Renewal Workshop operates a zero-waste circular system that recovers the full value out of what has already been created as a way of serving customers, partners, and planet.
How did you find your purpose?
All through high school and university, I wanted to be a filmmaker—to tell stories and delight audiences—because it looked like a lot of fun. And I did work in the film and TV industry, as an editor for the Discovery channel. When I was editing a show about Ford motor company, I learned how they had detoxified one of their sites using plants and how their newest buildings featured green roofs. I discovered that business could be a change agent and was so inspired that I decided I wanted to help companies do better. That’s when I went back to school and got a Master’s in Environmental Studies.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Purpose is doing something that aligns with your values. It could be through volunteering, through your work, or through your community. It doesn’t have to look a certain way; it’s an internal gut check with yourself. Ask yourself: Am I living up to the potential that I have to give? Knowing that I’ll only be alive on this planet for so long, how did I serve and do my best during my time here?
What resources do you recommend?
I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It by Barbara Sher and Barbara Smith. I loved this book because it helped me focus all my interests and figure out how I can live my life’s passions in a way that satisfied me.
People who have inspired me: Anne Gillespie – Most people will not have heard of Anne, but she is the reason why the apparel industry has the tools it needs to track standards of products, be it organic, animal welfare standards, or recycled materials. She works tirelessly for the advancement of the industry and inspires me daily to be better at my job.
Nicole Bassett is the co-Founder of The Renewal Workshop, a company dedicated to industry-wide solutions for optimizing the value of resources invested in apparel. The Renewal Workshop partners with apparel brands to process their unsellable returns and excess inventory at its own state-of-the-art factory in Oregon, creating the category of Renewed Apparel. Prior, Nicole has applied her passion for environmental responsibility and human rights in consumer products. She has served in leadership roles in the Outdoor and Bicycle industries, as Director of Sustainability for prAna, Social Responsibility Manager at Patagonia and Head of Human Rights at Specialized Bicycles. Nicole has a noteworthy career leading the introduction of Fair Trade Apparel into the USA market, industry-recognized for her work in championing and integrating social and environmental responsibility through businesses and supply chains as well as developing and implementing business strategy within apparel brands. Nicole received her Master’s in Environmental Studies with a focus on Business Strategy and Sustainability from York University in Toronto, Canada. She can also be found running and cycling with her husband and dogs.