Under the Canopy: Organix Style with Soul
Under the Canopy’s corporate mission is to offer stylish consumers a way to help eliminate pesticides from their homes, their bodies and the planet. Its corporate history, however, demonstrates that even merchants with timely and unique ideas such as this can get temporarily blindsided by business variables beyond their control.
This Boca Raton, FL-based catalog sells high-quality, fashion-forward apparel, bed and bath ware, gifts, footwear and accessories made of organic fiber grown without the use of toxic chemicals.
But the company almost didn’t make it out of the start-up phase. A fulfillment fiasco threatened to sideline the business early in its development. The title was kept alive by the tenacity and passion of UTC’s Founder, President and CEO Marci Zaroff whose merchandising philosophy can be summed up in one phrase: style with soul.
The Environmental Component
“It takes a third of a pound of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals to make enough conventional cotton for one T-shirt,” says Zaroff. “Last year, 84 million pounds of such chemicals were sprayed in this country alone, and we’re not the only cotton-producing nation in the world. It’s scary to think what will happen to the world in years to come if we don’t do something to stem this tide of toxic-chemical use.”
Zaroff is not alone in her quest for cleaner, more environmentally sound solutions. Catalogers such as Patagonia and Norm Thompson also have made strong commitments to selling such products. And Nike, Armani, Marks & Spencer, and Timberland are moving into the organic-apparel market, according to Zaroff.
Since its inception in 1996, UTC has designed and sold organic apparel to top fashion models, renowned artists and celebrities. But Zaroff’s mission isn’t simply to clothe the rich and beautiful. Rather, she wants to capture the fashion-forward segment of what’s called the LOHAS market, or those concerned with “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.” The Natural Marketing Institute claims the LOHAS demographic is comprised of 68 million people, or 32 percent of the population. These individuals, aware of environmental, health and wellness issues, buy organic foods, recycle and may practice yoga. And they prefer to support companies that are socially responsible and don’t pollute the planet.