Published on May 18th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
GoLite Design Director Caroline MacMillan On Creating Fun, Functional & Eco-Friendly Clothing
GoLite is an earth-friendly apparel company with designs that merge outdoor performance with athletic functionality for active exploration. GoLite GoAid humanitarian efforts include collaborations with leading relief organizations, helping to produce programs which empower and protect local communities across the globe. GoLite’s carefully chosen factory and mill partnerships ensure that its products are manufactured in fair, safe, and non-discriminatory facilities.
Seattle-native Caroline MacMillan is renowned for her capacity to effectively synthesize market trends, brand objectives and customer needs in order to create compelling product assortments. Prior to becoming GoLite’s Design Director, MacMillan worked with leading brands like ExOfficio, Nube9 and Royal Robbins. I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Ms. MacMillan and highlights from that interview are below. More on MacMillan and GoLite can be found online at www.golite.com.
How would describe GoLite to someone who hasn’t yet checked it out?
Caroline MacMillan: Our goal is to make go-to pieces that outperform and outlast the other clothes in your closet. The term we’ve coined is “Outletics” — a little outdoor, a little athletic — high-performance, stylish, comfortable and multi-functional gear for an everyday active life.
How did you wind up working with GoLite?
Caroline MacMillan: I was working for another Seattle start-up dedicated to 100 percent recycled, made in the USA activewear, so it was a natural next step to leverage what I’d learned there at GoLite. It’s a unique opportunity to build a brand from the ground up, but this is especially rewarding because of the commitment to sustainable materials and methods.
When did the “green” environmental concept come versus the idea of just starting up a new clothing line?
Caroline MacMillan: There’s already so much product in the world, much of it made to be disposable. Part of our mission is to leverage our profits to fund humanitarian aid efforts around the world, so it didn’t make sense for our products to make the world worse at the same time. We work to avoid this not just by using recycled and eco-friendly materials and packaging, but also by making sure all of our products are durable, high-quality and super-functional.
Where or how exactly are your recycled parts sourced?
Caroline MacMillan: Luckily there’s a very healthy supply chain for recycled yarns in Taiwan, where most of our fabrics are made. We’ve partnered with an amazing charity in Taipei called Da.Ai to help us source a good portion of our raw materials. They have a huge network of volunteers who gather, sort and clean the post-consumer waste that then gets turned into recycled polyester fibers and fabrics. It’s a model we hope is adopted in more places as demand for recycled materials increases.
How long does it take from conceptualizing and designing a product to actually having it for sale?
Caroline MacMillan: Unlike fast fashion brands, we only launch two seasons a year. About six months goes into development and selling in to our independent retailers, then it takes another six months to perfect and produce the line. Seems like a long time from the outside — goes by in a flash on the inside.
Do you have a favorite of the GoLite products?
Caroline MacMillan: I really love the ReGreen Windshell — it perfectly encapsulates everything we’re about. Turning green bottles no one else wants into our base fabric, avoiding wasteful dying processes, and collaboratively designing a fun, functional, multi-tasking garment.
What is coming up for GoLite in the coming months?
Caroline MacMillan: We just launched our website in March showcasing our inaugural Spring 2019 line, and Fall 2019 will launch in August. But in the meantime Spring 2020 is being shown to retailers and the design team is heads down on Fall 2020 development. Every season we’ve increased the percentage of the line using recycled materials, found ways to extend our best fabrics into new products and categories, and expanded our range of sustainable materials and processes.
When not busy with GoLite, how do you like to spend your free time?
Caroline MacMillan: I love the water, so being on it, in it or near it is always my preference. Sailing, swimming, SCUBA when I can, camping by the ocean, or just running around the lake near my house.
What was the last concert you attended for fun?
Caroline MacMillan: Willie Nelson in an outdoor arena in the woods outside Seattle. He was a constant companion on every camping trip growing up… Love him.
Finally, Caroline, any last words for the kids?
Caroline MacMillan: (laughs) I’m too Gen-X for that — the kids have their own words… I hope!