Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam
Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam

Building deep relationships with the communities trading raw materials is a key factor in establishing a more sustainable supply chain, argues Matt Scanlan of disruptive cashmere brand, Naadam.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast, the CEO and co-founder of the company, opens up about how important it is to think about the human side of what we, as an industry, are doing.

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“There are fundamental shared experiences across the human experience that we don’t think about when we’re making clothing; that we don’t think about when we’re trying to look nice. That was eye-opening to me, and I try really hard to continually push that narrative for people,” he says.

His entire business was built first on relationships, he explains, which led him to want to support those he had gotten to know. In this case, we’re talking Mongolian goat herders.

His story of how he got there is a well known one – in short he spent a month with local communities in the Gobi Desert and then returned with $2 million stashed in plastic bags to buy tons of raw cashmere directly from them. Doing so allows those goat herders to earn 50% more profit.

Since then, his ambition to transform the cashmere supply chain alongside business partner, Diederik Rijsemus, has grown rapidly. Simultaneously, the consumer mindset on what sustainability is and why it matters is finally starting to take hold, he notes, outlining his drive to keep pushing this forward.

“All I care about is building the biggest platform to share my message which is a very simple passion around why I did it in the first place. The bigger the platform is, the happier I am. I just want more people to know that if you’re really thoughtful about sustainability it can foster innovation that lets you make products across a spectrum that are more affordable for the customer and better quality.”

Also in the conversation, Scanlan talks about why 100% sustainability is both fake and impossible, the challenges faced by growing and scaling such a brand, and why he now operates via wholesale channels as well as his direct-to-consumer model. The death of traditional retail is hyperbolic, he says.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.