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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

I never expected to be working in the fashion industry. Far from it. After I graduated from university, I booked a one-way flight to Gulu, Uganda where I focused on the role that international development can play to alleviate poverty. It's wasn't until my apartment lease in DC and the invoice of my student loans came a knocking that I switched gears and moved back to the States.

Upon moving back home, I ended up with a job interview at a little old company called, Under Armour. I'll never forget renting a Zip Car (do those even still exist?) to make the drive from my apartment on U Street to Baltimore. After a series of successful interviews, I was offered a position as Sourcing Coordinator working in UA's Supply Chain. And so began my career in the fashion industry. 

All I knew was that I cared about workers rights and the impact that our purchases have on people and the planet. Anything that could get me closer to feeling like I could make a difference was my sole focus. Lo and behold, I got all of that and a bag of vegan potato chips.

Here's what I want you to know that I learned from my time working for some of the largest brands in the world.

  • I learned the textile industry operates on a vicious 18 month cycle where designers forecast trends at least 2-3 seasons out from when they are actually worn (which creates a lot of waste) and there are cut throat negotiations with factory owners to secure the cheapest price to make said garments.
  • I learned that the factories are squeezed and that trade agreements often dictate sourcing decisions and that there is not one person who makes our clothes... there are hundreds.
  • I learned that sustainability and corporate social responsibility often fall in legal departments instead of being implemented in every business function.
  • I learned that greenwashing is real and very alive.
  • Most importantly, I learned that the brands don't have any skin in the supply chain game and that the people who do all the work have the most skin yet the smallest voice in the conversation. 

I could go on and on on what I learned these past ten years. And if you have specific questions... I'm happy to answer. Just drop a note in the comments.

But the main point is that the decision that I made to leave working on the brand side wasn't because I wanted to start my own brand. It was because I knew that a job needed to be done to educate people about the real story behind how our clothes are made. And Anact was born.

Anact is created to inspire us to take simple acts to create impact each day. One of our acts is to focus on disrupting the textile industry and connecting you with the people, places and story behind the clothes we wear every day. That's why we are committed to supporting Fashion Revolution Week to commemorate those we lost in Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013. 

I believe that what we have experienced with COVID-19 (and are continuing to experience) is a dress rehearsal for what the climate crisis can and will bring and that addressing the role that the fashion industry plays in contributing to climate change and people's lives sooner rather than later will prepare us as a global community. Join me in the movement of asking #whomademyclothes 

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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

As the days become weeks, the weeks feel like months and a month feels like a year… I struggle to grasp a sense of time that feels right for where it makes sense to “be” in the midst of a pandemic.

I comb my body to see if anything has changed… has my hair gotten longer? Have I gained or lost weight? Do my fingernails need to be cut? Then I move to my mental state. Where am I in the 5 stages of grief? Am I on track? Did I regress? Am I still in shock? And then I realize that none of it matters.

The elusion of being told when something will be over no longer exists in this current time and space. It is and will be on going. It’s how I choose to respond and face my inner fears about myself, my relationships and the universe that is all that matters anymore. Eek. That’s scary to say. The things that I have told myself will define me and will provide feelings of accomplishment and “success” have been thrown out the window.

It’s just me holding me.

It’s me letting parts of my body (alright, fine, my heart) sing for the first time in a long time. It’s the moments of joy that I experience as I sit out on the stoop and have the neighborhood boy, Jonah, stroll up beside me and strike up a conversation.

The unstoppable smile that broke out on my face as he shared his love of dinosaurs, dragons, elves and wizards and his 7 year old perspective of the virus. The look on my face when we talked about The Hobbit and I shared my thoughts on Bilbo Baggins only to have him remind me not to forget his favorite, Frodo. Or when I asked him if he would like to play basketball when it was safe to do so again and he told me that it was one of his favorite sports but he thought we needed five people to make a team. I told him that we could play 1x1 and that I wanted to give him a heads up that I’m pretty good so he shouldn’t be surprised if I beat him only to have him respond that he is pretty good at sports too and not be afraid if he beats me.

Before I could ask him another question, his dad called his name to come back inside. I wished him a Happy Easter before he left and he stopped and told me he didn’t celebrate Easter but he wished me a happy one as well.

As he skipped away with his impromptu bat (a bamboo stick), I felt this immense joy erupt inside of me. The child-like joy of seeing another human being in their raw, authentic, and unencumbered self.

The realization of the depth of my own heart that I knew was there but hadn’t let be herself in a long time. (In all fairness, starting one’s own company really did kick my ass and I adopted a very drill sergeant and militant attitude to persevere through the hard times that served me then but no longer serve me now).

I continue to ponder this thought as I wrap my headphones around my iPhone and peel myself off the stoop and continue to let that feeling of JOY course through my veins and wash over my heart and my body. I let my childhood memories emerge and things that younger Bri longed for and still longs for emerge.

I’m jolted slightly as I bring myself back to reality walking in my socks on the gravel to retrieve a painting that had caught my eye earlier that morning. You see, when I popped out of the house earlier this morning, there was a piece of artwork that he had drawn that was waiting for me outside when I walked out the door. I’m pretty sure it’s a bat. I didn’t pick it up then but something inside told me to do it now.

Why you ask? Because last week on the night of the first full moon, a bat flew over my head in that exact same spot that I sat talking to Jonah. I know that it might not seem like much but as I cling for the moments of joy, it feels like everything.

Sending you loads of joy,


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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

For most people, a brief scan of LinkedIn, commenting on a post or responding to an invitation to connect counts as the week’s networking effort and activity. Brianna Kilcullen is not most people. When I call Kilcullen mid-October, a cheery voice with a cold greets me on the other end. After two weeks abroad in Europe, attending conferences and meeting potential collaborators, she’s relieved to be back home in Jacksonville, Florida. Vegetables and sleep had been hard to come by during those hectic weeks abroad.

Kilcullen, a sustainability and supply chain consultant and self-described introvert, is no newbie to entrepreneurism nor adaptability. From a stint with the Secret Service to working on international development and land equity in South Sudan and Northern Uganda, to leading supply chain management and corporate social responsibility programs at outdoor industry companies, Kilcullen has woven a varied career. Today, she’s carving out a unique space in one of the most fraught sectors of the outdoor industry: textiles.

In recent years, the outdoor industry has taken a more vocal stance on sustainability and social responsibility. A 2018 report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change amplified the urgency of these initiatives, and with textiles, hemp may be the clearest solution.

Kilcullen was first introduced to hemp while traveling in Qingdao, China. “I had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact hemp has had on the Chinese government, military, farmers and economy,” Kilcullen says. “It changed me forever.”

In the U.S., hemp’s status is complicated both legally and culturally, and stakeholders must get comfortable with radical innovation in what is known as a “disruptors’ arena.”

“Hemp is a pretty lethal fiber,” Kilcullen says. “It’s multifaceted in a way that cotton, polyester and nylon are not. You can use the seed for food, the fiber for textiles and the hurd can be used for building homes.”

Hemp is also naturally antibacterial, antimicrobial, UV-resistant and biodegradable. It also bests cotton when it comes to environmental impact. Cotton, the thirstiest crop in the world, uses 24 percent of the world’s insecticides and pesticides. Hemp is a regenerative crop that revitalizes the soil, uses little to no water and doesn’t need insecticides or pesticides.

Kilcullen says, “I worry a bit that we put too much pressure on [hemp’s] ability to reverse the negative consequences we’ve had with cotton production. Will it work? I don’t know.”

That unknown isn’t holding Kilcullen back. A radical spirit with a desire to merge big business with positive change, she founded We the People, a company that makes hemp towels, in 2017. The company’s ethos draws on the history of the crop as integral to the founding of the U.S.—the first flag was sewn from hemp fiber, the Founding Fathers were hemp farmers and the U.S. Constitution was drafted on hemp paper—and Kilcullen’s desire to align business, social and environmental goals.

So where does hemp stand? In December 2018, President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which includes a provision to allow the legal cultivation of hemp. Ideally, we’ll soon see hemp move from hushed conversations at conferences—legend goes that Giorgio Armani used to make his famous suits exclusively of hemp, though now the fiber is totally taboo—to being widely recognized and utilized as one of the best options for environment-friendly textiles.

We the People’s towels are in development, and the company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in 2019. Kilcullen was recently nominated as one of MJBizCon’s 2019 Women to Watch.

She says, “I’m excited to be a part of reintroducing hemp back into the U.S. and to create a transparent industry that makes products to replace cotton and that’s better for people and for the planet.”

This story first appeared in RANGE Magazine Issue 10, which is dedicated to the idea of progress. Get your hands on a copy HERE.

Photo by Emma Pratte for The Highly x High Herstory.

XX Sophie Goodman

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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

One of the most popular questions that I am often asked is.. what's the difference between the Anact towels and bamboo towels? Before I answer your question, I believe it's important to know there are two different fibers when it comes to textiles: natural and synthetic. Natural fibers are as their name implies: natural. You can grow them in your backyard. Examples include: cotton, hemp, linen, wool, silk etc., Synthetic fibers are man-made fibers. Examples include nylon, polyester, rayon etc., These fibers are petroleum derived which means you cannot grow them in your backyard and they are manipulated by humans to become textiles. Bamboo i.e. rayon is one of those fibers. 

The reason that bamboo is not sustainable (even though growing bamboo is sustainable as long as it is not contributing to deforestation) is because of a chemical solvent that is used to break down the bamboo which wipes out any trace of the bamboo in the textile manufacturing process. If you were to test a bamboo towel, you would find there is no bamboo to trace. And have you ever wondered why there is no organic certification for bamboo? That's because the Global Organic Trade Association refuses to certify rayon fabric even if the start with organic bamboo. If you'd like to learn more about the history of bamboo/rayon fabric click here

Here's an illustration to show you the difference between natural and synthetic fiber processing: 


Textile Manufacturing Process

Due to lack of regulatory requirements on greenwashing in the United States, many companies take advantage of customers by marketing false information to appear to be "green". For example, I was in Costco several years ago and saw a blanket that had sheep pictured on it to make one think that blanket had wool in it. Upon checking the care and content label, I discovered it was 100% polyester. Unfortunately, this happens all the time. 

It's one of the reasons why I started Anact and I created the Anact towels. I wanted to know what was in my towel and I wanted to share the people and the process behind it. That's why we use only natural fibers (hemp and cotton) in the creation of our towels and we have two colors available that are not dyed with chemicals. We offer undyed and unbleached (natural) and undyed (white). Our goal in the future is to utilize natural dyeing methods to achieve a larger color palette offering to our customers but for right now, we believe in being as transparent as possible about what is in our towels so that you know what you're putting on your body!

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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

The reality is that less than 1% of clothing sold in the US is MADE IN THE US.  Whether you like it or not, there is a good chance (a very good chance) that something you are wearing right now was MADE IN CHINA.  
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