Stone + Cloth rucksacks and iPad cases help provide education in Tanzania.
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro can be an incredibly inspiring and enriching feat that creates life-long memories. For Matthew Clough, the arduous adventure to the top of the Tanzanian peak turned from an outdoor challenge into a revelation that spurred the birth of a beneficial business plan. Stone + Cloth combines Clough’s design education with a sustainable cause, resulting in a collection of durable, high-quality and intelligently designed backpacks and cases that pay it forward. Ten percent of the label’s proceeds go to the Knock Foundation, which provides scholarships, school lunches and school supplies to Tanzanian students. We caught up with Matthew to hear more about Stone + Cloth and his philosophy that “we’re given two hands; one to help yourself, and one to help others.”
Leena Oijala: Tell me a little bit about the story behind Stone and Cloth.
Matthew Clough: The opportunity I had to go to Africa and climb Mt Kilimanjaro was really the experience that got me to where I am today. Benson, my porter during the climb, was waking me up with hot tea every morning, carrying my meals and carrying my rucksack along the way, and was really the reason that I was able to accomplish my goal. My appreciation for Benson didn’t fully materialize until I really got to know him and learned that he makes less than a dollar a day. When I got home from Tanzania I had a sort of epiphany, and got reverse culture shock. I was appreciating the very simple things like having food on the table and having clean, running water, realizing that there are so many people in the world who have much less than I do. Since I’ve grown up in a way where I’ve been provided for, I felt like I needed to pass that on. I thought ‘Why wouldn’t I help when I can and have the resources around me to do so?’
LO: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
MC: A quote I learned in school that I wanted to adopt to everything in my life was “A designer has reached perfection not when there’s anything left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.” So, just as simple as possible. The Benson backpack is named after my porter, as my relationship with him really is the inspiring force behind Stone & Cloth. The Lucas is also named after a porter that was leading our group of 15 climbers up the mountain.
LO: Where do you source fabrics from? Where does the manufacturing occur?
MC: We’re sourcing 100 percent cotton in heavy rigid denim and canvas locally from vendors in Los Angeles, but the best quality fabrics are mostly from Japan or Europe. All of our bags and cases are constructed in Los Angeles. We’re focused on creating the best possible product, and although we want to be eco-friendly as well, our first focus is giving Tanzanian students the help they need.
LO: How much of an impact have you made in helping Tanzanian students?
MC: In terms of measurable impact we’ve been able to provide school lunches and school supplies to a classroom of 25 and award 5 scholarships to students. We believe that putting kids in school has the potential to break the poverty cycle, but we’re not about dispersing as many scholarships as possible – we want to find the potential leaders in the community to provide scholarships for them year after year.
LO: What inspires you?
MC: So many things, but community more than anything. The more I interact with my community the more inspired I am to make an impact and push my project forward.
LO: What sustainable fashion labels, initiatives and organizations inspire and motivate you?
MC: From a socially conscious standpoint I think Krochet Kids is incredibly inspiring and from a design and fashion standpoint J. Crew is definitely number one for me.
LO: Do you or will you follow trends when it comes to your designs?
MC: The way I’ve been designing products and using different fabrics has been something I’ve done by going with my gut, and I think that’s the way I’ll continue to go about it.
LO: What’s next for Stone & Cloth?
MC: My first full time employee started on April 1st, and so I’ll be focusing more on spreading the story of Stone & Cloth around the world.
LO: What kind of design and fashion do you think the future holds?
MC: I think more than anything else people will be looking for the quality of the product. People will begin to wake up to the fact that the things we purchase should really be an investment, so they will be more willing to pay more for a high quality product that will last 10 years longer. Hopefully that means more emphasis will then be put on the skill of the designer.
Images: Stone + Cloth