Kristine Kim on Defining Impact for Dôen

Kristine and her son Nico, photographed by Nicki Sebastian

DÔEN’s 2030 Roadmap goes live today, and we are thrilled to share this ambitious strategy with our greater community. As the inaugural Director of Impact at DÔEN, my primary mandate is to lead the team in creating an overarching blueprint for the business that will encapsulate both social and environmental elements of impact. Having previously worked with stakeholders across the apparel value chain—from factories to farmers—I was up for the challenge and excited to create a holistic impact approach, specific to DÔEN. The brand had already accomplished quite a bit: using preferred fabrics like organic cotton, adhering to a strict social compliance policy with all of their factories, and even managing to work exclusively with women-owned Tier 1 factories. The impact vision now was to aim for something that would push our work beyond compliance and private regulation—for our employees, our supply chain, and our community.
To begin, I met with employees throughout the organization, gathering an understanding of the individual teams that drive the business forward—and their values. It became apparent that most members of the team were drawn to the brand largely because of its value-driven approach to fashion— but how they defined this “value” varied greatly. This presented an opportunity to create an impact framework that the entire company could understand and engage with in a meaningful way. At the end of the day, we make new products, and finding opportunities to overhaul the global fashion system as a small business would be no easy feat. We had to focus our efforts and find a clear path that made sense for our business.

Thus began the exploration into our definition of impact. Looking within the industry, our tools and resources were limited, especially for a company of our size. The elusive triple bottom line is unique to every company and determining ours would require significant introspection and courage. But the real issue I found was that so much of the “sustainable fashion” discourse was reduced to a binary. There is some low-hanging fruit for this work: choosing an organic option over a non-organic, using recycled over virgin, and opting for a certified quality over non-certified. These are somewhat “simple” substitutes, but also include more nuanced, interconnected trade-offs that are overlooked in favor of the easy-to-digest binary. For example, becoming a certified organic cotton farmer in a developing country requires considerable investment and time, both of which may not be available to a rural cotton farmer. Shifting business away from these groups will have devastating repercussions on their livelihoods. While the environmental argument in favor of organic cotton is strong, the human cost of these decisions is less discussed. The clear “right” answer is perhaps not all that clear.

Kristine wears the Isadora Cardigan and the Lady Jean

Like any industry, ours is often viewed—but does not actually function—within a black and white framework of right vs. wrong, sustainable vs. unsustainable. We know that labeling any brand as a “sustainable fashion brand” is greenwashing and misleading, but have we challenged ourselves beyond this? Every business on a sustainability journey will be confronted with a series of complex micro and macro decisions, often on a daily basis. The “right” answer for each organization looks different, and requires collective problem-solving and collaboration. Weighing all of the various trade-offs involved in any single action is the real impact work facing companies.

The 2030 Roadmap represents our desire to do better in an imperfect industry… We are investigating our own business practices in the context of the greater fashion ecosystem; how our behavior ripples across the globe and onto the factory floor.”

Ultimately, the 2030 Roadmap represents our point of view as a brand seeking to do better in an overly complex and imperfect industry. We believe in unlocking the sheer force of women as agents of sustainable development for their families and communities. We are enlisting our value chain in fighting the ever-urgent climate crisis plaguing our planet. We are investigating our own business practices in the context of the greater fashion ecosystem and how our behavior ripples across the globe and onto the factory floor. We built our 2030 Roadmap to march towards these beliefs, while leaving space for the infinite nuance in value chain and impact work. Our commitment as a brand is to strive towards improvement and progress, specific to our value chain, as we continue to define impact as a business. Above all, we will be transparent with our community in this continually evolving process. We hope that this is the beginning of a new pathway for small brands like us to meaningfully drive impact.


Explore our 2030 Roadmap here.

Kristine wears the Bijou Dress and the Asher Mule, Nico wears the Little Rive Cardigan