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Suffolk-born Ideologie Sells a "Postive Way of Life"

By Kevin Jordan
On April 22, 2010

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Those words, which were most famously spoken by Mahatma Gandhi, are scrawled on the back of one of the shirts made by Ideologie, an organic tee shirt company started by three Suffolk University grads. For Mark Grignon, Jaime Bucay, and Moy Romano, that change is based on love, hope, awareness, education, and art—the five pillars that are the foundation of their company.

Sitting in the back of Capitol Coffee, below where he used to live while attending Suffolk, Grignon explained what the company is about, and where it has gone since it was first hatched as part of a class project for the entrepreneurship majors.

"My partner Moy, it was his idea," Grignon started. "We went through a business plan, we presented it, and we killed it. We had people offering us money saying they would invest, so we knew it was a good idea. But basically we said ‘We don't want your money because we know you're going to take part of our company, so we're going to do this ourselves.'"

From that point on, the guys from Ideologie have incorporated those five guiding principles into all that they do.

"We looked into wholesaling at first, but a lot of the companies that sell organic don't really sell organics," Grignon said. "They lie about what they do. So a lot of that stuff is maybe 20% organic. There's a lot of grey area on what's certified organic in terms of the fashion industry. So we said ‘screw that,' and we decided buy our cotton and make our own tee shirts."

Ideologie, which gets all of their USDA certified organic cotton from Texas, manufactures all their shirts at their factory in Mexico, which is owned by Adidas. Their manufacturing practice, which Grignon describes as "so environmentally friendly it's ridiculous," allows for the company to have flexibility in regards to how their shirts are made.

"We really like having a lot of control over the things that we make. If we want it to be a half inch longer in the neck to make it a little lower or if we want one no sleeve and one long sleeve we can do whatever we want because we make it ourselves," Grignon said.

Yet Ideologie isn't just about the fashion that their clothes project. They also focus largely on furthering the message of the values that go into making their clothes. Two percent of all sales go to the Acumen Fund, which is a non-profit organization that uses entrepreneurial practices to solve global poverty.

"We're selling artwork and a message," Grignon declared. "We're selling a positive way of life on the shirt. When you're wearing that as a consumer, you're our canvas of communication."

This canvas of communication that Grignon refers to is worn around the country, as well as south of the border, by people that, just like Ideologie's tee shirts, get noticed. Local music acts like Pirate Stereo and Passion Pit don the company's organic threads while on stage, as do several big names in Latin America.

Recent success has done nothing to stray the guys from Ideologie of the path they set out on, or to forget their roots. Grignon has been in talks with the Suffolk bookstore in an attempt to get organic cotton as the primary material of Suffolk apparel.

"Suffolk is trying to take the huge initiative to be a greener campus," Grignon explained. "What better way than to make clothes completely green that started from Suffolk?"

In order to make this happen, however, Suffolk would have to break contract with their current clothing provider. In order to hurdle this obstacle, the guys at Ideolgie are eyeing a petition that would be signed by at least half of the nearly 5,000 undergraduates that attend Suffolk.

"If we get enough Suffolk students to say they really want this, then they won't really have a choice," said Grignon about the bookstore. "Even if they ended up not using our tee shirts and used other organic tee shirts because they could get a better deal, that's even a win for us because they are now an organic store and Suffolk is a greener school because of it."

In addition to trying to make the school's bookstore more sustainable, Ideologie also keeps close ties with their entrepreneurial roots at Suffolk, making good on their promise of educational values. They work with faculty members to improve the program's curriculum, largely based on what they have encountered and learned since leaving Suffolk that never made it into the classroom. In addition, the founders of Ideologie preach awareness and hope as important tools.

"Everyone in the world can make a difference, even if it's in the smallest, most minute way," Grignon explained. "It's up to our generation to do so. I think there are a lot of people that get that, but in the fashion industry? Not at all. People don't care in high fashion about being green. We want to create that awareness in the fashion industry."

"We gave a speech at Northeastern about a month ago and met this guy named Professor Shaughnessy," he said. "This guy said that 1/1000th of 1% of people in the world graduate college. That's a ridiculously small number. Your college degree is worth something and you can make a difference in the world."

Ideologie's shirts, which are already available on their website, and in boutiques in Miami and elsewhere, will be featured at Local Collection, a new boutique opening in Faneuil Hall May 1st.

The founders of Ideologie will be part of a talk next Thursday, April 29th, in the Amenities Room in 73 Tremont.

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