International Women’s Day is a global day of awareness celebrating the academic, social, cultural and economic achievements of women as well as a rally call to take action for gender equality. The 2021 theme of #ChooseToChallenge stems from a concept that a challenged world is an alert world and that from challenge comes change.
Science alumnus Therese Hayes (BSc ’89) is certainly no exception when it comes to the concept of challenge. It’s her constant drive to challenge the limits of possibility that has become a cornerstone of her successful career. Ms. Hayes is one of the guest panellists in the Faculty of Science’s upcoming High Tea Social, a virtual round-table discussion on why women choose to challenge.
Ms. Hayes habitually surrounds herself with smart, creative and innovative people who share her desire to continuously learn and improve. That need, coupled with her ambition to make substantial inroads in retail sustainability, led her and a team of like-minded women to co-found The House of LR&C, a new concept in retail with a focus on doing good.
“We are ‘choosing to challenge’ the traditional retail apparel environment,” explains Ms. Hayes, “Our majority women-led team has come together to create a truly sustainable and inclusive business — I am having so much fun.”
Indeed, The House of LR&C, which stands for “love, respect and care,” has powerful and successful women at its helm. Co-founders including the former lululemon CEO, Christine Day, as well American singer and Grammy winner, Ciara, are combining forces to change the way retail companies interact with their customers as well as the environment.
Under the House of LR&C there are currently two brands, Human Nation, an inclusive and sustainable GenZ focused brand launched in December 2020 and Good Man Brand, founded by Ciara’s husband, Seattle Seahawk’s quarterback, Russell Wilson, in 2016.
The company is built around inclusivity, positive impact and real change for the greater good. They take their mission to task with three foundational concepts: sustainability, creation in collaboration with customers and giving 3 per cent of net revenue back to support the next generation. Ciara and Wilson (who wears jersey #3) created the Why Not You Foundation in 2014 to empower youth to lead with a “why not you” attitude.
Sustainability: The Human Nation brand
As chief sustainability and business development officer, Ms. Hayes oversees the company’s objectives and initiatives relating to sustainability. The House of LR&C was established as a Public Benefits Corporation and is a Pending B Corp — building into its charter its commitment to a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. Ms. Hayes added that they looked to the experts when creating a sustainable path for The House of LR&C and tied social and environmental initiatives to the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals. Some of those goals include achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls; ensuring available and sustainable management of water; and promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
The recently launched Human Nation Brand product is sustainable and gender neutral, with inclusive sizing at accessible price points – essentially a physical embodiment of the company’s values. Ms. Hayes’ inner scientist appreciates the hydrophobic technology that allows the 100 per cent organic cotton and recycled polyester clothing to be classified as anti-stain and anti-stink therefore requiring significantly less laundering on the consumer end.
“We have created what we call our ‘Goods Mandate’ strict standards for the materials used to make our clothing to reduce our environmental impact,” said Ms. Hayes. “With this technology we also give consumers the opportunity to do their part.”
Roughly two thirds of the impact comes from the material used to make the clothes. The other third comes from the consumer use phase from washing and drying their clothes. The company has also tackled the problem of single use plastic replacing the typical polybag that all clothes are packaged in at the factory with biodegradable and compostable bags.
The Business Development side of her role is equally intriguing and innovative. Hayes introduced the House of LR&C to another Vancouver-based company called RIVAL and together they created a community of 500 GenZ consumers that help develop the products from design to the consumer stage.
“This is much more than a simple focus group, more interactive and immediately applicable,” she explains. “Through text, chat and video we are able to get feedback in real-time on colour choices, fabrics, slogans, graphics and styles. It is an example of how we are democratizing fashion — we bring the consumer inside the tent so instead of it being exclusive it becomes participatory.”
Indeed, the brand looks for ways to amplify individual and community voices and support positive initiatives focussed on inclusivity, environmental responsibility and social justice.
It’s no surprise Hayes is having the time of her life at The House of LR&C. She is at the pinnacle of a long and successful career spanning more than 25 years in brand building through communications, public relations and marketing. An impressive resume of industries spans from Biotech and Cleantech to retail and sustainability. She has held leadership roles at both publicly traded and private companies including Luvo Inc. (Chief Brand& Strategy Officer), lululemon Inc. (SVP Communications and Sustainability) and QLT Inc. (SVP Communications and Investor Relations). She has also provided strategic advisory and consulting services at a number of other companies including Saje Natural Wellness, Aritzia, O2E Brands, Hootsuite, WhistlerBlackcomb Holdings Inc. and Day4 Energy.
Therese Hayes embodies the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day with her continuous and deliberate decision to challenge the clothing industry’s sustainability standards.
“I’m very excited to be part of this exceptional panel of women. Each story is so inspiring - there are so many ways to choose to challenge.”
When she is not working, Ms. Hayes enjoys a wonderful west coast lifestyle in Vancouver, skiing at Whistler Blackcomb and spending time with her husband Richard and two children, Macgregor and Francesca.
There’s still time to register for the Faculty of Science High Tea Social on Monday, March 8, 3 p.m ET. Don’t forget to share the reason you #ChooseToChallenge!