Lots of us are catching up to the idea that we need to give up our cheap, quick fashion fixes in favor of sweatshop-free items. There’s no reason why our BFFs (Best Furry Friends) shouldn’t be making the change too. What could be cuter than a well-dressed pup who supports good working conditions for garment workers? We spoke with Rebecca Fadden, owner of finn + me, a luxury dog accessories store whose products are all hand-made in New York City’s Garment District.
I moved to New York City just months after graduating from Boston College with a degree in Psychology. I worked in Magazine Publishing at various fashion titles such as Esquire, ELLE, and The New York Times. After nearly seven years of working in magazine publishing, I decided to go back to design school at Parsons. While I was in school, I realized there was a gap in the market for high-quality, gorgeous dog accessories. There are very high-end brands that are unattainable for most consumers and several mass-market brands, but not much in between, especially using colored leathers. So I combined my fashion background and love for dogs to create finn + me. I like to think of finn + me as ‘affordable luxury’ for dogs.
I am lucky to come from a family that values entrepreneurship. My dad started a commercial fishing business immediately after finishing his undergraduate degree. He has never had a boss! He has been an entrepreneur since he was a teenager and bought his first boat when he was only 14 years old. When he launched his business in Boston, Forbes named him one of the young entrepreneurs to watch, which is pretty cool! His work ethic, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit has always been inspirational to me.
What were the early days like?
To be honest, we are kind of still in the early days! We launched about a year and a half ago and it has been quite the ride. Navigating the many parts of running a business can be difficult, but I have learned so much along the way. One thing that people often find interesting, and only my friends know, is that we ship everything from my tiny SoHo apartment! When I say I sleep and breathe my business I really am not kidding!
All of your products are hand made in New York. Is this a challenge for you, and will you always manufacture your products this way?
I am incredibly lucky to manufacture with our factory in New York, and we have a very good relationship. They have been in business for over 30 years manufacturing handbags for many of the luxury brands such as Marc Jacobs, Derek Lam, and Elie Tahari. I sampled several factories and it took a bit of time to find the perfect fit, but it was worth the wait!
I am very passionate about ethical fashion and the proper treatment of garment workers and so being able to see the employees’ working conditions and knowing that they are paid a fair wage is very important to me. Many consumers are not educated on the supply chain and do not understand that often lower priced items are directly correlated with low-wage labor.
While it is more of a financial investment to manufacture in New York, there is also a lot of value in being able to monitor quality and work with quick turn around times. If there is ever an issue, I can run over to the factory to attend to the matter.
Your Instagram presence is beautifully produced. What impact has Instagram had on your business?
Instagram is a wonderful tool for small businesses. Not only for marketing and telling your brand’s story, but also for connecting with customers.
I spend a lot of time on my business account, whether I am waiting in line for coffee or in the back of an Uber, I like to use any spare time to engage on Instagram. I use it to connect with my customers, whether it is answering Direct Messages or commenting on their photos. I love hearing people’s feedback and it makes me so happy seeing them share how much they love our packaging or our products. I have even built friendships with many of our customers over Instagram.
It’s great that you give a portion of the proceeds of each collar, leash, and bag set to The Covenant House in New York. Why is it important to you to do social good through your business, and what made you choose this charity?
I have been involved with countless charities over the years. When we were growing up, my parents ingrained in my brother and me how important it is to give back. When I started my business, there was no question whether I would include a charitable component. I have sat on the Board of Covenant House for three years which is why I chose to give to them. Finn is also a trained therapy dog, so we volunteer together as a therapy team with The Good Dog Foundation.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started? Do you have advice for women who are just starting out?
I would advise women who are just starting out to remember to just ‘stick with it’ because there are many ups and downs when starting a business and everyone struggles at one point or another. We live in the time of social media where people don’t publicize their downs, but they are most certainly there, so don’t compare yourself to others. Stay true to yourself, your values, and your goals, and be kind to everyone who crosses your path. Whether it’s my pattern maker, a factory worker, or the head buyer at a major retailer, I treat everyone with the same respect and kindness and that has taken me far with my business and life in general. A smile can go a long way!
Stay true to yourself, your values, and your goals, and be kind to everyone who crosses your path.BACK TO FOUNDATION