In Conversation With Vanessa Barboni Hallik of Another Tomorrow
The founder and CEO of the fashion brand Another Tomorrow is reimagining the industry ecosystem from the inside to prove a better way is not only possible, but scalable.
I first heard about the fashion brand Another Tomorrow when The New York Times wrote a feature on them soon after they launched with the headline, “A Brand as Ethically Minded as It Is Refined.” Shortly thereafter, I was lucky enough to cross paths (pre-quarantine) with the brand’s founder and CEO, Vanessa Barboni Hallik, and we hit it off immediately. Similar to myself, Vanessa took all the skills she’d acquired from a career in one industry—in her case finance—and applied them to a totally different one in order to bring into being something that she knew should, and could, exist, but that she was unable to find. For her, this was a brand that offered chic, elevated wardrobe staples, produced sustainably from concept to creation, with a transparent supply chain that centered on human, animal and environmental welfare. Vanessa and Another Tomorrow share so many of the same values as Vintner’s Daughter. The way they continue to introduce thoughtful and innovative solutions to help deal with some of the fashion industry’s biggest challenges—such as adding a resale component to help address an often wasteful cycle of consumption—is a true source of inspiration. Vanessa’s story and Another Tomorrow are a wonderful reminder that letting values lead the way will more often than not get us to the outcomes we truly want.
I was so thrilled to have the chance to connect with Vanessa and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
I’m very excited to have the chance to chat with you. Before we dive in, I’d love to hear how you first discovered Vintner's Daughter.
Well, I knew about Vintner's Daughter as this cult beauty brand that women would just whisper about among themselves. But it was actually when you reached out to me right after our launch, which just melted my heart, I have to say, that I really dug deep and then ultimately came to see you in San Francisco.
I had read about you in The New York Times and I thought, this extraordinarily thoughtful, conscious, stylish fashion company is what I have been looking for. So many of your ideals and principles were so resonant with what we are doing at Vintner's Daughter. I literally emailed you immediately, and then it turned out you were in San Francisco the very next week. It was meant to be.
I completely agree.
Would you give us a little background in how you came to create Another Tomorrow? Is it really one of the only Certified B Corporation fashion companies?
It's the only luxury, Certified B Corporation fashion company at this point, which I find just absolutely wild. Really it all started when I was on a sabbatical from my finance job and I thought I was going to be moving into sustainable finance. I started going down the rabbit hole of how impactful the fashion industry is and I was just blown away by the magnitude, the complexity, and how far behind fashion is as an industry. Initially I didn't think I was going to radically change my career, but when I tried to actually start to use that knowledge in practice as both a consumer and as a woman who loves fashion, I found it borderline impossible and also really infuriating in terms of how companies communicated.
I started talking to other women about this issue and was really hoping that many other women would be on the same journey. But the truth is that fashion has been such an opaque industry for so long and is so complex that most women then, and even now, really struggle to understand how to make better choices. There was this idea however of fewer but better things, and many of the women I talked to knew they wanted heirloom quality clothes, but not necessarily at full luxury prices.
I thought, okay, if we can create a new intersection of price and quality and start to democratize luxury, then that would be something exciting for this group of women who are trying to live these very intentional lives. My personal mission is really to show what's possible and to create supply chains from the farm up that respect animal, environmental and human welfare. We utilized best in class technology to bring all of that to life and offer true transparency and connection to the customer, as well as using new business models, like resale, to reinvent the way the overall system works. At the end of the day, for me, it's about creating an exceptional company that serves both women and the planet and shows that it's possible and scalable.
As an aside, your pieces are extraordinarily covetable. They are very chic, sophisticated, classic wardrobe items that once you have them you don't know how you lived without them. I find your sourcing practices to be so inspiring, but I can't imagine that it wasn't really, really hard.
Oh, absolutely. I was completely naive. I think most entrepreneurs are. We had done tremendous amounts of research and were hopeful at the outset that we would at least find materials that met the highest luxury quality standards and our values. But the truth is, it just wasn't the case at all. Once we started to dig, particularly when it came to natural fibers, it was really important to me to actually be able to visit on the ground and see for ourselves what was going on and what the impact is. That was particularly true for wool.
After a series of Skype calls—farmers were using Skype—I actually went to Tasmania and met with the ethical farming community there and found two family-owned farms that we felt really good about sourcing from, both from a regenerative agriculture and an animal welfare standpoint. We built that supply chain all the way from the ground up. It was such a remarkable experience that has really become the gold standard for our sourcing process. It’s really been an incredibly educational journey for us and one that we benefited so much from that we want to share it with others.
So that has become the standard bearer for your sourcing. What are the materials you are sourcing and from where?
So when you're doing things sustainably, the world is not your oyster. We really focus on four core materials, which is now actually becoming five. We use exceptional Merino wool from Tasmania, organic cotton, which predominantly comes from three farms in the US, organic linen that predominantly comes from Northern France and is milled in Belgium, and an FSC Certified viscose from Sweden. And we're starting to use more recycled cashmere, which is post-consumer. That means it comes literally from cashmere sweaters that consumers are no longer using. We also do some archival upcycled denim, the old school, 1990s, Levi's 501s, which we love. And then you get creative and create within constraints which, I think, is actually where some of the best creativity happens.
So this was going to be my next question. Was it hard to find designers who were willing to come on and work within those constraints?
Funny enough, I got super lucky. I was introduced to Jane Chung, our creative director, really early on, before we had rolled up our sleeves and gotten started in earnest. The remarkable thing about Jane is that she came from traditional fashion. She built a billion dollar business, and was nonetheless totally enthusiastic and curious enough to rip up the playbook and do something completely different and design within incredible constraints. In certain respects it has actually given her more creative freedom. I don't know if she would describe it that way, but she's gotten to actually design a line made of almost entirely custom fabrics, which is pretty unheard of generally. And that's been done in partnership with a handful of just exquisite Italian mills that have brought both remarkable craftsmanship and environmental stewardship and curiosity to the process with us.
Once we started to dig, particularly when it came to natural fibers, it was really important to me to actually be able to visit on the ground and see for ourselves what was going on and what the impact is.
So you work with the farmers, you get the raw materials, those raw materials are sent to mills in Italy, and then your team works with them to determine all the factors that go into creating that piece of fabric?
Yes, more or less. I mean, in the case of wool, we're literally buying the wool. In the case of our organic cotton, we usually have traceability to the farmer level and visit the farm level with purchase and design. But ultimately the fabric creation process is indeed a close collaboration between what the mills traditionally do and then working with us to accomplish it according to our standards. And that's been a really exciting process.
I’m curious about the kind of reception the brand has received among, traditional might not be the right word, but the traditional world of luxury fashion. What kind of reaction have you gotten within the industry to what you’re doing?
I have to say I've been so grateful that as far as I have been able to see it, they've really welcomed us with open arms. That was not something that I took for granted whatsoever as we were launching, especially as somebody who comes from outside the industry. But one of my very first conversations was actually in Paris with Sarah Harris, from British Vogue and she just got it straight out the gate. I feel incredibly grateful that there's really been this embrace of the fashion, the stewardship and the ambition behind it. And it was the right time, honestly. The awareness level has been rising and I think people have been excited to see tangible solutions.
In the beauty world there's quite a bit of, let’s call it greenwashing. Is it the same in fashion?
Oh, yes. And it's a real challenge because I think that consumers are genuinely really trying to buy better, but they shouldn't be in a position where you need a PhD to figure out what marketing communications actually mean. But yeah, it's a tremendous challenge, particularly given the complexity of supply chains. It’s something where we need a lot more regulation and standardization to start to really filter a lot of that out.
I think that consumers are genuinely really trying to buy better, but they shouldn't be in a position where you need a PhD to figure out what marketing communications actually mean.
I have always been really interested in the idea of mentorship. I've never found that sort of formal mentor relationship and it's something I've always wanted. Do you have a person, or persons, in your life that have been mentors to you along this journey?
I've really struggled in that category as well, but there certainly have been a few. I would say one of the first is actually Lorna Davis. She is just a remarkable human and was one of the first people I told about the concept when it was indeed still a concept. I remember sitting on her couch and she didn't think I was crazy and she just got it. She is just a rock and a pragmatist and a visionary. Coming out of finance, it took a kind of vulnerability for me to be ready and be open, I think. And it's something that I would really like to get a lot better at and find more of. I don’t know that I should have waited until I was 37 to find my first mentor.
I know what you mean. It’s interesting because I think men have the idea of mentorship somehow built into their approach to socialization.
Yes, more of an intergenerational approach. It's so fascinating. But I would say that where I've lacked mentors, I've learned tremendously from members of my community, like you, and the ability to send you a text to say, hey, April, what do you think?
That's a good point. For me it's been extraordinary getting to meet so many women like you, a woman I did not know when I sent an email to email@example.com and you emailed me back. There is an extraordinary community that women entrepreneurs have built for themselves over the years and definitely one that you can lean on and reach out to. So you obviously are a woman who has big, ambitious goals. What does the next stage of evolution for Another Tomorrow look like?
I am so excited to grow each of the three, I would say core, pillars of our business. One is connecting with women through incredible products, which I have to say has been something that I have so deeply appreciated and enjoyed since we launched and really didn't anticipate how wonderful that experience would be. I view our community as a global community and so I'm really excited to grow globally for that very reason.
The second piece is really education, because as you referenced in terms of greenwashing, it is a big issue, and we endeavored to be a source of neutral, unbiased information that people can find, even if they don't buy the product. So, that's something that we'll continue to invest in.
And then the third is advocacy because, ultimately, I believe that regulation is an enormous part of the solution. We've been developing these very specific call to action petitions on our site, and we've seen some great traction. A lot of people who are having these aha moments because of the types of things that aren't widely written about. We're just pedal to the metal on all three fronts. I’m also really excited to be bringing resale to life this year through our technology and digitized products. I think it is super exciting to be able to innovate around both circular economy and transparency.
I love that Another Tomorrow is embracing the idea of a resale moment as part of what you're doing. Of course it's part of your brand, but I also think it just underscores the quality of what you're making, that it can have a second and third life and be something that someone else goes on to cherish.
Thank you. It is something that we actually iterated into, which was funny, through our early size exchange program. We got to see firsthand how challenged women are around their bodies and how taxing psychologically it is not to live in the present and instead be thinking of the future and the question, am I going to change? It was one of those things where we were able to actually adapt the idea of circular economy and resale from this early stage exchange program that has, I think, resonated deeply with a lot of women, which has been really satisfying.
Can you explain that program to me? Is that more designed for if your size changes?
Yes. Right now we're doing it with our core tailoring product, which is basically the most size sensitive. So, let's say that you buy a blazer, or a pair of trousers, and over the course of a year, your body changes and they don't fit anymore. Instead of sitting there in your closet, you can actually send it back to us in exchange for a different size. You can do that once in the first year for our core tailoring products, but we're going to see how people use it and then we'll adapt it so that we're innovating around women's needs, which to me is really exciting.
We got to see firsthand how challenged women are around their bodies and how taxing psychologically it is not to live in the present and instead be thinking of the future and the question, am I going to change?
Wow, I love that! So, switching topics, I would love to know how you think about beauty and if that definition has changed for you over time?
I've really come to see beauty everywhere and appreciate it as a core value. I think, in my former life, and this is probably related to me trying to prove myself as a woman or something, I underestimated the power of beauty and all of the different forms that it takes. I've just started to appreciate it in a much deeper way and look for it everywhere. I view it as a remarkable, universal value.
I totally agree. I think when you get to that place it's this extraordinarily deep connection to yourself and the world around you, right?
Yes. It really is everywhere, and it's not even a human construct, which is something that I find even more remarkable. I mean, the way that it manifests in nature is just divine in a real sense. I think as a woman you find chances to connect with beauty in a lot of different ways, sometimes through product and sometimes through creativity or other sources. Regardless, I think it's really important.
I've really come to see beauty everywhere and appreciate it as a core value. I think, in my former life, and this is probably related to me trying to prove myself as a woman or something, I underestimated the power of beauty and all of the different forms that it takes.
Are there any beauty rituals that you swear by?
I am so basic, it's ridiculous. I literally wash my face and put on your face oil. That's one ritual. Then the other is I wash my face and I put on sunscreen. That is actually the extent of it and I think it was something that was passed down to me from my mother. Granted she was slapping some drugstore brands on her face, but there was a remarkable simplicity and repetition to her routine for all the years that I knew her and I think that was passed down to me in some subliminal way.
Consistency is one of the greatest things you can give your skin. It's one of the reasons why we have such a simple routine. Granted, each product is jam packed with everything your skin needs, but ultimately it's two products, so it's an easy to maintain routine. Your skin is gorgeous, so whatever is happening, it’s working.
Vintner’s Daughter is what’s happening.
I'll take a tiny little bit of credit, but I’m sure a lot of it is all those beautiful genes working their magic. So, now for a few quick-fire questions.
If you could share a bit of wisdom you would share with your 25-year-old self, what would it be?
It would be the advice that I didn’t listen to, which is to be careful which mountain you decide to climb. Don't just put one foot in front of the other, because oftentimes you realize at the top that you'd rather be on the top of another mountain. There's an element that's all about being true to yourself. I think I was really ambitious for ambition's sake and that lends itself to running in the direction that's basically in front of you instead of having long-term ambitions that tie back to your own value system.
What's something people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I'm an introvert.
Me too! Dream holiday destination, which I realize is loaded because no one has gone anywhere for a year?
I have always dreamed of going to Kashmir.
What's your favorite charity or non-profit organization?
I would say Accountability Counsel and I just joined their board. The thing I absolutely love about them is that they are totally focused on giving voice to communities to advocate for their rights, both their human rights as well as their environmental rights.
If you could have anyone’s singing voice, who would it be?