The New School
When your approach to education is to create an experience in which students develop a passionate commitment to improving all aspects of society through inquiry, radical ideas, iterative experimentation and creative collaboration, you know you’re going to get something profound. The New School is a university in the heart of New York City's Greenwich Village that boasts such alum as John Cage, Ai WeiWei, Ryan McGinley, Sufjan Stevens, and Marc Jacobs. Comprised of world-famous Parsons School of Design, a premier liberal arts college, a renowned performing arts college, legendary social research school, and acclaimed graduate programs, the breadth and depth of The New School maintains a commitment to design, social justice, and sustainability across the board. Recognizing that their students would demand something more than a traditional retail post, The New Store is more than an on-campus retail outlet – it is “a values-driven creative outlet.” Searching out the progressive in positive change, The New Store partnered with Recover to deliver apparel and accessories that align with their kind of education. We caught up with Hanna Lauer, a Brand Marketing Manager of The New School to learn more about what’s going into rethinking the way we think things, and remaking the way we make things in New York.
So, how did the The New Store come about?
We were trying to figure out: how do we create a campus store that exists within the academic context of the university? It was critical to reflect ideas and thoughts that were happening within the classroom. We came up with the pillars: ethically minded fair labor practices; environmentally responsible; using sustainable materials; partnerships with New School alumni when possible; made in U.S.A when possible; and local or bespoke, independent vendors preferred. Those are our values, but that’s also what our students appreciate. We knew typical schwag and merchandise at any other campus store wouldn’t interest our student body.
How is The New Store different in the store itself?
The Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design worked with us on the store. They’re dedicated to a world in which people’s health is placed at the center of all design decisions. The Lab is committed to raising awareness about the materials we use and their relationship to ourselves and our environment, whether it’s the building materials we use, clothes we wear, or things we consume. We really tried to include school community in each aspect of the store, and we worked with The Healthy Materials Lab to source toxic-free paint, no adhesives, and lighting. The New Store is typical of New York- our retail space is so tiny, a 10x 7 store, so making that space feel good stands out. Also with such a small space, for us, the product descriptions give life to the space. It creates a transparency that everyone appreciates, and you can almost see the effort that goes into creating every product through manufacturing and design. Being in The New Store is a learning experience in itself. Recover is the exact product, process and story that we were looking for in this space.
How did you connect with Recover?
Once we decided we were going to more forward with our vision of sourcing even though what we wanted was more expensive, Caleb Oberst, Special Projects Manager at the New School, had attended the Island School (a Recover partner) mentioned that he knew an apparel company that was more accessible. Making socially responsible and environmentally friendly products accessible is a value we share with Recover and get excited about it. There’s a lot of work happening in environmentally responsible products and offerings, but oftentimes it’s not affordable to the average citizen and that’s something we really wanted to change. Bill and Recover have created a way to offer these type of products to everyone. Recover has brought prices in line with what other major manufacturers are offering, that is just the research design challenge our university pursues- how to make sustainable innovations accessible to everyone. We’ve found that people are interested and willing to pay extra when you can tell the story of what that product is supporting, but with Recover it’s been great because it has that outstanding story and is also competitive with a much higher quality and a price that is accessible to potentially any income level. This endeavor is crucial, and I don’t think a lot of sustainably-minded companies are thinking that way yet.
We do think it’s important to make our products accessible in price in the big picture...
We really appreciate Recover’s transparency too. The user-friendliness of the website and learning about the process, and the fact I can just call and learn how a tee shirt is made and why they don’t use bleach. It’s been a learning experience for me working in higher education and business, and we try to apply that to our store. That transparency and learning experience has created a fantastic partnership for us.
Tell us more about the New School and The New Store.
It’s a very forward-thinking, socially driven student body that is very much into addressing current events and current pressing social and environmental issues. I think part of living in New York is also engaging with the city. That’s a large part of going to school here.
For us, The New Store is also a place where a lot of our prospective students and families visit. The purpose of the store is to build awareness. If those students that should be here and would be a great fit for The New School stop by the campus store, why not have the store reflect what they’re going to get while studying here? We wanted a seamless message of the way we operate across the board. It is a collaborative hive of progressive minds coming together to support our community’s talents and passions. The university’s approach to design, sustainability, collaboration, and management inspires the way we source product, create partnerships, run store operations, and create merchandise messaging. Our product lines are ethically sourced, accessible, embrace individuality, and celebrate our New School pride and legacy.
A collaborative hive of progressive minds coming together is certainly a changemaker education. The collaboration, innovation, and values of The New School are what drive addressing our world’s most pressing challenges to make a positive impact on tomorrow today.
Learn more about The New School.