Sophia Bush and Nina Farran Want to Change the Way You Shop Online


Sophia Bush and Nina Farran aren’t your typical fashion founders. The duo behind eco-conscious shopping destination, FashionKind, has brought a fresh perspective to the world of e-commerce. Founded in 2016 by Farran, the site is a gateway to the best in handcrafted and sustainable luxury. Though the pair prefer the term “impactful” to the overused “sustainable,” they’re eager to make shopping an experience that goes beyond consumption and connects with the way their customers want to engage with the world. “It’s the choices you make in your daily life that can make a big difference, no matter how small they may seem in the moment,” says Farran. “[Still] personal choice can only go so far. It’s become clear in the past few years that we need to pressure big companies to make changes. What we are hoping to do with Fashionkind [is] to set an example for other retailers and luxury brands and influence how they do business.”

Farran conceived of the site while studying English at the University of Pennsylvania, during a period when the retail landscape was ready for disruption. “Everything felt really monotonous: the same designers and the same pieces on every site, without a strong point of view,” says Farran. “The big luxury sites were starting to have sections for sustainable fashion, but they treated those pieces exactly as they treated others, with little indication of their impact or backstory. I found that platforms championing sustainability either didn’t have a focus on design, so there was a sacrifice of style, or their approach felt too stereotypically “green” and too niche.” Farran felt there was room for improvement.

Instead, FashionKind provides a personal touch which is a core part of the site’s appeal. Instead of treating its customers like numbers on a spreadsheet, Farran wanted to engage with her audience in a way that felt intimate. The site’s editorials and immersive trips into the brands it features offer an opportunity to engage with fashion on a different level. Guests can shop by region or receive a crash course in sustainable materials while learning about the founders and artisans whose work features in their collection. “I think that the true soul of luxury has been lost. The thrill of discovery and the emotional connection that once defined luxury shopping was missing,” she says. “I wanted to restore that experience by seeking out the best in craftsmanship from brands around the world and creating an emotional connection through storytelling.”

Aiming for a luxurious, feminine, and richly detailed feel, Farran sought to challenge the way environmentally conscious products have been presented in the past. “We wanted to stay away from anything that felt too stereotypically eco-friendly, and we wanted to have clear international appeal,” she says. “As with any site, it is a constant work in progress, but I am proud of what we’ve created so far. I’m excited to continue expanding the site and its features. There are so many opportunities to push the boundaries even further.”

The designers and brand selected for the site must adhere to its Kind Code, which takes into consideration environmental impact, philanthropic contributions, whether the pieces are made by female creators or support emerging economies. “The vast majority of our designers are making an impact in more then one of these categories. In the simplest terms, a Fashionkind designer honors its workers with fair wages and safe working conditions and is mindful of how its supply chain affects the environment and local economies,” says Farran. “For our research, we conduct extensive interviews to delve into a brand’s story and culture, which sometimes necessitates traveling (when it’s safe). We also review any research-backed certifications or evaluations, though these are not a requirement. While we can’t guarantee we know everything that goes on behind the scenes, we are as diligent as possible.”

Audiences may know Bush from her roles on series like One Tree Hill and Chicago P.D. With her lifelong interest in fashion, love of vintage, and appreciation for idiosyncratic icons like Fran Liebowitz, Tracee Ellis Ross, and TyLynn Nguyen, Bush brings a modern perspective on style to the table. Impressed by the range of offerings and modern aesthetic that unites the disparate pieces that feature on-site, Bush was drawn to FashionKind from the start. Still, it was Farran’s expertise that made her want to move from customer to partner. “I loved that Nina was approaching the business from a high-design, high-fashion standpoint, which runs counter to what people assume eco-friendly fashion is about,” says Bush. “I also appreciate that she has a background in finance and thinks about this concept not simply in fashion terms, but to build an incredibly impactful business that could change and recalibrate the luxury experience.”

An advocate for environmentalism since the start of her career, Bush has aligned with several action groups and charities over the years—Global Green, Green Cross International, and Pencils of Promise among them—but stepping into the retail space felt especially meaningful. “Fashion is one of the top polluter industries on earth, but it’s also not going anywhere,” she says. “I am excited to have the opportunity to work on creating and encouraging change from within. Every company I’ve ever been involved with, as an advisor or an investor, has addressed a societal need with innovation, and that’s exactly what FashionKind is doing.”

During the pandemic, Bush has been going through her wardrobe and whittling her closet down to the essentials—a task that has made her reevaluate her relationship with clothing. “I’ve begun to pay more attention to how I feel in things, not just what I’m drawn to aesthetically,” she says. “Once I got past the first three months of quarantine loungewear, I really started to investigate my tendencies and attractions in fashion. It’s been illuminating.”

Bush’s wardrobe revision mirrors what many have experienced in the last year. With priorities changed thanks to the pandemic and a greater understanding of fashion’s environmental impact, consumers have altered their spending habits, investing in brands whose message is as compelling as their merchandise. “Today’s consumer is looking for something more meaningful, and to make a difference with their purchases,” says Bush. “Something beyond the latest It bag that every influencer is carrying. They want to support companies that reflect their personal values.” Precisely what FashionKind aims to offer. “Ultimately, we are hoping that we can be instrumental in changing their relationship to consumption,” says Farran. “I hope that [people] find the experience to be something of a revelation, that luxury shopping can be joyful and offer up the unexpected. I hope they’ll find beautiful pieces that they love and that they’ll keep and wear for seasons to come because they feel a stronger sense of connection.”

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