I'm Derek Sabori, an apparel industry veteran with more than 26 years of experience.
I’m the former VP of Sustainability for Volcom, a former Sustainable Fashion college instructor, and a co-founding brand builder turned sustainability consultant and coach to brands.
11 years ago, I was assigned as the head of the newly created sustainability department at the brand Volcom and I found myself asking that same question. Where do I start!?
I immediately understood that in order to have any effect, I had to dive in and learn as much as I could about topics that were BARELY touched on in my previous 10 years of industry experience or in my Master’s degree in Business…
And the more I learned, the more complex and intertwined it all became.
I quickly realized that there was SO MUCH to explore and that the average industry professional had SO LITTLE time to dedicate to this (I could barely keep up, and it was my full-time job!).
But, even so...
Understanding the language of sustainability has become expected of us all.
Like you, I needed one place I could go to network, efficiently gather foundational knowledge, resources, and insights, and stay up to date on it all in a manner that was relevant to me in an apparel industry brand.
I couldn’t find that one place. And after years of piecing it all together, I created The Underswell to change that.
The Underswell helps apparel industry professionals collaboratively achieve confidence and competence on the sustainability matters that are powering the new economy. It’s done through a transformational learning system developed by an industry expert specifically for brands.
My goal is to make sustainability a true part of your brand's - and our industry’s - culture.
Sustainability is a topic that is complex and more urgent than ever. But, it’s also one of the biggest economic opportunities of our lifetime.
So, let’s get ready. It's YOU that will empower the companies that you work at to be more sustainable.
McKenzie Wilson started here at The Underswell as an intern finishing her degree at Cal State Channel Islands. Today, she's a significant contributor and a vital component; I'm lucky to have her on the team.
You'll find her insights and developing expertise across all our channels.
Here's her story:
Growing up in Southern California, I was always taught about the importance of taking care of my community and environment. My dad, Jeff Wilson, dedicated a large portion of his career to creating a more sustainable system for the apparel industry and inspired me to get involved too.
Learning from him and applying that basic knowledge to my studies at California State University Channel Islands, I received my B.A. in Organizational Communications. While there, I focused on how to resolve the gap between brands, consumers, and government and how to effectively communicate sustainability to different stakeholders.
Today, my passion still lies in bridging the gap between these three major bodies and I believe one of the best ways to do that is through storytelling. As one of my professors once said: “communication is all about building bridges, to connect with others and to learn.”
This is my guiding principle - in a world where we’ve become so accustomed to polarization and othering, I want to extend a hand to others to learn from them and help those who may be experiencing the same challenges. Through positivity and persistence, I know we can create a better world for the next generations and I’m so grateful you’re with me on this journey.
This is a movement and there's nothing else like it.
Back in 2009, as I settled into my assigned role as Head of Sustainability for the well-known, publicly-traded company, Volcom, I realized that I had a lot to learn on the subject. So, like any good student, I got to work.
But, when I started to dive into industry reports, scour through editorials, attend conferences, and meet with specialists in the space, I constantly found myself asking, “Wait, what is that word? Who is that organization? What is that acronym? Who is that person?”
And, the more I dove in to teach myself, the more rabbit holes I discovered. I was unraveling a world of information that, while not new in and of itself, was completely new (if not foreign) to me.
With more than 10 years of industry experience at the time and a Master’s Degree in business from a top-ranked university (zot-zot!), I was feeling knocked back on my heels. I was constantly asking myself:
Finish the Story Here
Why do I not already know this?
Coaching, Not Consulting
Unlike traditional consulting, we focus on access to sustainability knowledge, understanding, and insights.
And there are three things we believe:
- Brands play a crucial role in solving the problems we face. Brands are made of people, and people are passionate about doing the right thing. They want to feel good about the business you’re doing and the products you’re making.
- Your entire team (not just your sustainability leads) should be empowered to take the actions necessary to not only understand the sustainability moves you are making but to also aid in making your brand a more sustainable brand.
- Future generations should have the same opportunities that we had to build great brands and products but in new and better ways. So let’s not leave a mess.
It’s time for us all to achieve confidence and competence in sustainability, and move our industry forward, together!
The Underswell Transformation Method
Our proven 10-point flow, the one we use for all our programs, goes like this:
- Learn the fundamentals (Educate)
- Familiarize yourself with the past (Educate)
- Accumulate reliable resources (Empower)
- Talk with your peers (Educate/Empower)
- Stay current and up to date (Empower)
- Learn from experts (Educate/Empower)
- Stay future-minded and forward-looking (Educate/Empower)
- Activate and apply what you’ve learned (Activate)
- Hold yourself accountable
- Communicate your efforts
Our industry is counting on you, and your sustainability department can’t do it alone. Let’s get the rest of your team fluent in the language of sustainability.
“I have been a designer in the fashion industry for 13 years and I still learned things I never knew before I took The School of Understanding courses. It has helped my design and product development process from the materials I choose to how the garment is made. I can now teach my team on how we can make a better impact in our industry and to keep learning. Knowledge is power!”
“Derek delivers with optimism, and constructive energy - on top of stark, fact-based science & study from progressive thought-leaders. Frankly, taking this course felt very empowering and ignited and a fresh fire in my soul.”
“These courses are highly beneficial for anyone working in marketing/creative, design, sales, customer service/social media, production, sourcing and leadership. They are made for anyone keen on progressing their career and personal grasp of critically important global issues. The education provides a lens that truly throws a filter on every inch of your personal & professional life.”
Schedule a Free Call to Get Started
Let’s spend 25 minutes getting to know each other and talking about where you or your team is at today in regards to sustainability and where you’d like to be in the future.Schedule a Free Call to Get Started