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CEO of online clothing retailer

CEO of online clothing retailer. For Bahl, these facts were never far from his mind. But a report last fall from the United Nations warning of a climate crisis that’s only 20 years away reaffirmed his desire to expand as soon as possible.

“It’s a very scary moment right now,” says Bahl. “I look at my kids and think, what’s this place going to look like?”

Bahl exudes the unflappability of a seasoned executive, yet his words are laced with the bile of a disappointed environmentalist. Born in India, he went to business school at Symbiosis International University in Pune, and by the late 1990s, found himself in Hong Kong working in apparel sourcing. He ordered product from factories around the world to be sold by major international retailers.

He says he opened his first garment factory because of mistreatment he witnessed—forced overtime, physical abuse, discrimination. “I thought I was living in a world of modern-day slavery,” he says.

The first Saitex factory, opened in 2005, was a more traditional operation. But by 2010, Bahl decided to make the move to sustainable manufacturing. The current plant is in Bien Hoa, a tree-lined, 1,700 acre industrial park near a congested highway. A U.S. base during the Vietnam War, the zone was established in 1994 as a joint-venture between Thailand’s Amata Corp. and a state-owned company. The nearby river is so polluted from industrial waste that local authorities want to replace some of the park with commercial development.

Michael Preysman, CEO of online clothing retailer Everlane, has emerged as one of Bahl’s biggest boosters. Looking to get into the denim business, Preysman spent three years searching for a partner before discovering Saitex. Most factories are decades-old, with owners not inclined to spend money on a planet-friendly retrofit. “It took 6 or 7 years for somebody like Everlane to spot us,” says Bahl. But now the word is out.

Saitex’s biggest clients include J. Crew, Target, G-Star Raw, Madewell, Edwin and Outerknown, Bahl says. Donna Perri, an executive at women’s clothing label Eileen Fisher, says she was intrigued by Bahl’s effort to make what are, in effect, clean jeans. Eileen Fisher placed its first orders with Saitex for its fall and resort collections last year.

“There’s a lot of noise out there about sustainability,” says Perri. “They go way beyond what most of the factories do.”

CEO of online clothing retailer

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