This blog post was first published on the Huffington Post Blog.
After a decade of long, anti-social hours in digital communications, we both began to feel the same unrest with our situation. A desperate and innate need to do something more creative. Something with a 'physical product'. And something that generally bought back some balance to our lives.
Building a product around a passion point seemed like a good route forward. And after failing to find anything other than black yoga pants for a retreat, the creation of a techni-colour variant seemed like a good idea. So despite being new to retail, manufacturing and garment design, we set about on a journey of discovery.
Some of the things we uncovered were quite startling
As consumers we had no idea about the impact of current buying trends and 'fast fashion'. A monotonous cycle of buying and binning clothes, rapidly eating through finite resources and shattering local ecosystems.
Or about the millions of women and children that are exploited with minimal pay and terrible working conditions
Or about fashion as the second largest polluter in the world; incredibly, behind only the oil industry.
Wanting to flip things and do it differently
The pursuit of profit at the expense of both people and planet is a pretty hard road to continue down knowingly. So we decided we wanted to do things differently.
This isn't (just!) because we're especially nice people. Given the scale of the issues that the current models pose, quite frankly, anyone in fashion today should want to do similar.
Cosmetic enhancement through CSR greenwashing or token donations to charity don't go far enough. This is much more fundamental. It's about having a conscience and ensuring that it's embedded throughout the business. It's about driving forward change, establishing new models, and working with consumers to provide sound alternatives.
Not the easy option but opportunities exist even for start-ups
However whilst sustainability isn't a difficult choice, it's certainly not the easy option. It requires you to be relentless in your aims and not give in to the temptation of anything easier or cheaper. But it's also pretty motivating to know that every time you ask some questions and dig a little deeper there's the potential for doing some good in the world.
We've found that even at a start up level, there are opportunities to make an impact. Questions you can ask include:
Raw materials: How are these sourced and what is their provenance? What is the production process? What are the by-products? And what is the producer's position on sustainability?
Manufacturing: Where will you look to do this? Who is involved in that process and how are they treated? What levels of reassurance can they give you? How can your carbon footprint be reduced through transportation and logistic considerations?
Closing the loop: What happens when the product (or packaging) is at the end of its life? Will it break-down easily or can it be reused in some way? What can you do to encourage, or better still prevent, it from ending up in landfill?
So what are we doing?
It's still early days for us. We started with a desire to create a beautifully crafted product and tested fabrics for their durability. (This at a basic level is a sustainable product: a garment that continuously performs and that a consumer can cherish and rely on for years). But we pushed much further as we progressed our understanding of the industry and its impact.
Of course we can't afford to do everything we want straight away. Like most start-ups these days, we're being lean and launching with the minimum we need in order to be viable. Although as we (hopefully) become more successful, our buying power and options will increase helping us to further realise our vision. Sustainability then for us is very much a journey along which we'll continue optimise.
Sustainable fashion as an agent of change
Businesses that are transparent in their approach e.g. Riz Board Shorts, Tom's Shoes, People Tree, Wool and the Gang and many others, aren't just sustainable fashion companies, they're important change agents. They're shining the light on a new way of doing things, creating a narrative that resonates and providing an educated choice.
So we are making yoga pants and we are bringing balance back to our lives. But we're also incredibly excited about being involved in something much bigger. By being mindful about trying to give back as much as we take, in a small way we get to help bring balance back to people and planet as well.
The featured image was created by United Nations Photos and is published under a creative commons license.