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How to build an ethical fashion brand that doesn’t cost the Earth

30 June 2021|Brand Story, Business Growth, Eco & Ethics, Latest Posts, Launching a business

How to build an ethical fashion brand that doesn’t cost the Earth
How to build an ethical fashion brand that doesn’t cost the Earth

One of the biggest hurdles sustainable fashion brands are facing is the high production costs due to increased input costs. Eco-friendly fabrics cost considerably more, artisanal manufacturing is more expensive and the workers wages are higher. The end result of course is the increased costs of our beloved fashion items in comparison to fast fashion brands available to buy online and in our local high street. There are steps you can take to reduce these costs and create a sustainable fashion brand that doesn’t have to break the bank. 

1. Move your production to a developing country 

Production costs in developing countries are arguably cheaper, making it an obvious choice for sustainable fashion start ups. This is due to cheap labour costs and the fact that the production is generally labeled as “unethical”. Therefore, most ethical fashion start ups choose to move their manufacturing to more developed regions, countries such as United States and Australia. Moving your production to a developing country such as Asia will not only significantly lower your production costs, but it will also enable you to make a direct impact in the lives of those at the lower ends of the fashion industry pyramid. 

2. Ditch artisanal production 

The ethical fashion movement argues on the issue of artisanal production. Many of us seem to be under the impression that when buying expensive and handcrafted items made by skilled artisans, they last longer, reduce less waste, support local workers and local community. It’s evident that ethical fashion brands are competing in a highly competitive mass market. With this approach, it is impossible to produce garments without involving dedicated human hands in the process. 

3. Be clear on your brands key focus 

There are numerous factors that make a fashion brand more ethical and sustainable. Some of these include economic empowerment, fair pay rate, use of organic materials and fair-trade certifications. It is advisable to select a few aspects of concern and to really dig deep to narrow down your brand’s key focus. For example, one of your main focus could be employees and making sure all workers are treated fairly and paid a fair wage. You may also only choose to use organic and natural materials as you main focus. 

The Environmental Price of Fast Fashion 

Across the globe, environmental concerns are at an all-time high. Research has found that we must get a grip on climate change, otherwise generations will face a lifetime of irreversible damage. From President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan which promises clean infrastructure, to the UK government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, environmental concerns are front and centre. With this in mind, the fashion industry has an important role to play in mitigating the impact of climate change. From e-Commerce businesses to traditional bricks and mortar style outlets, our growing reliance on looking good must not continue to come at a cost to our environment. 

Looking back on 2020, it’s clear that at present, there is a conflict between a large proportion of fashion brands’ practices and our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without naming and shaming, many popular brands impose negative environmental consequences, as well as poor labour conditions and animal welfare standards. 

Crucially, in an attempt to keep up with a fast-changing landscape, some brands release hundreds of new styles a week, for cheap. However, instead of ushering in waves upon waves of cheaply made designs, companies need to slow down manufacturing. So often, brands lose themselves in the high-speed digital environment, producing low-quality garments to fit transient trends. A few months down the line, these clothes will be disposed, no longer fit for purpose. 

If we look at brands’ response to mitigating the impact of climate change, regrettably, many continue this practice of mass production, while making grand claims of producing sustainable fabrics. However, if you take a deeper dive into these practices, you will discover these claims are simply “greenwashing”. A term originally coined in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westeveld, it makes reference to companies who present themselves as caring environmental stewards, when in reality, they engage in damaging environmental practices. 

After all, if a brand is manufacturing thousands of garments per minute, producing carbon emissions and toxic microfibres, who really cares about sustainable fabric? In reality, the dizzying pace of apparel manufacturing means that the average person spends sixty percent more on clothing than in 2000. And not only do they buy more, they also discard more as a result. Crucially, less than 1 percent of used clothing is recycled into new garments. 

A New Opportunity: Fashion’s Role in a Sustainable World 

The worldwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about several impacts to the environment and climate, causing many to rethink their practices. From implementing hybrid working models to sales teams avoiding international travel in favour of Zoom, there is a significant opportunity for the fashion industry to contribute to the path towards an environmentally friendly future. 

In many ways, our collective reality over the past year has been conducive to a greener world. Regrettably, a significant proportion of fashion brands are not aligned in this thinking, scaling manufacturing operations to meet the demands of the latest lockdown trends. In stark contrast to these practices, companies need to produce quality clothing, on a smaller scale, reducing the amount of chemicals, water and textile waste polluting our world. Although there are no quick wins in tackling climate change, with the European Commission’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, fashion brands must begin to take meaningful steps in the right direction. 

Meet the Founder – UNCU London 

UNCU London was founded during the pandemic with the aim of supporting in style, outfitting customers in and around London with sleek silk masks, hair accessories and silk bedding — using the finest materials and designs to provide breathability, style and a perfect fit. Having worked in fashion for over 11 years, Eliis Ashley Ruus’s fashion career started in 2010 in Los Angeles where she managed international designers for Celebrity Style Lounges, such as Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmy’s and Cannes just to name a few. In November 2011, Eliis launched her first business – Elpromotions Model and Events Agency based in London and Ibiza. The following year, in 2012 Eliis founded Birmingham International Fashion Week® in Birmingham, England with a vision to push international interest with the work of designer’s collections. 5 years later during a lockdown of a worldwide pandemic, Eliis used her creative juices and spare time to launch her first E-Commerce brand with an aim to provide everyday luxury for a modern woman. Eliis has a BSc Degree in Business Management from Brunel University in London. 

“I am a strong believer that every business is a success, you started and built something from an idea – you are already successful. With UNCU London we had to find ways to stand out in an incredibly vast competition and more so competing with large online retailers who sell the same product with a fraction of the price due to the quantities they sell. We are a small business and count on our repeat customers who believe in the brand and love the quality and designs.” 

The collections mirror Eliis’s love of fashion, art and global travels in the relaxed laid-back elegance and the bold and dark feminine colours with a strong focus on Eco-friendly packaging and ethical production.