How Two Tech Entrepreneurs Are Trying to Make Your Move to Sustainable Fashion Easier
For a number of years now, the effect we as consumers have on the planet has gained increasing attention resulting in us demanding that the companies we support with our hard earned money stop treating people and the planet the way they have in the past, with complete disregard. Organic, fair trade and “kilometer 0” are no longer just tiny market niches, but have received attention from even the biggest brands due to an increased consumer demand for them. Historically, the industries most brought into the limelight by this shift to a more sustainable way of living were related to food production (organic, no GMO, produced close to home) as well as automobiles moving away from carbon emissions and towards cleaner energies. However we’re now seeing that this spread of demand for sustainable products is making an impact on how clothes are produced, moving sustainable produced clothing across Europe and the US into our fields of vision.
And rightly so: with the fashion industry coming second only to the oil industry in terms of polluting the planet, if we are to make a significant change in the apocalyptical trajectory we’re currently on, fashion seems like a solid contender for change. Where are your clothes made? Who makes them? Under what conditions do they make them? The increase in consumer awareness around the various problems in supply chains lurking in the dark secrets of flashy high street fashion brands has given the move towards sustainable clothing a much needed push. The increasingly common occurrence of “Green Washing” is a sign that there is higher demand from consumers for green and sustainable production methods, albeit currently addressed by many brands in a mistaken form of short-sighted strategy which hopefully will severely diminish with an increase in consumer awareness and tighter certifications.
A result of the increase in awareness and demand is the numerous new, small-scale sustainable fashion brands mushrooming up across the globe. These small brands aim to do on the ground what their bigger high street cousins can only write about, real sustainable clothing production. Transparent supply chains, fair wages and labour conditions, sustainable materials and dyes, these brands are working hard to combine these ingredients for a finished product that not only is sustainable and looks on trend, but does not necessarily come with the exorbitant price tag that consumers may mistakenly expect.
Where are these brands you ask – that is exactly the problem my co-founder Jack Hesketh and I set out to solve. As if it was not hard enough for these smaller brands to meet their sustainability ideals, they also need additional resources to get eyeballs on their products, competing with the likes of the previously mentioned immoral high street brands, as well as the gazillion other services on the Internet vying for your attention. Having ourselves experienced the difficulty in finding ethically produced clothing, with many brands hovering on the edges of the forgotten, untrodden last pages of Google’s search results, as well as understanding the difficulty of pooling the resources to do something about it from my own past experience owning a sustainable fashion brand, we started looking for a solution that would attempt to solve both sides of this equation.
We each knew maybe a handful of brands that we had bought from before and that ticked all the boxes for us in terms of sustainability, but when I wanted something specific like a pair of jeans, our limited knowledge of what was out there made creating a sustainable wardrobe harder. After spending a few hours on Google, we found a huge number of small brands, each having achieved differing levels of sustainability in their production, but all scattered across the web. Cataloging these brands and creating an ethical search engine seemed like something that could help both brands and consumers in the move towards ethical clothing.
So in early 2019, we got to work cataloging hundreds of European brands to start with and creating a search engine that allowed searching by a number of standard criteria such as product type and gender, but also by fabric type (‘organic cotton’, ‘linen’, ‘sustainable synthetic’ are some of the options available). Our dream is for us to be able to ingest all the data the brands offer around their materials, processes and supply chains and provide our visitors with a scoring system that gives them the control as to how strict they want to be in their criteria for sustainable clothing.
Essentially, the product we’ve created is a search engine that makes buying ethical and sustainable clothing simple for a consumer. We help conscious consumers and authentic ethical brands alike – pulling in ethical clothing products from across Europe, and as of this year also from North America, into one place so that consumers can discover products from hundreds of eco-friendly brands. This way, shoppers don’t have to scour the internet to be fully content about their choices. By the same token, the brands featured on the website have a platform dedicated to help them expand their reach and help them find more loyal customers. With new brands being discovered and added to the site on a weekly basis, I’m sure that you will find a sustainably produced piece of clothing that fits your style, your budget, and your values here.
Apart from the search engine itself, we’ve also added an educative component to it in the form of blog posts on various sustainable fashion topics (from the issues with fast fashion, to how sustainable bamboo fabric really is) as well as a fashion footprint calculator to help spread awareness about the effect our relationship with fashion has on the planet.
Our long term vision for the company is for us to become the defacto point of call for sustainable clothes shopping globally, making it as easy as possible for consumers to find the clothes they need, with the fabrics that they love, from brands that are in line with their values – supporting the change they want to see in the world.
Ben Heinkel (Co-founder @ ethical-clothing.com)
Other services provided by Ethical Clothing:
- Price Drop Alerts (https://www.ethical-clothing.com/price-drop-alert/)
We track hundreds of ethical brands every week, and compile a weekly newsletter of all those that have more than 20% of their catalog on sale. This way subscribers to the service will get early access to the best ethical products as soon as they go on sale!
- Fashion footprint calculator (https://www.ethical-clothing.com/fashion-calculator/)
Here we’ve tried to give you the most comprehensive fashion footprint calculator on the web. Collecting 12 data points from how frequently you buy clothes, to how you wash them and even to your perception of the pricing of ethical clothing to give you a final extremely informative report. See a sample report here: https://www.ethical-clothing.com/fashion-calculator/results/b5df3135-5850-415e-a281-7cd081b1cfd9/