Sustainably made espadrilles for the global citizen.

3 Lessons in Launching a Sustainable Fashion Brand

Why sustainable fashion?

I am a lawyer and humanitarian. So, in April of 2013 when my partner and I took to Kickstarter to launch our sustainable fashion brand, Alice & Whittles, it took many by surprise. 

 For most, the leap from the humanitarian world to fashion was hard to comprehend - seemingly incongruent fields with little common ground. But, when one considers the enormity of challenges facing the global industry, the decision to create a sustainable fashion brand was a timely one. With human rights violations amassed, it has become blatantly apparent that companies operating within the trillion-dollar sector need to re-evaluate how they interact with the communities who make their products.

Making truly sustainable fashion (yes, this means avoiding feeble attempts like the buy-one-give one model of charity) requires a fresh approach, with a long-term dedication to social and environmental concerns.   

We launched Alice & Whittles with this in mind, Let’s re-think how products are made and consumed, creating a viable model of sustainable fashion.  After the success of our Kickstarter campaign, we wanted to share three of the most important lessons that we learned in creating our model for sustainable fashion – lessons that we feel also are relevant across industries. 

How to build a sustainable fashion brand

Make a fabulous product that speaks for itself. 

Use sustainable practices to make a better product, rather than a better marketing campaign. A better product has longevity. A better product employs skill, craftsmanship and design while taking into account the aesthetic sensibilities of the person buying it. This way, when the dust settles on “feel good marketing” you’re still left with a fantastic product that people want and love…and it just so happens that it does some good for the world.

Invest in communities you work within.

There is no end the number of people who possess immense skill, creativity and ingenuity – particularly in regions of the world where platforms of support are not prevalent. From farmers to artisans and everything in between; investing in long term local partnerships while treating people and the environment you work within with respect, regardless of where in the world they are situated, can and will have a lasting impact on community self-sufficiency and well-being.

Be transparent. 

Without a doubt, transparency certainly helps to maintain accountability. Equally as important, transparency brings the consumer closer to the chain of people who make the products they buy. When it comes to the fashion, exploitative structures are only able to exist because consumers are so far removed from the people and places that are directly affected by their consumption choices. There remains no excuse, technology now makes it very easy to be introduced to people in even the most remote corners of the world - historically inaccessible to the general population.

By Sofi Khwaja

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