Why and How Every Fashion Business Can Be a Sustainable One

Sustainable: Why and How Every Fashion Business Can Be One

I think every brand out there should be a sustainable brand. If you’re not thinking about the future, especially the future outside of just your fashion brand, you shouldn’t be taking on the responsibility of creating products; the impact your work has on this earth is undeniable.

But this isn’t a lecture article, I promise. This article is about how creating a sustainable brand is way easier than you think it is.

Well, I say “easy”, nothing about starting a brand is easy. But starting a sustainable brand is no more difficult than starting a non-sustainable brand. So why wouldn’t you?

Now “sustainable” means different things to different people. And there are so many things that a brand can do to be sustainable that it often feels overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

I asked Shannon Whitehead, the founder of Factory45, an accelerator program that takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch, what “sustainable” means to her. Here’s what she said:

If you’re making something new, there is no such thing as “perfectly sustainable.” I remember coming into the industry as an absolute “purist.” The sustainability guidelines for {r}evolution apparel were rigid, and because of that, it took a really long time for us to get to market.

I have a more realistic approach to sustainability now, and I have to remind some of my entrepreneurs that everything we make requires energy and has an environmental impact.

The goal is to ultimately create products that do as little harm as possible. The product has to sell first — I don’t believe that sustainability should ever be used as a primary marketing tactic — so when it comes to fabric and manufacturing, you do the best you can.

That can mean different things for different businesses: maybe your entire supply chain is within a 50 mile radius, maybe you only use recycled fabric, maybe you have a “zero” waste design philosophy. Choose the sustainability practices that make the most sense for your product and for your business model, and as you grow, aim to improve your company’s footprint with each decision you make.

I love this response. Shannon clearly understands that it’s not an all or nothing situation.

Implementing sustainable practices into your business model is something every one of us can do.

Step one is to think about what’s important to you and what makes sense for your business; Ask yourself what you feel most passionate about when it comes to sustainability?

  • Using organic materials
  • Producing locally and paying a fair wage
  • Sourcing overstock fabrics or reworking vintage textiles

What is your brand about and how can one or several of these practices integrate into your production and operations?

Once you have decided on the ways in which you want your brand to be sustainable, it’s time to make your plan.

This is certainly something that Factory45 can help you with (that’s what Shannon and her team are all about!) but regardless of whether you are accepted into the program, you need to create a plan like you would for any other aspect of your business. The what, why, and how need to be laid out, with a goals and specific tasks for getting there.

After your plan is created, you have to actually do it, right?

By that I mean, there are going to opportunities to cut corners, there will be options that are not exactly in line with the plan; you need to ignore them and stay on course. You need to stick to your values and what’s important to you and build a brand and a business that reflect those values.

Sustainability is not just about you or your business, it’s about the world around us. When we decide to create a business, we have a responsibility to the people in this world to create something that not only does as little harm as possible but that actually does good.

Create something that you’re proud of.

We mentioned Factory45. You have probably heard us talk about them before. StartUp FASHION is an affiliate of theirs because we think what Shannon and her team do is awesome and you should know about it. (We never share things we don’t believe in. Promise.)

Sustainable: Why and How Every Fashion Business Can Be One

Are you interested in learning more how Factory 45 can help you launch your fashion business?

Here’s why Shannon created this accelerator program in her own words:

The idea for Factory45 came about for two reasons:

1.) After {r}evolution apparel, I was running my own consulting company and I wasn’t happy. As most freelancers will tell you, consulting can be a cycle of feast or famine. I didn’t like not knowing when my next project was going to come in. I also realized that I preferred working with startups over established brands, but the startups couldn’t afford traditional consulting fees. I started brainstorming ways that I could work with the “newbies” of the industry in a way that was affordable for them but also financially viable for me.

2.) I saw a need in the market. I knew from the experience of starting my own brand how difficult it was to get going. It took my co-founder and I a year and a half to find a supplier who would work with us and a production partner willing to take on two industry novices. From the connections I built over that time period, the lessons I learned and the resources I acquired, I knew that I could make it easier for new entrepreneurs to manufacture in the U.S.

In short, Factory45 will help you source fabric, find a manufacturer, and raise money to fund production. It is an online accelerator program that focuses on sustainably and ethically-made apparel products, with mentorship and community at the heart of it.

Applications to join the fall session are now open at www.factory45.co.[p][/p]

SOURCE: StartUp Fashion

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