Although the fashion industry is more open and accessible to sustainability than it was in years past, we are still far away from total adoption. Many large and recognized brands are still maintaining business practices which lead to fast fashion, human rights abuses and environmental damage.
As an already established entrepreneur or someone keen to start a sustainable business, you have the power to change this cycle. And we are here to help you!
But first of all, what is a sustainable fashion label?
The world’s resources are limited, and the population is growing. A sustainable business works with processes that are friendly and healthy for the planet and living beings. These processes can include design techniques such as zero fabric waste, minimal seam construction, upcycling, recycling and more. Sustainable manufacturing is also respectful to human and animal rights. Different sustainable companies might diverge in some aspects, such as going vegan or not, but most of them are fighting for the same overarching ideal of a healthier planet.
So, before starting your business, you might take some notes and seek guidance. We bring you some tips, but it is never too much to ask help from other experts in your area, such as professors, colleagues and other entrepreneurs. Some fashion brands have been down this path for a long time, and they will have some experience to share.
- What do you stand for?
If you are thinking about starting a sustainable label, you probably already know what kind of impact you want to make in this world. However, keep in mind that changes do not happen overnight, and you might need to choose your priorities first, then update them as your business grows. Do a deep soul search and fight for the causes you feel more passionate about.
Your intentions can be good, but you need to make sure all your partners follow the same path. Many factors determine the sustainability of a fashion company, such as labour conditions, having a responsible carbon footprint and choosing sustainable fibres. Choose materials and processes carefully; garments made of upcycled or renewable fabrics are better than synthetic ones for example. Ensure that your manufacturers employ fair labour practices with adequate wages being paid out at all levels.
- Research your target market
It is time to understand your customer. As this is a research stage, don’t fall victim to common assumptions! Research your target market and conduct testing wherever possible. This can be done through online surveys, personal interviews or focus groups. Test your product positioning, competitors, price and so on. You need to be sure your product is viable for the market you intend to work in.
- Design concept
This is probably the most exciting part of the process. It is time to gather all your research and make it tangible, visible to the eyes.
Your customer should be the central point here. You already know where they live, their age, interest, income, etc. Also, you know where your competitors are and gaps in the market you hope to fill. All of this information will help you bring your sense of style and design.
You can start creating a mood board, with collages, photographs, and defining your brand message. Then, it is time to translate it into your creation. It might take a few rounds of testing your design, but once you are happy with the samples – its time for production!
Your brand should be recognized easily by customers and should stand out in the crowd. It also should translate the soul of your brand, your mission, vision, and values. Symbols, colors, typography are the key to achieve this goal. You can hire a freelancer to help you, or a branding agency. Remember you will need to keep consistent through all your touchpoints with the customer and suppliers. The consistency will help build strength to your brand.
As a small business, it can seem hard to stand out, especially with a short or non-existent budget. So we have prepared a few ideas for you to start with.
PR efforts – Share your story, values, and authenticity with your local media. Find media channels that are related to your industry, customers, and market. They tend to be keen to know what’s new to the scene, as your product range, sourcing, experience, etc.
Social Media – We live in a digital world, and this is a great free tool for you and your company. Don’t hesitate to share your brand on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest and so on. Chose the ones your target audience likes to hang out and invest your time on it.
Content – It is not only you who wants to make the world a better place. Many other people have the same desire but don’t know how to start. Share and teach people how to be more sustainable. This will help your brand to position itself as an authority in the sustainable clothing area.
About the Author
Annabelle Short is a writer and seamstress of more than 7 years. When not working, she’s spending time with her family or putting pen to paper for her own personal pursuits. Annabelle is a mother and she likes to make crafts and eco-friendly DIY projects with her two kids. Annabelle is passionate about sustainable sewing and eco-friendly clothing.