another startup story
Before launch we conducted an interview with another startup story, the company is an inspiring and educational platform for existing and aspiring founders, entrepreneurs, leaders, creatives and influencers. To get further insight into our brand and why it exists take a look at the interview.
Fabric for Freedom creates awareness for the exploitation currently in the fashion industry. It is about time a sustainable brand produced trend driven products that appeal to consumers.
The problem of today is ‘FAST FASHION’– and how it’s leading to global exploitation and contributing to the 36 million people living in modern day slavery. The use of non-recyclable textiles and short product life cycles means ‘fast fashion’ has led to the clothing industry being the second largest polluter in the world.
Introduce yourself and tell us what you do
I am the founder of Fabric for Freedom, which is set to launch in September AW 2018. We haven’t launched yet but I’m currently working really hard to make that happen and we’re hopefully going to launch with a campaign video during fashion week with our first sustainable collection.
How old are you and where are you from?
I’m 28 and I’m a northerner. I’ve lived in London for 5 years now I absolutely love this city and couldn’t think of setting up a fashion brand anywhere else.
Did you go to university, if so what did you study?
I went to Northumbria university in Newcastle. I always knew I wanted to be a fashion buyer but I didn’t do it as a degree as I didn't want to pigeon hole myself. I thought doing a business degree would benefit me more by setting me apart from the crowd and looking back I made the right decision. It’s so important as a buyer and when starting up your own business that you know how the product effects the organisation because that’s what’s going to make you money at the end of the day. Knowing all about accounting, finance and marketing has helped me in setting up my own business today.
How did the idea come about?
I’ve had the idea for 3-4 years. I was sick to death of the way the fashion industry operated. I’ve worked for many brands and there’s been so many things that I have disagreed with; through the treatment of people, suppliers and the exploitation in developing countries. I feel very passionate about abolishing human trafficking so to find out there are slaves that are being made to make the clothes we wear in underground factories was awful.
At first, I was really concerned with the social aspect and I remember reading about 300,000 cotton farmers committing suicide each year. Working with suppliers in Hong Kong still at work at 3am in the morning because us as buyers are putting so much pressure on them to fulfil orders at a cheap price. Another problem is the basic health and safety needs. It upsets me so much, in Turkey, some of the factories don’t have any health and safety rules. For example, the dis-stressing of jeans uses so many chemicals and these workers aren’t using masks. It is normally men working in these environments and due to the harmful chemicals they can die early which is where child labor comes in. The bread winner of the family dies early because of these basic health and safety needs not being there and so 13-year old’s have to go to work to provide for their family, it’s a massive vicious cycle.
There’s so much exploitation here in the UK and I got fed up of hearing the words ‘that’s the nature of buying’. It’s like you’ve chosen this career path and you’re going to be punished as a result. But what happened to doing what you want to do and not being badly treated as a result? There’s so many negative connotations and it’s become the norm to be horrible in the fashion industry. It’s not just problems in the developing countries but it’s the way you’re treated when first starting out and throughout your career. It stirred something in my heart and I thought there must be another way where we can make clothes’ without hurting other people.
We are the second most polluted industry on our planet and if we carry on with the way that we’re going, it’s going to have disastrous effects. So I wanted to create clothing that helps the environment and people.
I have heard that the turnaround rates of many fast fashion companies can be as little as two weeks and so there seems to be so much wastage. What happens to these items of clothing?
There’s so much wastage, even before you put the product into store you have to go through multiple stages of production and samples. For the things that don’t get sold, they end up on land fills. When we pile unwanted fashion to Africa which is good in one sense but it also harms them in another sense whereby the African producers can’t run their own businesses because they’re getting all this cheap clothing shipped into their own country.
Consumer’s mentality is that we want more and need this and that and it’s really affecting different aspects of the fashion industry. When you don’t buy something instantly and save up for it you actually appreciate it more.
With regards to my brand, we are going to introduce the concept of wearing a piece two different ways. It’s all about educating the consumer on ‘Let’s build greater longevity with clothes’. It’s ok to shop and love fashion but let’s just do it right.
Going forward we want to do workshops on how to up cycle your garmnets, recyle materials and have a vintage section on our website.
Where did the name come from?
These three words dropped into my head one day when I was deciding what I wanted to do with my career. I was in a predicament where I didn’t want to support this industry that I didn’t agree with, I’ve worked my whole life to be be a buyer and I didn't want to be anything else. I was quite lost on what I wanted to do and these three words ‘fabric for freedom’ popped into my head.
The reason I’ve chosen this is because through my clothes we will create freedom. You can have freedom from anything - exploitation, poverty and human trafficking. We have a charity initiative attached to our brand where we are working with numerous charities that help prevent human trafficking and child labor.
How have you managed to find which charities to support and which suppliers to use?
This was probably the easy part. The way it started was that I knew which charities I wanted to work with and I knew that the most effective way to support these organizations would be through finance. The reason why I started this as a business and not an NGO was because I felt that the way I could maximise my impact for the good was by creating a business that creates revenues to then make the differences that I wanted to make.
With regards to the supplier’s side, it was hard to find suppliers with small production runs. When you produce products, the smaller number of units you produce the more expensive it is.
At the moment ethical fashion is really expensive and it’s not actually that trend-driven. The more I can order and the bigger the brand gets, the more I can reduce prices through economies of scale. I’m excited to release these fabrics to consumers. I found a fabric the other day that was made out of an eucalyptus plant. A lot of the fabrics that we’ve used are recycled and organic. The only problem is that it takes more time to find them as they are not hugely accessible.
Take a look at Fabric For Freedom's charity and partners here.
Where do you get inspiration from for your designs?
You can get inspired by so many things. I appreciate art, now I can go into an art museum and I can see things on garments and see how historical clothing has been made. There’s only so many ways you can cut a dress and so the newness comes in the art, print and fabric. I really want my brand to appeal to the millennial customer, the young, trend driven customer. To do that I need to know what’s happening in the music industry because these two-go hand in hand at the moment.
The online fashion space is becoming so competitive now with all these influencers having their own brands. Where do you sit against your competitors? How do you think you’ll bring something different to the table?
Currently I can’t see anything online or on the high-street that has my kind of product. It won’t be long before brands start doing what I’m doing. We’ve got H&M conscious, Zara ethical fashion, Topshop and ASOS have started to do their own collaborations. But to me, there’s something different by having a brand that is solely and truly ethical. Yes, I can be going to stores such as these and be confident that I’m doing the right thing as a consumer but actually the rest of their company can be operating using really unsustainable practices that perpetuate the worst problems in the industry, so it doesn’t justify it at all.
Currently, I don’t think there are any sustainable brands that are really trend driven and led by design. Creating my brand is going to be a bit like a protest in a way. We’re going to offer fashion that’s fair but we need to show people why there is an issue in the first place. Brand awareness is always the hardest part. It’s going to be a struggle at first but we plan to not only use ethical bloggers but also other bloggers to get everyone into the habit of shopping this way.
How do you market yourself? So, once you launch, how do you get the word out? How do you get people knowing about the brand?
I’m planning on doing everything I can. Contacting all of my friends and family. I think word of mouth is a powerful tool. I’m going to contact every magazine possible. We’re in the process or sorting a photoshoot, to create photography and video content. You can’t underestimate the power of networking. Before I started the brand, I did two years of networking and that’s why it was so easy to find suppliers. Doing panel shows and campaigning for ethical fashion. We’re also going to be at LFW wearing all the clothes and networking there.
Is social media the way forward? Will you be using influencers and fashion bloggers?
If you want to succeed you need to collaborate with them. They’re so important in this day and age but I don’t just want to be sending my clothes to anyone for them to waste. My clothes are meant to be treasured, that’s the whole point of the brand.
I assume you don’t just want any blogger and you want the right fit to represent your brand as that will communicate to your consumers what your brand is saying.
They need to have an active following too.
What do you think you still need to learn in order to take your business where you want it to be?
When you’re a creative start-up especially, you neglect the operational side of the business. The good thing is to make sure you’re networking all the time. I have a friend in business that sorted out my pitch deck for me and you looked over my business plan. You just have to use the connections around you to help in the areas you’re struggling with. You’re never going to know everything.
You’ll figure it out along the way. We put so much pressure on having it all figured straight away, even in our lives we get to a certain stage and we’re expected to be in a long-term relationship, in our perfect job and it’s the same with businesses, if you have an idea backed with passion just go and execute it and you’ll figure it out along the way.
What’s your one piece of advice for someone about to start their own business?
I think it’s so important to view things from a positive stance. You can never underestimate your own potential or value. It’s so important not to speak negative thoughts over yourself. Things happen, you get setbacks, that’s life. When setting up a business there’s so many things you can’t control and you need to make sure you set small goals and have a positive attitude.
Where the mind goes, the man will follow.
What’s the big dream for Fabric for Freedom? The 5-year plan?
I want to have opened a store in 5 years’ time with higher revenues to make a bigger difference. I want it to be the biggest sustainable brand on the UK high-street.
What does the definition of success mean to you?
The people that have succeeded that I respect the most are always the ones that have remained true to their character. No matter how successful they’ve been and how much they’re managed to achieve, they’re still humble. They want to bless others even when they’re not going to get anything in return, that is very rare to find.
TO ME, IF YOU CAN STAY NORMAL AND BE HUMBLE IN YOUR SUCCESS-THAT IS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PERSON. HOW CAN YOU EMPOWER OTHERS WHEN YOU LOOK DOWN TO THEM?
It takes a certain level of focus, resilience and character in each individual to want to make their mark on the world. What do you think taught you to be this way and what childhood influences have contributed to this?
I’m in overdrive all the time. I’ve learnt from a young age that no one is more responsible for your life than you are and if you don’t like it you have the power to be able to change it. You need to help yourself you can’t expect people to do things for you.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?
When I first started out, I mentioned about me going into buying and it wasn’t what I expected or what I wanted to do at the time. I realised that every time I tried to quit my job or leave, I would get rewarded via a pay rise or a promotion. I think that sometimes giving up too early is a failure within itself. If I hadn’t stuck that out, I wouldn’t have learnt the knowledge and expertise needed to do what I’m doing today. It’s literally set my career up. It wasn’t the most desirable job ever but it turned out to be and it made me love my career again and gave me passion to do what I’m doing.
When you’re in a mist of a problem, it’s really hard to see what you’re doing, but when you look back you see that it shaped you for better opportunities. So, it isn’t a failure but I thought it was at the time.
If you could gift one book to someone what would it be?
Conditioning of the heart by Joyce Mayer, until you’ve got the right mindset, attitude and do not allow feelings to dictate your actions then you can’t achieve what you are capable of.
If you could have a gigantic billboard, metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to billions, what would it say and why?
YOU’RE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE AND YOU CAN ACHIEVE WHAT YOU THINK YOU CAN ACHIEVE. IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN YOURSELF NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO. TO VALUE YOURSELF, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF APPRECIATING WHO YOU ARE AND NOT WANTING TO BE ANYONE ELSE BECAUSE YOU’RE ORIGINAL AND UNIQUE.