Shopping sustainably this summer -  how two start-ups are shaking up the fast fashion industry

rethink sustainability

Shopping sustainably this summer - how two start-ups are shaking up the fast fashion industry

Summer's finally here. The shops are filled with new collections, vibrant colours, eye-catching ads and eager shoppers.

But isn't it time to rethink the way we consume? And consider shopping more sustainably this summer?

 

The true cost of fast fashion

Fashion is ubiquitous in our society and has expanded from the two seasons of spring/summer and autumn/winter to multiple "micro-seasons" throughout the year. Consumers are encouraged to change their wardrobe regularly by opting for cheaper options. But fad-based shopping comes at a price, with the fashion industry accounting for 8% of global greenhouse emissions.

Fad-based shopping comes at a price, with the fashion industry accounting for 8% of global greenhouse emissions.

Microplastics are polluting our lakes, rivers and oceans. In a bid to cut production costs, costlier natural materials have been replaced by synthetic substitutes that release microfibres when washed. These end up in our waterways and oceans, where they are ingested by fish and contaminate the entire food chain. A recent scientific report found up to 12,000 pieces of microplastic per litre of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean – an unprecedented number.

The social and economic conditions for makers and factory workers are atrocious. In 2013, the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh made headlines and sparked heated debates following the death of 1,132 people. The True Cost, a documentary released in 2015, raised awareness worldwide about the dangers of the fast fashion industry and led to initiatives aimed at sustainable and ethical production. This programme started the #whomadeyourclothes movement on social media, which calls for greater transparency on workers' conditions and the fashion’s environmental footprint.

Alternatives to fast fashion and innovative production methods have emerged, with new brands adopting ethical business models inspired by eco-conscious entrepreneurs

Alternatives to fast fashion and innovative production methods have emerged, with new brands adopting ethical business models inspired by eco-conscious entrepreneurs.

We met and interviewed two Swiss entrepreneurs involved in sustainable fashion.

 

Pineapple bags

Allure Sauvage, launched by Natacha Reymond and Selena Sieger, combines luxury and respect for the environment. After becoming aware of the fast fashion problem early on, these two supporters of the vegan movement set out to find an alternative to leather bags. Unfortunately, "finding a bag that we liked and that is environmentally friendly was very difficult," Natacha explains.

While looking for ecological substitutes for leather, they discovered piñatex, a natural fabric made from pineapple leaves that is similar to felt. They were the first in Switzerland to use this material.

 

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It's not only the material that sets Allure Sauvage apart: the production chain is also carefully monitored. They work exclusively with skilled workers based in Switzerland and France. "We will ensure that our entire production chain is socially responsible. We also check that our partners have ISO or B Corp certification, which we’re aspiring to obtain ourselves."

Creating an ethical and sustainable company is not easy, as entrepreneurs have limited financing options. Natacha reveals that "finding private investors seemed like a complicated option, so we went for crowdfunding and invested our own money in the project."

Our main goal is to demonstrate that alternatives to leather exist and that it's possible to rethink fashion

Despite these constraints and a limited collection, Natacha is still highly committed. "Our main goal is to demonstrate that alternatives to leather exist and that it's possible to rethink fashion. If all the major brands start to become truly sustainable and we can no longer compete, then we will be glad to have taken part and influenced the movement."

 

Cleaning up the ocean with a swimsuit

Last month, Etienne Dione and Julie Munafo launched Julienne – the latest addition to Switzerland's fashion scene. Their swimsuits are made with abandoned fishing nets and recycled plastic, and their goal is to help clean up the oceans.

"After swimming in Bali surrounded by beautiful Manta rays in water littered with plastic, we felt we had to take action," says Julie.

They decided to move to Bali after quitting their jobs. "What sparked our interest in founding a company was the freedom to promote our values and increase our commitment," explains Etienne.

The swimsuits are designed in Bali and made by hand using ECONYL® and REPREVE®, which are fabrics made from abandoned fishing nets and recycled plastic. "We selected companies that meet our criteria in terms of quality, ethics and environmental footprint," Etienne continues.

 

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To get Julienne up and running, they relied on the help of relatives, and they did everything themselves – from design to photo shoots and website construction. The only thing that had to be outsourced was the production of the swimwear itself. But the Julienne story doesn't end there. Etienne and Julie are committed to supporting local, ethical production. "We know where the material for all our production lines comes from," says Julie.

Etienne and Julie are committed to supporting local, ethical production. "We know where the material for all our production lines comes from," says Julie.

Like Allure Sauvage, these entrepreneurs encountered difficulties procuring fabrics. The market for sustainable fabrics is still relatively young and the available options are often expensive and involve a lot of transportation. But Etienne and Julie are optimistic. "We understand that the process is not yet perfect, but we hope that Julienne will help expand the range of sustainable, local options on the market."

 

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A sustainable revolution

These entrepreneurs exemplify the passion of the next generation and how they are the driving force behind a paradigm shift. Demand for sustainable, ethical products is soaring. According to the Lyst in Fashion 2018 report, there has been a 47% increase in consumers of vegan and sustainable products. Investing in companies that challenge the status quo and develop alternatives is essential. The sustainable revolution is the single largest investment opportunity in history, and nowhere is this trend more evident than in the fashion industry. The success of these companies will create a much-needed changes, but these businesses need the support of consumers and investors to flourish.

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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