NARU Studios’ Founder Natalie Smith talks to Lucy Kebbell - founder of The Wip - about how consumers and brands can do better when it comes to sustainable fashion.
Do you feel that ethically made clothing empowers the wearer?
Absolutely, however I think that it comes in tandem with consumer understanding. Many people won’t have a clue of the difference between an organic cotton t-shirt, that was made locally by people who were paid a living wage, compared to one that wasn’t unless the ethical processes are sufficiently communicated. Hopefully the quality speaks for itself, but unless the story behind the garment is told and understood, it can be hard to empower someone just through clothing.
What’s your favourite example of creative innovation you’ve come across since founding The WIP (e.g an interesting use of sustainable materials)?
We recently worked with a company called Eco Garment Bags, which is working to solve the huge issue of plastic garment bag waste in the fashion supply chain. Many people aren’t aware that a major source of single use plastic in the industry comes from the plastic bags that factories send finished garments to brands in. Although it protects the final product, it isn’t recyclable and is hard to reuse. Eco Garment Bags have created a water soluble bag that breaks down safely in hot water (or home compost). It’s a real game changer.
What are the three main ways to avoid greenwashing?
The key is really to be informed and to take a little time to look around at ethical alternatives.
Do some research, usually a certification like B Corp is a great tell that a brand is ethical. Or I tend to shop from online boutiques with good accreditation practices like Ethical Superstore, Akojo Market or Content Beauty, as I know that all the products they stock are likely to not be greenwashing.
Use a service that does the leg work for you. The Beagle Button is a browser extension that pops up whenever I am shopping and offers me a sustainable or ethical alternative to the product I am looking for.
Avoid high street brands. Even the ones that have sustainable roadmaps, Conscious collections and resale platforms. They are always going to be problematic because they simply produce too many clothes to ever be sustainable.
What is your favourite piece in your wardrobe?
It’s so tricky to choose just one as I tend to purchase clothes based on a really emotional reaction to the piece. I fall in love with a piece that then stays with me for a long time and I love to wear it over and over. However I think currently it would be a plum, quilted velvet vintage Laura Ashley jacket that I found in a charity shop. It fits beautifully and really ties an outfit together.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given or would want to pass on to someone starting a sustainable business?
‘Sustainability isn’t a USP’. It’s something that was only mentioned to me recently by one of our amazing members and I realised that she was right. Producing a high quality, wearable or usable product is what will make your business successful. The sustainable and ethical way in which you source, produce, market and sell your product should now be a ‘must have’ not a ‘nice to have’.
What keeps you hopeful for the future?
The WIP’s community keeps me hopeful. It’s full of incredible people, that really care about our planet and the people on it. They strive every day to learn, innovate and do better and they inspire me to keep going.