CFE Helping Early-Stage Businesses Promote Ethical Consumption Making Sustainability A Key Word

The annual Christmas period of overconsumption is now past us. Come January we’re feeling guilty, with homes overflowing with things we don’t need or want. From landfill to over-farming the detrimental impact on the planet from overconsumption shows no signs of slowing down. This October a report from UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced we have twelve years to prevent the temperature rises which would escalate drought, fires and poverty on a global scale.

Big brands such as Stella McCartney, H&M Group, Kering have been focused on sustainability for some time now and in December signed the Climate Action Charter with an initial target to reduce their aggregate greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.

But change is afoot within emerging SMEs too. At CFE we are witnessing a noticeable increase in socially and environmentally conscious businesses on our programmes. Businesses are integrating processes and practice that put sustainability at the core of their businesses – from ethical production, recycling materials to personalising and designing products made for longevity and ethical consumption.

We believe in the importance of supporting businesses that are defining their identity in meaningful ways with new models and new ways of doing things that are good for people and the planet.

Across our Accelerate, Fashion, Fashion Tech Pioneer and Production programmes, here’s how they are doing it.

On the clothing front, Bethany Williams – a new Fashion Pioneer programme designer – has become a recognised name in sustainable menswear, using recycled fibre to make unique garments that embrace rather than hide their past lives. Bethany also tackles issues around social injustice such as homelessness and poverty by working with women in prisons, drug rehabilitation centres in Italy and food banks in London.

Phoebe English, on CFE’s Production One programme, reclaims the offcut fabric from her manufacturers and donates to schools or textiles recycling units, cutting her carbon footprint. She also uses natural buttons, more about this supplier below, and has initiated zero plastic packaging.

MARIEYAT – a new Fashion Pioneer Programme business – only works with manufacturers she knows and trusts, overseeing the production personally in Hong Kong; she is also conscientious around the amount they produce and designs timeless, not trend-led, pieces that will last for more than one season.

Petit Pli – a FashTech Accelerate programme business – tackles overconsumption, by creating beautiful and hardwearing children’s clothes from technical pleating that grow with the child, from 4 months to 36 months, therefore cutting down on the consumption of throwaway baby clothes.

Two shirting companies on the FashTech Pioneer programme are creating products that through innovation and personalisation have longevity and therefore don’t need to be replaced so often. Collarbone, a bespoke shirting business quickly turns around bespoke shirts through easy measuring and collection facilities across the city producing quality shirts for men that will withstand time. Induo has invented a stain resistant shirt fabric that is to the standards of high-end shirting but withstands daily wear and tear and by doing so promotes reuse.

Bundlee, also on the FashTech Pioneer programme, is the UK’s first ever baby clothes subscription model. After seeing its success in Scandinavia, the founders created a deliver-to-your-door business providing returnable children’s clothes, cutting down on consumption. Clothes will be rented by 5 families on average, and Bundlee’s aim is to reduce waste by up to 80% in comparison to buying.

Save Your Wardrobe, a FashTech Pioneer, sees fashion and tech meet in a bid to organise and plan the consumer’s wardrobe, promoting re-wear and repair for busy people that might normally opt to buy new products instead.

These businesses act as great role models for newer brands who can relate to the small but significant steps they are making that root their businesses in ethical processes and feel that change is achievable, as opposed to the large high street retailers who are able to make sweeping changes once fully formed and promote this heavily through wild advertising budgets.

CFE is also promoting sustainable suppliers and connecting them to the businesses on the programmes. Courtney & Co Buttons makes their product from Corozo – a nut originating in the rainforests of Ecuador and equatorial America – and more recently Codelite® – comprised of 96% dairy milk. These products are made in such a way that the byproduct, such as whey is sold on as a commercially valuable commodity with many diverse uses, meaning that nothing goes to waste. British Alpaca Fashion Company works on the Production programmes and recently hosted the CFE knitwear workshop focusing on the use of natural fibres. As a result of CFE’s connection to BAFC, Designer Martine Jarlgaard worked with them to create a knit.

Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) is London’s pioneering fashion business incubator, supported by London College of Fashion, UAL. The programme-based offer supports businesses from across fashion, accessories, jewellery and fashion tech at different points in their journey. Tailored mentoring, studio or desk space and business guidance helps them not only grow but manage growth.

Image: Phoebe English, LFWM SS19; photography by Emmii Hyyppa.