I believe that ‘doing good’ is a constant journey. As a founder of a business in an industry known for its negative social and environmental impact, I want to be known for the opposite. I want The Fashion Advocate to be known for its powerful positive impact, and I want to be known as a founder committed to positive change.
It’s not even about being known for something; it’s in my DNA. I want to make the world a better place. I want to change people’s lives for the better. I want to go to bed every night knowing the 80,000+ hours of my life I spend working – is contributing to something bigger than just me.
So, each year, I commit to one major sustainability change in the business, and each year, we achieve something great for the world as a community at The Fashion Advocate.
In 2018 we implemented our ‘ten values’, and use them to quantify and qualify exactly how sustainable and ethical our brands are. These markers ensure we’re researching the products we sell and they act as targets for our brands to strive for better too. Our ten values map the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and they serve as an easy-to-understand checklist for shopping ethical and sustainable fashion.
We also developed our community guideline statement in 2018 which states, ‘All workers are paid fair wages, offered safe working conditions and ensured worker’s rights throughout the entire design, sourcing and manufacturing phase, to maximise the benefits to people and communities while minimising the impact on the environment.’
Our brands adhere to this within their own supply chains, committing to positive change and ethical conduct with us, and if they don’t sign on this agreement, they don’t join The Fashion Advocate. Implementing our community guideline statement and our ten values in 2018 was a bold move and we lost nearly 20 brands from our online community. I learnt very quickly that not everyone shares my determination for making the industry better. It was a tough awakening when I know what’s possible for our industry.
I lost brands who couldn’t prove their ethical practices, and even now, having such strict guidelines impacts our growth as some brands come to us wanting to join, but can’t prove what they need to, so we have to turn them away. In the end, it’s a positive, because purpose and impact are extremely important to me, and I don’t want to add brands to our online store for the sake of growth if it means jeopardising our values and the benchmark we’re trying to achieve.
Making that hard decision in 2018 propelled The Fashion Advocate on a journey for more change and from then onwards, we committed to one major change for the better every single year within the business.
2020's initiative was phasing out polyester, which was HUGE for us. We lost brands from our community again as many were manufacturing with polyester, but it was a necessary loss. 63% of fashion is made with polyester, a synthetic fabric produced with petrochemicals and non-renewable resources. Oil is a non-renewable resource and nearly 70 million barrels of it are used each year to make the world's use of polyester. Every time polyester is washed, tiny plastic micro-fibers shed into our waterways, and fashion is now responsible for 35% of the micro-plastic fibres found in the ocean. Knowing all of this, I couldn’t call The Fashion Advocate a sustainable fashion business while we sold polyester, so we phased out virgin polyester and had to remove several brands from our online store.
2021 was a big year for us too; we committed to it being our last year selling plastic-based, polymer or synthetic jewellery, so from now on we will only sell natural earth-derived materials within the jewellery category. We also wanted to commit to global reforestation, so we partnered with One Tree Planted in 2021 and plant one tree with every order to help restore our precious environment.
We’re now moving into 2022 with an incredibly sustainable and ethical business model as it is, but I still want to do more. We’ve been working with AirRobe to explore our circular impact, and through a one-click checkout process, you can purchase your ethical and sustainable fashion, then re-sell, rent or recycle it back into a circular economy online. By working with AirRobe, we help lower the lifetime cost of ethical fashion, we make slow fashion accessible to more people, and we can grow our community in a responsible way. In the first six months we’d been using AirRobe, we’d already saved 1482kg of CO2 emissions, 7410 litres of water and 156kg of textile waste from landfill.
Being able to quantify our impact through AirRobe and see just how much of a positive impact we had in 2021 inspired me to dig even deeper into circular fashion when it came to shaping our 2022 sustainability goals so now, I’m pledging our biggest change yet.
By the end of 2022, a minimum of 30% of our brands will be circular, and I’m talking the real deal honest definition of circular, not the green-washing kind. What’s the difference? A real circular fashion brand uses regenerated or recycled materials to create their products; they don’t just use virgin materials that can be recycled. They walk the walk and use materials that have already been recycled.
We stock a few amazing circular fashion brands at The Fashion Advocate who already utilise post-consumer waste and reduce ocean plastics through their fabric choices, but we need more. I want to set an example for the fashion industry and I'm not afraid to roll up my sleeves to do it, so committing to a 30% benchmark is where we'll start.
We may face what we’ve faced before and my sustainability values may drive some brands away, or, we might be on the precipice of something great and inspire more brands to start using circular materials.
Whatever happens, I’ll go to sleep at night knowing I’m striving for better in our industry, and knowing I'm doing whatever I can to lessen our environmental impact - because that is truly important to me.
If you're new to circular fashion, start here.