Elena Antoniou is a reformed shopaholic. It takes guts to say that after years of binging on H&M and Topshop, but she’s now a loud and proud ethical underwear advocate. Elena is changing the world one pair of organic cotton knickers at a time, and as the Co-Founder and Communications Director of Mighty Good Undies, she is achieving big things with a small commodity.
Through Mighty Good Undies’ sustainable supply chain, ethical farming and fair-trade practices, Elena is educating consumers on the ‘other side’ of the industry. Conventional cotton farming is rife with environmental degradation and human suffering, and more than 270000 Indian cotton farmers have committed suicide since the 1990s.
With the increase in fast fashion, the flow on effect pushes cotton farmers into buying genetically-modified cotton seeds to speed up cultivation, costing farmers four times as much as traditional cotton. This, and the high cost of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, forces farmers into private loans with up to 45% interest – an unmanageable debt too high to ever pay off. This genetically-modified cotton farming cycle in India is an unethical industry unto its own, and it’s a humanitarian issue that Elena is passionate about changing.
Mighty Good Undies’ entire supply chain is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified, Fairtrade certified and SA8000 certified, making it ethical, transparent and sustainable in every sense of the word. Compared to standard cotton underwear, each pair of Mighty Good Undies is responsible for 46% less carbon emissions, 65% less water usage, 70% less pollution, and 61% less energy use. These undies truly are mighty good.
Elena found time in her busy schedule to bare all about Mighty Good Undies...
What is Mighty Good Undies?
We are a premium basics underwear brand for men and women with ethical production at the heart of everything we produce. We design underwear for bodies of all shapes and sizes (women’s sizes from 8-22) with comfort and fit of primary importance.
What inspired the launch of Mighty Good Undies?
Confession time. I am a reformed shopaholic. I grew up in the UK, so Topshop and H&M were regular weekend haunts, and I also had a penchant for second-hand clothing as I worked in an antique shop when I was at high school. I have collected a lot of clothing over the past 20 years! When I started working in fashion, I was exposed to the ‘behind the scenes’ practices that the fashion industry engages in, and I was shocked. Because of my early relationship with antiques, I have always seen the value in pieces that other people take for granted or discard, so the more I saw of the fashion industry, the less sense it made to me. When I met my husband Tim Silverwood (CEO of Take 3 for The Sea) everything seemed to make sense to me for the first time, and I just knew I had to dedicate my life to a better world, both environmentally and socially.
What was the first year of business like?
Challenging and tough. I have many words for the first year of business!
What does an average week in your shoes look like now?
It’s all very high paced and as an owner, you need to be across every element of the business. From analytics to social media and business strategy to financials; it honestly doesn’t stop. My mantra every day is, ‘What is the most important thing I can achieve today?’ and this seems to prioritise things very quickly for me. That, and strong coffee every day!
Why are organic fabrics better for our bits?
It’s not complicated, it’s very straightforward. We don’t want our ‘bits’ to be exposed to the toxic chemicals that are used in conventional cotton, and there are up to 240 chemicals used in conventional cotton production. It’s scary!
'Carbon offset’ is confusing to the average shopper. How is Mighty Good Undies working towards being ‘carbon neutral’ and what’s it all about?
In an effort to become carbon neutral we have partnered with a reputable company called South Pole. They calculate how much carbon we are producing through our business, and then we offset it by purchasing high-quality carbon offsets that reduce emissions and trigger positive outcomes.
A lot of people associate ‘ethical fashion’ with the garment workers who do the sewing and making, but supply chains run deeper than just manufacturing. How is Mighty Good Undies ensuring ethical conditions for its cotton farmers?
We are incredibly committed to our partners and suppliers, and we only work with organic farmers such as RCM in Kolkata. They’re a certified Fairtrade factory, and they’re a remarkable business; they’ve partnered with Chetna Organics to help small and marginal farmers, improving their livelihood and creating sustainable and profitable farming opportunities. Mighty Good Undies’ supply chain is also certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard and the Fairtrade Labelling Organization. Our factories also carry the SA8000 Social Accountability Standard certification, which is the leading international standard for meeting ethical labour standards. Their sole purpose is to ensure that our workers receive fair wages and work in safe conditions and that the environmental impact of our production is actively minimised.
What was your ‘Bare for Good’ campaign all about?
Every year we create a campaign to raise awareness about Fashion Revolution Week called ‘Bare for Good’. We collaborate with socially conscious celebrities and change-makers and have them sit for a series of portraits with a well-known photographer in their Mighty Good Undies. It’s such a fun and inspiring day! We also interview them and share their stories about their relationship with fashion.
What are you committed to changing about the industry and why?
I want to improve the relationship that people have with fashion and consumerism. We are all consumers, it’s part of the human state, but the world won’t survive if we continue at the pace we are currently consuming. I am committed to educating people about why conscious consumerism is essential, and how a circular economy is possible; it is the only choice we have if we want our planet to survive.
Start small with your undies and make a big impact by heading to mightygoodundies.com.au and use MIGHTYGOODTFA for 20% off your first purchase. Every pair counts!
The Fashion Advocate x