Here’s a simplified breakdown and a guide of the basic steps involved in starting your own sustainable fashion brand. Are you a sustainable fashion designer? Do you have some additional tips? Help young designers to build their sustainable fashion brand and let us know your experiences by leaving a comment below. We gonna join the conversation!
1. Define Your Sustainability Ethics
First and foremost, you should consider what it actually means to be “sustainable”, and decide how this can work for your own brand. There are many factors that determine that sustainability of a fashion company, two of the most important ones being ethical production and fabric selection.
Nowadays, it’s popular among big brands to manufacture in countries where cheap labor is legal, which results in far too many human right’s disasters. Producing your garments in countries with fair labor will ensure adequate wages and better treatment of factory workers. Additionally, if you decide to manufacture where you live, you will be supporting and creating jobs in your local economy. You should also consider the volume of clothing that you want to manufacture. Because the clothing industry is so bloated with cheap goods already, it’s ethical and sustainable to concentrate on producing fewer garments of higher quality.
For your fabric and materials, you’ll want to examine the origin of the fabric and the environmental impact of its raw materials and manufacturing processes.
There are also plenty other aspects involved in having an eco-conscious business such as shipping methods. For example, instead of packaging your product in unnecessary plastic, you can use biodegradable or recycled materials.
2. Source Eco-Conscious Materials
Finding your ideal fabric is more challenging when you are limited to only sustainable and ethically made sources.
However, there are quite a few eco-conscious fabric options that are proving to be quite popular with sustainable brands.
Generally, “natural” and organic fabrics have a smaller environmental impact than synthetics. Organic cotton crops use far less water than conventional cotton and aren’t treated with pesticides and chemicals, which are harmful for farmers, consumers and wildlife eco-systems. In addition to organic cotton other sought-after natural fabrics include linen, tencel and bamboo.
Other options besides natural fiber fabrics include recycled and deadstock fabrics.
Using fabric that is made out of recycled materials utilizes much less energy than producing entirely new fabrics.
Deadstock or “surplus” fabrics are leftover or unused by mills, factories, or big brands, and then re-sold at an affordable price instead of being tossed into the garbage.
Research and contact a few reputable suppliers and request “swatches” or small samples from them to review. After you’ve looked through plenty of options, compared several suppliers and decided on your fabrics you can proceed to design development.
3. Develop Your Design Concept
Before diving into the design process, your brand identity should be established.
Analyze your target market and pinpoint your ideal customer. Be concise when solidifying your product vision- create a mood board, brand message and a written summary of your target customer that you can reference.
Next, work on turning your design ideas into a real tangible product. Create clear design sketches, and if needed hire someone to assist with pattern making and sample making. This step may require several stages of fixing and tweaking until you have a “perfect’ garment mock-ups and patterns that you can present to a factory. At this point, you should also have a technical sheet or “spec” sheet ready. Spec sheets communicate crucial construction details to your factory so that they can produce your designs with ease.
After your product samples and spec sheets are ready, it’s finally time to find a production partner! When reaching out to a potential production partner present these along with the number of pieces you want to produce. It’s important to be prepared with this information to ensure that you aren’t overlooked as an amateur, as factories aren’t looking to hold your hand through this process. Get costing quotes from a few options and compare pricing. Figure out the factory lead times and establish a production timeline that works for you.
4. Promote Your Label Launch
Even if you are in the early stages of developing your product, it’s never too early to start promoting your new brand! Create a profile on all the main social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and start posting content regularly. Additionally, make a “beginning” website or a landing page with a blog, using simple web-creating sites such as Squarespace. You may not have a product ready, but you can still direct traffic to your site and start growing an email sign up list. When the time comes for your company to launch, it’ll be invaluable to have an audience to reach out to.
Do you have any additional questions about starting a sustainable fashion label? Or do you have additional tips about starting a sustainable fashion label, then please leave a comment below and we gonna join the conversation.
All Photos: Skall Studio Instagram
Emily Bayley is a Brooklyn based fashion designer and the founder of Faelyn, a new brand of eco-friendly lingerie. After studying art and fashion in college she quickly realized her passion was in sustainable design. Soon she came up with the idea for a lingerie brand that brought together a feminine sensibility with strong sustainable ethics. For the past year she’s been busy dreaming up designs and building the brand out of her Brooklyn apartment, while simultaneously working full time at another fashion house in Manhattan.