#RETHINKFASHION: The entrepreneurs cleaning up the fashion industry

Here at FEW, we've been cooking up a new entrepreneurship conference fueled by environmentally minded female founders in the fashion community. 

At our upcoming #RETHINKFASHION event on June 3, we'll bring together influential women who are not just starting a business, but also making serious changes -- from ethical fashion to recycled products, non-toxic beauty and sustainable sourcing.

Through panel discussions and workshops, more than 20 inspiring women will share their insight on how to grow a profitable company in a sustainable way.

Below, 6 of our influencers share a bit more about who they are, what they do, and how they're changing the industry.

Event details: 10:30am-6pm, Saturday, June 3; OnTheSpace, G/F, Printing House, 6 Duddell St, Central. See you there! 

A Few Of Our #RETHINKFASHION Influencers
 

Linda Quach, Founder of KAMBODJA

What's the story behind KAMBODJA?

"KAMBODJA is a designer accessory brand that integrates an ethical philosophy and a give-back mission all along its process of added value creation. It is about modern accessories that are made not only in a country but together and for a country and its people."

What are you trying to achieve?

"In the short term, I want to create high-skilled and refined job opportunities to people who have a background and a situation that usually make them think they are not capable of such a job. I want to create empowerment that is not only about fair money but also about self-esteem and pride."

And in the long term?

"In the long term, I am trying through design to create a quality image for the 'Made in Cambodia,' because I believe that ultimately it is one of the necessary ways to help a developing country. Development and growth is not only about numbers but also about quality, know-how and expertise."

What's the most surprising thing you've learned so far?

"Standardising your processes is important when you run a business, but when you are a social enterprise working with NGOs it is not just important it is vital. But on the other hand much more challenging... and obviously rewarding too."

Which brands do you look up to, in terms of socially responsible practices? 

"Tom's shoe -- they are the pioneer of what I would call 'cool AND ethical' fashion. Although they cannot be considered as a slow fashion brand, we need mass production brands like this to spread awareness."

 

Michelle Bang, Founder of BYT

What's the aim of BYT?

"BYT is an affordable luxury upcycled fashion brand and social impact business. We rescue surplus luxury fabrics and create them into beautiful apparel and accessories, using sustainable and socially responsible supply chains in Asia."

How does it work?

We follow three pillars: Transforming waste, values, and supply chain. Every BYT product is made using waste materials, whether it’s surplus fabric, yarns, buttons or packaging from make to finish. 

BYT products are also made to inspire new values in fashion, whether it was designed by emerging sustainable fashion designers or made by a social enterprise employing disenfranchised workers.  

We also share 10% of our profits with our sister charity Redress so they can continue to do the good work they have been doing to advance sustainable fashion.

And every BYT product has at least one -- and often many! -- innovation to be proud of.  We also pride ourselves in innovating and leading on a new business model around waste."

What's the most surprising thing you've learned along the way?

"There are still many who don’t know how pollutive the fashion industry is. China alone generates 26 million tonnes of textile waste every year; that’s equivalent to 11,400 buses filled to the brim with textile waste EVERY DAY.

I realize that there is still much work we have to do to raise the awareness about sustainable fashion in order to change behaviors and to really make an impact, especially in Asia." 

How can consumers make more informed decisions?

"We can all make small changes in the way we buy, care for, and discard our clothing. Consumers can delve deeper into a company’s operations and values and use our spending power to support companies who are engaged in making a positive environmental and social impact like BYT.  We can all be active fashion citizens to change what’s happening in fashion!"

 

Alice Sachot, Founder & Designer of La French Cut

Tell us about Le French Cut. What's the deal?

"La French Cut is a custom-made shoe brand that creates unique and comfortable designs. By taking time handcrafting unique pieces according to our clients needs we go back to the roots of fashion. We offer other alternatives than standardised, mass-made and mass-consumed items."

What do you think is the a common misconception about the fashion industry?

"Unfortunately, the Fast Fashion industry has grown so big now that it led to many problems. People are only now starting to realize. Many scandals of labour and human rights issues have came to light -- but there are also great problems of sustainability and waste linked to fast fashion too. 

"There is huge amounts of clothes -- and a lot still in great condition -- that are regularly thrown away because they were cheap, don’t cater to today’s trend, or simply because the buyer changed his or her mind and decided to get rid of it without even wearing it once."

How do you hope to making changes in the industry?

"I know it’s a huge task but I truly believe little steps make the difference. To achieve change we need to take our responsibilities in our daily life’s choices -- what to buy, how many to buy, how to be sustainable by reusing or repairing things, how to sort out and recycle wastes etc."

 

Melissa Chu, Founder of Rumi X athletic wear

What's RUMI X all about?

"RUMI X creates eco-conscious activewear designed to make you feel good. We design and manufacture innovative activewear apparel using sustainable fibres enabling us to become eco-conscious citizens. Sustainable manufacturing methods including recycled plastic bottles, upcycled coffee grounds and water-based ink dyes allow us to make a positive impact on our planet, changing waste to recycled goods that would otherwise contribute to landfill."

What are you trying to achieve?

"RUMI X was born out of my three passions: spirituality, yoga, and nature. Blending these elements is what ultimately inspired the brand. I wanted to develop something that spoke to the devotion of my practice and honor my source of energy from spirituality, while simultaneously ensuring that our products were environmentally impactful and contributing to the solution, not being part of the problem. RUMI X is about living a mindful lifestyle, taking care of yourself within, and being good to the world around you."

What do you think consumers need to know?

"It's important for us to educate and encourage others to live a mindful lifestyle and lead the eco-conscious revolution. All of us as global citizens have the responsibility to do our part by re-considering our purchases and opting for recycled goods that make use of waste as opposed to mass purchases that have a negative impact on the planet."

What's a common misconception about the fashion industry?

"From a consumer perspective, there is limited understanding about the costs involved to create collections, limited awareness about the impact each of us can make to give back to the environment and avoid mass consumption of unsustainable products.

Thankfully, nowadays there are more brands pioneering sustainable manufacturing methods and re-thinking the operations of their business to reduce carbon footprint. We still have a long way to go to re-educate consumers to shop mindfully."

How do you hope to affect change in the industry?

"We are constantly reviewing and sourcing innovative technical fabrics created using sustainable manufacturing methods. Our mission is to enable consumers to feel good in movement by helping our environment."

 

Kristine Nudds, Founder of The Feel Good Business

Tell us about The Feel Good Business?

"The Feel Good Business is a one-stop brand-building shop for companies with a heart, who want to drive change, offering strategic and creative marketing, PR and corporate responsibility services to businesses who care."

What are you trying to achieve?

"We want to demonstrate that business today is about more than just the bottom line. Businesses, large and small, can also operate in a creative, innovative and responsible way in order to engage with all their stakeholders, in a manner which leaves everyone feeling good. And the icing on the cake is that all this corporate responsibility will have a positive impact on the bottom line too!"

What trends are you seeing among consumers?

"More and more shoppers, including the new generation of millennials, care about where their products come from, and at what cost. Let’s give them the products they want and develop exciting communication campaigns to shout about their story."

How do you hope to affect change in the industry?

"My daily mantra is ‘every little bit helps’. Whether you are a small business and want to make a positive impression on the planet, are establishing a new brand and looking at ways to be as conscientious as possible, or a larger corporate that wants to ‘give back’, there is exciting scope for everyone to make their contributions."

Which brands are leading the way?

"I would have to start with Toms. Every single item they sell has a ‘give back’ story and the new product ranges and purposes just keep flowing.

In Cambodia, a couple of brands that spring to mind include fashion brand, Tonlé and handbag brand, Smateria.  

Not only do these enterprises provide a secure, safe and nurturing working environment for their growing local teams, all on a fair trade wage basis, but they also consider the clever use of the materials they use, in order to minimize their impact on the planet."

 

Denise Ho, Founder of Knotti

What is the concept behind Knotti?

"Knotti is about creating beautiful handknit products made by local artisans trained by our team. We are trying to create a fashion brand that is socially responsible, promotes sustainability and make very well designed products at the same time."

How do you hope to affect change in the industry?

"The industry needs better products and not have so much junk. There isn't a lot of love for making clothes these days, especially with the high demand for fast fashion. Knotti is quite the opposite, for example, each sweater is 100% handmade andtakes around three weeks to finish."

How can consumers make more informed decisions?

"I think social media is a powerful tool. But designers need to be quite creative not only with the designs but also the story telling part to get their messages across."

Which brands are leading the way on this socially responsible path?

"Maiyet is great as they really perfected their own supply chain system. Plus their products are beautiful and timeless. I love Dries Van Noten too. Even though he doesn't market the brand as  socially responsible, he actually started working with artisans in India back in the 80s."