Designers often ask us what the key differences are in running an ethical fashion brand compared to a traditional model that doesn’t hold its supply chain or practices accountable? Is it harder? How do practical day to day decisions differ? So we sat down with ethical fashion brand SiiZU to learn from their experience.
Why did you choose ethical manufacturing and sustainability for SiiZU?
We started SiiZU based around the idea that if given the choice between a stylish dress and a stylish eco-friendly dress, most people will opt for the stylish eco-friendly dress if they are similarly priced. However, that is still not currently the case, with sustainable fashion brands often-times being more expensive than their non-eco counterpart.
With fast fashion companies dominating the fashion world, we wanted to challenge the status-quo and try to do just that - bring beautiful pieces of sustainable clothing to our customers at an affordable price range.
What did the process look like?
At the beginning, our team spent nearly a year sourcing and establishing relationship with only the best factories and fabric suppliers around the world. We visited every factory in person in order to make sure that our partners would hold the same ethical principles and beliefs ours. When sourcing, we also intentionally selected the fabric suppliers that were in close proximity to our manufacturing factories in order to minimize the carbon footprint caused by transportation.
Meanwhile, our design team in New York is not only focused on creating beautiful and timeless designs and patterns, they also consciously utilize the fabric to its full potential in order to minimize waste fabric during production.
What hard decisions have you had to make to stay ethical and sustainable?
Our dedication of using exclusively 100% eco-friendly fabric has made our sourcing process that much more complex. Polyester is the world's most popular fabric, and the price difference between a sweater made with 100% wool versus one made with 95% wool + 5% nylon can be vast. While many brands would settle for this polyester blended fabric, we were dedicated to spending the extra time on sourcing for only 100% eco fabrics from the few reputable factories across Asia.
Another difficult decision that we have to face constantly was our promise of not working with wholesalers in order to keep the markups low and pass on the savings to our customers. Many resellers around the world have already requested to stock our collection, and our competitors certainly do gain an advantage in brand awareness as they have a long stock list.
However, we believe in what we do – we maintain that our goal of delivering high quality and sustainable clothing at an affordable price will flourish with our customers.
Do you have any advice to other brands interested in doing the same?
Loving and believing in what you do really helps. As a young startup, we also have learned that keeping things simple is very important. Lastly, don't forget to keep your promises - because your customers care.
To learn more about becoming an ethical fashion brand subscribe to our weekly emails, and if you’re in NYC come meet THR3EFOLD, SiiZU, and the NYC ethical fashion community at our Fashion Revolution Day Panel & Pop Up Event on April 24th!