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What Does Sustainability Mean to You?

Good question.We asked three of our favourite menswear designers among other pressing questions, what sustainability means to them…

Oliver Spencer
Founder of Oliver Spencer

What does sustainability mean to you?
To us as a menswear brand sustainability means managing our business in a way that is as environmentally and socially efficient as possible. I guess what it boils down to is doing things the right way. 

What can clothing companies do to be more sustainable across the business?
It really depends on the business and what they do. You need to deconstruct what you are doing and find out where the key areas for improvement are. Once you find these areas you will need to quantify them and create a way to improve them. The one thing that is incredibly easy for any business to do, is to switch to a renewable energy supplier at no extra cost. We use Green energy and they have been great. 

The challenges on the path to improved environmental sustainability are significant, varied and will take a collective effort to solve. In the fashion industry, fast and disposable fashion needs to end and we all have to use more environmentally and socially progressive fabrics such as organic cotton. We need to be recycling clothing and using recycled resources to make clothing and we need to be more water efficient. 

 What should a customer be doing? What are they unaware of?
As a customer it’s actually pretty simple to do the right thing. Buy less, choose quality, choose brands with environmental and social credentials and make it last. If you no longer want something sell it or give it to charity. If something breaks get it repaired. Wash less and cold where possible. Also, don’t take claims at face value; do research and make sure brands are genuinely doing what they claim to, there’s a lot of ‘green-washing’ out there. 

Who is your sustainability icon?
It has to be Sir David Attenborough. In Blue Planet II, he did an exceptional job of opening the country’s eyes to the plastic crisis we currently face. In order to get people to engage with environmental sustainability, it’s crucial to get them to connect with nature and understand that nature is what supports our existence. Thank you David, you are doing a fantastic job, we salute you.


Christopher Raeburn
Founder of Christopher Raeburn

What does sustainability mean to you?
For us it’s more about responsible design and our obligation as a company to provide meaningful products at a competitive price. It’s also about our obligation as consumers to make considered choices, to think about what we’re doing and why.

What can clothing companies do to be more sustainable across the business?
From our perspective, a large percentage of impact happens at the design stage; companies need to get in the mindset of designing products in a considered way. The biggest challenges (especially for small businesses) are around sourcing, auditing and legislation. As an example, the cost and implication of using recycled materials is generally 30% higher.

What should the customer be doing? What are they unaware of?
It’s never about what customers should be doing… it’s more about inspiring our community to think differently and provide them with better choices. There’s certainly a willingness to try and make the right choices, but quite often it’s about education; customers don’t necessarily know where to start. Thanks to the advances in technology, things are starting to change.

 Who is your sustainability icon?
On a global scale, I find Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia founder) very inspiring. He’s a lot more than a traditional CEO; he’s first and foremost an athlete, conservationist, out-of-the box thinker, and he has always pushed Patagonia to find solutions to the global environmental crisis. Patagonia is now one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on earth. I highly recommend reading his book ‘Let My People Go Surfing’.

On a more local scale, Orsola De Castro is really helping change things for the better with Fashion Revolution, a non-profit global movement she co-founded, with a focus on the need for greater transparency in the fashion industry. Orsola has been a great supporter of the brand and we regularly collaborate on community-led events and workshops for Fashion Revolution Week.


David Keyte
Co-founder of Universal Works

What does sustainability mean to you?
In simple terms, sustainability and the fashion industry are difficult bed fellows! With creating new things seasonally, it is hard to also be sustainable. However, it’s important we do all we can to make products with longevity and durability as well as ensuring to do no harm to anyone while making the product and to use our limited resources responsibly, as well as thinking about recycling all the fibres and yarns and fabrics we can.  

What can clothing companies do to be more sustainable across the business?
I think the important things is to create garments that last and are meant to be used beyond one season, or indeed one weekend as is sometimes the feeling you get with very fast fashion. Creating better garments, more responsibilities, more costs. So we need to educate the public too that cheap disposable things are no good for any of us.

What should the customer be doing? What are they unaware of?
Sadly, it often comes down to price and really cheap product cannot be good for anyone in the long term, but it’s hard to understand that when many corporate businesses push us to consume more and more. Often the smaller independent brands in clothing or indeed in many other areas are always trying to produce things with more care, more honesty and responsibility, which will therefore be more sustainable. Of course some larger brands do very good things on sustainability which is great, like Patagonia or like the new plastics recycling at Adidas. These are great and come about from public pressure.

Who is your sustainability icon?
Jose Mujica. He was president of Uruguay and was a real radical with sustainable projects at the forefront of his political process, the world needs more politicians like him. In fashion, then maybe it would be Stella McCartney, for her stance and attitude.

Interviews by Davey BRETT
Image Credits courtesy of Oliver Spencer, Christopher Raeburn & Universal Works