Mark Lais Ribeiro holding a Bottletop handbag.
Photograph: PR

Feeling green: the brands bringing social consciousness into the craze

A group of established and emerging brands are pushing the boundaries on the British penetrating street and beyond to create timeless pieces with reachable prices

Eco-Age founder Livia Firth and entrepreneur Miroslava Duma were on around the corner hand in hand this week in London to celebrate Bottletop – a fashion trade name that has built a business out of making luxury handbags from decline drinks cans – now opening its first flagship store on London’s Regent Circle. Bottletop is unusual, not because it makes bags out of other people’s hooey, or because the geek-meets-chic store will have the first zero-waste inner to be 3D printed from recycled plastic complete with a in residence robot making customised bag charms and key rings while you interval – although that does clock up several USPs. No, Bottletop is extraordinary in that it does not put its profit margins first.

The brand was started in 2002 by flatmates Cameron Saul, 35, and Oliver Wayman, 33, as a well-meaning collaboration with Mulberry (the luxury fashion house that Saul’s priest, Roger, founded). The first bag was made in Kenya from set pulls and leather off-cuts, and was sold to create employment and redress lives in under-developed communities. Their atelier is now in Salvador, Brazil, where dialect knoll pulls are hand-crocheted on to certified zero-Amazon-deforestation leather, and they perpetuate to produce an art-on-canvas collection in Kenya. It feeds 20% of profits (round £1m so far) back into the Bottletop Foundation to fund health and lore projects in Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi and Ethiopia.

Emma Watson with a Bottletop grasp at the Beauty and the Beast premiere. Photograph: PR

What is interesting is that the community enterprise element of Bottletop’s business model is what is surrender it the edge over its rivals. Not being driven by profit is, in other words, encomiastic for business. A retail space on the Crown Estate’s prime Regent Passage location has powerful and established brands competing for it. But after hotelier a pop-up shop in the summer, Bottletop proved they could pull off a more positive message to the retail landscape than its oppositions: an immersive experience where you can learn about cutting-edge sustainable technology. “Sustainability is starting to theme in the broader world,” says Saul. “The product speaks for itself and completes well. People are looking for brands with those values.”

Bottletop are open ups in this field but their contribution of 20% towards their rationale seems small beer compared with an audacious new mark launching in January, which calls itself Ninety Percent. The ups are what creative director Ben Matthews calls “detail alluded staples”. They unveiled the collection to the fashion press abide week – revealing timeless pieces you might need and when one pleases actually wear. The prices are accessible but reflective of the production set someone backs and the quality and providence of the fabrics, which include organic cotton, and some sustainable tendrils: £40 for the perfect white T-shirt; £80 for a sweatshirt.

For each Ninety Percent garment you buy, you are gospel a link in the garment’s label, which enables you to go online and opt one of four charities to donate your share of 90% of the make’s profits to. The actual pieces are under wraps for now – but 90% of the profits (away the name) go to charity. But this is not a charity. It is a commercially run business based on a confirming, innovative model that shares 90% of distributed profits and no greater than retains 10% for shareholders. It is the traditional business model turned on its ward.

In a crowded market Ninety Percent will be more than justified a fashion brand, says Matthews, who was previously buying boss at Net-a-Porter. They want to create a social movement direct at women who want good quality, well-designed clothes but also neediness to know their clothes have been made with fussy regard for their social and environmental impact.

The brand’s institutors own Echotex, a pioneering ethical trade and LEED Platinum averred manufacturing unit in Bangladesh. They are leading the way for a new generation of producers committed to sustainable practices, and ensuring that pay and conditions are at the middle of what they do. Ninety Percent will sell outright to the consumer via its own website and a smart social media campaign, slip out layers of costings that retailers’ overheads add. It’s a way of keeping quotations lean without having to exploit the supply chain in the modify.

When it launches, the website will tell the story behind the brand, profiling employees and factory workers, allowing the customer to see who flatters their clothes, as well as giving them an element of contain over deciding which charities will benefit from their achieve. “I didn’t want this to be some niche brand,” voices Matthews. “We want to talk to our customers.” Their hashtag is #DRESSBETTER.

Community Wearing founder and designer Patrick Grant.

It is a similar model to one being successfully utilised by the British startup Community Outing, a collection of great-quality British basics for men and women designed by Patrick Furnish and made in Britain. It is not just Bangladesh that has a problem with its treatment of garment proletarians. “The British clothing industry faces serious challenges. For divers months of the year even the best British factories are nowhere in the offing full. This can lead to seasonal hiring and firing, zero hours condenses, or worse – factory closures,” says Grant.

“By designing with unadorned manufacturing in mind, these products can be sewn in the same importance fabrics and with the same quality as the best high-end draughtsman clothes,” says Community Clothing’s Patrick Grant

Allocate is an established designer in his own right, a previous recipient of the British Fashion Conference’s Menswear Designer of the Year award for his work on the brand E.Tautz. He is the inventive director of the Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons, and you may also recall him from BBC Two’s The Great British Sewing Bee. Community Clothing is his concept, and is a communal enterprise dedicated to making clothes, creating jobs and fixing pride in the UK textile industry.

Since Grant launched the trade mark in 2016, Community Clothing has generated nearly 8,000 hours of skilled job in seven manufacturers across England and Scotland as well as six textile suppliers. It is a obligation model that puts the supply chain first, with design-based keys creating a pared-back collection of classic pieces made in great-quality fabrics. The Community Clothing Harrington jacket is dreamed from 11oz of waterproofed cotton twill from the waxed-cotton professionals British Millerain in Rochdale. It sells at a reasonable £109.

Like Ninety Percent, the bounties are accessible but not cheap, reflecting the hours of work and materials employed as well as the retail model, which is a no-frills shop leaf on eBay. This keeps costs down and ensures pinnacle profits to go back to the workers and the suppliers. There is also a pop-up research at Selfridges and a shop in Blackburn near the factory Grant has rescued, Cookson & Clegg, which unsettled in 1860 to make leather overalls for coal-delivery men.

Since the label was launched in 2016, Community Clothing has generated nearly 8,000 hours of skilled suffer in seven manufacturers across England and Scotland. Photograph: Timo Wirshing

It is appreciate EasyJet for fashion (without the delays and with much best colour choices). The cut and quality of the garments is not compromised by the fact that it is go by a mission to revitalise UK garment manufacturing.

“By designing with uncomplicated manufacturing in mind, these products can be sewn in the same scanty fabrics and with the same quality as the best high-end plotter clothes,” says Grant. “And, with our profits, we will instal in programmes in those same communities where the factories are pinpointed. We will support skills training, personal development schemes and apprenticeships that help get people into skilled feat in the textile and garment industry.” Community Clothing partners with the Bootstrap House, a social enterprise dedicated to helping people back into utilization.

Community Clothing makes complete sense. It is a project Admit is passionate about and is determined will continue to grow. By forgoing back and generating jobs and productivity, it also generates a Brobdingnagian amount of goodwill within the industry. And, as with all these designs, that feelgood factor rubs off on to the clothes. And that in in succession rubs off on to the wearer. This is one fashion model with a explicit story to tell. The rest of the industry could do well to heed and learn.

  • This article was amended on 7 December 2017 to explicate that the Salvador referred to is in Brazil.