The sustainable fashion movement is gaining momentum as a growing number of socially responsible consumers begin to reject the highly polluting practices of fast fashion and look for alternatives.
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While big brands slowly adapt to the market demands of tomorrow, small sustainable fashion producers are springing up across the globe. Uniting them under one digital platform is Kool and Konscious. Co-founders Boryana Uzunova and Eva Vucheva spoke to Monaco Life about how their company is disrupting the fashion world and making sustainable fashion a viable reality.
Monaco Life: Why did you decide to create Kool and Konscious?
Boryana Uzunova: Fashion is the second biggest polluter on the planet and, even to this day, this fact is not well known. It also uses an incredible amount of water, and one of the biggest reasons for that is mass production. So, we thought: “What if we could find a way to produce fashion – not on a mass scale, but on demand - and customise the clothing so you would have something made just for you?” Then, we would be able to cut some of the mass production and save resources. Think about it like this: just one t-shirt takes 2,700 litres of water to produce. This is enough drinking water for one person for 2.5 years. So, by cutting the mass production we can actually achieve significant environmental change.
We developed the technology and are now creating the market. Eva and I started to build a market place where we gathered cool and sustainable brands from across the world who really have sustainability at heart. These are companies that directly employ people - they don’t work with factories in China, Bangladesh or Pakistan; they use only natural textiles with no pesticides and they don’t use tonnes of water. We have signed 200 brands to our marketplace, whose clothes are available to buy on our website. The vision going forward is to really become the first major on-demand marketplace so that brands can not only produce as sustainably and ethically as possible, but also produce on demand. Right now we are in phase one where we are just running the marketplace, and as we gain on scale, traction and credibility – which is crucial for us to be successful - then we will enter phase two.
So, this is more than just a shopping website?
A very important part of what we are doing is called the eco-system, which is the backend of the marketplace. We gather the value chain players - from textile production, to dying, to sewing, all the way to the afterlife (once we throw it away what do we do with it?) – and we act as an aggregator for our brands and we give them scale. This way they can get better access to prices for sustainable fabrics and dyes; we try to optimise and bring scale to sustainable fashion and hopefully (positively) disrupt the fashion industry.
Most of the sustainable brands are small operations so they also need someone like us to elevate them and offer the opportunities that we provide on a large scale. We are a 360 degree platform and provide access to producers of textiles, carbon neutral shipping, sustainable packaging etc, so it empowers the brands to move in that sustainable direction.
How do you plan on competing with the fast fashion industry?
I think it has to be a hybrid of making prices affordable and being realistic about what people must be paid for making a t-shirt, for example. The hardest job for us is changing the consumer mindset and the perception around fashion, of the need to have a different outfit every day. Fashion can still be about expressing yourself, it just doesn’t have to be on that scale.
Eva Vucheva: I think why sustainable brands are so expensive compared to others is the scale; it is as simple as market and supply. So, with our eco-system we are providing a scale in the supply area, where we aggregate orders so, for example, you can get 50% less on the fabric, which you can then you can pass onto the customer.
It is also about encouraging customers to think about where their garment comes from. I think the market is very quickly moving in that direction as the younger generation are already well aware of how significant sustainability is. But there are big brands that say they are producing sustainably, without providing any proof of that. So there is a lot of scepticism in the market. What we want to do is be the common denominator so people know that we only source brands that we are certain are producing in the right way. We give a scale from one to 10 in terms of how sustainable a brand is. Because at the moment there is not a 100% sustainable brand, it is just impossible with the current supply chain.
How do big brands fit into this idea?
Eva: As much as we want to ban fast fashion, the truth is that without them making an effort to change their practices, the switch won’t happen fast enough. The industry as a whole needs to change and all the single players need to come together and change together. H&M is one of the major brands that have had some great initiatives, and we are looking at ways to collaborate with them. The fact is consumer’s habits don’t change easily; it is a process.
What do you hope to get out of the Vroom Summit?
Boryana: 2.5 million euros (laughing
). Monaco is definitely a place that is lucky to be unaffected by global changes. You don’t see the immense impact of polluted waters here or textiles piling up as high as Everest. But Monaco is very conscious about keeping this idealistic environment.
As flawless as we are technologically, we need the capital for marketing and scaling up in order for us to make an impact and ensure the future of generations to come. There is also an opportunity to make a lot of money while doing good.
Eva: Monaco is full of fashion-conscious people, and they do pay attention to where their clothes come from. They want to feel like they are contributing to the future of the planet.
Boryana: We are working with this one designer who is half Indian and half Kenyan. For her latest collection she is working with families in Kenya and they are hand-spinning the cotton, bleaching it under the sun instead of using chemicals, block printing every single piece so they are unique. Then, when people wear her clothes, they can tell a story of how it is handmade in Africa. It is a great feeling to be part of the movement and once you buy sustainable and ethical, and you know the story, that is the moment that you convert.
Top photo: Co-founders Boryana Uzunova and Eva Vucheva with CBDO Ana Kremenlieva