Every year, we recognise the work of pioneering brands that demonstrate responsibility and empathy towards people and the environment. These are brands that have taken a stand for what they believe, ‘going the extra mile’ and doing things differently in order to change their industry or sector for the better.
There’s an app for that, and now, at last, there’s one for recycling unwanted clothing. reGAIN, the UK’s first ever app designed for this purpose, marks a significant step forward for the creation of a circular economy in fashion, by helping consumers turn unwanted clothes into discount coupons for leading retailers in the UK, and diverting tonnes of textiles away from landfill.
The app solves three problems: first, clothes going to landfill: unwanted clothing contributes 300,000 tonnes to landfill every year, equivalent to 50 trucks’ worth of clothing per day.
Secondly, recycling is not being rewarded: more than a quarter of Londoners and one in ten UK residents throw unwanted clothing in the bin instead of recycling it.
And third, our overflowing wardrobes!
reGAIN’s partners include fashion brands and retailers such as Superdry, Asics, New Balance, boohoo and Missguided, as well as lifestyle brands and experiences including Expedia, Hotels.com, EVE Sleep and BodyBuilding.com. By collecting up their unwanted clothing and sending them to reGAIN, consumers can earn discount coupons to use online or in store.
So how does it work?
It’s simple: you put unwanted items (minimum of ten, to limit carbon footprint) in a cardboard box or bags. reGAIN encourages people to reuse old boxes and bags. Then you use the reGAIN app to locate your nearest drop-off point, print the shipping label and stick it on the box.
Users can now also create an online account in any browser at account.regain-app.com.
Take your filled cardboard box to the drop-off point – it will be shipped for free. Immediately after dropping off the box, users are rewarded with access to all of the discount coupons: they can choose one to use each time.
The brains behind reGAIN is Jack Ostrowski, award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Yellow Octopus (yellow-octopus.com), which offers commercial sustainability from retail to end consumer.
Sukhan Lee is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, and under her brand SUK., makes lifestyle accessories in contemporary print designs, with modern craftsmanship and sustainability integral to the manufacturing process. Lee has been creating prints for fashion brands internationally for the past ten years, for labels including Whistles, Karen Millen, Reiss, Jaeger, Austin Reed, Calvin Klein, Kin by John Lewis, Sweaty Betty and Thurley.
All SUK. products are printed in the UK and hand- or machine-stitched by Sukhan Lee in London. Lee will be joining contemporary craft and design fair MADE LONDON Marylebone (18–21 October at One Marylebone Road, London NW1 4AQ), to show her latest products. SUK. accessories include scarves, shopper bags, make-up bags, windbreaker jackets and more.
Lee encourages the use of natural materials, as well as recycled and upcycled textiles: SUK. scarves are made of 100% silk, 100% wool or wool cashmere. MINI and MAXI are popular square scarves either hand-finished or machine roll-hemmed. New additions include long, rectangular scarves which give extra warmth in colder weather.
SUK. windbreaker jackets are produced in breathable, waterproof fabrics, and are suitable for either exercising in the city or hiking in the countryside. The windbreakers are completed with a comfortable 100% cotton lining. SUK. signature stitching is also key on the windbreakers, strengthening the pockets as well as the zip opening.
SUK. shopper bags are made from 100% organic cotton and 100% recycled PET materials, which are EU Ecolabel-certified, and also upcycled materials. Some of Lee’s reversible shoppers are natural material on one side and waterproof fabric on the other, a perfect solution for carrying swimwear after a pool or beach session.
SUK. only provides products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials through to production, use and disposal. SUK.’s launch of new lines of shopper bags in these materials, Lee hopes, will contribute to eliminating single-use plastic bags.
To minimise waste during the design and manufacturing process, SUK. is also collaborating with KAPDAA, The Offcut Company, in a small project to use SUK. print fabric offcuts, turning them into other useful products such as sketchbooks.
Working with artisans not only helps to lower the impact of waste in our environment, but also helps keep artisan traditions and skills alive.
For Sukhan Lee, there is no room for disposable fashion. In order to build a sustainable, ethical brand, Lee makes sure no SUK. product is overproduced.
Pioneering green beauty brands Weleda, Dr Hauschka, Lavera, Primavera and Logocos founded NATRUE in 2007, and when the NATRUE Label was created a year later, these brands were among the first to carry the NATRUE seal on their products. Over the past decade these have been joined by many more companies, and now in 2018 more than six thousand NATRUE-certified products are available, from approximately 250 committed brands.
The NATRUE Label represents trust and authenticity for the consumer, setting the standard for what a natural and organic cosmetic should be. It’s a global seal, instantly recognisable around the world – it’s used by brands from 32 different countries, from the US to Japan and throughout the European market – that stands for quality and dependability. Purchasers can see at a glance whether a product is truly natural or organic.
NATRUE is a high-quality standard, setting strict criteria for third-party certification. No synthetic fragrances, artificial preservatives (including parabens) or microplastics are permitted. The NATRUE seal is also an assurance for the consumer that a product or its ingredients are green in other ways: there are no genetically modified or petroleum-derived components, paraffin oils or silicones. The standard also sets requirements for the biodegradability of certain ingredients in rinse-off products, to protect the environment, and there is a global ban on the use of its seal on products where animal testing is required.
In fact, NATRUE is much more than just a label. In this officially undefined sector of what is a tightly regulated industry, greenwashing and questions regarding raw materials have become a major concern for consumers and manufacturers alike. Behind the scenes, this non-profit association has been speaking up on consumers’ behalf at an international level for over a decade.
NATRUE participates in and contributes to all relevant regulatory decision-making bodies such as the European Commission Cosmetics Working Group, where NATRUE uniquely holds a seat to promote and protect the natural and organic sector. NATRUE’s political contribution is important since a strict definition goes hand in hand with ingredients protection in order to ensure consumers the quality finished products they expect. In addition, NATRUE is involved in different projects in the fields of scientific research and innovation, and in regulatory affairs, where it provides expertise. NATRUE actively plays a key role in addressing both challenges and opportunities in the natural and organic cosmetics sector.
Over the last decade, the green beauty sector has grown alongside the rising focus on conscious and ethical consumerism. NATRUE’s Director General, Dr Mark Smith, recently took part in a lively panel discussion at the Love Natural show at London’s Olympia, examining what ‘conscious beauty’ means to consumers:
‘As consumers, we are increasingly drawn to making conscious beauty purchases – thinking about what we are buying before we buy it and how that reflects on our ethics and values. Transparency is a key component for this, for example, if we are looking to buy a product based on its ethics – where its ingredients are sourced, how sustainable it is, or whether the people were treated fairly that produced those raw materials. This all forms part of our decision-making process.
‘If we want to be assured that something has been verified as natural and organic, it has to meet some sort of meaningful criteria. This is why NATRUE is very much involved in regulatory decision-making, to ensure a level playing field and advocate that any future regulatory definition of natural and organic cosmetics must be strict. In the absence of a legal definition of what constitutes a natural and organic cosmetic, the best thing to do is to look for a trusted logo, like the NATRUE seal, that is known to meet a high benchmark. We can’t just accept things at face value when packaging says a product is natural or organic, because there is a rather large spectrum of shades of green.’
Perhaps not surprisingly, these concerns are especially important for facial and body care products and less vital for wash-off products – shampoo and shower gel are rinsed off quickly, so the concern about artificial ingredients is less significant. But increasingly we need to be thinking about what happens to those rinsed-off ingredients once they go down the drain and into the waterways and out into the oceans.
Promotional giveaways are a huge business: pens, caps, aprons, t-shirts, you name it. The industry is worth £1bn in the UK and Ireland alone, and there is even an industry body brands can join – the British Promotional Merchandise Association.
Cotton Barons make a range of products – from drawstring jewellery bags to cotton totes (and don’t we love those, fashion-forward people?), to aprons, wedding favour bags and bottle bags.
Cotton Barons was set up in 2007 by Aga Graupen, inspired by Graupen’s grandma, who was given a plain cotton shopping bag by a neighbour – a gift that, apparently, changed the family’s life. Graupen and her husband head up Cotton Barons, which is based in London but with manufacturing located in the EU.
The client list is impressive: Fenwicks, John Masters Organics, Nike, ASOS, Planet Organic, Selfridges, Pandora and the South Bank Centre are just a few of their grateful customers. Cotton Barons believe that literally anything can be covered in cotton, and have provided bags or coverings for umbrellas, swords (sold in castle souvenir shops), cheese wrap and zip bags for dog poo.
Needless to say, quality is very much a priority at Cotton Barons, who meet the all required standards in ethical and ecological as well as safety terms. Inks used for printing are high-quality and tested for harmful substances. Bags are manufactured ethically in excellent working conditions in a factory where EU trade and production laws are followed and respected.
Cotton Barons products are made from Eco-Friendly Oeko-Tex Certified Cotton, which has been tested and certified to be free from toxic levels of more than one hundred substances known to be harmful to human health. It’s less expensive than organic cotton to produce, but it has many of the same benefits.
And of course, cotton is breathable, so is a much better option when buying fruit and veg than a plastic bag.