Top 6 Sustainable Entrepreneurs’21
They say that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Sublime introduces six pioneers whose responsible business models are sparking hope for a better world.
Founder and managing director of British Recycled Plastic became involved in sustainability long before he launched the business. Jason Elliott’s first realisation of the benefits of recycled plastic came back in 2008, while working in the sustainable housing renovation industry. This experience, along with an interest in ocean and waterway conservation, gave him the impetus to launch British Recycled Plastic just a year later.
Elliott has made promoting the value of recycled plastic as a resource the core mission of British Recycled Plastic. Under his management, the landscaping business has been able to do just that: fill the gaps in the UK’s existing recycling infrastructure, from signposts and planters to picnic benches and fences.
But Elliott believes there’s more to be done. ‘Plastic pollution is a major environmental concern. Our streets, beaches and oceans are testament to its far-reaching effects, but with more education and major investment, we can realise the significant benefits of recycled plastic over other materials,’ he says.
‘Recycled plastic is inherently tough and chemically inert, so will not leach any toxic chemicals into the environment, and will never rot, split or splinter, creating environmentally friendly products with a long lifespan. We should be viewing plastic as a resource and looking at how we can keep it in the clean recycling loop,’ he continues.
Diversity is a key factor in British Recycled Plastic’s operations, too. Keen to promote its importance in both human resources and our natural ones, Elliott has implemented a culture of diversity across the business, one he believes has led to its continuous growth. Central to this success is building a loyal team who genuinely feel personally invested in the business. Elliott is dedicated to investing in his employee’s individual growth and potential, going above and beyond to maximise employee wellbeing, developing a culture that creates captains of the business and sustainability advocates.
For Elliott and British Recycled Plastic, ‘business as usual’ means connecting sustainability, ecology, and diversity throughout the entire company, from conception through operation to truly sustainable recycled plastic products.
With an MA in Fashion Textiles from London’s Central Saint Martins and over twenty years of experience working as a designer of embroidery internationally, it’s no wonder Emma Reichenbach has fallen in love with expressive fashion design. ‘I love vintage cross stitch embroidery for the digital, decipherable look of the front of the design, but even more so for the wild ‘wrong side’ of the embroidery. It can resemble ancient symbols or runic languages.
To me, the cloth is coded with meaning and histories both visible and hidden,’ she says. Coded Cloth follows that train of thought. To freely explore the elements of clothing and textile design that inspire her most, Reichenbach has focused on patchwork and embroidery. Her brand is modern folklore womenswear, re-fashioning the past since 2020, aimed at those who value craftsmanship, self-expression and are sensitive to the human stories woven into vintage textiles. ‘I launched Coded Cloth for women for whom quality, history and rarity are essential attributes in the clothes they choose and love, combined with the satisfaction of knowing that the clothes they invest in have the lightest of footprints on our planet.
No exploitation, no greedy use of precious earth resources, just beautiful, sustainable heirlooms of beauty and distinction,’ she explains. Inspired by traditional costume from the utilitarian French farmers’ smock, to the ornate decadent beauty of eastern European ceremonial clothing, Coded Cloth offers a range of one-of-a-kind garments in relaxed, versatile shapes and simple silhouettes that allow for freedom of movement whilst showcasing the intricacies of their precious textiles.
Each unique garment is expertly made in England, combining vintage, often handmade, sustainable fabrics whose manufacture spans the 20th century. These internationally
sourced textiles are skillfully collaged and assembled, then beautifully finished with French seams to create bespoke contemporary womenswear that is made to endure and is as beautiful on the inside as the outside. Each garment encodes a unique story; each garment will inspire you to write your own.
As the founder of Fuse Communications, a PR agency that for 15 years has been specialising in children’s luxury brands including Il Gufo, Marie-Chantal and Rachel Riley, Shoshana Kazab is a real veteran in the kidswear industry. Sustainability has never played more on our minds as it has now. Of the 80 billion pieces of clothing produced worldwide, it is estimated 75% of these will end up in landfill each year. And in Britain alone, we are expected to throw away 235 million items of clothing this year.
Kazab’s online store, Kidswear Collective, combats these statistics by selling pre-loved designer clothing for children from birth to 14 years old and stocks over 450 brands including Gucci, Burberry and Dior. Here, luxury and sustainability unite. ‘I’m very fortunate to have worked with the top influencers and many of the best brands and wanted to find a way to create something which could address our urgent need to reduce waste in the fashion industry, but also make available designer pieces at affordable prices.
Our access to stock is unrivalled, as we are able to obtain from multiple sources including private sellers, samples and even garments used in fashion shoots,’ Kazab says. Though anyone can sell on the site, the business is proud to be collaborating with influencers. ‘Influencers have a huge fan base, so having them involved means their followers can shop their favourite looks and can also be alerted when new pieces arrive. It’s a real coming together of the industry,’ continues Kazab. Upon arrival, all items must pass Kidswear Collective’s eight-step inspection process, to ensure only the highest quality collections are stocked.
‘We want shopping on Kidswear Collective to feel like a luxury shopping experience and most importantly, we want to change the perception of what pre-loved fashion looks like,’ she adds. In addition, Kidswear Collective donates up to 5% of all sales to the NSPCC and any unsold items are donated to the family charity Little Village. And it’s not all digital – in March 2020, Kidswear Collective opened a 44sq ft concession in Selfridges in Oxford Street, has an edit on Selfridges.com and a pop-up in Selfridges, Trafford.
Menswear designer Alex Elliot led a fast-paced life, hopping on flights between Paris, Florence, Copenhagen, Berlin and Hong Kong every few months to work with brands she’d long admired.
‘But living that fast, it’s easy to get disconnected from your true self, and from your physical and emotional needs. I was starting to find that city life was grating on me. I was struggling with the volume of people, the pollution, having to fight my way on to the tube everyday… not to mention the throw-away nature of the fashion industry itself,’ Elliot says.
She found herself wanting something slower, something more connected to our natural rhythms, to nature. As a designer, this need for change was echoed by a desire to create easy, natural products, which are respectful of people and planet; kind to the skin and to the environment.
‘Good underwear is like a second skin. It’s the first thing we put on when we get dressed in the morning and the last thing we take off at night. It connects us to ourselves, and protects our most intimate places,’ Elliot says. She continues that, for her, it’s an obvious opportunity for self care. ‘We think about what we put into our bodies, where our food is sourced and how it’s produced; why wouldn’t we take the same care with what we put next to our skin? It’s our largest organ after all,’ she explains. And so elliot. was born. Underwear designed and made with your best interests at heart, the range is all organic and free from harmful chemicals and toxins. Our products won’t irritate your skin, they allow it to breathe and move naturally.
Sweden’s Bengt Rittri has made it his lifelong mission to protect and improve health, both for people and the planet. And by doing so, he has built a global reputation as an environmental entrepreneur with a passion for all things natural. Rittri’s love for the environment was sparked during a childhood spent gathering amber on beaches in southern Sweden and a steady diet of reading materials like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
A gap year spent travelling across the USA and Europe showed him not everyone is blessed with clean air and water which, in his eyes, is a human right. ‘We live in a world where just 70 years into the age of plastic, we find microplastics – and the dangerous chemicals they leach – in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink,’ Rittri says. He continues that pollution is already having unimaginable consequences – from rising infertility rates to an increase of various cancer cases. He decided to do something about it.
After working for Sweden’s white goods giant Electrolux, Rittri in 1996 founded global indoor air brand Blueair, which he forged into a global company with sales in over 62 countries before divesting to Unilever at the end of 2016. Still passionate about using his skills as a force for good, Rittri turned his focus to founding a Stockholm-based international investment corporation, Blue, to spur innovative entrepreneurship.
Now a father of two, dedicated vegetarian, and daily yoga practitioner, Rittri has launched companies that today rank as world leaders in delivering indoor air and tap water as pure as nature intended. Recently, the Bluewater brand joined the family, delivering on Rittri’s goal to end the need for single-use plastic bottles by providing sustainable, stainless-steel and glass alternatives.
Under Blue, Rittri is shaping a more water-wise future with Bluewater, a venture he has grown in six years into a world leading premium water purification and bottle brand with
sales in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Bluewater water purifiers deliver unmatched clean water delivery efficiency that harness patented second-generation SuperiorOsmosis™ technology to remove water contaminants, from lead to viruses, chemicals, and, yes, even microplastics.
A visionary who has built her career developing the iconic collections for numerous international brands – including Dior, De Beers, Burberry and Astley Clarke – Lorna has gathered a wealth of insight and expertise across the fashion industry over 25 years. Having witnessed the phenomenal environmental and ethical impact the industry has been grappling with, she was driven to create a company that inspires a new way of thinking, a new way of connecting people, and a more responsible way to do business.
An early adopter to a conscious lifestyle, Lorna’s mission has been to make a significant step-change within the industry and the lives of the people she is working with, ‘making much less, making it better and making it more meaningfully’.
STELAR is an accessories brand that reflects a new generation of social entrepreneurs, driven to re-define the concept of luxury while balancing people, purpose, and profit. Born in Bali and founded on the principles of craftsmanship, community, transparency, and regeneration, the brand has been immersed in learning about a wealth of historical craft techniques among the challenges that Balinese communities are facing.
The onset of mass production and demands for cheaper labour within the fast fashion industry has forced many artisans to leave their communities in search of unskilled jobs, at considerable social cost. STELAR is passionate about reviving age-old craftsmanship, re-building communities and championing a change for good.
Working in collaboration with artisan communities to re-imagine ancient weaving techniques, STELAR creates exceptional hand-woven bags and accessories using locally-sourced raw materials, designed and made to last. ‘Traceability is at the heart of everything we do, while reimagining the relationships between consumer and product, craftsmanship and culture, community and the environment,’ Watson explains. Every hand-crafted item comes with a unique digital code, connecting the owner to the origins of their bag and the artisan who created it. STELAR brings real value to the people and skills behind each item, not only of the item itself.