Here you will find information on specific cases from our community of social or sustainable organisations from different European countries. You will be able to see how fashion entrepreneurs co‑create to achieve social and environmental objectives. What are the challenges they face and how they create solutions to overcome them? SoFE partners have studied these organisations thoroughly through interviewing, observation and archival analysis. We have analysed the data of the case studies using analytic induction and open coding techniques developed by the academic and fashion experts from the SoFE Team.
ELEPAP‑Rehabilitation for the disabled has six branches throughout Greece and more than 77 years of history. The organization supports the development of children with physical disabilities and developmental difficulties and at the same time provides support to their families. Particular emphasis is placed on early diagnosis of childhood disability and developmental issues as well as early intervention for children belonging to risk groups. Through the foundation of the Social Cooperative Enterprise‑ARTemeis, active in the production sector of presents, wedding gifts, jewellery and invitations, ELEPAP supports work integration, creative work and social inclusion of its alumni adults.
ARTemeis started from the “TOPEKO” program, which ELEPAP had developed for training people with disabilities and for vocational rehabilitation. Part of vocational rehabilitation was the creation of a Social Cooperative Enterprise called ARTemeis. Initially, the project was implemented by a volunteer. Ms Diamantopoulou, the President of ARTemeis, is a sociologist from the Department of European Programs and had been working for ELEPAP for 18 years. Ms Ieronimou, the Sales Manager, is retired and started as a volunteer in ELEPAP five years ago. She had been in ARTemeis for 2.5 years when she joined in more substantially and became in charge of production and sales. ARTemeis’ ultimate goal is vocational rehabilitation of disabled people in order to assure equal treatment and equal rights in employment.
ARTemeis provides occupation only to people with disabilities, the rest of them are volunteers. ARTemeis plans to focus on handicrafts as well as commercialization of products of high quality and aesthetic value, such as jewelry, ornaments and wedding invitations from environmentally friendly materials. Practising artisan craft is part of occupational therapy beneficial to physical and mental health of people with disabilities. ARTemeis aims to build a sustainable commercial cooperative enterprise that can create jobs for people from vulnerable groups, utilizing the special skills of disabled.
SOFFA stands for Social Fashion Factory and is a spin off from the Nest, a social cooperative that was established in March 2014. Its primary target is to transform and reorganise the fashion industry. Dr Fiori Zafeiropoulou, Founder & CEO of SOFFA, is a visiting Lecturer & Postdoctoral Researcher on Social Investment Market for Social Entrepreneurship at Athens University of Economics & Business. She holds PhD in Social Entrepreneurship, MBA, BSc(Ec). She is a Co‑founder of the global movement “Fashion Revolution” in Greece and the Founder & President of the Nest Incubator. She established her first company Zita Social in London in 2003. Stratis Camatsos is a Co‑founder and Head of Legal & Work Integration. He is a certified lawyer in New York City and has years of experience in Brussels in European law. He has also established a company, Evo3 olive farms, with a social and environmental impact in the food industry. He is a 3 times award winner and social entrepreneur with his brand Evo3, that plants a tree in deforested areas in Africa for every product sold. Nicholaos Moustakas is Co‑founder and Head of Production of Footwear, a designer and maker with extensive knowledge in the footwear industry. He has a BA in Product and Furniture Design and a diploma in Footwear Design from the Cordwainers College. Currently he is working as a bespoke shoe maker in the West End of London.
The fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter behind the oil industry and ranks second in the world in people being enslaved after the sex industry. Moreover, the refugee crisis, youth unemployment and lack of transparency and awareness from the general public as to where clothes are coming from and in what conditions they are being produced, are the main challenges that SOFFA is targeting. The vision is to be an industry disruptor leading in producing and manufacturing ethical fashion through empowering people and ideas for ethical and sustainable industrial transformation. SOFFA has three tiers:
SOFFA’s partners are NGO Organization N2 in Athens and NGO A21 in Thessaloniki, which are saving modern slaves and trafficked women, providing them with shelter and support. The list of partners goes on with Zita Group, Fashion Revolution, University of Zurich, Brunel University, Athens University of Economics and Business, Spoleczna Akademia Nauk, The Nest Social Coop, Authenticitys and Eolas.
Co‑Shop offers shelf‑space to designers committed to local production. Nieves Torres Ayala, the founder of Co‑Shop - an engineer gone local fashion entrepreneur - has the vision that local production can ensure that working conditions adhere to a European standard of fair working conditions and environmental restrictions. Additionally, local production creates local jobs and fosters the local economy. She has recently opened her fourth shop in Barcelona (end of May 2016) and would like to see a Co‑Shop in every city in Spain.
Co‑Shop has expanded its services to small‑scale designers by offering them access to a workshop in which they themselves can produce their collection. This space is shared with a professional photographer whose service the designers can employ at a very low cost. Furthermore, Nieves and her team offer their expertise in branding and the knowledge of their customers to help designers reach their target and build their brand. She is dedicated to helping designers benefit from their creation rather than that their talents are exploited by a large label.
Co‑Shop is connected to a series of small, local workshops, which produce clothes locally, thereby offering designers recommendations on local production possibilities. Three of the workshops Co‑Shop collaborates with employ vulnerable groups: (1) is a mid‑scale producer employing former prisoners, (2) is a small‑scale producer employing former sex‑workers, (3) is a producer of bags and pieces made of more durable materials employing people with disabilities. Access to textiles at a small scale as needed by starting designers comes at a penalty price. Thereby, Co‑Shop buys a few materials in medium quantities to ensure that designers have access to at least some fabrics for production. Local production is a prerequisite for the Co‑Shop designers, but sustainable sourcing is not yet. Nieves pointed out that certified materials are extremely expensive and even more so when needed at a small scale. Yet, Co‑Shop collaborates with a few textile suppliers that offer organic and locally dyed textiles.
One of the brands selling with Co‑Shop is Bao Bag, Marc and Joan started printing illustrations on jute bags using artisan methods. A collaboration with an NGO has resulted in them co‑owning a workshop where people with disabilities are engaged in printing the fabrics, while receiving training and support from their partner organization. Bao Bag is now offering their printing services to other entrepreneurs who want to produce with a social impact.
Moves to Slow Fashion (MTS) is an online platform for sustainable fashion and was the first of its kind in Spain. MTS has the objective to demonstrate that fashion and ethical and responsible consumer choices are compatible. Rosa Bernier and Mónica Melero make up the founding team of MTS and work from a small office in Barcelona where they are surrounded by a diverse group of entrepreneurs. Mónica hopes to see MTS evolve into a catalogue for a sustainable and ethical lifestyle. MTS is based on three principles: (1) ecological choices, (2) ethical choices regarding both the environment and the working conditions in the supply chain and (3) proximity, referring to the point of production to the point of sale. As active members in the sustainable fashion community, they have created trust and understanding amongst the designers and they dedicate themselves to selecting aesthetic, high-quality choices. Their portfolio currently contains more than 50 brands and they have started to include cosmetics, creating synergies for all participating stakeholders.
Designers interested in selling their pieces on the platform must adhere to the standards imposed by MTS to be eligible. According to the MTS guidelines, the designer is in charge of production and sourcing. MTS provides feedback, contacts and has access to a network that is able to support like‑minded designers. The vision is that if they can nudge consumers to change their consumption habits, everyone wins.
MTS realized that most small labels lack professional photographs and don’t have a clear online presence. Therefore, they provide a model and photographer to ‘their’ brands, to develop unique brand consistency and appearance that enables the brands to have access to the services needed to present, promote and sell online. Designers benefit from having control of their stock and products, until an order arrives via the MTS platform. Additionally, MTS acts as a network and support system for like‑minded social and sustainable fashion entrepreneurs committed to quality and aesthetics.
One of the brands selling on MTS is Miu Sutin, after years of experience in Fast Fashion, Noelia decided that it was time for her to become an entrepreneur, but differently. Her brand is dedicated to ecological fabrics and local production and it operates in collaboration with a range of work‑shops and production networks that focus on social inclusion of seniors, former sex workers and people with disabilities. She is currently preparing to expand outside of Spain.
Rambler is a social venture created in 2009 by Tim Dekker and Carmen van der Vecht that captures the look and style of global streetwear. Carmen has her roots in design and Tim is a business development expert. ‘A rambler’ is a person who takes multiple city walks, but will finally find his/her way. The aim of the venture is to support street teens in developing their creative voice as a way to get their life back on track. Rambler has a studio and a shop in the heart of Amsterdam where teens develop and sell their own fashion designs guided by a creative coach and social worker. The pioneering focus of the venture is on talent instead of problem solving, enabling teens to feel empowered and find purpose. This appreciative perspective has now been adopted by the municipality and other social work organizations in the city of Amsterdam. Together they create a supportive eco‑system for troubled youth, developing follow‑up programs that enable teens to (re)access the labor market. Rambler has opened a second studio and shop in Berlin in June 2016 and aims to roll out the concept to New York and Sao Paulo until 2021.
Created in 2009 by fashion expert Mariette Hoitink (HTNK) and strategizer James Veenhoff (Fronteer), the House of Denim (HoD) is a platform for sustainability and craftsmanship in the denim industry. The mission of the HoD is to turn the industry towards a brighter blue - making it drier, cleaner and smarter through projects relating to education, R&D, enterprise and networking. The platform has developed several projects:
Ecoluxe London is a platform that promotes and supports ecological and sustainable luxury fashion. The epicenter of their philosophy are the three Ps: People, Planet and Profit. Stamo Ampatielou, the Co‑founder, is the Business and Finance Director. He is a graduate of London College of Fashion with 25 years experience in the fashion industry in all aspects of design, production and manufacturing. Additionally, he owns the label “By Stamo”. Elena Garcia is the Co‑founder and the Communications Director. She has been based in London since 1992 and graduated in Surface Textiles for Fashion at the London College of Fashion in 2006. She is also the designer behind the “upcycling” labels “Sew Last Season” and “Elena Garcia Eco‑Couture”.
Ecoluxe London is a not‑for‑profit organization that collaborates with charities, organizations, social enterprises, other non‑profit entities, corporations and the media to promote luxury with an ethos. Moreover, it opens a showroom twice a year during London Fashion Week to showcase the work of up to 35 upcoming ethical fashion and accessories brands from all over the world.
Taking into consideration the negative social, environmental and economic dimensions of the fashion industry, they aim to raise awareness and to become the destination for showcasing and promotion of sustainable luxury. Ecoluxe cooperates only with eco‑conscious brands and designers and provides them with full‑spectrum business support. They offer training and consultancy as well as support with production as they connect the brands with manufacturers, suppliers and stockists. Furthermore, they aim to make these brands viable through marketing strategies and tactics taking into consideration the uniqueness of each brand.
Some of their close partners include: British Wool Marketing Board, Cultural Business Investment, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Coco Eco Magazine, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Fashionworks, JP Selects, Olswang LLP, Pink Umbrella Marketing, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and Working Chance.
Here Today Here Tomorrow (HTHT) is a collaborative fashion design label with a studio in London where sustainable and ethical fashion and accessories are designed, showcased and sold.
HTHT is a collaboration between three designers: Anna‑Maria Hesse, Katelyn Toth‑Fejel and Julia Crew. Anna‑Maria founded the shop/studio with Ines, Emma and Julia, after completing her MA in Fashion and the Environment in 2010. She has varied experience working in both design and teaching in the area of sustainable fashion for companies including People Tree, Komodo and FAD. For her current knitwear collection which falls under the label Here Today Here Tomorrow, she mixes recycled yarns with UK bred wool. Katelyn received a BFA in textiles from the California College of the Arts and an MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the designer of Be Like A Bear using foraged materials and seasonal plants from around London as natural dyes to color textiles and accessories. She is also the co‑director of Permacouture Institute, an educational non‑profit promoting regenerative design in fashion and textiles. Additionally, Katelyn works for the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Julia received a BA in Accessories Product Design and Development from London College of Fashion and in 2010 graduated from the same university with an MA in Fashion and the Environment. She specializes in bag and accessories design. Currently she creates limited edition collections by up‑cycling locally sourced second hand materials, combined with high quality organic fabrics and vegetable tanned leather, creating beautiful, durable and valuable products.
Through the shop/studio space HTHT aims to raise awareness regarding sustainable and ethical fashion. HTHT’s fair trade label, in its fifth season, provides an alternative to fast fashion. The collection embodies the company’s continued commitment to sustainable design practices. First of all the company collaborates with artisans from the Association for Craft Producers (ACP) in Kathmandu which is a not‑for‑profit fair trade organization certified by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). Second, HTHT provides opportunities for low income, primarily female artisans in 15 different districts of Nepal. Each product in their collections is handmade and provides the artisan who made it with economic and social support. Additionally the knitwear HTHT develops is made from 100% sheep wool; a natural, warm, durable, biodegradable and highly sustainable fiber. Partner ACP also takes careful and deliberate steps to preserve the environment. They have installed a wastewater treatment plant and rainwater harvesting system, use recycled paper, discourage the use of plastic bags and use low chemical AZO‑free dyes.
Although some of us are aware of the destructive impact of the fashion industry, we tend to shield ourselves from this as it’s happening far from us. In HTHT’s shop customers can witness the creative process and realize how much time and effort is needed to create a product. It’s an inviting way to engage customers with the meaning of slow fashion which includes high quality craftsmanship, fair trade, durability, locality, recycling, natural dyes, organic materials, individuality and transparency of production.
The company established in 2012 with the motto to change the world for a better one. They help disadvantaged children by involving them in creation of fashion together. By running fashion projects they fulfil the needs of the disabled children. According to their mission, in Notjustshop “together with you we change those who needed help into those who want to help.” Helping others to make their dreams come true is the most important. Notjustshop collaborates with numerous hospitals and other organisations. They established collaboration with local and national organisations supporting the idea, as well as with artists, actors, sport celebrities. For them the community is the accelerator. Notjustshop cares about the environment. Everything that is manufactured by them is 100% made in Poland. They buy fabrics, knitwear etc. in Lodz (a city with long textile history in Poland) from the company that holds the Oeko‑Tex Standard 100, while the sewing is done locally in Cracow, so they do not need to worry about the work conditions of the seamstresses as they monitor that locally.
They are from Cracow, Poland.
A film explaining how they work:
One of their actions with children designing T-shirts & hats: http://www.altmoda.pl/przybij-piatke-tynieckiej-czyli-nowa-akcja-not-just-shopa/
‘Plan Planeta’ is a mission driven company. Mission of inspiring people to make a difference. It partners with non‑profit organizations, offering unique design and limited edition ethical fashion products on‑line. For every product sold, ‘Plan Planeta’ gives a part of the income to the designated charity. There have been several projects run by them so far e.g. support for the homeless in Warsaw, the refugees from Turkey, kids and women in Ukraine, Syria and Nepal. ‘Plan Planeta’ offers products made by producers who want to make a positive impact on the planet and on other people. Whether they are fair trade, organic, ecological or they just provide fairly paid work or other benefits to poor people – if they lead to a positive change, they are always welcome to collaborate. That's how they understand ethical products. And then they go one step further, sharing their profits from sales with charities.
In Plan Planeta social and environmental values are a natural part of doing business. They cooperate with companies and organisations which develop products or services that inspire positive change, which take steps towards lessening environmental impact or attempt new approach to important social challenge. Together they aim to improve life of as many people as it is possible.
Showroom.pl is a platform created by young entrepreneurs supporting interesting amd independent Polish fashion designers. They collaborate and promote local brands which are produced with respect for workers' rights and the environment. They rely on cooperation with the designers who buy their textiles and sew the collections in the local market. Showroom helps young fashion designers to enter the fashion market in such a way that their products can be launched and become recognized to enable them to grow their business successfully (with the support of Showroom platform). Showroom together with Glamour magazine organizes a series of professional workshops – ‘Fashion Workshop’, dedicated to the process of creating a fashion brand. They collaborate with more than 300 fashion art designers promoting sustainable, ethical and ecological fashion. The two founders (the idea creators of the showroom) are also active in Poland Startup Foundation, whose aim is to build awareness of the great potential of the startups among decision‑makers, politicians and local government officials. They share their knowledge at different types of events promoting fashion entrepreneurship and startups’ ideas.
In 2014 they received a reward in the 7 Ventures Pitch Day competition.