Editor’s note: We have lots of talented and interesting eco-conscious readers from across the globe. In this new feature, we want to share their stories, in their words in the hopes that it helps you to grow and learn. If you are a loyal reader and have a story that you would love to share with the rest of the community, please get in touch! (This piece has been edited for clarity.)
I’ve run my organic cotton sleepwear company Moonbird for five years. I’ve designed, manufactured in India, imported to Australia, photographed, marketed and sold the garments worldwide. Last week I decided to close the business. Here’s why…
Trying to “do it all” is unsustainable
I felt that I should be able to ‘manage it all’, even though the media is full of articles telling us that we don’t have to feel that pressure. But I did. I needed to be a role model for my kids. I needed to prove that it’s possible to run a business that puts people and planet first while still being viable. I needed to be a working Mum to fill my sense of purpose. I needed to keep busy so that I wouldn’t be thought of as lazy.
I didn’t think it was detrimental to my mental health, I thought I was doing good by contributing to the economy with green credentials, but for a little while now I’ve been coming to the realisation that I can do better. For me, for my family and for the planet.
The marketing game is stressful
Trying to find the balance of selling an eco product within a world full of crazy consumerism, while competing with High Street fashion marketing campaigns that prey on us (at a level we have no control over) is stress-inducing. I need to have a marketing plan and execute it, but I don’t want to force anyone to buy what they don’t need.'Trying to find the balance of selling an eco product within a world full of crazy consumerism, while competing with High Street fashion marketing campaigns that prey on us (at a level we have no control over) is stress-inducing...'Click To Tweet
Then there’s dealing with leftover stock and waste
My suppliers generally require that I make large orders twice a year. This means that I have to guess what I’m going to sell and then store all of that stock. This is unsustainable and a massive burden for me to bear. I can’t, in good faith, run a business on these terms anymore. It upsets me to have stock that doesn’t sell and now I’ve decided to close, all of that stock must be sold off at a lower value, as I wind down the business.
Where to from here…
I’ve tried to imagine how I’d like the fashion industry to look in the future and I think building the value and availability of second-hand clothing is where we should head, but there are certain types of clothing that aren’t desirable second hand. Underwear, swimwear and sleepwear are among those types. So how do we make it work better?
I love my business and everything it stands for. I’ve achieved amazing things over the past five years and built a tribe of kind, supportive and loyal customers. I know that people want to find more connection to their clothes, but we’ve been raised in an era of convenience. Even I struggle to live up to my ideals. Every time I want or need to buy something, I’m faced with a dizzying amount of options.
I’ve done my 10,000 hours. I can now be classed as an expert in my field and the questions I have been asking myself recently are, ‘what is the best use of this knowledge I’ve gained?’ Is continuing to sell products in this way of real benefit to my community and the environment? Overwhelmingly the answer I’m coming up with is no.
I feel that the fashion industry needs to revisit the past and go back to the time before World War II when people chose their styles and fabric from a pattern book and clothing was made specifically for them. This purposeful relationship with clothing would have the added advantage of allowing us to develop the patience that has disappeared from our buying habits, reduce compulsive tendencies and build discipline and self-control. The theory behind delayed gratification that psychologists discovered after conducting The Marshmallow Experiment with children and finding those who could control their temptations for lollies were more likely to achieve longer-term success.
So how can we change our expectations of same or next day delivery and the need for ‘last minute’ purchases? Life is more complex, we’re busier than ever and planning well in advance is difficult; so perhaps society will never get to the point of solving this. And that’s ok because neither am I. Creating a made-to-order business means that I would need to re-build from scratch and I’m not sure I want to do it. Closing Moonbird is the first step in the journey I need to take to find out. Spending time with my family and weaning myself off my addiction to my smartphone is the second. Thank you to the app designers that have allowed me to run my entire business from my hand, at the supermarket, at the kids’ soccer matches, whenever, wherever. Unfortunately, it has come at a huge cost and I don’t want to use my business as a justification for not being present in my life anymore. My smartphone addiction has taken over and I can no longer control it. I have to admit that in order to move forward.
I know there aren’t very many of us running full-time fully-fledged ethical fashion businesses and I’m sad that I am closing off another option to conscious consumers who feel like I do. I hope that someone will pop up to fill my shoes. We need more of us and it’s not a lost cause. I think there’s a lot to feel positive about in the future. A friend of mine recently said that as the big fast fashion brands embrace sustainability and ethics in their supply chain more and more, the pressure on our little brands will increase. I believe she’s right. But it’s good to remember that there are small independent labels out there that are still fighting the good fight and keeping the big end of town honest.
- Can H&M Ever Be Sustainable?
- Family As ‘Brand’ – The Rise of The Digital Mumpreneur
- 7 Celebs Changing The Stigma Around Anxiety, Depression and Mental Health
- How Akamae Uses Fashion Co-Creation To Support Refugee Communities
- 14 Famous Female Leaders on Climate Change, Sustainability and Protecting Our Environment