Branding success for ethical entrepreneurs

The global impact of the ‘fast fashion’ industry has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Exploitative working conditions, rising waste levels and the excessively high carbon footprints of garments are issues that no high street brand can hide. 

But thanks to a growth in socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs, more fashion start-ups are taking an ethical and sustainable approach to clothes manufacturing. And with effective branding, they’ve made the eco-wardrobe an aspiration among buyers.

‘Create a logo that tells a story’ Sanyukta Shrestha

Fashion designer Sanyukta Shrestha is the founder of the eponymous luxury bridal wear label, which designs eco-wedding dresses for ‘brides with a conscience’. Using ethically and sustainably sourced fabrics, Sanyukta Shrestha has a strong philanthropic foundation, helping create jobs for underprivileged women in her native country of Nepal. The key to branding your ethical business? A strong logo, she says.

“We recently redesigned our logo so it’s made up of entwined S’s to emphasise the bond of marriage and the cyclic nature of the sustainable production chain. We like to think our logo also echoes an exceptional circle and bond between the Nepalese women who work passionately to create our fabrics. It’s important for any ethical brand to have a strong logo that both illustrates and communicates the core values of your business and drives your brand’s ethical message forward.”

‘Use social media to tell your story’ Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, AAKS

Akosua Afriyie-Kumi is the owner and creative director of AAKS, a sustainable fashion brand that promotes sustainable jobs and traditional weaving techniques in Ghana.

Using stylish, modern branding, Akosua has captured the attention of customers worldwide.

“I have a kaleidoscope of inspiration that’s unique to Africa, right on my doorstep,” says Akosua, “and I think the AAKS brand has been a success because I’ve blended traditional craftsmanship with modern styles.

“With the help of social media and honest storytelling, I’ve been able to shine a bright light on Made in Africa products and the ethical production process behind my brand.”

‘Transparency in your business is key’ Safia Minney, People Tree

People Tree is a Fair Trade company and online clothing store for eco-conscious consumers and has been providing sustainable fashion for over 25 years.

Founder and Director Safia Minney recently released the book ‘Slow Fashion: Aesthetics meets Ethics’, which offers a glimpse into the world of responsible fashion. She says transparency in your brand is the key to success.

“I developed the first organic certified and Fair Trade supply chains in clothing manufacturing - thanks to close partnerships with Fair Trade partners,” explains Safia.

“Being transparent about who made our products, pioneering environmental innovation and creating a positive social impact through making our products is the DNA of People Tree and you must communicate this to your consumers through every aspect of your brand.”

‘Live Your Brand…’ Rob & Paul Forkan, Gandys Flip Flops

Rob and Paul Forkan are two entrepreneurs who have turned great adversity into a positive and ethical brand. After tragically losing their parents in the 2004 tsunami, they set up Gandys Flip Flops in their memory and founded the Orphans for Orphans mission, building children’s homes across Asia. 

The Gandys brothers have captured hearts around the world with their story and they’ve recently expanded their business with the opening of their first retail store.

“One of the reasons that Gandys has come so far is that we have a unique story,” explains Rob. “Our brand is a tribute to our parents - even our logo has a kingfisher in it illustrating our dad’s favourite beer as we travelled across India.

“A successful brand is one that reflects a true passion that you live out every day. In the case of Gandys, this means showing how much we value life and sharing the incredible upbringing our parents gave us.”

Read more: Is purpose the new branding?

‘It’s all about the light bulb moment…’ Rachel Faller, Tonlé

Rachel Faller is the founder of Tonlé, a sustainable fashion brand that provides work for underprivileged women in Cambodia. When she rebranded her business in 2014 as a ‘zero waste company’, she took the sustainable fashion industry by storm.

“We can all highlight the problems of the fast-fashion industry,” says Rachel, “but a successful brand is one that educates its customers, and then provides a solution. 

“When we discovered the real damage being done by the fast fashion industry, we presented the hard-hitting facts in a creative yet educational video. Since then, university lecturers have praised us on our work and our zero-waste ethos has really captured people’s imaginations. Branding is about educating customers so that they have that ‘light bulb’ moment which changes their attitudes and behaviours.”

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