For 10 years I thought I was a green super hero. The story begins in 2003 when I founded a kid’s fashion brand called Katvig. I’d left a career as a TV presenter and it is fair to say that I had no idea about the industry I had entered into. But I soon discovered that the glamorous fashion industry has a dark side, where a lack of workers’ rights, tonnes of harmful chemicals and exploitation of scarce resources are the rules rather than the exceptions.

So I decided to do something about it. And after 10 years of cleaning up our supply chain, we had a really nice sustainable product. We became well known pioneers around the world, we won prizes, and everything was great. Until I learned that we had got it all wrong…

Viirgin Unite, entrepreneur, sustainia, vigga viggasvensson2

The epiphany came to me on Facebook, of all places. I asked our customers two questions: “How many clothes do you have for your child? And how much of it do you use?” The parents had between 100-200 pieces of clothing and used, on average, less than 25 pieces. Wow! That’s a lot of passive clothes, a lot of passive resources - and a bomb in my face. I realised that I was part of the industry I had tried so hard to change. Even though our clothes were organic and clean, we too were part of the throw-away society where consumers buy only to discard. Especially amongst parents, because kids grow (fast!) and clothes do not. In other words, I had only come up with half the solution. 

So, in January 2015, we launched the full solution. Our concept, VIGGA, has two legs – it is an organic, high quality kid’s fashion brand, and a circular subscription model. As a VIGGA subscriber you pay $50 a month, and always have VIGGA clothes in the right size for your baby. When your child grows, you receive a new collection one size bigger and return the outgrown collection to us. After a strict quality inspection and a visit to our eco-labeled laundry partner, the clothes are ready for a new baby. This is a clever model of consumption: the consumer gets access to organic, high quality items at a low price point and saves a lot of valuable time previously spent shopping that they can now spend with their baby. At the same time they reduces their resource footprint by up to 80 per cent. The concept also holds a motivation for us as a company to produce outstanding products because the better quality the item is, the more times we can circulate it, and the better our earnings are. In other words, quality and sustainability are the main drivers in this business. 

Viirgin Unite, entrepreneur, sustainia, vigga viggasvensson3

Besides being a disruptive business model, it seems like VIGGA is also disrupting the traditional gender roles. From my previous brand I know that kid’s clothes shopping is done almost entirely by the mothers. The fathers are often not invited to participate and if they are, they have almost no opinion to offer. With VIGGA it is different. We have many male subscribers, and a lot of the women who approach us tell us that it was their partner that introduced them to VIGGA. VIGGA seems to attract men because it offers a rational approach to shopping – it’s systemized and simple. And it makes room for the men to participate in this part of their baby’s life as well. This is a side effect that I did not expect. But I love it! Not only did I create an innovative consumer concept but also a new consumer pattern.

So, I think I got it right this time. I think that VIGGA has the potential to become one of the future consumer models on a big scale - not only circulating kid’s wear, but all kinds of consumer goods. The key to success is that our circular concept simply creates a better offer to the consumer than the conventional alternative. And that is crucial! We will never succeed in shaping a smarter future unless our solutions are more attractive than the ones we leave behind. 

Viirgin Unite, entrepreneur, sustainia, vigga viggasvensson4

Vigga Svensson is co-founder and CEO of VIGGA, a Sustainia100 top ten finalist. Sustainia is shining a spotlight on inspiring women in sustainability this week to mark International Women’s Day. Find out more on @Sustainia and by following #100solutions #GenderEquality or visit www.sustainia.me

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