Friday 28 October 2011

Trust In The Pier

In the latest edition of the Pier32 newsletter, we talk about the work we've done over the spring and summer with Wildlife Trusts. Many of the 47 Trusts up and down the country have benefitted from the t-shirts, fleeces and hats we've supplied in both generic and more site-specific designs.

Around a dozen Trusts chose to use their own text or logo designs, while the rest enjoyed clothing made to the usual high standard you expect from Pier32. The shirts also got an airing on BBC's Naturewatch and Springwatch shows, making a nice change for Chris Packham from his usual esoteric taste in clothing.

14 designs in a huge range of colours and sizes have been successfully rolled out for Wildlife Trusts over the last few months. Development Guru Ian points out: "Through a combination of clever and flexible design together with some careful planning and thoughtful scheduling we were able to keep the costs down for Wildlife Trusts whilst providing a huge variety of individualisations."

It's a great project to work on, and Wildlife Trusts have been delighted with the end result. Just another example of how Pier32 are happy to work with our clients to make sure sure their projects and promotions are a roaring success.

But of course, if you subscribed to our newsletter, you'd know all this already! Find out more at the website > Pier32 Promotional Clothing

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Boxercraft: A Review

This weekend saw something of a meetup for Pier 32. A social engagement brought me together with Ian Development Guru, Marketing Queen Sandi, Ali the Future Head Of The Company, and Gerry The Voice Of Pier 32. A fine time was had all round, and I was provided with a gift.

Well, alright, I was handed said item as it was the wrong shape for Ian, but I'll take free clothing if it's offered. It was a pair of lounge trews and a hoodie from the Boxercraft range that I've extolled previously on this blog.

Well, my goodness. They're rather nice. The cotton is soft and light, with a brushed finish that somehow avoids the shuddery nap of velvet (advisory: velvet and I do not get on. Icky stuff.) while still keeping a pleasingly luxuriant feel. The hoodie is slimmer fitting than outerwear, snug without being overpoweringly warm. MP3 cable management (JARGONBUSTER: a little hole in the pouch for your headphones to go up the inside of the top) keeps you tangle-free and sleek when you're rocking some tunage. The ensemble is casual and relaxed; perfect for lounging around updating Facebox on your WiiStation or whatever it is the kids do these days when they're not clogging up Twitter with annoying gibgab about X Factor.

Gotta admit, I'm really happy with my Boxercraft clothing. It's quality comfywear, with a proper ethical pedigree. What's more, the cut is perfect for showing off my slim, athletic physique and my taut cyclist's thighs.

You can stop laughing now.

Boxercraft at Pier 32

Thursday 20 October 2011

Patagonia: Doing More With Less

You might think that a store encouraging its customers to buy less really had the wrong idea. But that's exactly what upscale outdoor clothing chain Patagonia are doing - and it might just be the smartest move they've ever made.

They're teaming up with eBay, asking their customers to sell off their old Patagonia gear through a bespoke shop on their website. It's clever thinking. Patagonia have always pushed sustainability over profit. Their stuff is expensive and built to last. The used store enhances the brand's corporate philosophy and exclusivity. You don't bin this stuff. It has a life beyond one person's wardrobe.

In fact, the new initiative could even give Patagonia new business. eBay's CEO John Donahue wryly notes:

"Patagonia is extending its customer base and increasing it. People who are selling it are likely to turn around, take the money they got, and buy the new Patagonia products."

This is not an approach that'll work for everyone. You need a certain quality of merchandise, a loyal fanbase and an understanding tranche of shareholders. But get it right, and the rewards are potentially massive. Persuading your customers to spend less could open a whole new profit stream.

There's more on this at The Guardian.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Source Expo: The Story So Far


The Ethical Fashion Forum's Source Expo, the only trade show in the UK dedicated to ethical sourcing, kicked off yesterday, and it's already being hailed as a massive success. A wide range of seminars on areas like Latin America and India, and on subjects like the cotton industry have brought a community of like-minded designers and retailers together to air their grievances and share their ideas. The buzz is palpable and thrilling to behold.

Strong themes are already starting to emerge. The importance of good communication with suppliers, especially in cross-cultural circumstances, and the need for a deep knowledge of the entire supply chain cropped up again and again. There were calls for organic cotton and fair-trade goods to be much more readily available on the high street. Brands that I've mentioned before in this blog, like innovative jeweller Caipora and organic shoemakers Veja were both held up as great examples of what can be achieved in a rapidly evolving market.

The future of sustainability forum was the big draw, and there were some big ideas to match. Bridging the gap between the luxury industry and sustainable supply was raised as a great way to bring things forward. It's important that ethical clothing should be regarded as beautiful and lust-worthy, not just worthy. Even in a recession, people will buy beautiful products, especially if they're seen as an investment - and that investment can be towards the planet and it's people as well as your wardrobe. The call was clear: "it's not just sustainable ethics, it's sustainable aesthetics!"

Source Expo continues today at Sadler's Wells. if you can't make it and you want a flavour of the event, check out @EthicalFashionF on Twitter for the live stream of fora and happenings. The ideas and enthusiasm bubbling out of the expo are thought-provoking and intoxicating in equal measure.


Friday 14 October 2011

Making The Most Of Old Jeans

We don't see much of American Eagle clothing in the UK, but congratulations from the Pier to them for their new recycling initiative.

Until October 18th, the chain are inviting customers to bring any piece of denim from any brand into their stores to be down cycled into insulation and given to communities in need. As a reward, there's a 20% discount on all American Eagle clothes on offer.

It would be nice to see this initiative run for a bit longer, but as a gentle intro to cradle-to-cradle thinking, this can't be faulted. Especially considering that the chain have 850 stores across the country, and a presence in 47 college campuses.

Read more about the initiative at the website of Cotton Inc, the recycling partner of American Eagle.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Source Expo 2011

Our friends at the Ethical Fashion Forum have a lot to be excited about. Next week sees Source Expo, the only UK trade show dedicated to ethical sourcing, arrive at Sadler's Wells for it's third year.

The show has gone from strength to strength since it's launch in 2009, and this year promises to build massively on the groundswell of support for ethical fashion - a groundswell that the EFF has done an awful lot to ferment.

As well as a wide range of exhibitors, a special pavilion will showcase work from designers that have shown themselves to be innovative in the way they source and manufacture their clothes. The EFF also go out of their way to offer space to designers who'd otherwise struggle to access a platform for their work - a vital stop for those of us interested in the cutting edge of sustainable fashion.

With seminars and product displays highlighting the dizzying range of ethical fashion options, Source Expo is going to be one you can't miss.

It's on next Monday and Tuesday at Sadler's Wells, in London's fashionable Covent Garden. For more info and to snag tickets, check out the Source Expo website.

See you there!

Monday 10 October 2011

Sole Power


Welp, looks like autumn is finally with us, or if not it's just texted to say it's on the bus, round the corner and can we get it a pint. Which means I can finally start focussing on autumn clothes.

These little beauties, the Francesina Alta boots from Italian designer Forest Of Gingko, are giving off the right "tramping through piles of leaves in the forest" vibe. Made from vegetable-tanned, chemical free leather sourced from animals that have died naturally, they boast a casual modern chic that's somehow timeless.

They're robust enough to wear through the season, and the double-stiched soles can easily be replaced - making these a sustainable investment that'll last you for years. None of which makes them cheap, of course. You'll be looking at the €500 mark for a pair.

But boy, can I ever see myself truffle-hunting in them...

You can check out the Francesina Alta, and other shoes in the collection, at SlamJam.

Friday 7 October 2011

Opening Up The Closed Loop

Looks like cradle-to-cradle or closed-loop systems are going to be a bigger deal than I thought, and emerge much more quickly.

Wayne Hemingway, founder of Red Or Dead, is running a new company dedicated to corporate upcycling, Worn Again. They already have contracts with Eurostar and the Royal Mail, providing bags made from old uniforms.

In a ground-breaking move, Hemingway and his team have been given a free hand to design a fully recyclable uniform for McDonald's 85,000 staff members. Mickey D claims to be the first company in the UK to commit to a closed-loop system for corporate clothing, as part of a massive effort to green up their image.

The new uniforms will be rolled out in time for the Olympics, launching at four sites in the Olympic Park before rolling out across the company's 1200 restaurants. This is clearly a big deal for the future of cradle-to-cradle thinking. If a company as big and ugly as McDonalds can see the benefits, then we could be on the cusp of a paradigm shift. Sustainable thinking becoming the norm, a practical business decision rather than a PR exercise.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Cradle To Cradle


I'm afraid I'm going to get a bit theoretical on you this morning. I want to talk about a phrase that's becoming one of the core ideas behind sustainable industry - the concept of Cradle To Cradle.

The idea is pretty simple, and familiar to most of us. It takes the industrial process (in which you source materials and make products from them using manufacturing techniques) and maps it onto the way things work in the natural world. Materials are viewed as nutrients. Manufacturing becomes a metabolism which is fuelled and sustained by these nutrients. The goal is to create closed loops, where the materials and processes used can be fed back into the system, as recycled products or nutrients. Of course, for this to work the materials have to be high quality, and unlikely to cause damage to the system as a whole. In cradle-to-cradle, toxic waste is a no-no.

Let's think about shoes, as an example of what I'm talking about. Say a nice looking Converse-style trainer. Not that I'm obsessed with nice looking Converse-style trainers or anything like that. In a cradle-to-cradle factory, shoes would be made using materials that can either be recycled or reused. The manufacturing process would take rubber offcuts that would normally be thrown away and use them to make more soles for the shoes. In a more extreme version of the model, you would not buy the shoe: you would effectively rent it for a fraction of the cost of buying it outright. Once it's worn out, you would simply return the shoe to the manufacturer, where it would be taken apart and it's materials rolled back into the closed loop.

Taking the example of the Oat Shoe that I've discussed previously, you would plant the shoe once you're done with it, returning it to the environment with the added benefit of flowers growing out of the seeds that were embedded in the sole. There's no reason those seeds couldn't be food crops, either. Plant a shoe, get a salad.

Or look at an example that Pier 32 offers: the fleece made from shredded plastic drinks bottles. Returning waste into the system in an innovative and profitable way is at the core of cradle-to-cradle thinking.

None of this is particularly ground-breaking. But taking the ideas and principles that make sustainability work and putting them into a proper theoretical framework allows users at every point in the supply chain, from supplier to manufacturer to customer, to examine the work flow in an informed way and be able to suggest changes. The closed loop is always open to new ideas.

You can read more than you ever thought you needed to know about cradle-to-cradle at it's Wikipedia page.


Wikipedia: Cradle-To-Cradle