5 Tips for Building a Sustainable Fashion Label

by

According to the duo behind Empire of Bees, it’s a slow burn.

The popular Cate Tote in Tan will be back in stock this week, keep an eye on our website for updates 😁🐝

A post shared by empireofbees (@empireofbees) on

It’s hard to go slow in a world of fast fashion, as the founders of Empire of Bees – a sustainable, small-scale hand-maker of leather bags and accessories – will tell you. “It can become difficult to keep pushing forward in a business sense while keeping sight of our morals and the underlying reasons of why we have created this label,” say Brisbane’s Bridget Weiske and Claire Davies, who began their “bumpy journey” into fashion in 2012. “We both knew right from the beginning that the world didn’t need another fashion label, but what it did need was more eco- and ethically-minded people in business who could lead the way to change through setting examples and education.” Here’s what they taught us…

1. DESIGN FOR A LIFETIME, NOT A SEASON

“We were driven to create a product that had a positive impact on the environment and humanity and, through many trials and errors, we started designing with salvaged fabrics and quality leathers to achieve a sustainable product that would last a lifetime, not just a season,” say the pair, who relentlessly research the details in their designs. “Our wallets, for example, are frequently opened, [so] we opt for magnets for longevity compared to clips.”

2. HAVE A ZERO-WASTE POLICY

The fashion industry is the second most-polluting industry after oil and gas – a reality that didn’t go unnoticed by Bridget and Claire. “We have a zero-waste policy with production which means we have to get creative. If we have leather offcuts left over from a previous batch we may design small card wallets or use the leather for labelling.” They also have a knack for up-cycling. “We came cross a shed of upholstery offcuts from the ’50s which influenced a number of our designs.”

3. SOURCE YOUR OWN MATERIALS

From day dot, these two have been pounding the pavement in search of supplies. “Fabrics are generally picked up from local op shops and gratefully received from private donations. For our leather, we often do this groundwork with our tailors in tow, finding leather suppliers that meet our standards and researching the supply chain – as difficult as this can be – as meticulously as possible.” Their advice? “Research, ask questions and be prepared to have a lot of setbacks on your search.

4. HAVE LIKE-MINDED STOCKISTS

“It’s an ongoing struggle with our sustainable small-scale production methods to meet demand and compete in the wholesale market with mass-produced brands,” say the duo, who have numerous stockists across the country. “[They] are all very supportive and understanding that at times we can’t deliver as quickly as our competition, and [that] sometimes there are unforeseen delays in production as we are completely reliant on our small team of tailors.”

5. YOUR PATIENCE WILL PAY OFF (IN THE LONG RUN)

Doing things the right way is rarely the easiest way, and certainly not the most cost-effective way, as Bridget and Claire attest. “But to take short-cuts or to give in to more profitable options defeats the purpose of our creation… We have to be able to continually find the fine balance between pricing that everyday people such as ourselves can afford to buy our end product for and making sure our business can continue to thrive and grow… We’ve had some big lessons in learning to stay true to ourselves and not to be pushed into making decisions that don’t fit with our ethos just on the off-chance that it may lead to success.”

We would love to hear your thoughts:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *