How to get a career in sustainable fashion
This week sees designers from all over the world congregate in the British capital for London Fashion Week.
By now, we know what to expect: boundaries will be pushed, trends defined and legacies created. But while glitz & glamour have always been a mainstay of the fashion industry, their place atop the pedestal is being challenged.
The 21st century is bearing witness to an increasingly loud call for environmental protections. A call which is now reaching fever pitch. It’s no longer good enough for fashion designers simply to make beautiful clothes. The world is asking a question, and it needs an answer.
Cue Fashion’s new ethical startups.
Whether it be upcycling, reducing emissions, or clearing the ocean, the industry’s fresh blood is providing a plethora of solutions – each more innovative and sustainable than the last. But this is just the beginning. To create fundamental change, we need tomorrow’s Lagerfelds and Westwoods to marry passion for fashion with a keenness for greenness.
We took the time to chat with some of our favourite fashion brands. They told us what advice they had for those looking either to get a job, or start a business, in sustainable fashion.
Alicia Taylor, co-founder – Gather&See
Alicia and Steph began Gather&See in 2014, after becoming frustrated about the lack of clothing choice for socially-conscious consumers. Gather&See brings together sustainable fashion brands that protect people and planet, without compromising on style. Their innovative approach allows consumers to search by 6 philosophies: FairTrade, Organic, Eco-Friendly, Small-scale Production, Heritage and Vegan.
Realise that Green is good for business: For increasingly obvious reasons, every fashion business needs to make the environment and fair production key priorities. But not only is this good for the environment and for workers, it is also good for business. Customers are increasingly demanding transparency and authenticity. If you can show that you care, you will help build trust and credibility for your brand.
Keep it real and get on social: Following on from the last point. Authenticity is key. We find that consumers are interested in the story behind the brand – not just in seeing flashy products. Use social media to build authentic relationships with your customers and establish a unique, friendly tone of voice. Let them know what you care about and why.
Quality photography is key: If there is one thing to invest in, it has to be decent photography. Not only to show off your product to customers but also in order to get maximum views on social media. An added bonus? It attracts the attention of the press. We recommend having simple cut-outs as well as lifestyle or model shots.
Jo-Anne Godden – Founder – RubyMoon
RubyMoon is the world’s only not-for-profit swim and active-wear brand. They create sustainable swimwear using materials sourced from ghost fishing nets (a huge ocean problem). They then use 100% of their profits to provide micro-credit loans to disadvantaged female entrepreneurs.
Meet similarly minded people: Make sure you tell everyone you’re looking for a position in sustainable fashion, as you never know who might know who! In this way, there’s a good chance a neighbour or relative may know someone who can help you to get a foot in the door.
Keep your LinkedIn updated: Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and matches your CV. Also, be explicit and clearly state what position you’re looking for (e.g. I am seeking a Designer position).
Make your CV useful: First, always send links of your work to potential employers so they will not have to ask for them. Secondly, make your CV stand out. This could be done in several ways:
- Highlight your experiences and skills, including your degree of expertise, in a visual, easy-to-read way.
- Focus on extracurricular activities as these go above and beyond normal qualifications.
- Ensure your CV is visually attractive and therefore stands out – if you have design skills, talk about them!
Sophie Billi-Hardwick – Co-Founder – billi london
Inspired by the work of designers using recycled materials, but aware that recycling alone wasn’t enough, Sophie and Marie established tights brand billi london. The startup is fixing the broken hosiery industry through high-quality, long-lasting tights. You know, the sort that won’t end up in landfill after a couple of weeks.
Can’t see the solution? Make your own: When scouring the market to see who was addressing the issue of waste in the tights industry, the due came up dry. But they were still painfully aware of their passion to tackle this burning issue. The solution? They decided to set up their own company.
There are no irrelevant experiences: Before getting into sustainable fashion, Sophie had spent years working in Marketing. On the surface pretty unrelated, right? But she used the lessons she’d learnt to work out where billi london sat in the market, and what was unique about it.
Be open to others’ contributions: While building the brand, they spoke to hundreds of friends, family members and strangers. Doing this allowed them to stay open to fresh ideas so that they didn’t risk falling into an echo chamber. They even got their signature design from one of these friends!
Jacqui Ma – Founder – Goodordering
When the London 2012 Olympics took place, Jacqui Ma noticed that many of London’s residents were hopping aboard two wheels. But she realised that, if this green trend was going to stay, they’d also need sustainable accessories. Drawing on her design experiences with Puma, Virgin, Microsoft and Debenhams, Jacqui started Goodordering. She designs colourful, bike-ready bags, and has them responsibly made in a factory with which she has a close relationship.
Get ‘hands-on’ experience: Try to get an internship or meet people working in sustainable fashion. Speaking with them will help you to understand the reality of working in the industry. You’ll be able to confirm if it’s really what you want to do when you see it up-close.
Get your Instagram game on: If you have a brand or product already, treat Instagram like a portfolio; start building your Instagram following! Spend some time thinking about the story of your product or your personal brand.
Work at your own pace: You don’t need to just jump into the abyss, you can transition slowly, or at a pace that is right for you. Often, maintaining a part-time or full-time job alongside getting into sustainable fashion can be more beneficial than diving in head-first.
- If you’re looking to make a break into fashion, Jacqui Ma offers consultations to help you navigate the industry!
- Are you looking to find a job in the fashion industry? Check out our latest roles here.
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- Need help with making a career change? Or fancy starting your own Sustainable Fashion business? We’ve helped thousands of people through our tailor-made 12-week courses.