Five ‘start up business’ questions put to Adrien Taylor co-founder of ‘Offcut’

I can’t express to you how excited I was to find this brand on Instagram!  A brand that has great ethical standards, a brand created in New Zealand, a brand that plants a tree every time someone buys their product and a brand with cool product that everyone needs in their life.

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Having great ethical values for a fashion brand means a lot in the fashion industry today.  The second most polluting industry in the world!! (Yuck)!  I am currently in the process of producing an ethical fashion accessories range myself so it was great to hear from a brand already in action and doing great things.

Adrien Taylor co-founder of ‘Offcut’ was so awesome answering these questions for me;

1.  How did your idea come about?  For example, are you a big ‘cap’ lover and wanted to do something different with caps or where you first interested in making an ethical product but didn’t know what?  What was your process?

It all started when I visited my father’s textile warehouse here in Christchurch a couple of years ago. I saw a room full of offcut and end of line fabrics and asked him what he did with them. He told me he paid to have them thrown out to landfill so I decided to turn them into something useful. Caps came to mind because I love a great cap and the panels are small, meaning we can use the small offcuts. 

 

2.  Making caps from offcut fabric I think is super awesome!  How do you go about finding this offcut fabric that you use for you caps and do you have certain design aesthetics that you keep to when choosing the fabrics to give it the ‘Offcut’ look? and......
3.  You say you have limited production runs.  Do you let the availability of the fabric determine the size of the production runs or have you set your slow fashion limits as a brand?

I find the fabric by contacting a lot of brands in the fashion and textile industries. It’s hard work but the response has been great and we’ve even done collabs with brands like Swanndri. The caps are low production runs because we’re limited by the amount of fabric we get. But I like it that way; it’s quality fashion rather than fast fashion. The type of fabric and prints we use are super eclectic but they all have to pass the test of whether I think they’re cool or not. There’s not much more to it than that. If they’re cool, they make the cut!

 

4.  As part of your brand message you have partnered with ‘Trees For The Future’ to have a tree planted with every cap you sell.  What was your process in choosing a partner that was important to the brand and how did you decide on this one?

Business needs to be more than just about making money. If you’re not a business having a positive impact on the world, you’re not a business which deserves the hard-earned money of your customers. I knew I wanted to give back somehow and trees came to mind because, unfortunately, climate change is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced collectively and trees are the best way we can sequester carbon until we get the required societal and political shift towards proper meaningful action. 

 

5.      ‘Offcut’ rocks the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. How has social media helped build your brand and what tips would you give to a new business starting out regarding creating a strong brand and following?

Social media needs to be authentic. It’s not about selling your products but inviting fans to explore and contribute to the lifestyle your brand is all about. That’s the approach Offcut has taken and people resonate with that. People don’t want to be sold to; they want to be inspired, educated and feel empowered by being part of your brand’s community. 

 

So go and check out this brand for yourself at www.offcutcaps.com and feel good when you know that you are doing good when you are buying into their story.

 

AJC

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Five Ethical Fashion Brands that Excite and Inspire me

I have been working in the fashion industry now for over 18 years and have worked for fashion suppliers, high street brands, start up fashion companies and luxury brands in design or design related roles overseeing product from early development stages, through production, buying and merchandising and brand development.

Having recently moved from the UK to NZ I have had time to reflect on my work over the years as I look for work in a new country.  I know now what I love about fashion and what feels important to me as a fashion designer and also as a consumer of fashion.  My love for creating a beautiful product still runs through my veins as strongly as it did when I was in fashion school (all those years ago).  However, I have come to a stage in my career where working for companies that churn out ‘fashion’ for prices that in turn compromise quality and mostly human rights is not where I want to be.

It has been made very clear to all of us that fashion is a polluting industry.  In fact, it is the second most polluting industry next to oil.  The fast fashion industry is fuelled by a crazy demand for cheap clothing and accessories which has a devastating impact from sweatshops and child labour to pollution and global warming.  Just watch The True Cost and it is bound to make you think differently about this industry and make you more mindful when you do shop.

It is not OK anymore to produce product for the fashion industry (or any industry) without placing more consideration to the processes and the choices made for each stage of the product life.

I am developing a new brand range this year and I am so passionate to really do this ethically.  In my opinion this is the only way to go and I am so determined to love fashion again doing it in a more considered way for humanity and for the planet.

Along my journey I have come across 5 ethical fashion brands that excite and inspire me and I want to share them with you.

 

1. People Tree

http://www.peopletree.co.uk/

People Tree is a fair trade apparel company which was founded in 1991 by Safia Minney in Tokyo.  A pioneer in ethical and environmental sustainable fashion People Tree is an alternative to fast fashion and have partnered with fair trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers to develop their ethical eco ranges.  They use organic and sustainable materials and support rural communities and artisans by using their traditional skills to create the People Tree product.

They are a brand that need to be commended to really making a stand against human exploitation and pollution they always strive to pioneer sustainable methods of production to minimise environmental impact.  Choosing to use recycled and natural products, to ship by sea as much as possible and to weave fabrics by hand People Tree always consider ways to reduce our impact on global warming and pollution.

Collaborating with leading designers the ranges are thoughtful, unique and design lead for a new approach to fashion.  I think this is a great way for People Tree to really encourage other designers and brands to fall in step with their ethical choices.

When buying from People Tree you can be assured that your unique garment was made considering respect for people and the planet.

 

2. Veja

http://www.veja-store.com/en/

Veja is an ecological and fair trade footwear and accessories brand produced out of Brazil and France.  Veja works with cooperatives of small producers.  One which they have found sources rubber from the Amazon used for the soles of the trainers and helping the survival for natural sustainable resources.  They support and buy from organic farmers for their cotton used for the canvas for the sneakers and accessories.  They also strive to use leathers from producers who nurture the cow and living conditions right through to the tanning and natural dying processes for the leather.

I was impressed by the confidence Veja have in their No Advertising Policy.  The advertising costs saved goes towards paying their farmers and producers fairly.   As their fabrications cost 3-4 times higher than other footwear brands because the trainers and bags are produced with dignity the No Advertising Policy also makes it possible for Veja to sell their products at a price competitive to their competition. 

Veja have beautiful modern designs and over the years have worked with many established brands for example Agnes B, Comptoir des Cotonniers and Bonpoint to name a few.  These collaborations are a clever way of creating brand awareness and creating their following.

I loved their zero stock policy too.  Their products must have orders placed on them 6 months in advance to enable their production and the quantities needed ensuring they dont over order and avoiding having dead stock that has not sold by the end of the season.

Veja also like to reduce their carbon footprint, alike People Tree, by transporting all their trainers and accessories by boat from Brazil to France by where they then get transferred to barges to take them along the canals to Paris.  They have also ensured that all their packaging is made from recycled and recyclable cardboard.

Veja is constantly evolving.  They have established such an amazing ethical brand concept which should be recognised and commended.

 

3. Polly Wales

http://www.pollywales.com/

As a true admirer of jewellery when I came across Polly Wales I was buzzing with excitement for this beautifully distinct ‘rough luxe’ brand. 

With a background and training in the UK Polly Wales took her business idea to Los Angeles and created a beautiful creative space.  Working with a team of artisans and highly skilled jewellers Polly Wales creates ethical hand crafted fine jewellery ranges.  Each piece of jewellery is handcrafted in-house using only sustainable materials and every piece of material is used without any waste.  Polly Wales uses ethical gemstones and, the part I love most, 18 carat recycled gold.  I just love this recycled element!!

Jewellery doesn’t have to be brand new to be loved.  Recycled 18 carat jewellery can have a new life and be re-molded into something ‘new’ for you to love all over again.

I don’t think I need to say much more about this brand.  Check out the website and I hope you are as captivated as I was!!

 

4. Matt & Nat

https://mattandnat.com/

Inspired my MATerial and NATure the brand Matt & Nat explore the synergy between the two with a passion for this and consideration to the world surrounding us all.  Matt & Nat have values of social responsibility, excellence, inclusiveness, integrity, leaning, authenticity and love which are all considered when designing the eco friendly and vegan accessories ranges including bags and wallets.

The brand has committed to not using any leather or any other animal based materials in their designs and as a result have created inspiring ranges from cork, rubber, recycled nylons and cardboard.  I thought the fact that they use linings only made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles totally admirable and I love the new addition of recycled bicycle tires to their collection of recycled fabrics.

You really do set your own limits when you design.  This brand really show this in the fabrications they have been able to and have chosen to use for their collections.

 

5. G-Star

https://www.g-star.com/en_gb

A lot of you will know the brand G-Star.  Over the years I had heard of some of their new fabric developments, however when delving further and understanding how this brand really wants to make a contribution to reducing plastic pollution I knew I would be totally inspired.

G-star has vowed to work towards banning single use/ non durable and unnecessary plastics in all their operations.  Statistics showed that in 2014 they made a reduction of more than 1.5 million plastic bags. Wow.  Not only that they have created a range called RAW which uses bionic yarn created out of plastic waist reclaimed for the sea.  How awesome is this.  The RAW collections aim to contribute to cleaning the seas of the plastic debris that kill sea life every year and that now enters the food chain as animals eat it.

Along with this major plastics mission that G-Star are on, they also have a responsible supply chain, use sustainable product, have sustainable operations and community involvement.  G-Star are also very serious about the fabrics they use and this spans from organic to raw to recycled.  Using cotton, linen, hemp, tencel, recycled wool and mechanically and chemically recycled polyester and polyamind just to name a few.  I particularly love their RAW recycled fabric which is a blend of post-consumer denim with organic cotton!!

Ultimately G-Star strive for a cleaner production, fair wage, zero discharge of hazardous chemicals and restricted substance list.  They are so proactive in their approach to their eco fashion ranges and contributing cleaning up this word of unwanted waste.  Very inspiring huh!

 

 

When I see the way these fashion brands are conducting their businesses it makes me feel really excited, and proud, that it is possible to make a start on cleaning up this industry that we love.  We all need to be more mindful of the world around us for the future of all of us.

 

 

 

Five Business Decisions that I will definitely repeat for 2017

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1.       Go to Girl; Networking Events, 1-1 Coaching & Mastermind Live Group meetings.

During the autumn, this year, I asked a friend if she knew where I might be able to do some networking in Auckland as I needed to build up a new industry network after being away in the UK for so long.  She straight away told me about the Go To Girl networking Facebook page and events that were held centrally in Auckland for women.  One month later I was signed up to go to the next networking event with over 100 other women and was blown away by the energy, enthusiasm and support that Natalie Cutler-Welsh, the Go To Girl, offered to this large group of women.  That night I decided that I would enter into some 1-1 coaching with Nat to help me find a network of like-minded women and to help guide and re-focused me in my career towards my dream of having my own product line.

Eight months down the track from that first networking night I have since attended two more, joined the mastermind live group meetings and have had more 1-1 coaching sessions with Nat and feel that this has really changed my direction in such a positive way.  I am so much more clear about my direction now, I have developed a network of some really talented amazing women, I have networked with like-minded creative designers, I am working towards launching a new product line next year...  everything is going in the right direction!  So there is no doubt that I will be committing to more of this ‘gold’ for the year ahead to help keep me on this amazing journey.

http://www.gotogirl.co.nz/

 

2.        Bridge the Gap Project; Creative Design and Sewing as a ‘Heartspeak’ piece maker

During my creative brainstorming and development sessions with Nat, it became clearer and clearer to me that I wanted to take on an ethical and sustainable approach to fashion which is where I am now directing my passion and energy for a new business idea that I will be launching in the new year.  As part of this I wanted to find a charity that I felt strongly about and that I could potentially work with and contribute to through my work.

During one of the Go to Girl meetings I attended it was suggested to me that I give Amanda Betts a call.  Amanda is the founder and creator of the charity ‘Bridge the Gap Project’ which is dedicated to helping youth help themselves and one of the ways they encourage this is through creative expression.  This sounded so inspirational to me and I couldn’t wait to meet Amanda and hear all about it!  We decided to meet at the next Go to Girl networking night as she was one of the speakers for the event and wow did she blow everyone away with her honesty, passion, knowledge, experience and belief. I was straight away hooked.

Since then I have been given the amazing opportunity to be one of the Bridge the Gap Project’s Heartspeak piece makers.  This means I have the privilege of getting creative, having fun and upcycling clothes & accessories to be sold through BTGP with 20% of proceeds going to the charity.  Amanda is so encouraging and supportive of new talent and has so many amazing ideas so 'follow' and 'like' this charity on your social media clubs to see what super fun projects will be coming up for the new year!  I can't wait to be apart of them!

http://bridgethegapproject.co.nz/

 

3.        The Healing Haven; Homeopathic Dispensary  & Tonic Room; Natural and Organic Health needs

Another new direction I took this year was to take a more natural approach to healing.  I have an amazing friend who is such a gifted Homeopath and as I have only recently returned from living in London I haven’t had the chance to consider her homeopathic treatment centre as an option for natural healing until now.  Lee-Anne is so passionate, knowledgeable and I believe brilliant at what she does and when I had a consultation with her this year I got to experience this first hand for myself.  Within a few hours I really noticed a change in energy and soon after this within days I felt energised and excited to have a new bounce in my step.

http://healinghaven.co.nz/

The Tonic Room in Kingsland is another place where I found an impressive selection of natural health products.  I loved the way they had such a professional and confident approach to natural and organic health remedies.  I saw a natural doctor here who ‘designed’ me my own specific tonic to take daily for two months.  This was full of ginseng and other goodies which gave me that extra goodness that I needed to stay healthy and energised for the winter months.  It worked a treat!

http://www.tonicroom.co.nz/

 

4.        Society6; Society6 Artist

Society6 was also a new venture for me this year.  I have had so much fun creating prints from paintings and illustrations of subject matter and techniques that I love, it was a complete joy.  Seeing these come to life on some fun lifestyle product had been really rewarding.  This has been a really great start to a new business venture for me and a great outlet for me to have fun with print and do my own thing which I love doing. 

https://society6.com

 

5.        Melbourne Spring Fashion Week; Inspirational trip

I was so excited this year to go to the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week which gave me the opportunity to attend some amazing seminars, exhibitions and also to enjoy absorbing the delights some brilliant luxury and vintage fashion (my absolute favs! and only options in my eyes).

This was such a monumental energy change and inspirational booster.  I had some invaluable time to myself to fall in love with what I was doing all over again and discovering the new approach to my career and projects that I was so desperately looking for.

http://msfw.melbourne.vic.gov.au/

 

In addition to these 5 points and several other contracts, commissions, collaboratons and design projects that I am working on for 2017 I will also be implementing some serious fitness and the one I am most excited about is roller skating.  Yes, Retro roller skates so that I can re-live the 80’s all over again!

Thanks again to all my supporters this year.  You have been amazing!

Best wishes for 2017 - let it be an exciting year for ethical and sustainable fashion!!

See you there!

AJC

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My Five Fun Finds being Inspired by Newton, Sydney

My amazing husband bought me a ticket to the Sydney Fashion Weekend just gone.  I had a 32 hour get away from Auckland… and it was fab!

As well as catching up with a bestie and checking out some of the local fashion brands at the Fashion Weekend I spent a morning looking around the area Newtown in search for some fashion and print inspiration and vintage shops of course.

Five cool and inspiring things about my visit to the area Newtown in Sydney.

1.        I was really impressed by three stores that I found on my walk up and down King Street.  The first store I came across was Leo Monk a handbag and shoe designer and maker.  He made all of his products in the workroom at the back of his cool store.  The product had that great crafted look about it and it was really impressive to see a craftsman at work.

The second shop I found & fell in love with is called The Social Outfit.  The Social Outfit is a registered charity who employ & educate refugees and people from new migrant communities.  The store in Newtown, alike Leo Monk, holds the workroom out the back where these amazing people use their new talents to produce the great product seen in store.  The product is awesome, the retail manager explained to me that they get fabric donations from local fashion companies.  They also use emerging talented designers to create textile prints to add a unique dimension to their ranges.  This place is a MUST VISIT!!

The third store I found is called You, the Earth & Me and is an Eco Home, Body and Soul store.  They have tried, tested and are now selling products from companies that love the world and environment as much as they do.  It’s a great store and also holds the brand Vege Threads which is a successful Australian born and made brand that produces ethical and sustainable fashion – gotta love it!

2.       The second cool thing about Newtown in my opinion was the offer of vintage stores.  Each vintage store I went into had such a great hand-picked selection of production it was hard to leave.  I particularly enjoyed shopping in ‘Uturn Recycled Fashion – Vintage’ as the product and print available was fab… and also ‘Cream on King’ as they had these cleverly made backpacks made by recycling good quality used shirts amoung a treasure trove!!  Envision 54 had some great antiques and homewares and Recycology too had some great well looked after vintage!!

 

3.        The third inspiring experience was the architecture and the cool colours of the heritage buildings down Kings Street.  Some of these buildings dated back to the 1800’s and give the area so much cool character.  At this stage I grabbed a soya latte and sat down in a cute café to admire the scenery.

 

4.       I am a fan of street art and Newtown is known for its creative graffiti and street art.  Take a side road off Kings Street and you will be sure to find something eye-catching!!

 

5.       Last but definitely not least is the Button Shop.  I visited this store about 15 years ago when I was over for the Fashion Week working as a dresser and usher at the shows.  I managed to get time off in between to explore Sydney and found myself in Newtown wandering into this super cute and colourful shop.  An absolute delight for a button lover like myself!!!!

When you are in Sydney don’t miss the chance to check out Newtown and to experience something different that is ethical, inspiring, fun, eye-catching and delightful!!

AJC

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