When it comes to sustainable fashion, it can be hard to know where to start. With an endless barrage of information, countless new and established brands to research, and a mass of confusing terminology out there, it's understandable that anyone might feel a little overwhelmed.
In light of this, every month we will focus on a brand that knows exactly what it means to be a sustainable force for good in fashion today. From debunking inaccuracies to advice for aspiring designers and tips for consumers on how to be kinder to the planet, we cut through the noise so that you don’t have to.
This month we’re getting to know Omnes, a brand that challenges the idea that shopping sustainably is expensive.
Despite being a difficult year, Omnes launched in 2020 with the sole mission of making sustainable fashion accessible whatever your budget (Omnes translates as ‘for all’ in Latin). With everything responsibly sourced and accessibly priced, the brand is a breath of fresh air and a much-need antidote to fast-fashion brands.
Omnes firmly believes that sustainable fashion should be both democratic and long-lasting - which translates to designs which are fashion-forward but not trend-obsessed. From the fabrics used to the factories the brand works with, every process is researched and carefully monitored to ensure that each piece is made to the highest environmental standards.
We sat down with founder Jordan Razavi and lead designer Freya Rabet, to learn more about Omnes' ambitious sustainability strategy and the secret to its accessible success.
In your mind, what makes a truly sustainable brand?
Jordan Razavi: "Brands need to have set out their business model from the beginning to be sustainable and fair. Creating a system that can be continued indefinitely without doing harm to people or the planet, to actually make a positive impact and start giving back to the resources and people that have been exploited up to this point is a must. For us, it also has to be accessible to the masses in order to make a real change, and so that is why we work really hard on our price points to ensure we can be bought by as many people as possible while ensuring everyone involved is paid a fair price."
How do you successfully run a sustainable business?
JR: "It is a continuous balancing act. You have to be resilient to setbacks and determined and patient to find solutions, as being a sustainable business and a new business throws up a lot of challenges that you have to creatively overcome; ultimately there are no shortcuts. It is also really important to ensure that everyone feels comfortable to have open and honest conversations at all times and across all stages of the supply chain. Ultimately, you have to be passionate and committed to the cause you have signed up for."
What do you think needs to change in the industry?
Freya Rabet: "We have to move to a circular fashion system. It’s not enough to be designing beautiful products with no thought about the end of life. This is something we are really passionate about at Omnes and is why we only use fabrics that are 100 per cent from the same yarn to ensure ease of recycling at the end of life. We also avoid trims as much as possible for the same reason, which has the added bonus of helping to keep us at an accessible price point."
JR: "There also needs to be a huge shift in attitudes towards suppliers, factories and garment workers in general. They need to be treated as our equal partners which is why our supplier contracts are called our Partnership Policy. It’s our responsibility as brands to ensure that garment workers are not only safe and treated fairly but actually happy and enjoy their jobs. There needs to be full transparency of the hundreds of hands each garment touches and a massive piece of education for consumers as to what their money means and how it is divided up between everyone involved."
What do you think the industry is doing right?
FR: "There are a lot of amazing new, less impactful fabrications appearing across the board. We especially like the ones that are coming from regenerating waste; we have dresses currently in our collection made from a polyester yarn created entirely from recycled plastic bottles, and are currently researching into using fabrics made from biological waste."
JR: "Some new brands are also starting to talk more about their supply chains, although this is definitely where the most work needs to be done. We are proud to feature ours on our website, providing at length all of our suppliers' details and information. This is part of our drive to be as honest and open as possible."
What do you want to achieve personally with your brand, in terms of sustainability?
JR: "We want to be the first brand at an accessible price point to offer fair fashion that respects everyone involved, while giving something back - without ever compromising on the final product."
What advice would you give to those wanting to make their business sustainable?
JR: "Spend time researching sustainability in fashion. Understand the main areas that need improvement and then put them on a priority list for you and your business and start from the top. Sustainable fashion is huge and can easily become overwhelming, so I think it's extremely important to decide what you are most passionate about and go from there."
What’s the smallest change a consumer could make to become more eco-conscious?
FR: "Thirty per cent of a garment's impact is decided once it is brought home, so think carefully about how you care for your clothes. Only wash when it’s actually needed, and avoid tumble drying - instead, let it dry naturally outside and when the sun shines you will also benefit from the sun's natural antibacterial properties. In terms of buying, just doing even 15 minutes of research into a brand before buying is crucial. If their factories aren’t published, if they don’t even mention sustainability, is that the kind of business you want to support with your money?"
What are the most common inaccurate “facts” about sustainability you see promoted?
FR: "Personally, we find it very frustrating when, alongside promoting sustainable fabrics or collections, brands still have 100 per cent unsustainable products and stories of exploitation and horrible working conditions emerging about their factories. It's confusing for customers. When something sounds vague or fluffy that’s because it is. If there is no solid example or fact that they are using to back up statements, I personally would not believe it."
What should consumers look out for when shopping sustainably?
FR: "Fabric has the biggest impact. If everyone took a bit of time to understand what fabrics mean and looked out for easy sustainable swaps, it would make a huge difference. Traditional cotton uses so much water, chemicals and GMO seeds - not to mention the side effects on the farmers for dealing with these chemicals every day. By instead looking out for BCI or ideally organic cotton you are making such a big difference. Small swaps like this have a huge impact. Swapping virgin materials for recycled is another easy win to protect our beautiful planet's finite resources."
What’s the biggest misconception about sustainable clothing?
JR: "We think the biggest thing currently is that sustainable fashion has the stigma of being unaffordable and so a lot of people do not even look into it for that reason alone. That is why we are so passionate about price, it needs to be fair for the makers, for us as a retailer and also for the consumers."
FR: "As a brand, we do this by being smart with our pattern shapes to ensure we’re getting the most efficiency from the fabric cloth; currently we have two completely zero-waste tops in our collection. We also use the same fabric quality and/or print across various different styles to get a better price on the fabric, which in turn then helps with the cost of a garment. We also build the range entirely digitally first before actioning samples, to eliminate wasted samples. Of course, ultimately, we could mark-up our product prices much higher than we do, but this would not align with our mission of fair, accessible fashion for all."
Where do you turn to when you want more information about sustainability?
FR: "There are some really great online resources. Of course, Fashion Revolution is always a great place to start and Common Objective has some great information, too. Personal accounts which are also super informative are Orsola De Castro and Venetia La Manna."
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