Behind The Scenes - Transparency and Sustainability in Fashion
As Fashion Revolution recently said, transparency is trending in the fashion industry - but what does that really mean? And does transparency always equal sustainability? Our Head Designer and Founder, Natalia Zawada shares her thoughts on transparency within fashion and how that translates into the pieces she creates for STARSEEDS.
What does transparency mean to the fashion industry and what does it mean to STARSEEDS?
The brand is transparent when it is open to talk about what is happening behind the scenes. When everyone involved in the process understands the values of the brand and the founders understand the values of the work they outsource. When it’s willing to show information about its production process and the supply chain. It is common in the industry that the brands and designers don’t even fully track their supply chain.
At STARSEEDS, we work closely with the people from our supply chain, so we know exactly what journey an item has taken, from being a cup of coffee to becoming a pair of leggings.
You launched STARSEEDS 4 years ago. how does your vision of transparency differ now to how it looked then?
My vision? It is pretty much the same. We’ve been open to show behind the scenes from day one - although it isn’t a big focus of our work.
As a small start-up brand, we currently don’t have big campaigns around the transparency in our company. We focus our budget on improving the product rather than showing the process and in a start-up you get done only as much as you can do. Having said that, we are currently planning to show our customer the journey of our products through some of our blog content – we think that could be interesting to share.
How has the brand evolved in terms of sustainability and ethics?
We created STARSEEDS as a transparent, ethical and eco- conscious brand.
It was a challenge to begin this way with a start-up budget; considering all the aspects and creating a capsule collection with the intention of these pieces lasting more than a season.
At first we wanted our brand to be 100% organic, but we had to be realistic. After 2 years of research, when we couldn’t find the sustainable elastic bands for our leggings, we decided to go for premium quality natural or durable ones. We came to the point of understanding that we want to offer a product that is greener than whatever is out there and decided to use the most sustainable solutions without making it impossible. Many say that impossible doesn’t exist; that it’s just a mental concept, a limit, to overcome, but sustainability is such a broad field and everyone who decides to go green has to be aware that there will be challenges along the way.
I know a lot of brands convert from not being sustainable to becoming greener step by step, but at STARSEEDS, we set our standards high from the beginning. We make sure that we find ethical production and the most eco-friendly solutions available.
There’s still a massive field of improvement, but that’s how we grow out of our seeds.
What changes have you made that you are most proud of? What difference do they make in terms of impact on the environment and people?
We are very happy that we decided to have a selection of organic, natural and recycled materials within our range, because that allows us to design a capsule collection that has a versatile use. We are not just another yoga brand.
Before launching STARSEEDS, I spent 2 years on research, trying to find the most sustainable components for my clothing. The world of materials has changed massively since then, but our approach was to stay open and transparent the whole way. We were sustainable fashion activists from the very beginning and have dared other brands to do the same.
What challenges have you faced along the way to becoming more and more sustainable?
The main challenge remains the production. Smaller brands have to wait in the queue as the more established brands negotiate their time slots with their bigger orders – those companies are prioritised. We could be a big brand, we could go bigger with the orders, but to get a more unique product, you need to go to niche.
Another, very specific challenge we’ve had so far, was a foil packaging, which we used to store our pieces. We started from storing folded clothes piled in big cardboard boxes with no protection, to discovering that some need to be re-ironed and folded again, which required a lot of work and just wasn’t sustainable. Then we ordered foils and unhappy that there were no eco friendly ones on the market, we started re-using them. Then came the recyclable versions, our next and of course, better option. Number four was fully biodegradable, but with those came another challenge. They came from a small supplier and so the quality was not even, some of them were even breaking. Now, we are about to test a bio-foil made from cassava (sweet potato) starch, which is produced in Indonesia.
How can a fashion brand/designer move towards working with transparency?
I’m still learning that! I would love to share more about my work, the behind the scenes of STARSEEDS, but there’s just never enough time. We are a small team, and there’s only so much we can squeeze in to a week!
To me, more important than storytelling, is always being honest and true to my values. I believe if you’re doing things right, people will know that.
Of course, you should be open to showing the behind the scenes, but always, always track your supply chain. That’s my rule number one!