March 20, 2014

I’d Rather Shop for Clothes When What I Buy Doesn’t Break Our Planet.

Yoga Pants

As I shared in a previous post I made the decision to “green” my wardrobe over a year ago.

For me, it wasn’t a tough choice.

For years I had considered myself a fairly eco-friendly person: I recycled, I walked or took public transportation whenever I could, and I even purchased a hybrid car when they first became available. However, like many people, I was blissfully unaware of the circumstances under which most of my clothes were made nor did I have any idea what sort of (negative) impact the clothing industry in general had on the environment.

This is especially true of active wear companies.

In most cases, activewear companies pack a double whammy: not only are most of them produced in Asian “sweatshops” but many are use synthetic fibers made from petroleum which do not break down once they enter the landfill. Indeed, when I went green, finding eco-friendly activewear was by far my biggest challenge.

UK-based Wellicious is one of the few companies that fills that niche. (Full disclosure: I recently went received some of their clothing for free and wrote a review about them.)

Curious as to the motive behind launching such a company as well as some of the challenges it faces, I recently submitted some questions to the founder, Heiki Schnell. Schnell was very forthcoming about those challenges including the fact that it is so much cheaper to produce clothing in Asia vs. Europe.

Hopefully, as eco-friendly clothing continues to grow in popularity, other companies will take note and follow suit.

See the whole interview below:

What motivated you to produce a line based on eco-friendly principles?

Initially I travelled to China to start looking at production, however after my trip I realised that Wellicious would be a much better brand for the earth if I considered an eco-friendly and ethical path. This is also now why we produce everything in Europe, using only fair labour and have the official GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard).

What’s been the biggest challenge and biggest satisfaction of starting this business?

I loved the idea of starting something from scratch, but after the exploration of cheaper production methods within Asia, I knew that I wanted it to be sustainable and eco-friendly instead. At that time a lot of people made fun of me for wanting to create an eco-friendly brand; particularly when I started looking into methods of producing in Europe, as everyone was moving their own production to Asia and China because it was so much cheaper.

Of course this made it difficult for me as it was not always easy to stick to my own beliefs. My biggest satisfaction so far, is to have a company where people are happy—our customers as well as employees—and proving to the world that a sustainable, charitable company can be successful.

Where do you see yourself and your company 10 years from now?

The core values of Wellicious will remain the same: Made in Europe & Eco-friendly, however as we grow changes will naturally take place.  We are working on recycled fibers within our new collections and we are planning to launch more accessories to complement our product ranges in yoga and well-being.

I also can’t wait until we can increase our support to more charity projects, and we have set future plans to donate five percent of our profits to charity. Although my responsibility has now been spread across my team from when I started the company, I still aim to be a main part of Wellicious in 10 years. However it will also be great as the brand grows to have more time to enjoy my family and see my three beautiful daughters grow up.

Is there anything you have found interesting or shocking about the clothing industry in general?

I am so happy that consumers are slowly starting to change their minds and do care where their clothing is being produced. It is not worth it, in my opinion, for a brand to exploit the natural earth and mankind for their own self-benefit—that is completely against the yoga philosophy.

The only issue we have to still try to overcome is communicating to customers and stores, that we can’t offer our products at a lower price point, as our collections are made in much fairer conditions which are much more expensive.

When reading about the joys and challenges of running a eco-friendly clothing company, I am reminded of a post earlier this week by Kristin Glenn who also owns a green clothing company.

While green clothing companies may be growing, the truth is they will only continue if we the consumers decide to support them.

Many “greenies” I know pay lip-service to green-living and human rights but still buy sweatshop made clothing citing the low prices.

As Schnell and Glenn show, the true price we pay for that t-shirt or pair of yoga pants goes far beyond the price tag. Hopefully, as more consumers become aware of this, companies like Wellicious will the rule and not the exception.

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Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Lynn Friedman at Flickr 

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