GUEST BLOGGER: Rachel Sheila Kan is the founder ofCircular Earth andThe Ecosystem Incubator. She is a sustainable development consultant in the fashion industry, with 23 years as a designer and design manager inside tough margins and minimums with small to medium businesses – she knows how to get the job done in tight times and budgets. She has been working in sustainability for 5 years and applies her product development and design experience to help start and work with existing brands who want to work in a sustainable way.
She joined the Vandalkids journey in May 21 after I was let down by my factory just before my Kickstarter photoshoot and has been a huge help.
She has written the Vandalkids journey from her expert lens:
"Thanks for having me on the Blog Katheline, it has been an honour to work on your project with you. I have a background in kids wear design for 10 years in my early career, working with retailers like Disney, Woolworths, Naf Naf & BHS in the supply base and retail. I really got over all my years how demanding and unsustainable the industry is. I started to stand for sustainability but with an action attitude in terms of applying to business from the inside as a journey over time and building with brands.
The VandalKids journey hasn’t been dissimilar to the experience that I have had in industry of moving factories and troubleshooting, for the latter part of my career I worked with small boutique brands, even with the production being in china with relative good access to stock fabrics, the production and development of small quantities can be challenging in itself – let alone trying to build this way using organics and looking at the ethics of each cog in the wheel. In small / medium business that would be with a mini team based in China and India to work with the network of factories and create the product needed.
The micro business journey is very different, you have maybe one agent or are going direct to a factory which means a lot of the decisions and responsibility is on you as you start. Many of the small boutique brand business was created In the 90’s selling on Camden market wholesaled items from all over the world, they created capital from this and were able to build collections and brands from a base level. If you are starting up from nothing not only in fashion but requesting sustainability and ethics, it is a steeper learning curve.
More often than not design and development is not plain sailing. I was upset to hear that the factory that promised so much to Vandal Kids as a start-up couldn’t complete, it is quite common if the factory gets larger orders from others that they will be happier to take that – so I get it. So, we set about making it happen – and getting people involved so that it would be factory ready and so that you could get proto samples to shoot. This isn’t a small feat in the short space of time that we had.
We were lucky to push and get the photoshoot samples made with a UK link so that VandalKids could promote and share the kick-starter on time. This was a great boon to the project and finding someone to get that done in a very tight time scale was an awesome feat.
One of the main things is to make sure that your grading and tech is good, we worked with a very old friend of mine from 20 years ago to get that sorted. Fit is so important too in sustainability as it determines the longevity and viability of a garment. It is important to make sure that the rules are in place – so that we can then get correct costings from the factories.
The journey doesn’t end with the kickstarter, it is a part of it and gives the capital to get going, it is the start and as many of the micro businesses that I have worked with on kick starters know this is only the beginning of the journey for a brand, as a brand we have to continue innovation, design, development as new things take shape, and as we grow into larger businesses.
You might ask why our small business specially developed product cannot be the same price as H&M or Primark? There are many aspects of the design that have been thought about and developed – it is innovation which for large value lead business wouldn’t be cost effective anyway, especially for the kids market they just wouldn’t offer it, the things that I have mentioned alone above are also a reason, as well as the big thing which is economy of scale. Large business has access to huge buying power therefore reducing cost over all the base fabrics and components. Labour is a large cost if you are wanting to make sure that the work force is paid correctly.
So, you might just think – ooh this is just a jogger or a hoodie, however there are teams of people and professionals behind the scenes working to create it with as much integrity as possible in a micro business tight environment. So, I acknowledge the team that have been working on this, and to the final production in Bulgaria who so values her teams of people out there that she would fall on her sword for them.
The journey to making a sustainable ethical brand is as much about the product and people as it is the brand itself."