October 28, 2021 4 min read

GUEST BLOGGER: Rachel Sheila Kan is the founder ofCircular Earth andThe Ecosystem Incubator.  She 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.


Vandalkids are not just making standard products, they are making something different to your average cotton jogger. They wanted something that also brought longevity to the table, something businesses don’t think of especially as planned obsolescence is a thing that drives more sales for businesses.  Sustainability is not about just whacking some sustainable fabric in a shape – it is being in more thought and contemplation on the whole systems process.  So, the price is reflected in this also – the joggers last longer than your average, and we will make that longer and longer as we develop the product over more seasons.


Longevity is an important part of sustainable development, if you are just making something that is organic, natural or recycled without regards for the life of the garment you are still contributing to the problem using up natures resources for capital gain without a thought to quality and longevity. Other aspects in terms of printing also have to be considered, it is by no means perfect and regenerative if you want a product with a more commercial value with small quantity, some will argue we are not looking at small runs with 900 pcs over 3 styles, yet this in comparison to larger businesses that would easily commit to 16,000 pieces of one style is small potatoes.


The fact that part of that 16,000 pc run may end up being deadstock is another matter, you would be happy in a retail environment with an 80% sell through, that would be a good line, yet that would be a small percentage of the overall season – and there would be many that had very small sell throughs, the remainder would be wasted or burned – generally to protect the brand identity. So, is small actually a better way to run a business and would you pay more knowing that there is far more integrity over all in stock management with agile small business?


Digital printing is the best way to go for prints, in this respect it means you can get small minimums and the way it's created is more sustainable than screen or discharge prints.. it does come with a wash out over time, so you have to take that into account. Vandalkids products are designed to be washed less – the more that you can air your clothes rather than bunging in the washing machine will actually save so much water and help the environment. A lot of water is wasted in the laundering of garments after buying – so the less you wash the more you save.


Adding sustainability, longevity and regenerative principles all in one go – is a high ask, and at the moment means it would look a certain way and perform in a certain way that as western consumers wouldn’t be ready for, however new and old fabrics continue to come to the forefront as we speak.


The long-term solution to this is circularity, but having circularity without longevity is just moving the base problem towards fast circularity.


No one is perfect, and it is a journey either in a large less agile business and indeed in small business terms.  We are dealing with the economics of the system that we are presenting in.  As I have gone through the sustainability journey, I have noticed that the economic system that we live In is based in our industrial past, one of the things I am championing with The Ecosystem Incubator is to work in different ways, as a collaborative of small businesses, so that we can have the R&D and even marketing functions among many things of big business but keep the agility of being in the small brand space.


In the small brand space, we have issues with being able to find the exact fabrics and components for the job – having to settle for 2nd or 3rd party wholesale which pushed up the cost of the garment itself, let alone checking on the ethics of the factory.   One thing that small business does well is being agile and finding ways to be with this, sometimes that does mean a compromise on the product that we would endeavour to create, saying that I have found the small businesses like Vandalkids and others to ask for as near to perfect as they possibly can get, which is admirable.


Is anyone perfect? Not that I know of, there are brands that are incrementally better than none-sustainable production, Vandalkids isn’t perfect – no one is – I love that they stand for a great pillar of longevity that many brands expect circularity to answer. It’s a journey and I look forward to working with them more and putting more and more into this product and brand with our links in the Ecosystem Incubator and partners in circularity.


Champion this product and help us to create the next phases of the brand over time. We will be working in the ecosystem to build with brands and indeed factory networks.  We need your support as consumers and users of sustainable products. As we work towards a new economy, one that values environment and people just as it does GDP growth – we will find that it becomes easier over time to apply sustainability just as it has done with things like renewable energy. Until then we have what we have - and we will do well to aid the transformation of brands like VandalKids.

 Rachel Sheila Kan.