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Ethical Conversations: A talk with Fabienne Chapot

At Fabienne Chapot we are not afraid, I hope that shows everywhere. When we go for something, we really go for it.” 

Eloise van Oranje
11 JUNE 2024
Otrium continually works towards the mission that all clothing produced should be worn. There is no such thing as the perfect, “ethical” item or fashion brand: it’s not a black-and-white topic. There are, however, a lot of improvements brands can work on. We want to support brands that do better and empower you to understand what this entails. 
To provide an objective third-party perspective, we have collaborated with industry rating specialists Good On You since 2021. By doing so, we want to make it easier for our members to find items that are labelled “Ethically rated” and support brands that are working to create a better fashion industry. Most brands on our platform are rated through Good On You. “Ethically rated” qualified items come from brands rated 3/5 (It's a start), 4/5 (Good) or 5/5 out (Great). Find more information about Good On You ratings on this page.
And now, in this Ethical Conversations series, we’re speaking to “Ethically rated” brands carried by Otrium to find out more about their approach. This time, we chatted to Geertje van Bavel, Head of Impact at Fabienne Chapot.
Tell me: who are you?
My name is Geertje. I studied International Business, and after working at L’Oréal for 10 years, the topic of sustainability started to itch more and more. I wanted to start a more sustainable company in the beauty industry, and founded a platform called Green Beauty Market. We offered more conscious beauty products. I stopped after 4 years, however my interest for sustainability grew nonetheless. Currently, I am driving the topic at Fabienne Chapot and I am truly enjoying it! The brand is aware of the fact that they are active in a polluting industry and wants to make a difference. Not in a naive way or pledging we are perfect, but rather that we're doing our best.
Where did it start with Fabienne Chapot?
Fabienne saw the grey and dull business world and started FAB in 2012, bringing colour, femininity, and bold statements with bags and accessories. A few years later, in 2016, she gave the company a twist and added adult premium ready-to-wear clothing. The same ingredients from back then are still present: colour, prints, statements, and handmade.
What sustainability initiatives does Fabienne Chapot have?
We have quite a lot in place, and these are worth mentioning the most: 
  1. Full supply chain transparency We have taken a big step when it comes to supply chain transparency. In the fashion industry, the number of suppliers involved in the production of one item is surprising. The long and complex value chains make it difficult to trace the item to its raw material transparently. Fabienne Chapot works with Tex Tracer - their mission is supply chain transparency. We hooked up all our suppliers and with each piece of clothing, they fill in where it comes from (as far as they know). Nowadays, you can find a QR code in many of our items that can be scanned to find where the product is made. 
  2. Giving preloved items another chance In June 2023, I started an initiative called ReLove in collaboration with Feaum. This platform allows consumers to shop for preloved Fabienne Chapot items. It became very popular with our loyal consumers, and we plan to expand this year. The financials are not there yet, however the value and awareness it brings makes us happy and optimistic to see what the future holds.
  3. It all starts with numbers Since 2023, we have been working with the startup Roots Sustainability to collect data-driven insights on our energy usage, water consumption, and carbon emissions emitted. They just launched and we are currently working on the first calculations for the year 2023 and will continue to improve going forward! 
How do you involve consumers?
Our community likes to be involved. ReLove and our clothing swap event were received above expectations by our customers. I also noticed that our community finds materials important. At Fabienne Chapot we are taking steps to take consumers along in the process of using better materials. An example is viscose from LENZING™ ECOVERO fibres that use at least 50% less water and emit at least 50% less CO2 compared to generic viscose fibres, according to Higg MSI.
What’s different about Fabienne Chapot?
At Fabienne Chapot we are not afraid, I hope that shows everywhere. When we go for something, we really go for it. We dare to take steps, try new things, involve partners and make investments. In terms of clothing, we try to be different by using daring colourways and prints.
What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to sustainability?
The complexity of collecting data like this involves so many and different stakeholders. This is where we aim to make the biggest improvements, and that certainly doesn't happen overnight. However, it is important to enter into partnerships and not be afraid to make mistakes. This is the only way to learn how to improve when you’re innovating.
Biggest goals?
We have just become a B Corp certified company, and I am so proud of everyone at Fabienne Chapot who was involved! This gives us a framework to continue to improve, as  there is always room for improvement! Looking at materials for example. Ultimately, the goal is to work with 100% more responsible materials. These are materials that have a lower impact on our planet, which is what we need!
What is going well in the fashion industry…
Well, that is quite a question... A lot of innovations are happening quickly: material innovation, measuring impact, transparency, collaborations between companies, and legislation.
… and what REALLY needs to change?
There is so much that I can't list it all. But the first thing I think of is the urgency of companies to prioritise people and the environment. There is a long way to go to being perfect, but the mindset, awareness and willingness must be present. 
What is the biggest misconception about sustainable clothing?
That sustainable clothing is only about the environment. It also considers social aspects such as fair labour practices and safe working conditions. 
Name a change that a consumer could make to become more environmentally conscious.
You can do a lot of small and fun things. For example, creating a care guide to wear and maintain the quality of your garment longer. Ultimately, what truly matters is that consumers buy pieces with the intention of wearing it a long time and actually doing so.

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Ethical Conversations

Ethical Conversations: A Talk with Mud Jeans

Otrium is committed to the mission that all clothing produced should be worn. While no item or fashion brand can be perfectly 'ethical,' there are many areas where brands can make significant improvements. We want to support fashion companies striving for more responsible fashion and empower consumers to understand what this journey entails.To offer an objective perspective on the responsibility journey of the brands featured on Otrium, we have collaborated with industry rating specialists from Good On You. This partnership makes it easier for our members to find “Ethically rated” items and support brands working to create a better fashion industry. Most brands on our platform are rated by Good On You, and “Ethically rated” items come from those fashion companies with scores of 3/5 (It's a start), 4/5 (Good) or 5/5 (Great). More information about the ratings can be found on undefined. In our Ethical  Conversations series, we’re exploring the approaches of “Ethically rated” brands featured on Otrium. This time, we chatted with Bert, founder of Mud Jeans, and Lea, a member of their sustainability team. Tell me, who are you, and what is your role at Mud Jeans?Bert: My name is Bert van Son, and I founded Mud Jeans. With 30 years of experience, I’ve seen fast fashion's negative impact on the environment. This motivated me to seek a better alternative. In 2012, I introduced the "Lease A Jeans" concept, allowing customers to lease jeans and after use return them for recycling. This initiative reduces waste and promotes a circular economy in fashion, enabling customers to renew their wardrobes more sustainably. Lea: Hi, I'm Lea, and I studied Sustainability Science, Policy & Society at Maastricht University. My passion for fashion and the well-being of people and the planet led me to a career in sustainable fashion. I am happy to be working at Mud Jeans, where I manage all aspects of corporate responsibility.  Where did it all start for Mud Jeans?Bert: I've been in the fashion industry for quite some time. I started my career in Taiwan and later in Hong Kong, where I saw the industry transform into something I didn't like—dreadful production processes, poor working conditions, you know the story… Wanting to make a change, I sold my previous company and used the funds to start Mud Jeans. I specifically chose jeans because I realised that to truly do something different, I should focus on an item that is widely worn and has one of the most challenging supply chains.What sustainability initiatives do Mud Jeans have?Bert: One of our standout initiatives is our circular economy model. After customers have worn out their jeans, they can return them to us. We then send these pairs to Spain, where factories break the items down into their original raw materials. We reuse this bluish cotton, combined with new organic cotton, to create our jeans. Compared to industry-standard jeans, our production process uses significantly less water—about 25 minutes of showering versus 7.5 hours for a regular pair. Also, transparency is one of our core values: we strongly believe all companies should be truthful about their processes. Lea: Additionally, we release a sustainability report and conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA) annually to provide detailed insights into our practices. Last year, we introduced an innovative LCA-based approach that evaluates our jeans against a hypothetical product with similar manufacturing processes but without more conscious materials.  This method goes beyond comparing our jeans against industry standards and allows us to make more accurate impact assessments. What's more, our approach to sustainability goes beyond environmental concerns and considers social responsibility. We prioritise fair wages and good working conditions throughout our supply chain so that our practices benefit both people and the planet. How do you involve consumers in sustainability?Bert: Since 2012, we've encouraged consumers to return their jeans after they’ve worn them out. This concept of retaining ownership of materials and offering jeans on a leasing basis demonstrates our commitment to being different. While we primarily appeal to environmentally conscious consumers—which we call dark green customers—we want to reach a broader audience, as more responsible purchasing benefits everyone. Lea: We aim to share the Mud Jeans story with all segments and sell our jeans to every consumer. However, effectively communicating our efforts to various audiences remains an ongoing challenge. You don’t want to bore people with the same story, but you can’t keep quiet either.  What sets Mud Jeans apart?Bert: At Mud Jeans, circularity is at the core of everything we do. We're dedicated to reclaiming our products after use and creating a closed-loop, post-consumer waste denim process named “Denim Reborn”. Also, initiatives like "Lease a Jeans" and maintaining close relationships with our supply chain partners show our commitment. What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to sustainability?Bert: We want to inform people about everything we do while also attracting them with the good fit and nice wash. Balancing this desire to communicate our efforts with the need to appeal to consumers is a challenge. Moreover, being a volume-driven industry, maintaining competitive prices while adhering to better practices remains an ongoing struggle. Lea: I also see societal challenges, which are increased by rapidly changing consumer trends. People see so much fashion content on TikTok and Instagram that they feel they need to have it all. We’re trying to come up with innovative solutions to keep up with the trends sustainably, but it is rather difficult! What are the main goals for Mud Jeans?Bert: Our ultimate goal is to produce jeans made entirely from post-consumer waste. While we've made significant steps and currently incorporate up to 40% recycled materials into our jeans, achieving 100% recycled denim remains our ambition. What is going well in the fashion industry?Lea: Positive developments happening in this industry are increased sustainability regulations. Regulations play a crucial role in forcing companies in the fashion industry to adopt more responsible practices, closing the gap between awareness and action. And what really needs to change?Bert: For the industry to change, a collective effort involving manufacturers, government intervention, and consumer behaviour change is necessary. All three need to contribute to the transformation. Also, encouraging responsible production practices, enacting supportive legislation, and fostering a shift in consumer mindset are all important measures. Lea: Examples like undefined show the difference between consumer intentions and actions. Despite people wanting change regarding sustainability, there needs to be more consumer engagement to support innovation, emphasising the need for efforts across those three fronts Bert mentioned [i.e. encouraging responsible production practices, enacting supportive legislation, and fostering a shift in consumer mindset]. What is the biggest misconception about sustainable clothing?Bert: One prevalent misconception about sustainable clothing is that it is not fashionable. People are often pleasantly surprised by the quality and looks of our jeans, despite them being labelled as more sustainable. Some consumers are just not used to purchasing more sustainable products and associate them with a hippie or bohemian aesthetic.  Name a change consumers could make to become more conscious.Bert: The most important adjustment consumers should make is to prioritise quality over quantity. Buying one high-quality pair of jeans is more conscious than purchasing multiple low-quality options. Consumers should think of spending money like voting with their wallets and supporting companies that are doing something good for people and the planet.  P.S. TIP: Watch the documentary "True Cost" and read the book "Doughnut Economy" for further insights into sustainable practices.
Otrium continually works towards the  mission that all clothing  produced should be worn. There is no such thing as a perfect, “ethical” item or fashion brand: it’s not a black-and-white topic. There are, however, a lot of improvements brands can work on. We want to support fashion companies that strive to do better and empower you to understand what this journey entails. To provide an objective third-party perspective, we have collaborated with industry rating specialists Good On You since 2021. By doing so, we want to make it easier for our members to find items that are labelled “Ethically rated” and support brands that are working to create a better fashion industry. Most brands on our platform are rated by Good On You. “Ethically rated” qualified items come from brands rated 3/5 (It's a start), 4/5 (Good) or 5/5 (Great). Find more information about Good On You ratings on undefined.In this Ethical Conversations series, we’re exploring the approaches of “Ethically rated” brands featured on Otrium. This time, we interviewed Caroline Mewe, the Founder of Alchemist. Great to meet you! I’m curious to hear how the idea behind Alchemist came about.After my studies, I joined the Dutch department store Bijenkorf as a buyer, which I loved. I travelled around the world, enjoying every single moment. Through this experience, I was able to get a close look at the different sides of fashion: on the one hand, the world of glitter & glamour, and commercialisation, and on the other, the stark reality of the industry. I visited clothing manufacturers where I couldn't tell if it was a chicken coop or a factory.  It was terrible to see people working in the circumstances that we consider unacceptable in Europe. At some point, I could no longer ignore it. That's when I founded Alchemist. This was 20 years ago.Please tell me more about Alchemist's sustainability initiatives.First and foremost, we source and select the most sustainable fabric options. At the same time, we are very strict about choosing our production partners. I am thrilled with the materials  Alchemist uses. Take our wool, for example, it holds the following certifications: Responsible Wool Standard Certification (RWS), Global Recycled Standard (GRS), and The International Alpaca Association (I.A.A). We buy our alpaca and merino wool from certified suppliers where the animals don’t have to suffer. We don’t use any leather or fur, and we are non-mulesing (mulesing is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin around the breech of the sheep). I have always found it very important to keep the well-being of animals in mind. As a mother, I taught my sons that food is not a given. It is essential to see the value of the “obvious “ things we often take for granted. How do you involve consumers on the topic of sustainability?By nature, I am not a very loud person. This translates into Alchemist, but we could do much more to share our sustainability efforts. While you can find what we do on our website, it doesn’t even cover half of what we initiate and undertake. We speak about our efforts with retail buyers in our showrooms and directly with consumers at sale points. That is our strong suit. How is Alchemist different from other fashion brands?The passion for Alchemist comes from within the team, from a place of joy and love. When you think about it, we don’t produce large numbers. But we create beautiful clothes with a personal touch. You have to keep the fun in this loaded industry. What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to sustainability?As long as the big companies don’t start using better materials in larger quantities, these fabrics will hit the market less. When these materials are produced on a small scale, the prices are too high to compete with regular materials. At Alchemist, we want to show that the industry can use more responsible materials to create beautiful clothing! And your biggest goals?Apart from changing external legislation factors, we must continue and evolve with what we're doing now at Alchemist. This may mean we have to scale down or look at reuse. There’s a lot that could be done. By the way, we want to become a certified B Corp! That’s one of our key goals. What is going well in the fashion industry?Awareness is growing. Now factories in India provide the option for better materials and “green” certificates, without being  asked. All our suppliers have at least one social certificate and undergo annual audits of several NGOs. We require nine criteria for the production of our clothing, including no child labour, safe working conditions, and fair living wages. And more factories - which I've visited, at least - are looking at the basic needs of workers. When I started twenty years ago, this didn’t exist! And what REALLY needs to change?Laws and regulations need to change. Take, for instance, implementing a checklist at the Port of Rotterdam for every fashion brand that imports clothing. This checklist would ensure no child labour is involved, materials are respectful of the planet, and so forth. There also needs to be a shift in mindset: people should accept that ethically produced clothing may have a higher price tag, but that this reflects the actual cost of what it took to produce it. What is the biggest misconception about sustainable clothing?The biggest misconception is that beautiful clothes can be produced responsibly. In reality, it’s a matter of making the right choices at every step of the process.  Name a change that a consumer could make to become more environmentally conscious.Start by simply asking questions about the production process and materials used in the garment. People can significantly contribute to sustainability by being more mindful about who produces the garment. This increased awareness is crucial because consumers ultimately vote with their wallets, deciding which companies and practices to support.And a tip : invest in sustainable, good quality pieces, they will take you through a few seasons.

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