Brothers We Stand
Photo: Joe Bloggs
If you can hustle and do things without spending too much money, it's a good way to learn how things work and test things Jonathan Mitchell
Brothers We Stand is an online menswear retailer that sells a curated range of ethical designer collections. Here, Inside Retail hears founder Jonathan Mitchell’s startup story. We began by asking him to describe the business in his own words:
Mitchell: Brothers We Stand is a platform for different designers designing sustainably and ethically. We search out amazing designers who are really innovating in how they make their product and bring them together into one special collection and sell directly to consumers.
You haven’t come in via the fashion school route, so how come you’re the founder of a fashion business? Test
It just sort of happened, I’ve always been interested in business so when I graduated from university with a degree in international development, I noticed there were a growing number of sustainable designers producing really nice stuff. I thought it would be cool to bring them together, so I chatted it through with friends and spent about a year planning. I got a loan of £3,100 from The Prince’s Trust to start it.
It is hard work because you have to do everything, but it’s achievable and you don’t necessarily need to have a huge amount of money.
How did you manage the financial perspective during the early days of the business?
I think we were quite smart in having a business model that didn’t require much investment - we don’t produce anything and our product comes direct from designers. Our biggest expense was the website, but even now I wouldn’t spend as much on it. You can use templates to set one up for free, and design it well enough to get your initial sales.
Because I’m new to this I would have burned a lot of money and wasted it at the beginning as we going through that learning curve. It was invaluable to go slowly. I was fortunate to have friends to help out but also found that if you can hustle and do things without spending too much money, it’s a good way to learn how things work and test things.
How did you decide who your customer is?
It’s been a process of working it out and evolving over time. We stock quite a varied range of brands and we therefore have a broad range of customers. But what they have in common is that they want really nice products made in a production process that is conscious about the impact on people and the environment.
Given most people would expect ethical to mean more expensive, how have you and your suppliers set about achieving such reasonable price brackets?
It’s hard to find brands that meet our high standards and that innovate for the future in a sustainable way. But all the brands we worked with have spent a lot of time working with their supply chain with a real clear focus on the price they want the garment to be and the community they want to reach. All of their stories are different: some use end-of-line materials, which are cheaper to get hold of; or a great factory in India and they’re working together to make great products.
It takes time to find those good factories but it’s worth putting the time in so that you have a product with a great story that you’re proud of and that differentiate you from the bigger brands.
What are your next steps?
To continue taking it forward step by step. I want the way our products are made to become more and more important to our society. I want to be part of that through what I’m doing with the business and grow the product range and increase our impact step by step.
[Ethical] is niche at the moment, but that’s where all mainstream things start. I’d love to see sustainable production go mainstream.