Ethical Fashion As Your USP

I never knew if it was possible or not. But when customers came from all over the world, that was the validation.

Valleryana Allemand is the CEO of Saxa, an etailer that provides a shopfront more than 60 ethical designers and sells globally.

She spoke with i2i content editor Sophy Searight.

What is Saxa about?

It’s the world’s premier platform for young ethical designers. We focus on designers producing locally, so they boost the economy of their own country but are also making high quality products with amazing designs.

What does ethical production mean?

It’s about how it was made. Every piece is made locally by people who are fairly paid adults. Today there are 250m children working in the world. Eighty five per cent work in fashion and those children are only working because we make the demand.

What’s been the highlight this year?

We’ve been endorsed by many celebrities and even featured on Bar Rafaeli on the cover of GQ magazine in 40 countries. Through partnerships we’ve been able to take children out of labour and put them in school for one month.

Why set up this business in this niche?

First of all because the issue exists and has always bothered me. People don’t really seem to care about it or they just pretend to not know.

But also as a customer, I used to go to trade shows and see such nice young designers doing amazing work but they were smashed by competition between fast fashion and big labels. That was unfair. I would like as a customer to be able to track them down. So I put them together in one website so everyone like me could find them.

How did you know if it was a commercial possibility?

I never knew if it was possible or not. But when customers came from all over the world, that was the validation that the market was there, the need was there and people were really searching for it.

There is a perception that ethical fashion is expensive. How do you price?

The designers give us the retail price and we work with that. It’s a ‘between’ product between fast fashion and high end. We use with the same quality of material and design as big labels, so it’s a very affordable price.

But is there an additional margin for ethical production?

No we just want to be sure that everyone in the process are fairly paid. We have a bag for one hundred euro. It would be two or three times-as-much if it had a big label on it.

How do you ensure your ethical values are in place?

We ask the brands to send a lot of paperwork – including how the materials are sourced. If there is any doubt we don’t go ahead. Most young designers produce locally but we also have to make sure the fabric is not from any market that uses child labour or slavery.

What should responsible retailers look out for, ethically?

Price. If you see a dress for 60 euro, you can be sure it is not produced. And look at the quality – it says right away if something is not made with care.

How can a retailer control their sourcing?

You can never control it. If a big brand says it has manufacturing in India that is are certified, OK, that’s great. But they will also get third party services from other small ones – those small ones is where the problem is. That’s where children are working for six cents per hour, up to 20 hours a day.

Looking at your marketing, how do you balance ethics and aesthetics?

It’s both together. People confuse ethical with eco friendly – we try to make that clear. This is not eco friendly it’s the other side – want to show every woman they can buy ethical and be no less beautiful and luxurious.

What advice would you give to anyone starting a business?

First look at your competition and see what you can do that is different but still in the same sector. Just copying what others are doing wont get you anywhere.