How to Benefit from An Ethical Angle

How to Benefit from An Ethical Angle
You win by getting bodies in – and by demonstrating to community you are a part of it – and even better helping a charity. Stephen Bethell

Stephen Bethell is the creative director of Beyond Retro, a fashion retailer known for sourcing and selling on-trend vintage clothes through it London, Brighton and Sweden based stores. Since 2011, it has also re-manufactured out of date clothes for its own label.

###What is the Circular Economy?

The garment business represents seven percent of the waste stream. The circular economy is about figuring out how we can take things out and put them back in. That’s what we’re talking about – getting things from cradle to cradle, not cradle to grave,

###Should more retailers get involved?

It’s important that we all participate in a new way of looking at clothing and take responsibility. Somehow it’s got to be rotated back.

###But how can retailers benefit from the circular economy?

A retailer can go to local charity shop and say ‘can I collect clothes for you?’ Then you get your customers to bring in old clothes for a discount on new ones. You win by getting bodies in to your shop and by demonstrating to community you are a part of it. And even better helping a charity.

It’s a simple thing to do and it’s exciting. Just 25 years ago that wouldn’t have been an option. It is now.

###And you are manufacturing now?

We’re making a very relevant thing out of an old thing. Three years ago we were making 500 to 600 garments a month. Now we’re making 10,000 garments a month across 50 different SKUs and not only that, our customers love it. 
 ###You’re demonstrating the circular economy has real value.

We’re showing we can deal with that seven percent of the waste stream. It’s not only what you do with that seven per cent – do you know that every time you make a pair of jeans, to grow the cotton needed takes 1600 litres of water.

If you can re-use an old pair – you can save that water and save the pesticides you put on a field to grow the cotton. It has real value.

###All while staying on trend?

We’re really lucky that we have a trends department that is ferocious about finding the next trend. We are lucky enough to be a fashion brand that is lucky enough to participate in a circular economy. It’s about pretty clothes that allow us to have a inner smile.

###But what about cost?

Is it cheaper than making new clothes? Absolutely not. Is it comparable? Absolutely. I believe you can’t start a revolution on a dress that is £150. A kimono that we have re-manufactured from an Indian skirt, for example, is £35 – If we can make the revolution accessible to the £35 category – that’s when it can happen.

###Who is the audience for you?

It is critical we make a product that is accessible to a young audience. The 18-30 year olds and we want t make a product that is not only relevant and well made but accessible.

###And it’s working?

We’ve just sold our 1000,000th garment that we saved from landfill. As a global team, based in Sweden, London, Canada and India, we’ve come together to try to solve this riddle of what do we do with this stuff and make it relevant?

It can’t just go to landfill.

Stephen Bethel was talking to Sophy Searight at Pure London in August 2015