Founded by footballers, Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Özil, UNITY, is a new men’s grooming brand that has been “designed to put people’s health and our planet on the right path to a sustainable future".
The range is comprised of 11 vegan friendly products that feature the highest grade of up to 100% natural origin formulations free from SLS & SLES, parabens, PEGS, mineral oil, silicones, synthetic colours and artificial fragrance for maximum results and performance.
In a bid to reduce the use of virgin plastic, the brand sought out a bio-plastic alternative made from sugar cane that is 100% recyclable, thus minimising the carbon footprint of the brand. Alongside the product, UNITY strives to keep sustainability at its core throughout the business, with customer deliveries arriving in fully recycled craft boxes with bio-degradable and non-toxic starch chips as packing fill.
The brand also believes in the importance of giving back, with 1% of all company revenues going towards causes that seek to make a true difference to people and planet
Left - UNITY - Hair Boost – Shampoo, £10.95, Body Boost – Shower Wash, £8.95, Skin Defence – Face Moisturiser, £11.90, Skin Detox – Face Wash, £10.95
TheChicGeek says, “In our post Blue Planet world, plastic is vilified as the devil of all packaging. If only solving our plastics problem resolved the whole of our environmental issues… But, we have to start somewhere and these guys seem passionate about this subject.
Surely the most environmentally packaged grooming product ever is the humble bar of soap? Used for millennia, is it not the reason Lush made all their products solid? The problem with trying to care for the environment is - and, let’s be honest, anything in the right direction is a good thing - you put yourself out there to be ripped apart. Anything packaged and part of consumerism can be lambasted for simply existing. I think it’s important to say you care, but you also have to acknowledge you’re part of the problem. People will still need to wash and clean themselves and how a brand facilitates this can be minimised. Ernest Supplies’ pouches spring to mind.
Launching with 11 products isn’t really saying "minimal" to me, especially when there’s a shower wash for the morning and and separate one for the evening. (British people only shower twice a day on holiday, FYI).
The main parts of the tubes are made from sugar cane, - Bulldog is another brand I know who is using this too - but the tops are a 25% mix and there’s a beard oil in a glass jar. This goes back to the main problem we have of mixed recycling issues.
The branding is pretty nondescript - it feels a bit 10 years ago - and the packaging is a bit anonymous and generic. There’s no indication of the main ingredients on each product, leaving you to guess the main scent, and saying ’99% Natural Origin’ just makes you think what’s in the other 1% then?
As for the products, they’re not bad and I think they offer value. I tried 4 out of the 11. I sampled the face wash, shampoo, body wash and moisturiser. It feels natural, hence the looseness of some of the consistencies, and the smells are light and not overpowering.
I like the smell of the face wash and moisturiser. The former is a mineral clay in a light toffee colour and the latter is coconut. There’s no lingering smell from the body wash.
This feels like a reliable range, I just wished they’d tried to be more dynamic with the branding and packaging to reflect the passion they have and also to standout in a crowded market. Whispering your green credentials won't change anything”.
Below - UNITY Founders Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Özil
It was while at the Copenhagen fashion trade show, CIFF, previewing the forthcoming SS19 collections, when I noticed Phipps International. It was a print featuring extinct animals and the quirky and current twist on Americana and the great outdoors that made me stop and take note.
Left - Phipps International - Cotton-terry track top- £620 from Matchesfashion.com
I soon discovered that the previous collection, AW18, had been bought by matchesfashion.com and is available now.
Phipps International was established in 2017 by Spencer Phipps. Born and raised in San Francisco, he studied at Parsons School of Design in New York City graduating in 2008 with a nomination as “designer of the year” for his final year collection - an initial exploration of sustainable fashion.
He started his career at Marc Jacobs as part of the menswear design team and after, relocated to Antwerp to work with Dries Van Noten.
Currently based in Paris, Phipps, was founded on the principles of respect and curiosity for the natural world.
“We are exploring the concept of sustainability and environmental responsibility in the realm of style. Our goal is to change the way we as a culture consume by creating products that are made with respect for the environment, that can educate and enhance lives. We are always striving to improve our practice as we move forward and, as a modern fashion company, we are simply trying to do the right thing,” says Phipps.
Right - Phipps International SS19 - The extinct species print shirt that caught me eye at CIFF
What started as a small T-shirt project between friends has rapidly grown to become a modern, globally conscious fashion brand focused on building a like-minded community with the goal of re-connecting consumers to nature and the world around them.
The products are said to be made with integrity and are created with consideration for the environment using sustainable manufacturing practices and eco-friendly materials. Many of its producers are certified by GOTS or other environmental certification organisations which help to ensure that our products are made ethically.
In addition, most of their garments are made in Portugal which, as a country, is a global leader in the development of sustainable practices. All of their manufacturers there are required by law to recycle their waste appropriately, re-use treatable water, use alternative energy as much as possible, and follow fair trade labour practices.
Left - One of the jackets of the season SS19
While the dust continues to settle on the hoo-ha regarding Burberry burning product - who have, miraculously, stopped burning product, BTW - the whole thing is a reminder of how brands deal with waste and what they should do with it.
Brands don’t want waste. Waste costs money. It also takes time and energy to get rid of it. Waste is a sign of over ordering, and being left with a mountain of stock to dispose of. This is basically what sales are: the motivation to shift unsold stock, shoving it all out the door hoping to make some form of profit, or, at worst, cover its costs.
In an ideal world, they’d be zero waste. What if brands only made exactly what they needed? No more sales, no more outlets, no more burning. Welcome to the future.
Janice Wang, Founder & CEO of Alvanon, a fashion tech business specialising in helping brands with fit and reducing returns, says, “Our industry is blighted by oversupply. Some 60 percent of the garments we supply are sold at discount, which means we are making too much of the wrong thing.”
Left - The Sewbots are coming
Sales and discounts are hurting retailers. Not only does it negatively affect profits and margins, it also has created an environment where consumers are hooked on discounts and never want to pay full price. It’s a race to the bottom for many retailers and this is putting many out of business. At the beginning of this year, H&M announced it had a $4.3 billion pile of unsold stock. What do you do with it?
“Sales are bad for brands and retailers because they reduce margin and damage a brand's credibility. It makes people question whether products are worth the price they have paid for them.” says Petah Marian, Senior Editor, WGSN INSIGHT.
Fashion retailers are always pushing for efficiencies, but there’s a disconnect, currently, between the speed of ordering and the making to order window which many consumers will not tolerate.
“To become competitive, fashion retailers and brands need to embrace new production strategies and technologies, such as data and intelligence, robotics and digitalisation, to use customer data to provide tailored, on-demand items.” says Wang.
“A responsive supply chain enables brands to react quickly to consumer demands and changing trends. The vision is to reduce lead times from months to weeks to days or hours.” says Wang. “Consumers today live in a constantly changing world. This shapes their behaviour and expectations. They demand newness and immediacy without compromise.” she says.
Marian says, “It means less wastage of resources and also the possibility of personalising items for an individual consumer. Less wastage means a more sustainable supply chain, and people value things more when they have participated in their creation.”
Fashion is currently stuck in the past. Buyers have to guess what people will buy and in which sizes, many months in advance. It’s guesswork, and, while they have got faster and more efficient, there is huge margins for error and then you’re left dealing with your mistakes. On the other hand, you could also not make enough of something popular: missing out on full-price sales and leaving disappointed customers.
Right - The type of robots soon to be making your clothes
“Regional and localised sourcing allows retailers to be more responsive to actual customer buying behaviour.” says Wang. “Styles can even be adapted in-season and delivered to stores while consumers still want to buy them. And, at the end of the day, smaller runs of garments that sell at full-price are better than cheaper cost volume runs of garments that have to be sold at discount.” she says.
How many retailers blame the weather for having the wrong product at the wrong time when publishing their financial results? It’s also really bad for the environment.
“Eventually technology will allow us to go from producing things by the millions to producing them by the ones. Everyone is talking about customisation and there’s no doubt that will eventually happen.” says Wang. “It’s the most efficient and sustainable way of manufacturing.” she says.
“You used to go to the tailor and they would make one item for you.” says Wang. “I can visualise that you will customise one unit to order. Bespoke, customised, perfectly fitting items made just for you and only when you order them – it sounds just like a Savile Row offering, only this time it will be purchased from your smartphone.”
Fashion businesses are looking at making items ‘on-demand’, but to make these cost effective and fast we’re going to need automation. Amazon has just patented an ‘on demand’ system: making the clothes once an order has been placed, not before.
It will be robots or ‘Sewbots’, situated closer to home, which will, eventually, be making our clothes. SoftWear Automation, based in Atlanta, introduced ‘Lowry’ in 2015, a sewing robot that uses machine vision to spot and adjust to distortions in the fabric. Though initially only able to make simple products, such as bath mats, the technology is now advanced enough to make whole T-shirts and much of a pair of jeans. According to the company, it also does it far faster than a human sewing line.
SoftWear Automation’s big selling point is that one of its robotic sewing lines can replace a conventional line of 10 workers and produce about 1,142 T-shirts in an eight-hour period, compared to just 669 for the human sewing line. The robot, working under the guidance of a single human handler, can make as many shirts per hour as about 17 humans.
“Retailers will push for this when it becomes cheaper to manufacture products using robots than using offshore labour.” says Marian.
Retailers, factory owners and brands will make huge savings. It will also mean things can be made closer to home so left time and expense in travel. They’ll be no more sweatshops and the robots can run 24/7.
Currently, brands are starting to explore this new idea, but it’s still quite niche and can be more expensive. Under Armour has its new Lighthouse Project, Nike has a new partnership with Apollo Global Management and Adidas' Speed factory.
Adidas currently has a ‘Speedfactory’ in both Germany and Atlanta. The factory is completely automated, and designed to be able to speedily produce limited runs of customisable product or replenish the hottest product selling quickly during the same season. Adidas said it can get shoes to market three times faster in a Speedfactory than with traditional means and hopes the two factories can produce one million pairs of shoes a year by 2020. Adidas will continue to experiment with the Speedfactories, adding new technology and more automated processes to get to a goal of 50% of shoes made by with 'speedier' methods.
This is the future. The future will be shops as showrooms, where you order the item in your specific size and then an automated robot, closer to home, will be able to manufacturer it within an acceptable window of time. Just imagine, something will never sell out. They’ll always have your size. Your better size even. You’ll be able to order something to fit perfectly.
The brands or shops that will thrive will be those with the best ideas or styles. Consumers will be able to customise, within reason, and brands will no longer have to hold vast inventory which ties up capital and kills cashflow. Sales will be a thing of the past and the waste and environmental pollution will be reduced hugely. Clothes could also become cheaper as the labour costs are reduced.
This fashion automation is part of the forthcoming ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. It will revolutionise what we buy and how we look. The machines are definitely coming because the industry wants it.
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We know what our clothes are made from, you only have to look at the label, but do we know which materials are the least and most damaging to the environment? Probably not.
The new fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Fashioned From Nature, gets serious about the impact fashion is having on the world. It starts off fairly simply, looking at the raw and natural materials used in clothing and decoration from the 17th century onwards, and quickly charts the growing appetite for the rare and exotic to decorate the wealthy’s clothes.
Left - Historical dress inspired by nature and new discoveries
Right - Fashion protesting against itself
It’s interesting how our love of nature and the beauty we see in it has made people want to wear it and at the same time destroy it. It's very difficult to strike a balance.
This isn’t your standard fluffy fashion exhibition or one dominated by big names, it’s a thought provoking look about what things are, where they come from and their impact on the environment. But, it’s done in a way that isn’t preaching or has a strong agenda.
It’s sponsored by the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp, but I feel they could have done more to highlight the benefits of wearing flax. (I didn't see hemp mentioned at all). Most commonly made into linen, flax is one of the easiest and least damaging forms of materials to grow and is definitely something we should be wearing more of. It would have been nice to see more with regards to how you can use it, different finishes and something more than being the material of a few seasonal summer shirts and suits. There’s a wall you can touch at the very beginning made of flax. It feels like really dry horse hair.
Left - Lace Bark grown from a tree
Right - Toxic Evening Coat, Madame Grès, 1936
Things I learnt from this exhibition: I’d never heard of ‘Vegetable Ivory’ or ‘Lace-Bark’ before. I didn’t know the bones used in corsetry are called ‘Baleen’, after the type of whale.
Upstairs there is a lot going on. Some pieces are simply inspired by nature while others show new materials made from by-products or waste. ‘Vegea’ uses grape waste from the wine industry to form a leather-substitute and their ‘Grape’ gown is on show, as well as a Ferragamo piece made from ‘Orange Fiber’ derived from waste from the Italian citrus industry and an H&M Conscious dress made from recycled shoreline plastic.
I think educating people - cotton uses ridiculous amounts of pesticides and water - about what they are wearing is important and it would have been good to have seen different materials: wool, flax, cotton compared with one another. These are the main choices people have when shopping.
Fashion in its nature is wasteful and destructive. There’s no logic to moving on from perfectly wearable clothes and buying new ones other than to stay ‘fashionable’. But, that’s how it works and it’s also a huge business employing many people.
We need to be realistic, the odd dress made from recycled plastic bottles isn’t even scratching the surface. We need to look at clothing like other recyclables. Take the components and raw materials apart and reuse into new garments. This would require less fresh materials and would also close the loop on the fashion industry.
Left - Vegetable Ivory
Right - The flax wall
I think it’s naive to ask people to buy less. We need to improve environmental practises, push less destructive options and reuse and recycle more.
Fashion is dictated to by money. The minute it becomes more cost effective to do something, then it will happen. Let’s just hope that's sooner rather than later.
Fashioned from Nature - Victoria & Albert Museum - Fashion, Gallery - 21 April 2018 – 27 Jan 2019 #FashionedFromNature - £12
Below - The 'GuppyFriend' which stops micro particles being released from your washing machine into the environment
Bulldog Skincare For Men has added a fragrance-free and gentle face scrub to their ‘Sensitive’ range. The new, skin-smoothing scrub contains sustainably sourced quinoa husk - a by-product of the food industry - sweet almond, baobab and oat oil, and willow herb. It helps to improve skin texture by removing dead skin and leaving a fresh complexion.
Left - Bulldog Skincare For Men - Sensitive Face Scrub - £5
Baobab oil has a high emollient power and is known for its skin smoothing and moisturising properties. Oat oil, grown and harvested in the UK, is known for its effective skin emollience and natural skin softening properties. Canadian willow herb, a unique plant from the Northern Canadian prairies, has developed strong multi-functional phytochemical properties to survive the harsh climate.
TheChicGeek says, “This looks and smells good enough to squirt on your breakfast cereal. The recommended usage is once to twice a week or pre-shave, but I’d say you can use as often as you like.
It’s soft and gentle and being ‘sensitive’, it’s less likely to irritate even the most sensitive of skin. You can feel the ‘beads’, but it’s not coarse at all. If you like your face scrubs like sandpaper then this probably isn't for you.
I also like the fact Bulldog’s new packaging is now made from sugarcane."
News in that Gucci is going “Fur Free” starting from SS18. President and chief executive, Marco Bizzarri, announced the move at a talk at the London College of Fashion, yesterday.
Mr Bizzarri said: “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals.” The brand will no longer use any type of animal fur including, coyote, mink, fox, rabbit or karakul - aborted lamb foetuses.
The fashion house’s remaining fur clothing will be sold in an auction with the money donated to the animal rights organisation "Humane Society International” and “LAV”, an organisation that initiates legal actions to assert animal rights.
Left - Gucci Intarsia Mink - £28,340 from Mytheresa
Gucci will also join the Fur-Free alliance. This is a group of international organisations that campaigns for animal welfare and encourages that alternatives to fur are used by the fashion industry.
I respect Gucci’s decision and being the world’s second largest luxury goods company this will make an impact. It will also influence people and other brands. Any company wishing to be more “sustainable” should be encouraged. (Just how sustainable a business selling US$ 4.3 billion (2016) worth of product is debatable BTW).
But, what I never understand is the double standards on animals. You either use animals or you don’t. Gucci will no doubt still be using snakes, alligators, crocodiles, goats, lizards, ostriches, the list goes on, to make accessorises and clothes.
I’ve seen this many times before. I’ve been at Ralph Lauren where they proclaim to be “fur free” yet I’m standing next to a large crocodile “Ricky” bag. If brands really want to minimise their footprint then they should go completely vegan. Department stores stating they don’t sell fur, yet you look into a felt hat and it’s made from rabbit.
The fur industry doesn’t have to be “cruel” in the same way the meat industry doesn’t. Skins such as sable are shot in the wild and don’t live in cruel conditions. Coyotes are shot as pests in North America. You regulate for welfare standards and promote compassion in farming and every animal regardless of the product should be respected and cared for.
The fur industry can be sustainable and faux-fur, usually made from synthetics, is also detrimental to the environment and doesn't negate the desire.
Net-a-Porter group recently announced it was going fur free too. Admittedly, due to the prices, fur is only bought in small quantities and by very wealthy people. It’s interesting that Italian companies - Yoox/Net-a-Porter and Gucci are going “Fur Free” as we know those Italians like their furs, so this is definitely a shift in attitudes.
These things usually go in two ways - fur trims start to sneak in and the thing gets quietly shelved or companies continue to be "environmentally friendly" and really try and do something about the wasteful fashion cycle that currently exists. Banning "fur" isn't really touching on the real environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Read ChicGeek Comment - The Real Reason Brands Are Dropping 'Fur'