Nicky Chambers finds the connection between sustainable business and fashion through clothing company, Rapanui.
I had such an inspiring week last week and from a slightly surprising angle. I was on the Isle of Wight and for perhaps the first time ever, I could see how my dreams might come true – thanks to one visionary clothing company.
It’s been nearly 15 years since I first set foot on the Isle of Wight with the intention of measuring the environmental sustainability of the Islanders and with a whole raft of questions in my head. Were their lifestyles sustainable? If they weren’t, what would have to happen to make them sustainable? If they became environmentally sustainable would they still be able to have a decent quality of life? Could they have great lives within the means of nature?
Finding a sustainable community
Well after much counting of stuff and technical calculations we worked out that, in keeping with the rest of Europe, the Islanders weren’t strictly sustainable, as defined by the ‘ecological footprint’. If everyone in the world lived like the Islanders, we would need a couple of extra planets. We’ve rerun the calculations a few more times since then and not much has changed….until now. The EcoIslands project, which seeks to make the Island a renewable energy exporter and to enable the population to live great lives within the means of nature, has made great progress. Since I was there in October 2012 most of the roofs in the business park have become solar generators and the sense of possibility is palpable. Watch this space for progress reports.
In the same way that I have dreamed of a truly sustainable community, I’ve spent years looking for a truly sustainable business or at least one which might understand where the destination is. I haven’t found any, until now….
Finding sustainble business...through Rapanui
Founded by the surprisingly youthful Drake-Knight brothers, award-winning Rapanui is a fabulous example of where super cool fashion achieves environmental sustainability, but without making any concessions or losing any style. Sustainably harvested renewable raw materials combined with rigorous supply chain transparency, and manufacturing in a wind-powered factory means the company has all the building blocks in place for a truly sustainable business. Throw into the mix closed loop, renewably powered synthetic materials and you can really start to see how their great designs could progress.
But perhaps the thing that is more exciting than the clever technologies and smart management is that of all the industries there are, fashion has the greatest scope to change perceptions of sustainability and to engage the broadest possible audience. Rapanui has not a single whiff of ‘hair shirt’ or austerity. The cool clothes they make and the ways they make them just happen to also be kind to the environment.
“We believe the real change must come from changing the ‘perception’ of sustainability among people, from a negative ‘do-less’ culture to the reality - sustainability is a wide-ranging issue with practical solutions - the outcome is something that everybody needs and wants.” Mart Drake-Knight, founder of Rapanui.
So, I think I’ve found the fashion company to make all my dreams come true. It almost made me feel young again!
Nicky Chambers is Co-Founder and Director of Best Foot Forward.