In a city where fast fashion (unfortunately) reigns supreme, it’s time to acquaint with Wild Fabrik, a new online marketplace with purpose at its core. Created by a trio of passionate nature lovers who want to make sustainable style a lot more accessible, its curated selection of fashion, home, luxury, and self-care products hails from the likes of Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Poland, and Ecuador. Not only is Wild Fabrik on a mission to provide small, independent sustainable brands with a platform to sell their goods and create a living for themselves, but also ensure that they are paid fairly. A conversation with co-founder Gergana Abdulrahman brought with it plenty of takeaways about the realm of sustainable fashion. Here are our favourites.
1. Sustainable fashion is an ambiguous term.
“There are different ways that something can be sustainable, and it’s very difficult for it to be truly 100% sustainable. For example, when we select our brands and evaluate the materials being used, there’s a deeper element even then. Let’s talk about cotton: there’s a big movement around organic cotton, but that doesn’t reveal who picks it and how fairly they’re paid. That’s an element of sustainability. It doesn’t reveal that organic cotton takes more water to produce than regular cotton. Then again, there’s no chemical in the process, so in that sense, it is sustainable.
There really are so many components in sustainability, and that’s where the confusion sets in. You almost have to choose what is more important – is the fair trade element more important or the fabric that something is made of? Is it the process? Further down the line, the production process is another element – dye is one of the world’s major pollutants because leftover dye water usually ends up in landfills or even river water – so it’s very complex. What we hope to do at Wild Fabrik is educate shoppers by using little icons that describe exactly how each brand or each product is sustainable. At the end of the day, you just have to try your best to make more conscious decisions.”
2. Education is key when it comes to lasting change.
“As a region, we’re definitely behind in terms of knowledge when it comes to sustainability. We found out that people like the idea of purchasing ethically, but if you dig deeper and analyse their habits, you find that they’re just saying it because it feels good maybe? They’re not really practising it and they don’t realise it. It’s going to take time. There are some surprising things, though. For example, my husband and one of the co-founders is Emirati and his younger cousins, who are in their early 20s, are very much in tune with the sustainability side. That was a very interesting find for us. There’s a growing community of young people who are concerned and will steer the sustainability movement here.
Apart from that, we’re not at the point where everyone’s on the sustainability bandwagon, and actually that’s why we structured Wild Fabrik the way we did. We decided to find pieces that people will want to buy anyway, and then that’s giving them a step into the sustainability sphere. And once they’re in, you take the opportunity to educate them – which is usually the hardest part – through social media and other channels. And they learn. That’s how we all started – it can be a platform, a Netflix documentary, or some other trigger. Everyone will get on the right journey, it just takes time.”
3. Sustainable fashion can be affordable.
“Sustainable fashion is expensive, but I’ll tell you why I think it’s true and what we’re doing to combat it. When you look at what’s available, sustainable fashion is very expensive because we, as a society, are pushed to do a business a certain way. Everywhere you go, it’s always profit, profit, profit. Everyone wants to be a millionaire – and the idea is flawed in this sense. You have to take a lesser cut if you want sustainability to work. You have to do things for moral reasons, not just for profit. And as long as the business is seen as just for profit, then sustainability doesn’t work, so what we’re doing is taking a smaller percentage than anyone else within our business. We’re trying to do it for the right reasons and, if we make enough money to be okay in our lives, that’s enough. Whenever you have a lot of gap between the rich and the poor, someone is not getting paid fairly in the process.”
4. Not all fabrics are created equal.
“There’s this recycled fabric called Tencel that I like because it’s soft, so you’d actually want to buy it. I would gravitate away from anything polyester because there’s a lot of microplastics that come out when you’re washing it and end up in the ocean. Cotton is good, linen is the best – linen is actually the most waste-free fabric when it is produced. Something I would also say is stay away from the major brands like H&M and Zara if you can. Yes, they sell these fabrics, but they’re part of the bigger problem in terms of how much clothing they burn and how little they pay the people who make the clothes – this is the real problem. Even if they have a sustainable collection, how are their employees being treated? We need to start acknowledging that as part of the sustainability cycle.”
5. Mindset and purchasing habits go hand in hand.
“Personally, I haven’t felt the urge to shop lately – maybe because the need to buy faded after learning about everything? Not to say that I don’t want to shop anymore, but yes, there was a mindset shift. At some point, what matters in your life and how content you are with what you have is more about your state of mind, your state of being. If you’re going to change your shopping habits, you have to have the right mindset. You have to realise why you’re shopping because some people shop to fulfill themselves or fix a bad day. I was one of those people! It was a lot of mind work that led to this moment, but I’m not perfect. None of us are, and that’s why we wanted to create a place where sustainability doesn’t feel intimidating.”
6. Think quality, not quantity.
“Rewear your clothes. One of the biggest problems is that, on average, each piece is worn only seven times before getting tossed, so a lot of waste comes simply from buying new things and throwing out the old stuff. Invest in quality. There’s fast fashion and then there are expensive brands, and both contribute negatively, but if something is high in quality, you’re unlikely to throw it out – that’s not as bad! And if not, we’re partnering with Thrift for Good, which resells clothes at very reasonable rates and donates 100% of its profits to charity. My tip is that if you want to give away something that you don’t love anymore, give it to someone like them so that your clothing can find a second home.”
7. Ask why.
“Think about your purchases – why do you need another black T-shirt ? Make better choices – choices that will make you happy – and try to buy sustainably if you can. There are black T-shirts on our marketplace and there are black T-shirts in H&M. Yes, H&M might be a little less expensive, but you know that it will change shape once you’ve washed it a few times and won’t fit you anymore. You’re going to have to buy another one anyway, so buy something sustainable that will last you and try to consider who makes your product.”