Rich and Sam, founders of ethical clothing brand, Goose Studios, talk us through the trials and tribulations faced in keeping their products sustainable, fashionable, and most importantly, affordable. They also discuss the possibility of a fashion revolution and share their favourite sustainable brands, plus a few tips on being more sustainable.
Describe your clothing to us briefly.
Rich: For me, Goose Studios is all about oversized garments that last. I hate saying it because I don’t want to come across as arrogant, but Goose Studios is about super high-quality clothes that have something of a timeless quality to them.
Sam: Yeah for us it’s about making those absolute knock-out everyday styles. Organic cotton tees and sweats that you can pull on everyday safe in the knowledge they’ll take you from work or college through to drinks with friends. It’s laid back sustainable style at its best… although we are biased.
What is your vision for the future of Goose Studios?
Rich: For Goose Studios though it would be insane if it became a brand associated with delivering sustainable fashion for a price that is sustainable for a more conscious audience. To say people shouldn’t buy clothes is as preachy as it is unrealistic. Clothing manufacturers are going to always exist, but we’d love it if Goose Studios became a go to brand for people who are environmentally and socially aware. Those who don’t want that twinge of guilt that you get when shopping at Primark.
But we also don’t want sustainable fashion to be a concept limited to only those with loads of cash, that’s why we deliberately priced ourselves at a lower mark-up than industry standard by quite a chunk, because why should it break the bank to buy better?
From a selfish point of view, it would be great if Goose Studios became something that Sam and I could genuinely spend time doing as a ‘proper job’! At the minute it’s still the side-hustle that gives us occasional stress and occasional joy alongside our ‘real’ jobs that kind of ‘pay the bills’.
What inspired you to found Goose Studios?
Rich: For me, it feels like our initial motives are like some far away land as we wanted to start an organic clothing brand because it would be kind of fun… Admittedly It’s an expensive way to have a laugh with your mate but we had spoken about it on a couple of nights out and after we had finished running a couple of DJ nights together for some silly reason this seemed the next logical step!
We wanted to make clothes that people wanted to buy primarily because they thought they were cool, they looked great and they happened to be made from more sustainable organic cotton. Rather than guilt tripping people by saying “YOU’RE KILLING THE WORLD UNLESS YOU BUY ME!”.
The fact that we are super sustainable shouldn’t be the main reason for buying one of our tees and sweatshirts. You’ll want to like the fit and think it looks great and be confident it won’t fall apart in the club or whilst travelling around Asia, even after years of wear!
How do you ensure your brand is sustainable/ethical?
Sam: Sustainability for Goose Studios starts with the fibres we’re using. Organic cotton is a classic less harmful alternative to normal cotton and is the basis for all our styles. Organic cotton also does a great job of increasing demand for cotton crops grown without the use of cancerous pesticides and insecticides.
This means we’re creating more demand for a way of farming that protects farmer health, soil health and avoids water pollution that affects all biodiversity relying on fresh water sources near to cotton crops. Which is all damn great.
Organic Cotton also consumes nearly 2/3 less non-renewable energy compared to normal cotton, with a whopping 46% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions too; each tee saving the amount of emissions as travelling 13 miles in a car would create. These savings come from removing the need for inefficient fuel powered machinery used to spread toxic fertilisers.
In design, we also stopped using cotton and polyester mix garments as we discovered there’s currently no way of separating cotton and polyester fibres. By using 100% GOTS organic cotton, it can be recycled or at least biodegrade at the end of the product’s useful life!
As a small brand we’ve made sure to only work with suppliers who are audited by internationally recognised standards, such as the Fair Wear Foundation. Which act as our ‘on-the-ground eyes and ears’ for ensuring ethical fashion with the maintenance and development of worker rights.
We’re always pushing to try and create a more rounded view of not just sustainable and ethical fashion, but also what a sustainable and ethical business looks like. Be that from last year moving to plastic free packaging, or this year trying to minimise our carbon footprint in how we transport our stock; 2 out of 3 of our suppliers now deliver to us with carbon neutral delivery.
How do you consider the environmental impact of your brand/production process?
Sam: I think we’re very conscious that every time any of our styles get manufactured, used and disposed of, there is a level of harm caused to the environment. It’s about how we successfully minimise and manage that harm.
Resources are used at every stage of a products life and our customers will only be able to control a small amount of harm by how they wash/dry/dispose of our styles. Most of the harm caused is totally controlled by us as a business; how a style is designed, the materials it uses, the way its manufactured, how it can be best cleaned and disposed of.
We’ve gone through 3 years of a great deal of trial and error in order to make sure every part of our process has been consciously considered.
For example, I can think back to 2 years ago when we didn’t yet realise plastic was such an issue and we were packaging everything in about 3 layers of the stuff. As soon as we understood the issue, within the space of a couple of months our packaging was 100% plastic free.
Or the same again for when we discovered that although a polyester and organic cotton mix might make a garment 2x more durable, it meant the garment couldn’t be recycled at the end of its life. The decision was simple: to go to 100% organic cotton.
What has been the biggest challenge of running your business?
Rich: Time. We’ve been going since August 2016 and in that time, I’ve worked a part-time job, completed a part-time MA in Contemporary History as well as everything with Goose Studios. It’s been a big ask and one where in particular period one of us has had to pick up slack from the other (Sam has been undoubtedly doing that for the last 6 months whilst I wrote my final thesis!).
Other than your own, which sustainable brands do you love right now?
Sam: Oh wow, for sustainable fashion the list is huge…
For skincare we love PoaPoa too! Their plastic free charcoal and shea butter soaps are damn good.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Rich: Sustainability I guess simply means something that can sustain itself. If you are in fashion, you should use fibres that can be broken down and re-purposed into something different. The technology also needs to be there and the want of individuals and companies alike to want to make that happen. However, to be a 100% sustainable on a budget is difficult. I for one want to be sustainable, but I am not in the position to grow all my own fruit and veg or to stop using my car. I don’t have enough money to purchase the latest hybrid or earn enough money to live in a flat that has an A++++ energy rating with triple glazing and solar panels (I live in basement flat basically underground, so far from this idyllic!).
However, for people or corporations with money and large financial backing, maybe sustainability should go beyond ideas of sustaining oneself to actively giving back more than you take. I guess it takes the idea of carbon offsetting but implements alongside commercially responsible business practices and ideas of social justice.
Why is sustainability important to you?
Rich: On a super simple level; it is an unavoidable fact that the current pattern of consumption by the world is crazy.
If a truly sustainable brand can make an individual question a purchase, whether that thing is necessary to them on any given day, then that is quite powerful. The emphasis on trulythough is important. Some brands pedal a disingenuous notion of sustainability and that is equally problematic because that isn’t change, that’s the continuation of the profiteering that has got us into situation.
Do you have tips for people trying to live a more environmentally or ethically conscious life?
Rich: Do the best you can. There is no point in being sanctimonious or for me to stand on a soapbox and preach the virtues of an ethically conscious way of life. If you are even asking yourself questions such as ‘Do I need this?’ or ‘How can I be more sustainable?’, you are already questioning the spending habits and patterns that has been instilled into our generation and the conclusions you come to when asking these questions should inevitably lead you to a life where you are more environmentally aware.
Sam: I’ve tried to make some easy and cheap sustainable switches over the past 12 months – including going plastic free for a month… which was neither cheap nor easy! So, don’t be too hard on yourself and slowly make switches to how you live, eat and use energy.
My top tips are:
- Switch to plant-based foods instead of meat for a couple of meals a week to reduce demand; for intensive livestock farming is one of the biggest impacts you can have. I’ve been going through loads of Mob Kitchen’s Veggie and Vegan recipes as they’re tasty & affordable!
- Walk! Walking might take an extra 15/30 mins to get most places in the town or city you live in, but it saves you money (sorry uber), keeps you fit, reduces demand for fossil fuel emissions and unlike cycling doesn’t turn you into a sweaty mess at the end of it!
- Switch to recyclable plastic only. If you try going zero-plastic, you will literally be able to only buy tins of soup in the supermarket (or at least in your local Morrisons). But I found trying to only buy products that are labelled as being recyclable, including some plastics – is a great way to stop most of your dependency on single use!
- If you are in-control of your bills, then switch to a renewable energy supplier! We both use BULB and it’s saved us money and tonnes of CO2 going into the air. It takes literally 15 mins to switch and you’ll feel super smug.
Have you felt more interest in your brand/products as the sustainability movement has grown?
Rich: I think the visible increase in Sustainability, is interesting. It seems that we are approaching cultural moment where sustainability will almost break through and out of its glass box as something a little quirky or niche.
Does this mean that we are receiving more interest? Potentially so! People seems engaged and receptive through our Social Media channels. We’ve recently been featured in Stylist as one of the better sustainable brands and ASOS Marketplace has just finished doing their second feature on us as a brand because of our sustainable credentials, so it certainly feels like momentum is building.
Do you think there will be an environmental revolution within the fashion industry?
Rich: I think they ought to be but that is very different to one happening! Sam and I were recently invited to a series of panel discussions in London and if I am honest we walked out half way through because there was such a disconnect in what the speakers was saying, and in how they were articulating these perceived highbrow ideas of sustainability and the wider issues at hand.
Whether it be fashion, energy production, the food industry or other polluting commercial sectors, all are as guilty as the other in creating waste and none answer to a higher power – which means they are exempt from critically examining their own environmental practises.
Just because fashion can be considered as high culture, as an expression of identity or a vehicle for empowerment shouldn’t mean that it can absolve itself from bearing a shared responsibility for screwing up the planet. Big brands such as H&M or Topshop/Topman (to name just two), generate an inconceivable amount of waste (clothing, burnt energy, wasted water, plastic) and as such token collections like a ‘conscious range’ or a ‘organic range’ are nothing more than PR exercises to either reiterate some form of commercial social responsibility or to capture a perceived zeitgeist of eco-sensibility.
Revolution will only come when these huge multinationals are financially hurt due to a change in consumer patterns. Whether that be the systematic rejection of consumption or at the very least a conscious shift towards buying organic lines will indicate that there is an appetite in their core customer base for that change and they will adapt because organic/sustainable fashion now presents itself as an opportunity to make money.
Sam: I think there will in time be an environmental revolution in fashion, but whether that will happen soon enough in time to save us from our impending environmental disaster is a very different question.
Realistically there needs to be a global shift towards reduced consumption of fashion – whilst in the face of an ever-increasing global population and emerging economies discovering the lure of mass consumption that large multinational fashion groups are more than happy to cater for.
As it currently stands I’m not convinced that these fashion groups are willing to sacrifice short-term shareholder wealth and move to a new model of creating affordable products that subscribe to ‘buying less and buying better’.
Any revolution will quickly require smaller companies with authentic sustainable values to scale to a point where they commercially out-compete and win over consumer trust from large fashion groups – and build a new fashion industry where sustainability is not a buzzword, but a business imperative.
For all of us, especially in the developed world – we need to be making sure where we spend our money is being used as a very real vote for that sustainable future! As then there is hope that the rest of the world will quickly follow.
What has the response been to Goose Studios so far?
Rich: I think it has been good. Since we started we have had moments where we’ve questioned what we are doing, whether we have the time/money/energy/enthusiasm to continue but on the whole people seem engaged, which is ace really and in the last 6-8 months it really feels like there is a momentum behind not only us as a brand but sustainability as a movement within fashion.
Check out Goose Studios website.