LONDON RUNWAY SUSTAINABILITY AWARDS – WINNER’S INTERVIEW

Hear from some of your 2021 LRSA winners on their sustainability and brand ethos with the exclusive interviews below!

Their store sites or social media are listed above or in image credits.

Best Sustainable Fashion Designer: ELB Handmade

What’s the story behind your brand?

The story behind ELB is a pretty simple one really— I wanted delicate, lacey, and comfortable underwear and couldn’t find it in the shops so set to work making my own. Once I’d made a few sets for myself and perfected my pattern, I really thought I might be onto something special. 8 years later and here we are. Although it may have started out as a way of filling a gap in my own wardrobe, these days I’m all about getting everyone into a pair of undies that make them feel unstoppable.

Why is sustainability important to you?

What could be more important than looking after the planet? Our clothes, in particular our underwear, certainly don’t need to be causing excess waste or damage, so I’m always looking for ways to include even more sustainable materials across all aspects of my business— from packaging to fabric choices, even recycling scraps!

Not only is it important to me to use sustainable materials in my production and packaging but to also make a product that will last. I still wear the very first set I made 8 years ago today.

What can your customers expect from you?

Our lovely customers can expect well made, comfortable underwear not only made to last but made to make you feel amazing. Going forward they can expect to see more deadstock and recycled fabrics and some exciting new launches through the year.

Finally, any words for your voters?

A huge thank you! Like many small businesses I wouldn’t be able to do this incredible job without the support of my little community which I am very grateful for.

Best Sustainable Accessories Brand: Beadsontoastt

What’s the story behind your brand?

I started beadsontoastt in my final month of studying psychology at University, which was great as I had something to focus on other than revision! I have wanted to start a jewellery business since I was a child, and when I look back at old notebooks, I find it funny that my “in 10 years time I want to…” is now my reality.

I wanted to build a brand that was affordable and sustainable, giving people the option of buying guilt-free products at a good price. I, therefore, started going on charity shop runs to buy old pieces of jewellery and taking them apart to upcycle, mixing them with new beads I had bought from small businesses to create my own designs.My main focus of this whole venture was to support other small businesses whilst creating my own brand, and I, therefore, have done this wherever possible. Even my logo is done by my lovely artist friend (@leahclementsart on Instagram).

Why is sustainability important to you?

I think sustainability is more important now than it has ever been. So many big brands make products only intended to last a few wears before being binned in favour of a new micro-trend. When combining this with poor working conditions, underpaid workers, excessive plastic packaging, and waste, the whole industry is becoming completely unsustainable and very damaging to everyone involved.

I aim to pursue my business in a much more ethical manner, upcycling beads, using recyclable packaging, and making products as long-lasting as possible in an attempt to combat the idea that accessories are a wear-once and then discarded item. If a product ever does need repairing, I always do this free of charge, demonstrating the idea that accessories are not one-off wears and can be repaired instead of replaced with new items, when needed.

What can your customers expect from you?

My customers can expect to receive ethical, high-quality products which have all been designed, made and posted out by me! I always aim to give the best quality service possible and absolutely love working with customers to make their visions into custom items.

I hope to encourage people to shop small and to realise how each order makes a small business owner’s day!

BEST SUSTAINABLE INFLUENCER OF THE YEAR: EASYPEASY-SUSTAINABILITY (FARIHAH CHOUDHURY)

What’s the story behind your switch to sustainability and building your social media presence?

This was never intentional! When I was an undergraduate student, I did a module on global change and thought to myself that I really needed to start living more sustainably. I wanted to share my journey of making sustainable swaps—  hence the birth of @easypeasysustainability on Instagram. I soon realised sustainability was more than just zero plastic and zero waste and more about system change and holding corporations and governments to account.

I started learning about lots of different aspects of sustainability, including the impact of the food and fashion industries. I’ve always tried to create helpful, solutions-based content that centres on issues rather than myself.

I’ve never had the ambition to grow or become an influencer, so all of the growth has been organic. I’ve really valued the learning I’ve got from the community as a whole.

A couple of years ago, I started focusing quite strongly on fashion as it’s a really interesting and fun space in which to promote and visualise better, fairer systems that are kinder to people and the planet.

Why is sustainability important to you?

Climate Change is the biggest threat to us as global citizens. It was an urgent issue 50 years ago. I want to do everything in my power to make this a fairer, greener world and help people to do the same.

Climate change is linked to unfettered capitalism and colonialism, increasing poverty and inequalities, and all the other issues we have in the world – we must rebuild a better world where every living thing can thrive and is for everyone.

What can your followers expect from you?

Helpful tips on both individual and system-targeted sustainable change. Climate optimism but also realism and honesty. Unfiltered and organic content that centres on issues and solutions rather than my face.

Finally, is there anything you would like to say to all those who voted for you?

Thank you so much for helping me spread the word about @easypeasysustainability. You can continue to find free tips and information on my Instagram page as well as my website, farihahchoudhury.com!

BEST CRUELTY-FREE AND SUSTAINABLE MAKEUP BRAND: UPCIRCLE BEAUTY

What’s the story behind your brand?

Every UpCircle product is made from a core ingredient that would otherwise have been discarded. It all started just over 6 years ago. My brother William (co-founder) asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of in landfill sites. He decided it was a great starting point for a business idea but wasn’t sure what that idea was – that’s where I came in.

Throughout my teenage years, I wanted to be a makeup artist and always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so… lightbulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products?

UpCircle first launched back in 2016 (as Optiat) with the Coffee Body Scrubs, which is still available today. We began our journey collecting coffee grounds from one coffee shop, and we now collect from 100 coffee houses across London.

Our list is always growing! Fast forward six years and we have an extensive range of skincare products, from our multi-award-winning Face Serum to our newly launched Night Cream. Check out some of our latest repurposing stats:

1. Over 400 tonnes of used Arabica coffee grounds diverted from landfill and transformed into our body and face scrubs

2. Coffee Oil equivalent to 125 tonnes of used coffee grounds extracted and used in our face serum

3. 375kg of brewed chai spices infused into our natural & organic soap bars

4. The residual water of 20,000 mandarin oranges upcycled into our Toner in the first three months of sale

5. Each batch of eye cream uses the extract of the leftover bark from approximately 1 red maple tree

6. Our body cream rescued approximately 900,000 date seeds from being discarded in the first three months of sale

Why is sustainability important to you?

The beauty industry is still a major contributor to the serious issue that we have created on our planet with regard to plastic. Billions of units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, bulked out by the use of complex lids, multi-layered boxes, and cellophane, much of which is superfluous, non-recyclable, and ends up in our landfills and oceans. We need to make big changes in this industry to combat this, and there is a lot of work to be done. It is possible though. The packaging across our range is 99% plastic-free, and we offer plastic-free refill options for the 1%. Aside from our actual products, our marketing materials are made from paper that’s made from recycled coffee cups and we only use paper tape which has been made from recycled fibres.

Last year, we even launched our very own ‘Return, Refill, Reuse’ scheme where customers can send back their packaging for 20% off and we refill and send the product back to them. As a brand designed entirely around circular economy principles and extending the life of by-product ingredients, it was a no-brainer for us to take the same approach with our packaging.

When it comes to the sustainability of our products there is no shortage of ingredients that need to be rescued. For example, in the UK we send 500,000 tonnes of coffee waste to landfills per year, where it rots to produce methane. Every day, we’re contacted by coffee shops all over the country asking if we can collect their grounds.

The recent expansion of our repurposed ingredients portfolio has allowed us to upcycle ingredients from different industries. It all started with London cafes (coffee), but now, we’re working with the wood industry (maple bark), olive oil industry (olive stones), flower industry (chamomile stems), and more! We’re minimising waste across all industries and transforming people’s perception of “leftovers” by seeing the value in things that already exist. The proof is that we now have people coming to us asking “what can you do with this?”

We are the only brand to scale up repurposing ingredients into skincare formulations. There was opposition to our idea at the start, but we’ve proven it works! We hope our success will inspire the industry to see that being less wasteful is possible – without compromising on quality. The circular element to UpCircle is what makes journalists write about us, retailers stock us, and customers try us. In the past year, we have expanded our repurposed ingredients portfolio, to twelve by-products – from all different industries!

What can your customers expect from you?

We think the way forward for skincare is by-product beauty— in other words, embracing the circular economy. The world has finite resources, and at the minute, we are depleting them at a scary rate. So, if you ask me, businesses that extend the lifecycle of things that are already in circulation or find ways to reimagine something that was previously seen as being at the end of its service life are the future!

The circular movement is still in its infancy but growing fast. It is such an exciting space to be operating in. We feel so lucky to be working with and partnering with such inspiring and forward-thinking people. Think: ‘it is only waste, once it is wasted’. Once we stop seeing things as waste but rather as resources, the status quo will change quickly.

We want sustainable products to be available to all, and this was always the goal of Will and me when we launched the brand aged 25 and 22 making products we would buy ourselves. Price point shouldn’t be a barrier to planet-friendly purchasing. Ethical, sustainable, and fairtrade ingredients cost more, but we’re committed to remaining a brand accessible for all. That’s why we’ve secured listings with the likes of Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barrett, in addition to US retail giants like Wholefoods and Credo.

As a female-led business with a predominantly female team, we understand what “skincare for everyone” means. We’re body positive, gender-neutral, represent all ages, and encourage diversity in all forms. We use real customers in our imagery. I also speak on female empowerment and mentor young girls on kick-starting their own businesses.

What drives us long term, now that we’ve made a name for ourselves as the skincare brand bringing the circular economy to the beauty industry, is that we have businesses and individuals coming to us with their leftover natural ingredients asking if we can cook up a circular skincare solution. “I make X product, which leaves behind Y as a by-product. Is there anything you can do with that?” We’re always ready to take on the challenge! Our product launches for this year include an ocean-friendly SPF, a Lip Balm, and a Hand Cream— all set to launch in 2022. The long-term objective for us is to push boundaries with the by-products we use and prove that with UpCircle you no longer have to choose between doing the right thing and getting the best results. Yes, every UpCircle product is sustainable, but every product also carries a premium formulation and transformative results.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to all those who voted for you?

I think it is SO important to show that it is not always a smooth road and that we all have failures along the way. It’s so easy to look at a brand or person’s Instagram feed and assume that everything is perfect, but that is not reality! Things go wrong all the time and that’s not something to feel bad about, it’s inevitable— it’s all about how you deal with it and move forward.

A huge thank you to all of those who voted for UpCircle, we couldn’t have done it without you!

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