In a world increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable production, consumers are looking for easy shopping places that always uphold their increasingly environmentally conscious values.
Independent online marketplaces provide a bridge between the growing digital landscape and the demand for sustainably produced goods, while simultaneously providing a space for brands looking to tell their story. Each site has its own goal, while constantly looking for new opportunities that contribute to the sphere of sustainable fashion.
FashionUnited spoke to CEOs from three markets that define this ecommerce calculation, sharing their selection processes, values, and perspectives on the future of the sustainable world.
Curated Crowd: Community Builders
In an effort to bring a more direct designer-to-consumer service to the industry, Curated Crowd CEO Ada Yi Zhao translated her love of shopping for undiscovered niche fashion brands around the world into one digital platform. Initially a crowdfunding site supporting emerging designers, it quickly evolved into a UK-based online marketplace for designers who didn’t quite fit the traditional molds of ultra-luxury or luxury. fast mode.
Curated Crowd has grown in response to the growing demand for mid-level fashion, looking further down the supply chain at individual designers who often struggle to find their way to directly access international consumers. Thanks to its constantly evolving community, emerging labels around the world are able to tell their stories while marketing their products.
Through numerous onboarding calls and studio visits, generated from an open application system, Zhao builds one-on-one relationships with designers, getting to know their label’s history and their future goals. have in mind. Only a small selection hits the market, with each item available being either a limited edition or made to order in order to avoid possible mass overproduction.
“The business aspect of sustainability is far more important than the material and the journey of the product – from its design to how it ends up in the consumer,” Zhao explained. “For me, I always look at each designer and how they run their business. Is it sustainable as a business? Is it a sustainable way of life for designers? I am absolutely against the so-called fashion cycle and believe that every piece we have on our platform has to be something that the consumer should cherish for years to come.
The concern for relations with the designer extends to his personal relationship with clients. Up to 60% of orders come from loyal buyers, according to Zhao, who communicates with them regularly through WhatsApp and other social media channels.
“For us, it’s really about organizing this community,” she said. “We are not for everyone. We are for certain types of people with an educated goal. People come to us because they want to know more about the brand, what sustainability is and how to preserve a wardrobe for seasons to come. We target the conscious consumer.
A pop-up store in London accompanies the online marketplace, offering personal style assistance while collecting valuable product feedback from visitors. Future plans could see Curated Crowd continue to develop this omnichannel business model, implementing this physical experiment in the digital realm.
Having recently moved to Amsterdam, Ada Zhao’s new base also offers an array of new possibilities, such as an additional potential pop-up store or the ability to help European brands with their businesses in the UK market.
“As a member of the British Fashion Council, I see so many talent in London, but because of Brexit, it’s really difficult for them to have a voice here in mainland Europe, and vice versa. We want to be that bridge between the two, ”Zhao explained.
She continued, “Online, we are also looking to launch our US site to serve a wider audience. We ship worldwide, but we realize that more localized curation is becoming so important to customers. “
Seezona: emerging creative hub
Since launching two years ago, Scandinavian luxury market Seezona has built up a diverse platform offering everything from high fashion and accessories to beach wear and activewear, especially from emerging designers. The multi-brand store offers an international selection from over 25 countries, ensuring a unique selection of brands that you might not find on other sites.
“Through our technical platform, we facilitate the interaction between small businesses and customers, as well as the entire value chain involved in these processes,” explained Seezona Founder and CEO Anna Helander.
His love and interest in the industry began in concept stores in the south of France, where the discovery of new designers allowed him to stand out. After diving into the industry, Helander began to notice distinct barriers that made it particularly difficult for new brands to reach consumers.
“I started to understand how heavily the industry relied on wholesale,” she said. “As a result, many high potential designers never thrive just because they don’t have the right relationship with buyers or the ability to produce a certain amount of product. I wanted to solve this problem, and in the midst of our digital age, I discovered that technology was the best solution to do just that.
Each of the more than 100 brands present on the platform has gone through a rigorous selection process, involving meetings where the label is assessed on the basis of a list of criteria. Hearing the stories of each founder and the production process allows a relationship to form and further ensures that the brand fits well into the Seezona platform.
Helander said: “We are always looking for brands that use quality fabrics, have a local spirit in their production, a sense of community, in addition to great design, of course. “
Items on the site vary from bold pieces to more basic staples, offering something for almost every conscious shoppers who visits. On top of that, a virtual style room feature allows shoppers to test out outfits and products in a digital trial setting before purchasing.
Seezona is still quite fresh on the scene and is continually looking to grow and discover. In terms of upcoming projects, Helander said: “We do indeed have a lot of great projects, this is just the beginning. Stay tuned!”
The Wearness: conscious and clear shopping
German company The Wearness, founded and run by four women, started out as a way to prove that sustainable clothing could be fashionable too. Functioning as a marketplace, which does not want to appear as a marketplace, specially organized brands have their place in a platform that also takes into account green and ethical production which can be achieved in many ways.
“We started The Wearness to show that durability doesn’t have to affect the look and style of a piece, that it can be the prettiest thing with more sustainable production,” said Julia Zirpel , one of the co-founders. “We wanted to show that this was not a contradiction, because five years ago, sustainable items on the market were not fashionable in our eyes.”
The premium pieces on the site are selected through a rigorous questionnaire process that delves deep into individual areas of sustainability. Once on the site, each item is displayed alongside the criteria it applies to, allowing buyers to shop according to their specific needs. These can include organics, fair trade, and other specifically defined areas of sustainability.
The setup ensures that buyers know exactly what they are buying, and also allows a slight flexibility for brands who direct sustainability efforts towards different perspectives of the production process. “We write about the brand and we explain why they are sustainable, but we also show where they might not be at the moment,” Zirpel said, stressing the importance of transparency.
“Handcrafting is also a very important part for us and it is something that is not so obvious with so many people. This opens up possibilities for indigenous production and traditional heritage, as well as local manufacturing, ”Zirpel explained. “A lot of women are working in this field, and that’s another aspect of sustainability that people are less aware of.”
Empowering women is an additional core value of The Wearness, which takes into consideration the work of women who have a strong presence in the fashion industry. The market seeks to highlight the rights of working women, highlighting the importance of education efforts, childcare and other assets that support and empower women in the workforce.
Along with the ever-evolving brand portfolio, The Wearness also releases its own limited collection every three months. Only specific products are available, this edition a dress and a shirt, each with a concept entirely based on the idea of circularity and biodegradability. Formed with all-natural and locally produced materials, the items sold define the circular wardrobe that The Wearness aims to promote.
Addressing circular production, Zirpel said: “We believe this is one of the most important topics to come in the future, but the market is not there yet. Everyone talks about recycled materials, they just don’t know what happens to the products when they are no longer in use.
In fact, the lack of effective waste management is one of the main obstacles identified by Zirpel, noting that there is a need to focus on obstructing the disposal of garments before they end up in markets as the Europe can no longer control. As part of its own efforts, products from The Wearness collection can be returned to the platform once they are no longer in use, and the company is further investigating the establishment of a repair service. .
Guya Merkle, another co-founder and creative director of high-end jeweler Vieri, has already embarked on the development of sustainable waste management. With a Dutch NGO, she set up an initiative to produce recycled gold from old cell phones, transported from African markets to Europe.
Other future plans for the platform include the creation of a physical base, where consumers can see and touch the clothes in person, allowing direct encounters with shoppers. Zirpel concluded: “Especially now during covid, we have a feeling that people really want personal contact and not just putting everything online.”