We had an interesting conversation with Ieva and Magda, the founders of Aequem, a sustainable fashion e-commerce . Take a look!
Hi Ieva and Magda. I present to our audience: you are the founders of Aequem. How did this idea come about? What is specifically and what is the objective of Aequem?
Aequem is a project which redefining the future of fashion industry. It’s a destination for stylish fashion, that doesn’t cost the Earth. We only work with brands and source products that are both socially and environmentally sustainable.
The idea was born because we both wanted to make better decisions when it comes to fashion, however, we found that from consumers’ perspective it’s not as easy– it requires a lot of time and effort to find the labels and also to understand if they are truly sustainable (especially with all the greenwashing around). So we thought, wouldn’t it be great to have one destination, where you can shop head to toe in sustainable fashion from different labels?
Currently we have over stunning 60 labels available on our site and our offering is growing every day.
How did you meet? What are your backgrounds?
Aequem is a second business for both of us so we actually met in a business conference. As we were the youngest and some of the few women in the room we immediately ‘clicked’ and wanted to learn more about each other’s business. We became friends very quickly and realized that we both share frustration about how the fashion industry is currently operating. We started exploring this business opportunity together fairly quickly and building Aequem together strengthened our friendship.
Ieva actually started her career and her first business in the media and television world where she has been working with some of the biggest names in the field.
Magda’s background has always been fashion where she has initially started working in design but then soon after moved on to top level consulting for fashion labels.
Why did you choose London as a base?
We truly love London – it’s such a vibrant and amazing city full of opportunities, creativity and the leaders from every field. We really hope that the current lockdown situation and the political climate will not change the city as we know it.
As we both were living in London when we met it was just natural for us to start the company there. Additionally, the economic climate of the UK is excellent for starting business. However, it’s worth mentioning that even though our base is currently in the UK – we are really an international company and we ship to and work across the globe.
Finally, London has excellent transport links to the rest of the world so it’s fairly easy to move around which is very important while building international business.
How do you select the brands you work with?
The brands that we work with have to be sustainable and also look great aesthetically. They have to be good quality and fashionable.
We think that one of the reasons why the sustainable fashion movement hasn’t grown as fast as it should have is because there’s a myth that sustainable fashion is boring and not aesthetically pleasing. It’s a complete misconception actually and we want to destroy this myth. Sustainable fashion actually has a potential to lead the fashion movement when it comes to quality and aesthetics as by definition it uses better materials and better production facilities which enables to create higher quality garments.
Pretty much any design and garment from streetwear to haute-couture can be made in a sustainable way – companies just have to commit to these practices
In which areas is the sustainability from the fashion point of view more “ahead” and where more “behind”?
Currently, the fashion industry is still behind when it comes to sustainability and mainly because of the fast fashion phenomenon. It’s still the second largest polluter on this planet. In the last 20 years, we’ve been sold this idea of consumerism that fashion is something which is easily disposable. Because of that, now we are facing big problems when it comes to pollution and exploitation of people working in the field. However, most consumers don’t know these facts as fashion seams such an ‘innocent’ field.
We believe that the biggest change will come when the majority of the consumers will understand that fast fashion is cheap because someone else is paying the price and it’s usually the most vulnerable communities and our environment. As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.
On the positive note, it’s amazing to see that in the last 4 years many designers – from upcoming ones to the top names in the industry have started to move in the sustainable fashion direction. It’s really clear for everyone working in the industry that we can’t continue to work the same way that we did for all these years.
We believe that the fashion industry has a lot of potential to change things and even perhaps lead the sustainability movement. After all, it has some of the most creative people on the planet working in the field.
What were the sustainable innovations that have impressed you most in the last period?
We are always very impressed by the new textiles and new dyeing methods that are adopted by the industry every year. We love all things that are cutting edge – to give a couple examples, it’s possible to dye fabrics in fluorescent colours by using this one bacteria, also on our site we have a jacket made from Kombucha leather (yes, you heard it right – you can also wear kombucha, not only drink it ☺) and many more.
What do you find that, as far as accessories are concerned, for which a lot of real leather is still used, valid alternative materials from the point of view of quality and durability?
Even though we are both vegetarian, real leather items can actually be very sustainable from the environmental point of you if it’s coloured sustainably. Most leather used in the fashion industry is actually a bi-product of the meat industry – this means that if this leather wouldn’t be used it would just end up in the landfield. So even though we personally don’t eat meat, as long as there are people that do, this leather needs to be used.
When it comes to leather though, the biggest problem with it is the dying process, as during this process a lot of toxic elements are released to the environment. The sustainable way to colour it is by using vegetable tanning which is environmentally friendly.
When it comes to vegan leather sadly a lot of them are produced from or contain plastic therefore a lot of vegan leathers from an environmental point of view are not great. There are some good environmentally friendly options, but consumers should look out for items that use recycled materials.
During a conversation Ieva and I were talking about a pop up store that you created here in Milan during the fashion week. Why did you choose this city? What were the findings?
Yes, we did our first ever pop-up store in Milan last September during the Milan Fashion Week and it was great.
Ieva used to live in Milan, so she knows the city well and has a lot of connections there. The right opportunity fell into our arms and we decided to go for it. We essentially used it as our first brand launch and it was great. We got some press and consumers’ attention and it was absolutely amazing to do it in one of the fashion capitals of the world.
We find that Italians do care about sustainability a lot and are open to trying new brands with exceptional design.
What would you recommend to a young entrepreneur who wants to make his way into the world of sustainable fashion?
We would say – ‘just do it!’ Sustainable fashion segment is growing and that’s the future. Furthermore, it’s much easier to start the brand sustainably as opposed to trying to make it sustainable after the fact. Doing it for the start will allow you to build a network of suppliers, loyal customers and fans that will follow your journey and keep supporting you.
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