So guys, the cat’s out of the bag*… your response to our recent Live discussions has been so huge that we’re just gonna keep having them! This time round, we were delighted to be joined once again — albeit briefly — by brand consultant, industry expert, and good pal Elizabeth Stiles, discussing whether it’s possible to remain ethical while scaling your brand.
View the chat here.
- Expanding the team. When it was just the two of us, we always knew what decisions were being made, and exactly how to communicate our vision. As we’ve grown, naturally we’ve needed more hands on deck, and it’s been super important for us to spend a lot of time and consideration on building the right team. We currently employ over 60 members of staff, and every single person is so passionate about everything we talk about and believe in — we even have to reign them in sometimes!
- Letting go. Lucy & Yak started humbly on a beach in New Zealand, as a way for us to fund our travels. The brand is a direct extension of us both, and in growing the business beyond just the two of us, we’ve had to commit to a real exercise of trusting in others. Not just trusting others to be fair and kind, but trusting others to embody everything that we stand for. Every member of staff is an ambassador for Lucy & Yak, and their continued commitment to our ethos helps us grow organically and authentically.
- Total transparency. We pride ourselves in visiting our suppliers whenever we can to ensure that they’re working in accordance with good health and safety practice, and are paying their staff an appropriate wage that allows them to support themselves and their loved ones. Some of the factories we work with are big-scale operations, and Lucy & Yak only accounts for 2-5% of their production. Because of our relative size, we don’t get a say in which other brands choose to work with those spaces too. This makes things trickier from an ethical standpoint, because we don’t see how other brands interact with or treat the staff who are responsible for making their products. Regardless, we do everything we can to make things better for workers across the board; by not cancelling orders, and on occasion buying up dead stock so that the factory doesn’t lose out on orders that have been cancelled by other, bigger brands.
- Coronavirus! We’ve all been impacted by the global crisis in one way another. For Lucy & Yak, we saw a halt in production as Ismail’s factory needed to close for a few months; this meant that many of our products were out of stock and we couldn’t meet with your incredible demand (is it just us, or is the humble dungaree the official uniform of lockdown?) Not being able to travel has also meant that we’ve not been able to visit our suppliers, which has led to some quality issues that we wouldn’t normally get if we were there on the ground. Sure, it’s easy to imagine all the things we could’ve done if we hadn’t found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, but perhaps there were other growth milestones that we could’ve met if the world hadn’t gone into lockdown.
- Lots of our followers love making their own clothes, and many of you have turned your hobby into a business! These smaller businesses may appear ethical on the surface, but do ethics apply at every point in their supply chain? Their cotton may be labelled ‘organic’, but who made that cotton? Which factory produced their buttons and zips? In any case there’s a supply chain somewhere that you don’t see, and therein lies the uncertainty.
- Big, fast fashion brands use thousands - that’s right, thousands - of Tier 1 factories, not accounting for the factories that make their fastenings and embellishments. With a supply chain that large, it’s incredibly difficult to keep track of the practises that are being observed there. Are working conditions safe and sanitary? Are employees being paid at least the minimum wage? We’ve seen what can happen right under our noses in the UK — how many Leicester scandals are out there, worldwide, waiting to be uncovered?
- As some big brands continue to grow, they’re claiming to listen to their customers’ protestations regarding ethics. Such brands have committed to bringing in dedicated teams to make their supply chains ethical — and that’s great! — but at the same time, the same brands are instructing their buyers to drive down prices with suppliers; keeping their cost of production low, and their profit margins high. This ultimately affects the garment workers themselves, whose employers simply can’t afford to pay them a fair wage out of the pittance they’re receiving from these money-hungry brands.