“When deeds speak, words are nothing”
Thank you, Drapers, for the recognition of In Our Name as a finalist for the Sustainability Awards 2023. The Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards are amongst the most prestigious sustainability awards in the industry and with household brands such as Mulberry, Timberland, Reformation, Wolf & Badger and many more amongst this year’s finalists, we feel honoured to have made the list!
When I set out on this journey in 2020, I had two distinct objectives; to build a brand that sourced purely sustainable materials with a high circularity value and to build a brand with a clear social purpose. From the outset, In Our Name has anchored all areas of the business around the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UNSDGs) to ensure we achieve this. Starting with production, we focused our efforts on Africa to enable our employees to achieve economic freedom.
Africa isn’t the obvious choice for production and many of my peers questioned my choice knowing the challenges. But having met and worked with manufacturers and artisans in more than 30 countries throughout my career, mainly in Asia, Europe and the America’s, I was confident I could consolidate my experience and knowledge to create both a credible supply chain and a viable sustainable economic incubation hub for the artisans.
Has it been difficult, frustrating, and challenging? Yes, yes, and yes, on absolutely every level! It is easy to focus on the things that get in the way of progress (I like to view them as lessons learnt) but it’s the wins on this journey that really matter.
The first win for me is the people who took a leap of faith to see my vision for In Our Name, notably our first manufacturer in Athi River, Kenya, who employed 45 workers two years ago. With our mentorship, they have now doubled that number (95% are women) and passed the SEDEX audit - all within 16 months. The second big win is the artisans who were open and curious to understanding the concept of capacity building, quality control and open costings - and how they could benefit directly from our 100% Initiative. (Our 100% Initiative is our unique scheme whereby all net profits from In Our Name are reinvested in economic growth and welfare).
One of my proudest wonderful wins though is our fabulous customers, who somehow found us on the internet, were interested in our story and bought products we have created in a purposeful and meaningful way - and we’d like to say, look sensational doing so!
An African proverb, ‘when deeds speak, words are nothing’ sits at the heart of everything we do (despite the difficult market conditions and global supply chains issues). Why? because we believe that the fashion industry can choose to have integrity in their approach to sourcing and how we treat the planet's resources and its people. The approach doesn’t need to be complex with fancy marketing and misleading messaging, for us the intention (good, positive ones of course!) is what really matters…it’s all about the deed!
So where next? We now have a framework that we are rolling out to new manufacturers in Africa and we continue to nurture our wonderful artisans. Partnering with the right retail outlets globally is a crucial next step to reaching a wider audience which will inevitably have a long-lasting benefit to our community of makers in Africa.