''If we all start making conscious choices, we believe we can help turn the world into paradise. That’s why friendly fabrics, excellent labour conditions, and clean production methods are the cherry on top of our playful apparel.''
28 FEBRUARY 2023
Otrium is committed to a future where all clothing produced is worn. We aim to empower our customers to shop responsibly. We teamed up with Good On You, the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings, to highlight brands on our platform that are making a difference.
This month, we chatted with John Vonk, Creative Campaign Manager and Chief Responsibility at A-dam, a down-to-earth brand with a child-like curiosity founded in Amsterdam.
What does sustainability mean to you?
‘’Sustainability in the fashion industry is super rare. It’s why we don’t use that word too much. We prefer saying we’re responsible. About the products we produce, how we produce them, and the daily choices we make. To us, sustainability is something we strive for every single day. And since the meaning of it changes all the time, we keep on reflecting on the things we do and look at how we can improve those things on all levels.’’
What philosophy does A-dam live by?
‘’A better world is created together. And if we all start making conscious choices we believe we can help turn the world into paradise. That’s why friendly fabrics, excellent labour conditions, and clean production methods are the cherry on top of our playful apparel. Next to being as responsible as possible, we applaud everyone who follows their passion as long as they don’t harm anything or anyone along the way. We believe anything and everything is possible as long as you do it with character. Consciousness is key, character is king!’’
What is your role at A-dam & how did you get there?
‘’I wear a couple of hats at A-dam. The most important roles are Campaign Manager, Creative Copywriter, and Chief Responsibility. I landed here after I visited the office because the swim shorts I bought were the wrong size. I got to talking to the owners and a month later I got my own desk. That’s almost 4 years ago now.’’
Where did the journey of A-dam start?
‘’The journey of A-dam started in 2014 after one of the founders noticed there was no good choice for men’s boxers in the underwear department. Instead of complaining, he decided to start his own brand. Fast forward 8 years later: A-dam has successfully helped change the underwear sector and transformed into a full-scale clothing company focused on making a positive impact on the world through responsible fashion.’’
What achievement are you most proud of?
‘’Keeping our head above water during and after the pandemic is not something we’re necessarily proud of, but we are glad we’re still here, healthy and growing. If we have to name one specific thing it’s probably the entire team at A-dam putting in the sweat and tears every day. Our office is like a playground and it’s fun to see everybody continuously playing around, improving their skills and creating magic for and with A-dam.’’
What are you working on at the moment?
‘’At the moment we’re in the process of a lot of exciting things. One of them being the becoming of a B-Corp certified company. We’re in the midst of it and we’re hoping to be able to call ourselves B-Corp before the summer of this year (2023).’’
What is the biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements for you at A-dam?
‘’Our biggest challenge regarding improvements at the moment is keeping focus. There’s so much to do, but only so much you can do. Prioritising in a world of constant distractions is a daily struggle. We have to keep on reminding ourselves to try and do one thing at a time. And, instead of trying to get it 100% right on the first try, build on an MVP basis and go from there.’’
Could you tell us more about the improvements that you are currently working on?
‘’Innovating, creating and improving are our second nature. This also means that we keep looking at our entire organisation to see where improvements can be made. On a product level that means using planet-friendly materials and packaging that isn’t harmful or that is recyclable. It also means not jumping on the innovation train too quickly, as innovations need some time and proof to see if they’re actually improvements or just ‘new and exciting’. On a more holistic level, it means constantly looking at our performance on an environmental, social and economical level. Becoming a B-Corp company will help a lot in that respect. Lastly, at the moment we’re a carbon-neutral company, which is great, but we’re looking to become the first carbon-negative company, meaning that we’re going to double down on our offset.’’
Your factories are certified by Social Accountability International - SA8000 and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) - very impressive! What is your relationship to these certifications and what does it mean to you?
‘’For us, it’s not about having the certifications, it’s about working at keeping them. These external parties do yearly assessments of our entire production process and we see it as our duty to make sure we get through them with flying colors.’’
What do customers value most about the brand and products?
‘’It’s hard to speak for our customers, but if we have to say something it would probably be the durability of our products. Apart from our excellent customer service, we get the most positive feedback on this aspect of our products. And if we’re talking specifically about our underwear, comfort is way up there!’’
What is one thing you hope others will learn from your journey?
‘’Being sustainable is an iterative journey, not just a box you tick off and certainly not defined to a few specific aspects of a brand or product. It’s about the bigger picture.’’
At Otrium, we are committed to a fashion industry where all clothing is worn. We are continuously working to connect unsold fashion items with new owners. A win for brands and consumers alike, we don’t want unsold inventory to end up in landfills. Through this mission, we aim to empower our customers to shop responsibly through our collaboration with Good on You, a leading independent sustainability organisation that rates brands in three key criteria: labour rights, environmental impact, and animal welfare. In line with this partnership, we’re showcasing brands that have sustainability at the very heart of what they do.This month, we meet Adrian Knezovic of FTC – Fair Trade Cashmere. Founded in 2003, Adrian is part of the management board and, together with his sister Jana Knezovic, they build the second generation of the family business.What does sustainability or impact mean to you?
“Sustainability is a way of thinking and a constant development – we always question and challenge ourselves, improve wherever we can, and want to set new industry standards. Furthermore, we see sustainability from a holistic view and act within all fields of sustainability. It comes and goes with responsibility. At FTC we care, we take and live responsibility.”Tell us more about how you take responsibility as a brand“Behind the fashion brand stands a family business. The company was founded, with fair sourcing and prices.
We have built an entire supply chain – from cultivating the food for our cashmere goats, to the cashmere goat farm and the manufacture of the finished fashion styles – every step is managed and owned by FTC. This creates a unique level of transparency and understanding of our supply chain. Traceability is our key to sustainability.”
Where did the journey of the brand start?“It all started when my parents Andreas and Jutta Knezovic went to northern China to find the perfect cashmere. When experiencing and seeing the quality of life in this region, they wanted to make a change. My parents invested in cashmere goats and gifted goats to farmers, with the deal to buy back the cashmere fibres from them, at fair prices. This is how FTC was founded.”
What is your background and when did you start working on creating a positive impact?“I grew up around textiles and garments when my parents were representing international brands in Germany. I have a funny anecdote: as a kid I liked sleeping in the showroom between clothes racks in Düsseldorf when all the hotels were fully booked.
I went to university for finance, and I like to believe that I have a very critical mind. It is this questioning of the status quo that led me to drive change in our organisation.”
What achievement are you most proud of?“I couldn’t be prouder of the relationships we have been able to build with all of our colleagues, from East to West. The mutual smiles we exchange because of the time you have spent together is priceless.”
What are you working on at the moment?“We are finalising our latest certification: The OEKO-TEX STeP certification.” This will mean that all of our products are certified “MADE IN GREEN BY OEKO-TEX”.
STeP by OEKO-TEX® is an independent certification system. This certification allows production companies to communicate their environmental measures externally in a transparent and validated way.
What is the biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements?“Uncertainty. We see with events like COVID that our global economy is built on a very brittle structure. To get our goods to our markets means that we must continue our story and also have a positive impact on the families that are connected to our projects.“
What do customers value most about the brand and products?“Our products are an interpretation of modern premium knitwear. With our own goats farm and supply chain, customers get the highest quality and full transparency on how the people, animals, and the environment are treated. Customers value the fact that they can wear our products and you really feel the sense behind it.”
What would you recommend for shoppers who want to shop more sustainably?“Most important is to be critical as a consumer of claims that are made by brands. I believe that consumers are smart, they often just don’t have the time. But when you take your time you will find what claims made by brands are substantial and which ones are just hot air.”
Who inspires you and why?“I find Giorgio Armani a fascinating person that is truly inspirational. He has built a global fashion brand for almost 50 years and has always kept his mantra of quality and detail. For me, this focus can truly be adapted to fair fashion. If you don’t look at details in the supply chain and you are not transparent with them, there will be no change.”
Where do you see your brand in 5 years and… what do you want to have achieved by then?“We don’t want to be the biggest cashmere brand, we want to be the best. We want to open our cashmere goat farm for others too. This way we can expand our positive impact together.“
What is one thing you hope others learn from your work?“This would be a very bold claim. There is so much I can still learn from others. Be critical and challenge the status quo.”
How do you stay optimistic and persistent in the fight against climate change?“I have met very interesting people that go all the way to finding long-term and lasting projects for a positive impact on our planet. It is not trivial but there is also a huge economic value in some of these projects. Together with active efforts to reduce our footprint.”
Tell us about a recent change you’ve made to be more sustainable day-to-day?“I have been consistent over a year now to purely shower in cold water. To the additional health benefits, this saves a lot of energy, especially that in our flat we don’t have sustainable heating.”
Do you have a pro-tip extending the life cycle of your wardrobe?“Don’t tumble! Hang your clothes to dry and be conservative with detergents.”
What’s a quick change people could make in terms of being more sustainable? “Buy less and inform yourself about what you buy.”
We’re on a journey to make fashion smarter, giving fashion-lovers the best possible online retail experience and making sure every item of clothing is worn. Going forward, we’ll be sharing more about our conscious roadmap and responsible choices.Throughout the fashion industry, 12% of the garments that are produced stay unsold.Our purpose is: All Clothing Should Be Worn.We’re tech-enabling designer brands to find an owner for every item they produce.In this post, we’ll be sharing why we became a member of the Fur Free Retailer program, what this means and how you can join this movement to be fur free.The definition of furFirst things first: Fur means any animal skin or part of an animal with hair or fur fibres attached, either in its raw or processed state or the pelt of any animal killed for the animal‘s fur.What is not fur, and what we will keep selling:undefinedundefinedundefinedIntroducing the policyWe recently became an official member of The Fur Free Retailer program, which is supported by the Fur Free Alliance (FFA) – an international coalition of leading animal and environmental protection organisations worldwide.In a nutshell: An international effort to give consumers accurate information about a retailer’s fur policy, allowing consumers to make an informed choice when shopping.From a day-to-day perspective our platform will stay the same, as we currently do not have any garments that contain fur. Having this accreditation makes this official – for our customers and for our partners.We have chosen to sell leather and other animal derived materials – but not the pelt of any animal killed for the animal‘s fur. As more vegan alternatives, innovations and products come to market we will continuously reassess our policy regarding animal-derived materials like leather.Becoming fur free is a first small step of our journey, with the goal of having a positive impact on the fashion industry.Conscious brands at OtriumWe’re always on the lookout for Conscious brands so if there’s a brand you love for their sustainability credentials that you feel we should be featuring please reach out to undefined.How can you be fur freeWhen purchasing a garment with faux fur, check the points below to be sure you’re not wearing real fur. Sometimes, faux fur is being substituted for real fur by some manufacturers. You can follow these four checkpoints:undefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefined.