"We promote longevity and style instead of trends and seasonality."
26 JUNE 2022
On our journey towards a fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You – the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings.
Using their know-how, we can now highlight brands that are going above and beyond to make a positive impact, and label them as Conscious; allowing our customers to make more informed choices. To celebrate, we’ve been chatting to Conscious-rated brands on our platform to find out their take on being conscious as a company, and more.
We spoke to Caroline Gentz, Creative Director and CEO of IVY OAK. The Berlin-based brand not only makes modern authentic pieces but is also here to make a positive impact. Here’s what Caroline had to say about the stories behind their impact:
Sustainability: what does it mean to you?
For me, it’s a long-term vision that involves everybody along the way: employees, suppliers, customers, and investors, and it can only be achieved with all these stakeholders working together. We are taking a holistic approach, making thoughtful choices, and giving our customers a complete insight into our products, practices, and prices.
We create timeless pieces using high-quality fabrics and workmanship, so that our customers can wear them often and for many years to come.We promote longevity and style over trends and seasonality and still send a modern, authentic and relevant message.
Choose well, love what you own and treat it with respect, that’s already a start.
Tell us more about the brand.
Our aim is to think about and work with fashion differently. IVY OAK is for the woman who values quality, sustainability, and style. Therefore, we strive to produce clothing that has got the durability of a high-quality product at a reasonable price point but is also inspiring and comfortable to wear. Style is an individual journey of discovery, which is what makes it so exciting to me.
Our customers create our brand message, not the other way around. We are following the lifecycle of our customers and try to be as authentic as we can with them and are already thinking about our customers in the generations to come
Where did the journey of the brand start?
I founded IVY OAK in 2016 in response to what I knew was an existing product demand, but with the purpose to meet this demand in a new way and disrupt the old habits of the industry.
I wanted the brand to be fashionable yet timeless, with a huge attention to detail. I wanted our clothes to dress women for the most important moments in their lives, but at a reasonable price point.
Wanting to be innovative meant redesigning existing structures and practices. We had to think — and act — outside the box. Having gone through the essential process of a restructure, the whole IVY OAK team is fully committed to getting involved, and this has really shaped the development of the company.
What is your background/career and when did you start working on creating a positive impact?
Before founding IVY OAK, I was able to gain insights in both the luxury and the fast fashion industry. I set myself the goal to combine the best of both worlds, closing the gap between high street and luxury fashion, and putting sustainability at the forefront. I love the process of creating fashion, from the sketch until the production of a garment. Fashion enables people to express themselves and this truly fascinates me.
What achievement are you proudest of?
I look back on the last years with particular pride. Our team has fought throughout these challenging years of the pandemic with solidarity for each other. I am deeply thankful for the support they showed, especially for our partners and customers. We are also very proud that we were able to improve our results especially in the areas of transparency and the achievement of our CSR Sustainability goals. We were able to increase the use of eco-friendlier materials on 81% of the styles in the last season. That’s incredible and really not as easy as it may sound for most consumers. Our customers can follow our journey closely in our sustainability reports.
What are you working on at the moment?
We just went through an exciting brand transition. IVY OAK is presenting a new brand CI. We are proud to be bolder now and to promote the sustainability and transparency of our garments even more.
For selected styles, customers will soon be able to see how much CO2 has been emitted or water used to produce a garment. We also want to use this data internally to make data-based design and sourcing decisions, to allow us to lower our impact even further. Our team is also working on introducing circular design strategies to move further away from the linear and disposable model.
At IVY OAK why do you place an emphasis on increasing the longevity of clothing through quality?
We believe investing in quality is worth it in the long run to protect our environment. It means you will not have to replace your clothes as quickly, you can more easily sell quality clothing via second-hand channels and less new clothes have to be produced. We need to learn to love and value our clothes again and high-quality clothing ensures that our customers can really enjoy their clothes for many years. We also try to engage with our customers to create this mind shift. In our care guide, for example, customers can find helpful information about the different fabric types and how to care for them in an environmentally friendly way so that they last longer.
How do you use Otrium as a tool to make sure your clothing is ‘Timeless’?
We want to be mindful about the resources we are using and that’s why we strive to create as little waste as possible. Otrium is an important partner to support this goal. We love that Otrium offers a second chance to our unsold items from past collections. Through Otrium, these items will still find a home with customers who enjoy our clothing for many years to come. Our styles are timeless pieces for a long-lasting wardrobe. They just sometimes need another time and platform to be recognized..
What do customers value most about the brand and products?
We notice that our customers are no longer interested in the traditional fashion cycle and therefore clearly focus on the importance of “style “, instead of constantly changing trends. Style is something that you must discover and learn individually for yourself - that's what makes it so exciting!
Style is for everyone and should be all-inclusive. Our pieces can easily be combined to look either cool or classic, meaning that our customers’ personal individual style is also a way of developing our brand message. We want people to see our clothes as a life-partner rather than a quick fling. Our customer isn’t interested in the traditional ‘fashion calendar’ and wants clothes that last longer than just a season. Our product is the obvious answer to this.
Who inspires you and why?
I love browsing vintage stores or leafing through fashion history books. Fashion was and remains an expression of the times we live in. Every decade provides its individual style. I love being inspired by the past in order to develop a new present — and hopefully a trans-generational future.
Where do you see your brand in 5 years? What do you want to have achieved by then?
For us, our 360° concept means a holistic approach. We want to integrate sustainable and responsible business practices at all levels of the company and pursue the goal of further reducing our environmental footprint and achieving maximum positive social impact. We accept this challenge with joy and are proud of every milestone reached that brings us closer to our goal. We still have a long journey ahead, especially regarding transparency and circular fashion. We’re always working on involving our customers more on our journey: re-thinking will always be our guiding principle..
What does the future of fashion look like?
The last years can be seen as a great wake-up call, in terms of sustainability, local production and inclusion. Partners and consumers are gradually becoming more aware of our responsibility for the environment and are demanding changes within the industry. Our customers are already consuming more consciously and asking more targeted questions about product origin and delivery processes. It will be essential for all companies to be more transparent and to develop strategies towards circular production and business models.
What is one thing you hope others learn from your work?
I’m convinced that transparency is an integral part of positive change within the fashion industry. To truly understand a brand’s footprint, we need to look at how, where, and above all by whom each product is pieced together. It might sound obvious, but supply chains in fashion (and other sectors) are surprisingly opaque. Transparency isn’t always the easy option, but it’s needed to do business sustainably. That’s why we have just started to measure the environmental footprint of selected styles to make informed sourcing decisions to lower our impact even further.
How do you stay optimistic and persistent in the fight against climate change?
I think that we are responsible for what and how we consume. The more we look out for one another and share our vision in supporting fair working conditions and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, the faster we will make a difference in this world.
Tell us about a recent change you’ve made to be more sustainable day-to-day?
My own behavior of consumption played a big role in starting my own business. I still wear a tweed blazer of my great-grandmother or a vintage trench coat, which I was able to buy years ago at a flea market in New York. I just recently got an oversized denim shirt from my mum, that she was wearing when she was my age. I love that and wear these styles with pride and they never get old. With IVY OAK we want to offer exactly those go-to pieces that become classics in the wardrobes of our customers and which in the best case are passed onto the next generation.
Do you have a pro-tip extending the life cycle of your wardrobe?
Buy less and wear what you own more often. It seems boring at first, but you can try new combinations or have a piece altered to change its style. There are many options and every piece in your closet deserves attention.
Do you have a philosophy you live by?
Think differently, act differently.
In the end, it all comes down to us and how we use our individual and combined power to create positive change
What’s a quick change people could make in terms of being more sustainable
Choose more wisely and give old clothes a second life. Once you are over that amazing dress or perfect shirt, do not leave it hanging unnoticed in your closet for the next few years or worse throw it away. Look out for local clothing swaps and pass it on for someone new to fall in love with it.
Otrium continually works towards the mission that all clothing should be worn. We do this by helping to eliminate unsold inventory and using technology and data to change the way clothing is created and sold. On our journey towards a smarter, more sustainable fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You, the leading source of fashion sustainability ratings. We’ve used their know-how to highlight brands on our own platform that go the extra mile to be more sustainable, which helps our customers make more informed shopping choices. Using Good On You’s data, we’ve introduced the Otrium Conscious filter. And now we’re speaking to conscious-rated brands carried by Otrium to find out more about their approach towards sustainability. This week, we chatted to Eric Otten, CEO of cashmere brand So Good To Wear, who believes that ethical fashion should be the rule instead of the exception. So what does sustainability mean to you? “People have always thought we could take something inexhaustible from our earth, to drive mass consumption and economic growth. Unfortunately, the reality is the opposite. Sustainability means that we have to give back more to the earth than we take” Tell us more about your brand. “Cashmere without compromises sums it up. We redesign the production process of cashmere with new and restored values. It’s a more conscious and personal process.” What’s your role… and how did you get there? “As CEO of the company, I have to be a farmer for our Nepalese business and at the same time a fashion specialist for our western business. I bring those two worlds together, always with consideration of our vision and goals.” What’s your career background and when did you start working on creating a positive impact? “I have been in the fashion business for almost my whole career. I worked for private label brands and premium brands like Wolford. After five years, I truly realised there are no limitations for the welfare of our planet and so I joined the sustainable and fair trade brand MYoMY. From there, I moved to So Good To Wear.” What achievement are you most proud of? “Putting the whole chain theory in practice! From our own cashmere goats to our spinnery, natural dying atelier and production in Nepal to our “slow fashion” models in the retail industry. The whole chain is fairtrade, animal friendly and committed to rebuilding the economy in Nepal.”What are you working on at the moment? “We are expanding our retail network internationally and expanding our own cashmere goat herd in Nepal.”What is the biggest challenge on your roadmap of improvements? “The coordination between high demands in the western world and the limitations of the relatively primitive possibilities in Nepal. Some things take more time to realise in Nepal – time we sometimes don’t have.”What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received from customers? “I have never worn a more comfortable piece of clothing than my So Good To Wear sweater – it’s physical and emotional.”What do customers value most about the brand and products? “It’s high “slow” fashion without compromises, made from the finest quality cashmere, fully fairtrade, sustainable and animal friendly”Who inspires you and why? “Stella McCartney – it became a movement of a luxury fashion brand built on sustainability.” What’s the most important aspect you keep in mind when shopping for more sustainable fashion? “I ask: is the brand really concerned about sustainability or is it a form of “greenwashing”?”Do you have a quote you live by? “Without action, we only have words.” What’s a quick change that people could make in terms of being more sustainable? “Actually, that is very easy! Start changing small and easy things in your life because it all helps: take your bike, not your car, don’t let the water run when you brush your teeth, don’t throw away food, put the light out in rooms you're not in, wash only a full machine and use biological soap, throw waste in a bin, not on the street, don’t eat meat every day and many more things that make more difference than you think, in your head and for nature.”
If you’re familiar with Otrium, you’ll know by now that we believe all clothing should be worn. We’re on a mission to eliminate unsold inventory and change the way clothing is created and sold. And on our journey towards a smarter fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You – the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings. Using their expert know-how, Otrium can highlight brands that are more sustainable. We label these brands as Conscious, which allows our customers to make more informed choices when they shop. To celebrate our Good On You collaboration, we’ve been chatting to Conscious-rated brands on our platform. Today is also Earth Day, so what better time to speak to a global name like adidas to find out their take on sustainability and more? Here’s what adidas is doing to pioneer changes for the better.Sustainability: what does it mean to adidas?
Sustainability is part of our core belief: through sport we have the power to change lives. Sustainability, for us, is an ongoing process. We have always been involved in it and we have always worked on this topic, through the BCI Cotton Initiative, Work Labour Agreement and more. We want to provide the best sports gear using the best sustainable option available.Tell us more about adidas…
The adidas brand has a long history and deep-rooted connection with sport. Its broad and diverse portfolio in both the Sport Performance and Sport Inspired categories ranges from major global sports to regional grassroot events plus local sneaker culture. This has enabled adidas to transcend cultures and become one of the most recognized, credible and iconic brands both on and off the field of play.We believe that through sports we have the power to change lives. We will always strive to expand the limits of human possibilities, to include and unite people in sport, and to create a more sustainable world. Where did the brand’s sustainable journey begin?
Our sustainability journey began in the 1990s, becoming a member of the Fair Labor Association – an organization that helps to improve the lives of millions of workers around the world. In 2000, all our products became PVC-free and we created the first 100% recyclable performance shoe in 2019. See the timeline below for our other milestones in becoming more sustainable:What achievement are you most proud of?
Back in 2015, adidas was the first brand to create a shoe made of ocean plastic with Parley (an organization that addresses major threats towards the ocean and works with collaborators to raise awareness and action projects to help end destruction). Tell us about your ‘End Plastic Waste’ mission and how it helps adidas solve this global problem?
We want to offer more sustainable options to our consumers by designing products made with recycled plastic or in partnership with other companies and organizations (such as Parley, above), as well as items that can be recycled, to stop them ending up in landfills. How do you envision using circular techniques to help mitigate the negative impact of plastic waste and pollution?
We plan to give consumers the option to return products that they no longer use to be either re-worked or recycled. Made To Be Remade is our current line made from recycled materials, and each piece can be recycled again at the end of its life.The objective is to be a platform with items made from sustainably sourced materials and to have more options for recycling old products and reducing waste. We’re also working on a new program for even more circular services. Does Otrium’s circular model help you to reach your targets with this mission?
Yes, for sure. Being more circular is key to help end plastic waste. For us, that’s giving consumers more opportunities to buy recycled products and finding more solutions for older items to be reused and repurposed.What else are you working on at the moment?
We want to develop more and more. We are working to make sure we achieve our commitment to make 9 out of 10 items more sustainably by 2025. We look for new innovations, we push our customers, and we bring forward communication to support our consumer on what we can do together.What is the biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements?
Sustainability is a long journey, and we need to really put in the effort to bring this forward. We not only want to change what adidas does, but how our industry acts towards sustainability at large. We face challenges every day to find the best materials and the best way to resonate with consumers.What do customers value most about adidas and its products?
adidas is a strong sports brand and we’re here to bring the best for the athlete. For us, “Impossible is Nothing” and we carry this value with us to really strengthen our sustainability journey.Where do you see adidas in 5 years?
adidas wants to be the leader of sustainability in our industry. By 2025, 9 out of 10 items in our range will be made sustainably, and we will also stop using virgin polyester wherever possible (by 2024). Besides which, we want to be a more circular company as a whole by then. Do you think that through changing the historical fashion industry framework, we can achieve a reduction in plastic waste?
What we need to do is to change the industry. adidas has been working and investing in sustainability for years. We want to set an example, learn from our partners and keep fostering the change. If we lead, others will follow. By helping consumers be more sustainable, our mission to help end plastic waste will keep on going. What does the future of fashion look like?
Consumers are looking for more circularity. The fashion industry needs to adapt to introduce products that last longer, and can be recycled or have their lifecycle extended, so we can make sure we are not creating more waste. This is what people want and we need to provide the solutions. Amazing work. Thanks for chatting to us, adidas.
We see a future where all clothing is worn, by eliminating unsold inventory and changing the way clothing is created and sold. On this journey towards a smarter fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You – the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings – to highlight brands on our platform that go the extra mile to be more sustainable. We are looking to highlight brands in a positive way and help our customers make more informed choices.Good On You pulls all brand information together and uses expert analysis to give each brand an easy-to-understand score. Otrium’s conscious filter is a great way to help our members to make more conscious choices. We’ve been taking the time to chat to the conscious-rated brands on our platform about sustainability, a circular economy and more. Dive in. First up, we chat to the team from Closed – a contemporary design brand that creates quality looks to stand the test of time. The word “sustainability” is thrown around a lot. What does it mean to you?“Sustainability has always been something we care about at Closed. Even before it was a buzzword or a trend – because, of course, we care about our planet. Always have, always will. We’re continuously making our processes as sustainable as possible – with our own eco-denim line A BETTER BLUE, sustainable materials and short transport routes (85% of our products are made in Europe, close to our main markets). We have been working for decades with most of our production partners. We are a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. We try to lower our carbon footprint where we can – and we care about animals. We stopped using fur in 2014 and do not use angora or down. We use recycled paper for our packaging and most of our printed goods – and would never throw away or destroy unsold Closed items.Step by step, we’re taking Closed towards a greener future. Our goal is to produce our collections with less of an environmental impact, while never compromising our high quality. Fortunately, these two values often go hand in hand. By making high quality our priority ever since the beginnings of Closed, a lot of our processes have been clean and green since the early 1980s. Long before the concept of sustainability became an (important!) trend. A good starting point, but nothing to rest on. Another thing we take as a given is social responsibility. It’s extremely important to us to be fair. Ever since our beginnings in 1978.”Tell us more about your brand philosophy and what you stand for… “Contemporary design and uncompromising quality – that has been Closed’s mission since it was founded in 1978. We’re the company with a unique creative DNA drawing heavily on its own European heritage – French imagination, Italian craftsmanship and German tradition. Influences that have left their mark and have come to define each and every one of our products. In partnership with teams of international experts, Closed now produces collections for both women and men: ready-to-wear, footwear, accessories and, of course, jeans. All produced with care and minimal environmental impact, under fair conditions and in compliance with the strictest ecological standards. Because, as we mentioned, sustainability has always been one of Closed’s key values.” Where did the journey of the brand start?“Closed was founded by Marithé and Francois Girbaud in France in 1978 as a denim brand – with the goal to produce high-quality jeans in Italy. Today, every pair of Closed jeans is still 100% made in Italy.” You’ve got a lot to be proud of. But what’s your favourite achievement? “We are very proud of our eco-denim line A BETTER BLUE. We developed it in 2018 together with two of our long-standing denim partners in Italy. A BETTER BLUE jeans are made in Italy using sustainable materials, eco-friendly dyeing methods and gentle washing techniques. In the production process for each pair of A BETTER BLUE jeans, considerable amounts of water, chemicals and electricity are saved – without compromising our signature high quality. All A BETTER BLUE jeans are climate-neutral products.” And what are you working on at the moment?“We have already switched from conventional to more eco-friendly materials and techniques for many of our products – for example, by increasing the volume of organic cotton in use, by using recycled materials (e.g. cotton, nylon, wool, cashmere), vegetable-tanned leather and plant-based dye. Whenever possible, we are introducing even more sustainable fabrics and techniques. We are also looking into innovative solutions towards a circular economy.” What’s your biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements?“It’s very important to us to keep our high standards – in terms of quality and fashion. Sometimes, this can be more difficult when using sustainable materials or techniques. We have experimented with several plant-based dyes, for example, until we found one with great colour fastness.”It must make it all worth it when you get great feedback. What’s the best feedback you’ve had?
“We are lucky to receive a lot of nice feedback from our customers, but it’s always especially great when they tell us about their Closed jeans that they bought decades ago and still love to wear!”What do customers value most about your brand?“The high quality of our products. Our style hits the spot between contemporary and timeless and our sustainable and fair ethos. (At least we hope so!)” Any tips for more sustainable shopping? “We recommend thinking about every purchase carefully. Ask yourself: will I wear this garment 10, 20, 30 times? Will I still love it next year? Is it easy to combine? It’s simply not sustainable to buy clothes you’re not going to wear as the seasons and years go by.”
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