Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Forward-thinking Fashion

12 June 2012

Tonight’s excellent Inspiring Entrepreneurs event looked at different approaches to ethical, environmentally-friendly and sustainable fashion.

Rather than seeing ethical fashion as an add-on, our speakers are taking advantage of new technology and practical innovative business models to make them more creative and also sustainable in the long-term.

Tonight was run in partnership with  London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) and Designer-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre (DISC).

DISC-image

Christian Smith is Corporate Responsibility Manager at ASOS, and has an MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development from UCL. His work at ASOS includes measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, helping the company to understand its impacts and opportunities for improvement.

Annegret Affolderbach is designer and founder of Choolips, who revive  ancient textile traditions. She is passionate about sustainable fashion, and the exciting and potent future it presents for global fashion. Her range is now sold through the ASOS Green Room.

Annegret spent a year and a half after graduating collecting ideas on Post-It notes trying to work out how she could use her talent to make a positive difference to fashion in the world. She also felt the need to be inspired for her whole business career, rather than a short term goal.

Annegret spent another year travelling and listening, visiting the Gambia to learn about Batik, and how the local producers thought about their lives and impact on their local environment.

She was determined to create a product that would be harmonious to both the producers and consumers of the products, and started with just two simple dresses.

Electrobloom flowerMark Bloomfield with a background experience of designing wearable accessories for brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williamson and Asprey, talked about developing his own jewellery business, Electrobloom.

This has been inspired by how the worlds of nature, art, technology and science collide, he produces unique jewellery designs using 3D printing technology.

Eleanor Dorrien-Smith is the founder of PARTIMI, and graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Fashion and Print. She has worked for Mary Katrantzou, Tata Naka, John Galliano and Eley Kishimoto before setting up PARTIMI. After creating a capsule collection for US retailer Anthropologie, the PARTIMI ready-to-wear collection was launched in 2010. The PARTIMI collections are defined by striking prints, a distinctive personal narrative and an environmental edge.

The evening was chaired by Melanie Frame, Sustainability Manufacturing Developer at London College of Fashion (DISC). Melanie is part of the DISC project to support fashion manufacturers and designers to innovate their production process. Melanie has been involved in various sustainability projects helping small businesses to set up sustainable and ethical practices.

A question about the concentration on sustainable supply lines led to a fascinating discussion about the speaker’s views on what sustainable fashion means to them.

For Mark it was about recreating a made-to-order type of personalised shopping experience, which gives a more engaged experience for customers.

For Christian improving the welfare of the environment and fashion producers are an important new additional part of the business model, from the traditional success measures of company share price and market share.

He talked about how the Green Room at ASOS helps breakdown the enormous challenges of sustainable fashion into bite sized chunks, making it more manageable. Also telling the story behind the product is another way of engaging customers and staff.

He gave several examples of innovation and change:

The discussion ended with a transparent discussion of producer pricing and markups that are common in sustainable fashion.

My colleague Fran Taylor who organised the event has written an excellent review of the evening on her Creative Industries blog .


Dee Dee’s Vintage, another Business & IP Centre Success Story

27 September 2011

Dee_Dees_Vintage_logoI received a lovely surprise tweet recently. ” Hi Neil! I had a one-to-one with you  couple of years ago. Still implementing your advice – it was great!

It was from Dee Dee O’Connell, the founder of Dee Dee’s Vintage.  And after my blushes died down, I recalled the information advice clinic where we met. In particular I remember being impressed about how much thought Dee Dee had already given to her business idea, and how resourceful she had been.

Dee Dee didn’t have the delightful logo above at the time, or her partner Ian White.  But I was confident she would be successful, with her enthusiasm and expert knowledge of the vintage clothing market place, and her entrepreneurial spirit.

I get a lovely warm glow from being a small part of our success stories.

Below is the blurb from their website www.deedeesvintage.com:

Dee Dee’s Vintage is a brand new online shop, specialising in Americana and classic British vintage clothing. We began life back in June ‘09 as a stall at the Vintage Pop-Up Market at Brick Lane, East London. We can now be found at selected vintage fairs, markets and festivals all over the UK. Check out our blog for the latest updates on our events.

We’re based at The Print House in Dalston, East London – home of Dalston Roof Park and Café Oto.

They are also on Facebook and Twitter: www.facebook.com/deedeesvintage
twitter.com/deedeesvintage

Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White

Dee Dee's Vintage with Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White


How to revive a brand

5 September 2011

On the way home from a recent road trip to Scotland, I made a ‘pit-stop’ at a McDonalds restaurant near Birmingham.

I’m not a regular customer at the ‘golden arches’, so was very surprised to discover a waterless urinal
with a sticker on it saying it saved 100,000 litres of water a year.

urinal

Copyright Sorven Media ltd

This is all part of McDonalds’ efforts to combat the negative press that has built up over the years. In particular the reaction to ‘McLibel’ case and reaction to the 1994 documentary film Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock.

McDonalds have created a website to allow you to Make up your own mind, which currently contains 24,000 questions and answers:

Your Questions
A dedicated Make Up Your Own Mind team from across McDonald’s is working hard to answer your questions. You can ask whatever you want, and we aim to answer even the toughest question within two weeks in an honest and straight-talking fashion. The ‘Questions & Answers’ can be searched either by keyword or by sub-sections – this should help you find the information you’re looking for.

The website also includes reports from their Quality Scouts.

What is a Quality Scout?
Quality Scouts are members of the general public from around the UK who are curious about McDonald’s business. They are not paid, and have no ties to the company. All they do is take an honest, behind the scenes look at McDonald’s and report back. And they’ll tell you exactly what they hear and see.

I have to say I am impressed by their efforts, but wonder what it will take to change public opinion.

Two examples spring to mind:

Fiat cars of the 1970’s, which became notorious for their rust problems.

In response they built the Tipo in the 1980’s (a car I owned), and gave it a fully galvanised body, giving it better rust protection than almost any other car on the market. However, it took many years for their ‘rust bucket’ reputation to disappear.

A more recent (if fictitious) example is from The Archers radio show where an outbreak of E. coli,  has resulted in regular customers deserting Ambridge Organics, despite having been given the all clear several weeks ago.


Green Metropolis – a million books to read again and again

21 March 2011

greenMetropolisThanks once again to Smarta.com for this inspiring business start-up story, this time featuring books (a subject close to my heart).

They have interviewed Barry Crow the founder of Green Metropolis about  how he came to develop the site using his redundancy pay.

What’s your background and how did you come up with the idea for the site? I’m originally from Newcastle and worked for British Airways as an IT developer. I moved to London for my job and went from a 4 bedroom house to a one bedroom flat. I’m an avid reader and had loads of paperbacks. If people have space, their books go under the bed or on the shelf. I had no space and had to de-clutter everything. So I started giving them away to charity shops. 

I went through pretty much the same process; I would buy a new book every month, read it and then drop it off in a charity shop.  But I could never find books there I wanted to buy. If I had just finished a James Patterson, then I would want to read another one. But if the charity shop didn’t have it I would have to go to Waterstones and buy a new one.

After a while I just thought: this is crazy; there must be a better way to do this. That was the beginnings of the idea but I didn’t look at it properly until I lost my job.


How many people use the site?

We have about 100,000 members.

We started with 1,000 books in stock which were mostly mine, and a few of my friends. We have about a million second-hand books in stock now. Some members still buy books brand new, because they have to have it, but within a week they’ve read it and will post it on the site


What sets you aside from sites like Amazon or even eBay?

Our site is more like a book club; it’s a community doing it to benefit each other. It’s for people who want to share their books with each other and at the same time raise money for a good cause. It adds to the whole feel-good factor of the site.

When you join us, you get an online account and every time you sell, you can either have the money refunded to you or use it buy new books.

Everyone should benefit, whether buying or selling, and ideally, we want our sellers to have enough credit from sales to buy their next one on the site without ever needing to use a credit card.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think probably promoting the site. I have no experience with the marketing side of things. My background is computers and IT, so I didn’t have a problem with the technical side of the site. But I suppose I naively thought after 6 months that once we had a great website, people would naturally come to it.

Like I said, we’ve never advertised it, and it’s been a very slow process. I started off and it was just me and I massively underestimated the time it takes to do everything.

Where do you see the site in five years time?

I would like GreenMetropolis.com to be the main ethical alternative to Amazon for second hand and charity books. For myself, I would like to work a little less, so that I can read a little more.


Climbing the stairway to heaven

9 March 2011
kilimanjaro

Source tanzaniatraveldestination.blogspot.com

Now that I am in the final stages of planning my once in a life-time trip to the top of Kilimanjaro. I need to get my legs in shape for the 5,882 metres or 19,298 ft climb to the snow-capped peak of Kibo.

For some time now I have been using the stairs at work instead of the lift whenever possible. Although this sometimes gets me to high-up meetings a little out of breath, I can feel the good it is doing me. Even better, I am saving electricity each time I avoid going into the lift. In addition, I gain a sense of control, or at least avoid the frustration of waiting, what can seem like an age, for the lift to arrive.

There is even scientific evidence to prove that taking the stairs instead of the lift at work could save your life.

Banning the use of lifts and escalators led to better fitness, less body fat, trimmer waistlines and a drop in blood pressure, a study of 69 people found. This translates to a 15% cut in the risk of dying prematurely from any cause, calculate the University of Geneva team.

However, that won’t be enough to get me through seven days of equatorial trekking in July, so I am increasing my visits to the stairwell. Initially I was doing a full eight flights to the top of the building at the beginning of each day. but have now increased to twice a day. However, I’m not sure how much I will need to ‘raise my game’ in order to be fully fit for the rigours of the big mountain.

What is nice is that I’m not alone in my use of the stairs as a fitness aid. I now recognise some regulars as I pant my way up and down the floors.

In common with many mundane activities, there is often an extreme approach taken up by those I would consider to be somewhat more eccentric than the rest of us.

The Telegraph newspaper has published a couple of stories about the ‘sport’ of stair running, Stair running: Towers of torment and Could you run a vertical marathon?

And of course the highest building representing the pinnacle of achievement. For these indoor athletes, taking anything less than two steps at a time is for amateurs. And I assume the inside line is fiercely fought over for the advantage it gives. You can read about the buildings, runners and their times here: www.verticalrunning.org; www.towerrunning.com; www.skyrunning.com; Stairclimbing Sport; www.stairclimbingsport.com

Somehow I don’t think I will ever make it running to the top of the erotic gherkin or the Shard. But as someone who is allergic to gyms, using this stair climbing workout regime is a free and handy alternative.

My attitude to the mindset that leads to fitness seekers to drive their cars to their local exercise centres is nicely summed up by this photo from the USA below.


To the moon and back on a bike made for Londoners

2 February 2011

Boris-BikeHaving tried My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’ last October, I am now a confirmed fan of the Barclays Cycle Hire service from Transport for London, and have purchased an annual subscription.

According to yesterday’s Evening Standard, cyclists using the Mayor’s “Boris bikes” have travelled the equivalent of 13 times to the moon and back in the scheme’s first six months.

Apparently more than 2.5 million trips had been undertaken on the hire bikes since they were introduced on 30 July last year. Transport for London has calculated that cyclists would have ridden 6.2 million miles on the bikes – assuming they travelled at an average speed of 10mph. On the busiest day, the 4,800 bikes were used a total of 27,500 times.

It is good to hear that the scheme will be expanding to reach 6,000 bikes and 400 docking stations by the Spring of 2011.

However, it is still some way behind the Vélib scheme in Paris introduced in 2007,  which has grown to 17,000 bicycles and docking 1,202 stations.

My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’

Looking forward to a greener New Year with my Keep Cup

30 December 2010

Just before the holidays our intranet announced that we could ‘buy a reusable cup and receive 10 free hot drinks’. This was part of the Library’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

I was keen to try it out, and have been using my Keep Cup for a couple of weeks now, and am very happy with it. According to their blog, Pret have also recently trialled the Keep Cup.

The cups, available in a range of colours, cost £6.00 but customers receive 10 free hot drinks as an incentive.  The disposable cups that the Library uses for its takeaway hot drinks have a waterproof waxed coating that means that they cannot be recycled. As part of the Library’s on-going initiative to reduce waste, Peyton & Byrne have identified a product that will reduce the amount of takeaway cups used and provide staff with a better quality takeaway hot drink.

The KeepCup is a high quality reusable cup manufactured from the safest food grade plastic. It is for use with either hot or cold drinks. It has a sealable lid and sipper hole and is pleasing to drink from with the lid either on or off.

It is thermally insulated, keeping coffee hot for 30-40 minutes longer than a disposable cup. Each cup also has a thermal silicone band to ensure the cup can be carried comfortably and safely.