Running a climate-friendly and ethical business is about waste management, reducing emissions, supporting communities, and paying a fair and decent wage, asserted Joanne Stoker, in an interview with the EthicalX team.
Joanne is the founder of her own brand, noadstore. She also works as a design, styling and creative direction consultant and a fashion and design lecturer at the Academy of Design in Colombo.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
1. What does climate-friendly business and ethical fashion mean to you?
A climate-friendly business, firstly, is about waste and waste management – from not wasting fabric to making sure the patterns you cut are all zero-waste with the use of reclaimed fabrics. Secondly, it’s about reducing emissions by not importing fabrics but using what is available in the market.
The ethical component to me is making sure the people working in the company get paid properly. I don’t work in factory manufacturing. I work with ladies in their homes who cannot go out to work because of the pandemic or because of their children. It is about supporting communities and ethically paying a fair and decent wage to suit the market with wage increases considering the status of the economy, so they are able to buy products and basic necessities.
2. What measures have you taken to make your business more sustainable, ethical, and climate friendly?
Firstly, I use reclaimed fabrics and upcycled fabrics which come from deadstock factory waste and I also use what is locally available in the market. I purchase cotton that comes from a shirt factory, which I buy from wholesalers. I also work with AMMA to obtain plant-dyed, handwoven fabric from Nuwara Eliya. Furthermore, I use imported organic cotton which comes from Bali and bamboo fabric, which is locally produced in Sri Lanka.
I also use zero-waste pattern cutting to use all the fabric and colour blocks within the design, using as much of the fabric as possible so there is no waste. I do all of the designs digitally so there is no paper waste. I also make sure the communication is done digitally; workers use WhatsApp from their homes to communicate. Even in delivery we send in bulk and not individually, which is applicable to exports as well. We send to concept stores in Dubai where they do batch orders for customers.
3. What are the key challenges that you have faced in your journey and how did you overcome them?
The key challenge was building the brand around what’s available in terms of style. I use a lot of colours and that doesn’t work with every dress, so it’s all about designing things with the fabric I can get hold of. Export and import of fabric have been quite difficult, especially in recent times, due to the situation here in Sri Lanka, exacerbated by the global fuel crisis. It’s quite expensive to import fabrics too.
On the manufacturing side of things, building the brand, getting the patterns right, making sure they fit right, and maintaining consistency have also been challenging. There are many other obvious factors such as COVID-19, as I built the brand throughout the pandemic, so it’s all been developed with a group of people who have not met in person yet.
4. How does EthicalX help enhance your knowledge and skills on ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly business enterprise?
EthicalX was really good to open up the mind to a range of things. It was nice to have lectures from other people. I teach fashion design and sustainability in fashion but more on the design side of things, so I got the opportunity to learn more about the business side of things, what’s happening in Sri Lanka on the business side, sustainable opportunities, digital opportunities available in Sri Lanka, and legislation.
I also learned about developing communities, developing the product range further, and building on knowledge and contacts. It has been a good journey so far and EthicalX of SLYCAN can also be developed with time.
SLYCAN Trust launched the EthicalX programme in January 2022 to enhance Sri Lanka's start-up ecosystem and strengthen ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly entrepreneurship on all levels. Through Climate & Innovation Hubs, EthicalX provides capacity-building and technical support for entrepreneurs at various stages of their business development.
The EthicalX Fashion Cell comprises talented and well-rounded entrepreneurs with a common interest in enhancing their capacities, expanding their network, and promoting sustainable practices through their enterprises.