SUSTAINABLE SISTAS: SAMANTHA LEIGH FROM ECO|MONO
Sustainable Sistas is a blog series celebrating women who run sustainable and ethical businesses or are doing important work for sustainable causes. We find out what sustainability means to them, challenges they face, what drives them and what they hope sustainability will achieve. Please contact us here if you would like to be featured or know a lady doing amazing work.
I met the lovely Sam through a Mindful Boss Lady meet up in Melbourne about six months ago (if you're mindful and a boss lady, I highly recommend becoming a part of the Facebook group here, it’s a great bunch of supportive, knowledgeable women). I was instantly taken by her bubbly personality, infectious sense of humour and stylish outfit. She is one cool chick. She is also whip-smart, incredibly motivated and passionate about sustainability, particularly fashion.
She started eco|mono as an eco and sustainable fashion blog in 2016. This year she has transformed the blog into a sustainable clothing e-commerce platform of curated monochromatic pieces. She wanted to disrupt the mass market by offering a platform for sustainable fashion, that is stylish, accessible and easy to find. eco|mono allows people to align their personal values with their shopping experience and maintains 100% transparency.
What’s your definition of sustainability?
For me, sustainability is a process of creating new products, clothes, businesses that do not harm people, the planet or the environment. Sustainability is thinking about the long-term effects of your business model and ensuring minimal impact on the natural resources.
I believe there is no one size fits all approach to sustainability and every small step is a step in the right direction.
When you started ECO|MONO what was your vision? How has that vision evolved?
Eco|mono started as a fashion blog, from the beginning I set out with the vision to educate people about the ethics of the fashion and textile industry. Education is key to helping this industry and to empower people to make informed decisions when making a purchase. I personally know that changing your buying habits can be overwhelming, so, at eco|mono we are here to guide people slowly. Every time you buy something you are casting a vote for the type of world you want to live in. We want to help people understand that as individuals they can make a difference.
Eco|mono has evolved from just an educational platform I created as a hobby to both an educational platform and an online store where people can learn what is happening in the sustainable/fashion industry as well as purchase from brands who are each doing their bit for fair fashion.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing eco and sustainable businesses in 2017?
One of the biggest issues I believe when it comes to eco and sustainable businesses in 2017, is that there is no specific, quantifiable guideline that everyone can follow to what constitutes a sustainable business. Each business may have a sustainable vision and agenda, however, because they may approach it slightly differently it can confuse customers.
I believe over the next few years as people become more aware of their impact on this planet and start to ask more questions, there will be a need for set guidelines to what can be described as an eco and sustainable business.
Sustainable entrepreneurship seems to be a largely female-led space. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure if this is a fact, or an opinion, I think there are a number of men doing great things in sustainable entrepreneurship, you only need to look at most of the documentaries that have been released over the back 2-3 years for example, The Minimalists, The True Cost, Cowspiracy.
When it comes to sustainable fashion however, again I believe there are many males doing amazing things in this space, from Outland Denim, Citizen Wolf, Apolis, Krochet Kids, Cameron and James, Homie, The Lonely Horseman. However, I do think that it is female run businesses who talk more openly about sustainability, and to be honest I think that is a brand’s prerogative, maybe sustainable businesses run by males have an audience that is not as receptive and therefore they do not talk about it as much. This is purely my opinion and I do not have any evidence to support this.
As a sustainability entrepreneur how do you incorporate environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices into your business model?
When it comes to the brands I sell, I will always do my background research on the ethics of their business. I like to meet the people who run the brands face to face whether that is over a coffee or over skype as it is important that they share similar values. Then, as mentioned before as there is no a one size fits all when it comes sustainability we have 10 values; Environmentally Friendly, Empowerment, Fair, Hand Made, Locally Made, Minimal Waste, Sustainable, Transparent Production, Upcycled and Vegan. When we take on brands to sell in our store, we ask brands which THREE values they align with.
All our products are packed with love by our brands in bags provided by us that are 100% recyclable and reusable. We have partnered with Sancell to deliver quality packaging that won’t harm the earth and aligns with our values.
We pride ourselves on having a relationship with our customers, which, I think is good sustainable practice. It is important for our customers to know that we are on this sustainable journey with them, we are not preaching to them about eco-friendly, zero waste; more guiding them. Like a best friend would do. We understand it's hard shopping online, so we are waiting on the other end of a message, email, comment to offer personal styling advice to help customers make a purchase we know they will be happy with.
What is your opinion on traditional companies trying to fit their current operations into a green framework?
It’s important to acknowledge traditional companies taking steps in the right direction, however, it is much slower and harder process for larger companies such as H&M. It is not going to happen overnight, and I actually believe we should applaud each step they make to improve, yet understand they will never be a sustainable business with the amount, and how quickly they produce.
The difficult thing is when traditional companies start to greenwash, if you're a consumer how are you supposed to make sense of that?
These days, I believe traditional companies should start with a sustainable framework, rather than it being an afterthought.
Despite its challenges, what drives and motivates you to create sustainable businesses and keep velocity and momentum up?
Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I think in my lifetime I will never be able to do enough to make a large difference with sustainability, but I do believe I can do my best. I am always thinking of new ways to educate my customers, new ways to bring them better product choices, new ways to incorporate ethical and sustainable practices.
What does the future of sustainable business look like to you?
Specifically for a sustainable fashion business, I think the future relies on a circular fashion system, which ultimately comes down to reusing, repairing, reselling, recycling and reducing. Today's linear economic model of “take, make, dispose” relies on mass quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy. It is a model that is reaching it’s limits. Taking the circular system approach that restores and regenerates materials will offer many new opportunities for creative design, improved customer engagement and increased economic value.
Sam has kindly offered Urban Granola readers 15% OFF purchases at eco|mono.
Enter the code URBAN15OFF at the checkout.