Scots clothes firm vows to transform fashion by axing waste and paying better wages

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Scots clothes firm vows to transform fashion by axing waste and paying better wages

A Scots clothes firm has vowed to change the way we do fashion by ending waste and paying better wages to garment workers.

Edinburgh firm Unfolded makes clothes based on customer demand and allows its community of shoppers to swap items between themselves. It says the money saved by avoiding huge clothes waste is put into the pockets of factory workers in India as well as helping to fund their kids’ education.

It comes after our sister paper The Mirror last week revealed how our love of fast fashion is trashing the environment in West African nations like Ghana, creating wastelands of returned and discarded clothing.

At Unfolded – which now boasts a customer community of more than 20,000 women after just 18 months in business – they claim to have found a zero-waste production system.

Co-founder Cally Russell said: “Instead of us having to create hundreds of new styles to figure out the things people like, we create 15 to 20 every season and then we only start production after people start ordering.

“By doing those two things together, you basically don’t create all the waste that a traditional brand or retailer would do – which is, instantly, significantly better for the planet.”

Cally Russell, one of the co-founders of Unfolded.(Image: Neil Hanna)

Along with fuel and farming, clothing is one of the most polluting industries in the globe – contributing around 8 to 9 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet staggeringly, some 30 per cent of clothes manufactured and shipped are never sold and often end up in landfill – a mind-boggling 26 billion items of clothing each year.

Russell, 34, told the Record: “That means we’re creating two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions every single year making stuff that no one ever wears.

“To me, that seems like low-hanging fruit in trying to tackle the climate crisis.”

Clothes manufacturers in India who benefit from Unfolded’s Garment Worker Fund.

And the entrepreneur and Dundee Uni graduate – originally from Dunoon – highlighted how producing less waste saved his company huge sums of cash.

That means they can sell their clothes for cheaper, with their priciest items only around £60, he said.

The firm also ploughs some of its savings into a Garment Worker Fund which has bolstered the wages of more than 300 manufacturing staff in their factory in India by around 20 per cent higher than average pay.

Finally, it’s partnered with Indian education charity Pratham to help fund schooling programmes for the kids of their factory workers, benefiting some 4000 children. Russell said the company wants to create a “positive impact” in partner countries like India as well as promoting sustainable fashion at home.

He and fellow founders Jamie Sutherland and Hilde Frydne previously worked in the industry using data to try to show big retailers how they could be more eco-friendly.

But Russell said: “Eventually we realised they’re not going to change… and we decided enough is enough. Let’s find a better way to do this.”

‘I care about shopping sustainably’

Lucy Rose, 27, an Unfolded shopper from Glasgow.(Image: Steve Reid)

Lucy Rose is part of Unfolded’s customer “community” which now boasts more than 20,000 women. That means she can have a say in the design process when Unfolded’s top designers are working on new styles for each season.

Customer input is part of a system that ensures the company only produces around 20 styles per season it’s sure its customers will like – rather than hundreds of styles that never catch on, as other big retailers do.

Lucy, 27, from Glasgow, said: “From being part of designing each collection to making my own wee difference to the planet there’s a lot to love above shopping Unfolded.

“I care about shopping ethically and sustainably and their pieces are just that and more. They leave you feeling amazing inside and out.”

‘Summer camp was full of valuable experiences’

Aradhya Vajyapayee, from India, is one of 4000 kids to have benefited from Unfolded’ support of education charity Pratham.

Aradhya Vajyapayee, from India, is one of 4000 kids to have benefited from Unfolded and their shoppers’ support of education charity Pratham.

They’ve been running a six-week school holiday camp over the summer to help children who have fallen behind on school work the year before.

The CAMaL Ka Camp allows students like fifth-grader Aradhya to strengthen their reading, writing and maths skills. Only 74 per cent of the population in India can read and write, compared to 99 per cent in the UK.

Aradhya, from Barabanki in northern India, said: “Summer vacation was full of entertainment this year. CAMaL Ka Camp brought new stories, fun games, and valuable learning experiences. We eagerly await its return next year.”

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