Monday, June 20, 2016

Lite Apparel, An Ethical Clothing Brand

This weekend, I had the pleasure of conducting a short interview with Kai, co-founder of Lite Apparel, a sustainable fashion brand that is making a stand in England. Lite produces high quality organic clothing through the Fair Wear Foundation. Little by little, brands like Lite are making a difference in the fashion industry by providing quality alternatives to high street fashion. As clothing buyers, we have the power to support the kind of world we want to live in. If you are going to buy clothes anyway, why not support a good cause? Save money by buying less and choosing well. And speaking of saving money, You can save 10% on your first order from Lite with the code Outfitzest. For international orders or other inquiries, you can email Kai at kai@liteapparel.net to sort that out.  Now without further ado, I'll let Kai do some talking on this great new clothing line. 

So where did the idea for Lite come from?

The actual idea for starting a clothing brand 'when we get older' was probably made about 15 years ag! Although high school and other interests probably deferred or delayed the idea, it, at least for me, it was always something I hoped to do! 

In terms of the name 'lite', I wish there was a real story behind how we decided on it but unfortunately there isn't (although I probably should make up something to make it sound better. I'm very much someone who embraces eureka moments, most likely because I'm not embraced with very many of them! So when waking up in the middle of the night to a ringing of the word lite, my first instinct was to play around on photoshop to see what it would look like on a t-shirt. To me, and my at the time flatmates at the time, of whom I had to wake up, it looked pretty good! And so with a little more feedback from family, friends etc we all felt that it sounded and looked reasonably cool, so we went for it! 

Although I think brand-names are importance, I am strong believer that execution is the most important. So although Lite doesn't have a 'true heartfelt meaning' behind it, or a 40 year heritage, I hope that our overall quality of our products will be the true winner.

What initially attracted you to the fashion industry? 

I think the biggest attraction or influence for our love of fashion would honestly be our location. We were all brought up in Brighton which is a super-indie and pop culture pushed city on the South Coast of the UK, well at least I think so! 

From a very young age we used to roam around an area called the Brighton Lanes, of which there are dozens of awesome independent fashion and apparel stores. I actually remember just going into the stores to feel the fabrics, and used to ask the shopkeeper, now thinking of it, extremely stupid questions to try and get an insight into how the clothes were made etc. 

It was just something we loved to do and think that's why we put so much care and attention into how our own products were eventually made for Lite. 

Why is ethical and sustainable fashion important?

Though I'm definitely not one to pull out intellectual factual statistics, there are some circled around that really hit us hard: 

1) To date, 250 million 5-14 year old children are exploited in hundreds of thousands of sweat shops around the globe. These are the same sweat shops discovered to be, if not openly shared, utilized by various of our favorite high street retailers. 

2) 25% of chemicals produced worldwide are used for textiles. With this, the fashion industry as a whole are widely branded as number 2 in the rankings of the highest polluters of clean water, just after agriculture.  

3) In a regularly quoted study 16 out of 27 luxury fashion products, (59%), were tested positive for one or more hazardous chemicals!

These are only a handful of examples displaying the importance of a change from a producer and indeed a consumers perspective. I would recommend taking a look at the resources on the Ethical Fashion Forum, as they provide a simplistic overview of the complex issues in the fashion industry. 

The great thing about being a consumer is that you have the power. Although ethical or sustainably produced products tend to be a little more expensive the reason generally speaking is because you are paying for a better quality product - and most importantly a wage of which the individual who produced it can, to be blunt, survive. 

Were there any events in your life that made you want to focus on ethical fashion?

For me personally, I was very lucky to spend some time in Hong Kong and China last year and interned at a sourcing and trading company in mainland China - The ODM Group. 
They specialize in manufacturing and producing various promotional products for hundreds of world-leading brands. 

Although my role was very much digital marketing orientated, I learnt a lot about managing production projects, and had the opportunity to visit various factories around the South of China. Although the factories I visited were impeccable, it did raise the imperative importance of knowing where your products are being made and crucially how. This was a real catalyst for getting things going with Lite and is definitely a big reason why I appreciate anyone and everyone who puts the time and effort into creating their own product! 


What steps are taken to ensure Lite upholds sustainable practices?

So from the very beginning of formulating and brainstorming ideas, we knew we wanted to use the best quality fabric and material we could get a hold of. 

I think naturally this took us into exploring sustainable and indeed ethical methods of production due to, as mentioned previously, they generally offering a higher quality output. 

Through various discussions with members of my personal University, The University of Surrey, and with members of The Ethical Fashion Forum, we discovered, and indeed are now partnered with a superb UK based charity - The Fair Wear Foundation. 

They ensure that all of their affiliated factories have: 

No use of child labor
No use of forced labor
Safe and healthy working conditions
Legal labor contracts
Payment of living wage
Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
No discrimination against employees
No excessive hours of work
With this, we also wanted to ensure that we weren’t in anyway harming or affecting the environment through the creation of our products.

Through careful and meticulous attention we are very proud to share that all of our current 06.16 collection are comprised and formulated with 100% certified organic and traceable fabric – whilst imperatively all being created with award-winning energy efficient sustainable methods of production.

Who makes the clothing?

So as mentioned, all of our initial 06.16 base collection is sourced through The Fair Wear Foundation, however all of our customization and additions to the pieces were completed in our home town, Brighton. 

Though, its important to note that these weren't completed by or in any old workshops. As with our sourcing, we ensured that we selected the very best of the best, and crucially that these companies aligned with our brands mantra of providing Ethically & Sustainably produced products. 

Our entire business is in-house so all of our shipping and distribution is carried out directly out of a basement! We hope to keep it that way for as long as its feasible, as to be honest we enjoy doing it! 

One again, that was Kai from Lite Apparel. Take a moment to check out Lite's line and remember you can get 10% off by using the code Outfitzest! Cheers!

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