A Good Community holds a Q&A with our own CEO (easier said than done), Anders Ankarlid, to discuss the idea and processes behind A Truly Circular Fashion Line.
Anders, we already know each other but our readers don't, can you give us a quick bio?
Sure. I was born in Sweden into a family of entrepreneurs. When I left school I knew I wanted to start my own business. Typically the first few failed and then there were a few successes. I went into consultancy for a while after that but, long story short, something happened and I realised that if we don't do something about climate change soon the next generations are really going to suffer. And that's what A Good Company is all about, leaving the world a better place for my children.
Can you tell us the idea behind A Truly Circular Fashion Line?
A circular economy is part of our future, where everything we use can be recycled and reused multiple times. A Truly Circular Fashion Line is our solution for the fashion industry. When a customer is eventually finished with their garment, they can send it back to us and we’ll turn it into a new one. We also credit them on the purchase of their next garment. It's a more sustainable approach to fashion.
What problem is this addressing specifically?
Today’s fashion industry terribly wasteful, with most garments ending up in landfill after only a few uses. Millions of tons a year. The long and short of it is fast fashion is killing the Earth, driven by superficiality and the desire to get the ‘latest trend’. The quality of a lot of clothing is terrible so even if people wanted to wear their clothes for longer, they can’t.
What materials are you using?
We use a blend of recycled and organic cotton, as well as some bamboo and Tencel—a new highly sustainable fabric made from wood chippings.
How long are your clothes designed to last?
Years and years. We only use the finest quality organic and recycled cotton and worked with the designer to produce classic cuts that suit all body types and won’t go out of fashion. We went for a combination of timeless style and utility, hence the use of natural colours and no trendy prints. Like all our products, we want our customers to use them every day and to love using them. It’s the exact opposite of fast fashion.
Why did you decide to launch a Kickstarter campaign?
We’re using Kickstarter to help launch the project off the ground and allow people to get involved in the movement early on. We’ve used it successfully in the past for A Good Mobile Cases, and it was advantageous to customers because they can take get of early bird offers at launch time and shortly after. There are 5000+ people on our waiting list so far which is looking positive!
What are your main objections to the fashion industry as it stands?
First of all, as I mentioned the waste created is unacceptable. This is down to how the clothes are designed, made and marketed. And then, in some cases, the treatment of the workers in factories is still really unethical, so we only work with suppliers who treat workers like we do our own i.e. like an extended family.
What measures have you taken to be part of the solution and not the problem?
Well, the concept behind the line of course. And with every factory, we ensure there's a living wage condition for all workers. Without that, we don't engage in a partnership, and that's the same for all our suppliers worldwide. We also involve ourselves in worker's rights education, run yearly improvement programmes, visit often and keep open communication.
How can you apply this circular process (in terms of costs balance and efficiency)?
We want to make products at a fair cost for both the customer and the environment. Because we have no middlemen or high street retail locations we are able to offer more sustainable prices than many other brands. Through A Good Loop, we save on raw material by recycling and also use local loop systems to save on shipping, and we can pass those saving on to the customer. 4% of total sales still goes to A Good Foundation as well.
T-shirt cost breakdown
Except for the credits you give to your customers to buy a new product when they bring their old one back, how do you convince them to join this closed-loop system you created?
Good question. The discount alone shouldn't be the only draw. We need to convince people of the benefit of the product and system from A-Z. The environmental benefits, the quality of the materials, how the clothes look, how they wear. Just focusing on one of these alone isn't enough, we have to get everything right.
How does the recycling process work?
When a customer has finished with an item they can send it back to us where we process it back into a raw material that can then be used to make a new one. The actual process involves pulling apart the fibres, cleaning them and then respinning them back into a useable fabric. It uses less energy and creates less pollution than producing raw material from scratch.
Are the recycled clothes as good as the new ones?
Yes, to maintain the quality of fabrics we only work with our own material so the material-stream is clean and controlled.
How long have you been working on this?
It’s been more than a year in the making, what with working on the designs and scrutinising something like 800 suppliers to make sure they meet our environmental, ethical and quality standards. Of course, I annoyed everyone by taking ages with the photos in my garden!
Product meeting, Stockholm
Did it take longer than you had initially thought?
The design and sourcing team agonise over every last detail, which can be frustrating sometimes but it means that when eventually get it right we don’t need to make a lot of changes afterwards. Obviously, we always look for ways to improve but generally speaking us and our customers are super happy with the products we launch. As is normally the case with something new, the challenge was finding the right supplier that could meet the levels of quality required.
Who designed the clothes?
We worked with a renowned fashion designer based out of New York who we chose because we really liked her approach to designing clothes that won’t go out of fashion and that people will treasure for a long while. Needless to say, we put a lot of trust in her and it paid off.
What are you most proud of about these clothes?
The team and all the work that they put into it. We really believe we’ve made a fashion line that looks great, feels amazing to wear and also saves the environment too.
When we ask Anders to smile...
Will you be wearing them? What about your friends and family?
Of course, my wife Eva has lived in the rib sweater all summer long. It’s her new favourite item of clothing I think.Any tips for young budding entrepreneurs or people who want to make a change?
Yes, be prepared to fail. You'll make a lot of mistakes along the way but if you keep on learning and adapting you'll be okay. Our mobile cases were 11 months of constant setback before we got it right. Focus on long-term thinking and this will help you to keep perspective.