EthicalX Fashion Week

December 9, 2022

EthicalX: Climate & Innovation Hub has as its key focus areas sustainable, and climate-friendly fashion. To share experiences on how the fashion industry is for those who are focused in sustainability and climate-friendly approaches, we found two aspiring entrepreneurs in the fashion sector who have come up with innovative and inspiring ways to develop sustainable and eco-friendly business.

Discovering grace among the fabrics

With numerous designs inspired by simplicity and minimalism, Joanne Stoker, Founder of Nåd Store, worked her way through the fashion industry for over 20 years before setting up her own business. Together with her modern designs in light and breathable fabrics, Joanne has already started expanding her work into vegan leather production. She is planning to read for a Master’s in shoe designing to boot.

Inspired by Jeffery Bawa’s architecture, Nåd Store has oriented its clothing designs towards Scandinavian style with vibrant colours that suit the tropical ambience of Sri Lanka. Rather than opting for imported materials, Nåd Store reaches small-scale vendors in Pettah that sell leftover fabrics from factories. The brand has already started using organic cotton, along with varieties of other organic fabrics, as well as natural dyes.

Nåd Store is all about giving grace to the environment as well as to the people who make the clothing. The store helps women, especially single mothers, by providing them a source of income with flexible working conditions from their homes. Its website comprises innovative promotional concepts, while production is done only to cater to demand so that excess manufacturing does not take place. Every piece of fabric is utilised in order to encourage the zero waste concept.

“It’s a long journey and can be difficult with the current situation; we just have to keep trying to move forward the best we can,” Joanne stated, commenting on the challenges she is facing in maintaining a constant supply of good quality raw materials and delivery services amid the prevailing economic crisis.

With orders coming from the Maldives, Dubai, and India, Nåd Store is expanding its market thanks to Joanne’s insights in fashion marketing. However, she also pays much attention to the carbon footprint of her business, from supply to delivery. 

Her aim is to get more business and foreign currency to Sri Lanka and to employ people. With faith in the tourism industry and ethical practices of the community, Nåd Store is continuing its business, empowering ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Gifts wrapped in a pallu

Be it for a tea party, a mama-to-be, or a birthday party, a silky garment that features flowing movement is always a gorgeous option – and one you needn’t go too far to find. As it turns out, it’s been hiding in your wardrobe all this time.

Ms. Draupadie Weerapperuma, the founder of mäjä, a new story has been upcycling pre-worn sarees into clothing and new products since 2019. Having worked with some prominent brands in the fashion industry as a strategist, she had observed how much waste was produced throughout the apparel production process in each stage of production. The factories produce way more clothing than required and the excess often ends in landfills. Even a majority of customers are used to discarding items of clothing after wearing them a few times.

mäjä is inspired to reduce the quantity of waste created through the fashion industry and has come up with a closed-loop system by recycling pre-worn sarees. At first, it started with sarees from friends and family. Then the supply sector expanded to small vendors who sell pre-worn sarees, where Draupadie came across premium quality materials in vibrant colours and a variety of fabrics. She then extended to the damaged sticks of larger-scale vendors from Pettah and Wellawatte and thereafter evolved to an organic supply chain with sarees no longer in usage or in dead stocks.

The manufacturers at mäjä come from different parts of the island. Draupadie reaches out to talented and skilled women looking for employment opportunities during her trips to rural areas. She allows sufficient time for them to familiarise themselves with the manufacturing process and grants them flexible working conditions to enable them to carry out their regular errands and children’s work.

The purpose is to use every inch of fabric and as a result mäjä offers a wide range of products, from accessories and clothing to household items, which ensures no piece of fabric is left out. Most of the clothing products are reversible so they serve a dual purpose. Team mäjä encourages zero inventory with production in line with demand. With a good following and a promising client base, mäjä’s upcoming collections are seeing sales and reservations. The product packaging is also 100% eco-friendly, with fully-recycled materials.

mäjä has provided more than 12,000 working hours among 10 women, converted more than 500 sarees, and created a meaningful business that addresses a critical environmental issue. The price mark-up is shared among the employees. Challenging cultural conversions to adjust people’s mindset to purchase a pre-worn product, mäjä makes sure to provide the most sustainable product one can find from one end to another. 

With the emerging trends in climate conscious and sustainable consumption patterns, sustainability-oriented entrepreneurship should be encouraged and appraised. 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.

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About the Author

SLYCAN Trust is a non-profit think tank. It has been a registered legal entity in the form of a trust since 2016, and a guarantee limited company since 2019. The entities focus on the thematic areas of climate change, adaptation and resilience, sustainable development, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, and animal welfare. SLYCAN Trust’s activities include legal and policy research, education and awareness creation, capacity building and training, and implementation of ground level action. SLYCAN Trust aims to facilitate and contribute to multi-stakeholder driven, inclusive and participatory actions for a sustainable and resilient future for all.