In January, Écologie by AWDis hit the UK market with a promise of sustainable clothing at a reasonable price. Brand manager Kirsten Ferrol discusses the motivation and research behind the new label

New brand Écologie by AWDis is a carefully curated collection of 10 good-looking styles that range from the straightforward, 100% organic cotton Cascades Tee (EA001, women’s style EA001F) through to the chunky, cosy Iguazu Knitted Hoody (EA080), which is made from 70% regenerated cotton.

It’s a new direction for the AWDis stable of brands: while AWDis ensures the factories it uses for its various labels conform to standards such as WRAP, making garments from sustainable fibres is a first for the business.

Rather than introducing the odd organic garment here and there, AWDis decided launching an entire line was the best approach. “In the past we have looked at adding sustainable products to the AWDis brands as we wanted to do our bit environmentally,” explains Écologie’s brand manager, Kirsten Ferrol. “However, we felt that the message would get lost in the existing brands, so it was logical to create a brand dedicated to sustainable clothing.”

The Écologie brand came together quickly, she reports, as the team knew what they wanted to achieve in terms of its look and its position in the market. However, plenty of time was spent researching high street fashion trends as well as sustainable fabrications and processes to ensure the end products hit the mark in terms of both desirability and sustainability.

Choosing which fabrics to use from the many sustainable ones on offer was a challenge, admits Kirsten. “Historically, the clothing industry has had a detrimental impact on the environment, so we loved the idea of taking a waste element and reforming it. We use off-cuts from the cutting room, which would normally be destined for landfill, which are then broken down and re-spun into cotton yarn. The obvious benefi t of this is the reduction of waste being sent to landfill, but the process provides many other benefi ts too. As the offcuts are all colour sorted after collection, it means that this is a ‘dry process’ involving no further dyeing; this negates the need for further chemical and water use. It also saves land and energy associated with growing cotton.”

The eight styles that use regenerated cotton also contain polyester. “The impact of plastics on the environment is something that is becoming more obvious and we know that it is really important to minimise this as much as possible,” says Kirsten. “The aim is to become 100% regenerated and we are working hard to transfer over [the polyester] as soon as possible.”

The polyester is used to strengthen and stabilise the yarn – without it, the regenerated cotton would fall apart, she explains. “We felt that the benefits generated by using regenerated cotton outweighed this use of polyester, and we have worked to keep the polyester content percentage to a minimum. We do have a commitment to use regenerated polyester in future, but felt that the time was right to launch the brand in 2018. The brand is all about promoting ‘doing a little bit’ for the environment when and where possible, and if everyone committed to doing this, the negative impact we have on the environment would be reduced significantly.”

Kirsten adds: “As the brand grows we are hoping to introduce other sustainable fabrics, and the team is already working on some exciting developments.”

The Okavango Zoody is one of Kirsten’s favourite styles from the range

The Cascades Tee and Cascades Ladies Tee are both made from 100% organic cotton

High street fashion with green credentials

Écologie’s garments are designed to be fashionable, but also to off er the market something slightly different. There are small styling details scattered throughout the range that create interest, such as the angled shoulder seams on the Tulum Tee (EA003) and the use of French terry in the sweat. “We looked to form a range with different fabric interests from contrast yarns, trim details or the use of unusual knits. We also have a signature angled cuff on the lighter weight sweats, which again adds something different,” Kirsten comments.

The reaction to the new brand has been fantastic, she reports, with the Iguazu Knitted Hoody proving particularly popular, along with the Tulum Tee and the Galapagos Sweat (EA033). “My personal favourite is probably the EA061 Okavango Zoody,” Kirsten reveals. “It has such a luxurious feel with the brushed inner fleece and peached outer. I also love the contrast detail on the inner fleece which is reflected throughout the garment, through to the thread detail on the drawcords.”

When developing the brand, the price point was a key consideration as the team wanted its sustainable clothing to be accessible to everyone. “We don’t want to make people pay a premium for wanting to help the environment,” confides Kirsten. The team has worked closely with its supply network to achieve competitive prices across the range, and the garments are expected to be popular with independent brands and e-tailers looking for different products to rebrand. Kirsten also expects them to be a popular uniform choice as increasing numbers of companies strive to have a more sustainable outlook. “The brand off ers something for everyone, from our simple organic tees to the more unusual knitted items, so we are also hoping that Écologie will become synonymous with sustainable uniform.” More styles are already in development, and the team is also looking at smaller sizes for its unisex styles as well as possibly a new colour or two.

The Écologie garments are suitable for a range of printing and embroidery techniques; Kirsten says the Iguazu Knitted Hoody embroiders really well and would also look good with more unusual techniques such as appliqué. “It is all about thinking outside of the box with this brand, and we are excited to see what our customers come up with.”

So, are the other AWDis brands likely to start using more eco-friendly yarns? “This is a difficult one, and a subject that has been discussed extensively,” she explains. “In general, we feel that sustainability is not a fad or a trend that will last a couple of years and then be replaced. It’s becoming the norm now, especially with the print and promotional sector; with that in mind, we wouldn’t rule it out, but there are still many limitations around sustainable fashion including price points.”

Eco-friendly fabrics are still a niche area of the printwear market, Kirsten adds, although she believes that as is already being seen in the retail sector, this will change. “Currently, people are limited by the cost and the product offering available. Hopefully, Écologie provides a desirable portfolio of products, and will help towards making sustainable clothing more accessible and perhaps even the new norm.”

‘The more we sell, the more trees we’ll plant’

“We wanted our commitment to sustainability to be woven into our surroundings, as well as the collection itself,” says Kirsten. “As our garments are imported and distributed to businesses internationally, we’re conscious of the sustainability and impact of these operations on the world we live in. To complement Écologie’s sustainable ethos, it seemed fitting for the brand to give something back to the planet, so we started the brand’s journey by planting 200 trees globally in partnership with Carbon Footprint. Our pledge is that the more garments we sell, the more trees we will plant, so our tree planting programme will correlate with sales; it’s our aim to plant as many trees as we can.”