How sustainable fashion brands work: the story of Mira Fedotova

The fashion industry is changing: consumers are demanding more transparency, ethics and sustainability. We spoke to Russian designers and entrepreneurs who are committed to sustainability in their work

We previously wrote about how beauty brand Don’t Touch My Skin created a line of accessories from recycled packaging. This time, Mira Fedotova, the creator of the Mira Fedotova clothing brand of the same name, answered the questions.

About the choice of materials

There are two types of fabrics that I work with – regular and stock. Regular ones are produced constantly, they can be purchased from the supplier for years in any volume. Stocks also contain materials that, for one reason or another, were not in demand. For example, this is what remains with fashion houses after tailoring their collections.

I have different attitudes towards the acquisition of these types of fabrics. For regulars, I have a strict squad limit. I only consider organic cotton with a GOTS or BCI certificate, lyocell or nettle. I also use linen, but much less often. In the near future, I really want to work with vegetable leather, I have already found a manufacturer of grape leather, which in 2017 won a grant from the H&M Global Change Award.

Photo: Mira Fedotova

I do not impose such strict requirements on stock fabrics, because in principle there is always very little information about them. Sometimes it is difficult to know even the exact composition, and I try to order fabrics from one type of fiber – they are easier to recycle. An important criterion for me when buying stock fabrics is their durability and wear resistance. At the same time, these two parameters – monocomposition and durability – sometimes contradict each other. Natural materials, without elastane and polyester, undergo deformation in one way or another during wear, can stretch out at the knees or shrink. In some cases, I even buy XNUMX% synthetics on stock, if I could not find any alternative to it. This was the case with down jackets: we sewed them from stock polyester raincoats, because I could not find a natural fabric that was water-repellent and windproof.

Finding materials like a treasure hunt

I read a lot about sustainable fashion, about climate change – both scientific studies and articles. Now I have a background that facilitates the decision-making process. But all supply chains are still very opaque. To get at least some information, you have to ask a lot of questions and often not get answers to them.

The aesthetic component is also very important to me. I believe that it depends on how beautiful a thing is, whether a person wants to carefully wear, store, transfer, take care of this thing. I find very few fabrics from which I really want to create a product. Every time it’s like a treasure hunt – you need to find materials that you like aesthetically and at the same time meet my criteria for sustainability.

On requirements for suppliers and partners

The most important criterion for me is the well-being of people. It is very, very important for me that all my partners, contractors, suppliers treat their employees as human beings. I myself try to be sensitive to those with whom I work. For example, the reusable bags in which we give out purchases are sewn for us by the girl Vera. She set the price for these bags herself. But at some point, I realized that the price did not correspond to the work being pledged, and suggested that she raise the payment by 40%. I want to help people realize the value of their work. I feel very bad at the thought that in the XNUMXst century there is still the problem of slave labor, including child labor.

Photo: Mira Fedotova

I focus on the concept of life cycle. I have seven criteria that I keep in mind when choosing material suppliers:

  • social responsibility: decent working conditions for all those involved in the production chain;
  • harmlessness for soil, air, for people who live in countries where raw materials are created and material is produced, as well as safety for people who will wear products;
  • durability, wear resistance;
  • biodegradability;
  • possibility of processing or reuse;
  • place of production;
  • smart water and energy use and a smart carbon footprint.

Of course, one way or another, almost all of them are connected with people’s lives. When we talk about harmlessness to soil and air, we understand that people breathe this air, food is grown on this soil. The same is true with global climate change. We do not care about the planet itself as such – it adapts. But are people adapting to such rapid changes?

I hope that in the future I will have the resources to commission studies from outside companies. For example, what kind of packaging to use for sending orders is a very non-trivial question. There are bags that can be composted, but they are not produced in our country, they must be ordered from somewhere far away in Asia. And besides, not ordinary composting, but industrial composting may be needed. And even if the usual is suitable – how many buyers will use it? one%? If I were a big brand, I would invest in this research.

On the pros and cons of stock fabrics

In stocks, there are very unusual textures that I have not seen in the regulars. The fabric is bought in small and limited lots, that is, the buyer can be sure that his product is unique. Prices are relatively affordable (lower than when ordering regulars from Italy, but higher than from China). The ability to order a small amount is also a plus for a small brand. There is a certain minimum for ordering regulars, and often this is an unbearable footage.

But there are also disadvantages. Ordering a trial batch will not work: while you are testing it, the rest can simply be sold out. Therefore, if I order a fabric, and during the testing process I understand that, for example, it peels very strongly (forms pellets. — Trends), then I don’t use it in the collection, but leave it to sew samples, work out new styles. Another disadvantage is that if customers really like some fabric, it will not be possible to buy it in addition.

Also, stock fabrics can be defective: sometimes materials for this very reason end up in stock. In some cases, this marriage can be noticed only when the product has already been sewn – this is the most unpleasant.

Another big minus for me is that when buying stock fabrics it is very difficult to figure out who, where and under what conditions produced materials and raw materials. As a creator of a sustainable brand, I strive for maximum transparency.

About the lifetime warranty on things

Mira Fedotova items have a lifetime warranty program. Customers use it, but since the brand is small and young, there are not many such cases. It happened that it was necessary to replace a broken zipper on trousers or alter the product due to the fact that the seam burst. In each case, we coped with the task and the customers were very satisfied.

Since so far there is very little data, it is impossible to conclude how difficult it is to run the program and how much resources are spent on it. But I can say that repairs are quite expensive. For example, replacing a zipper on trousers at the cost of work is about 60% of the cost of sewing the trousers themselves. So now I can’t even calculate the economics of this program. For me, it’s just very important in terms of my values: fixing a thing is better than creating a new one.

Photo: Mira Fedotova

About the new business model

From the very first days of the brand’s existence, I did not like the traditional model of product distribution. It assumes that the brand produces a certain number of things, tries to sell at full price, and then makes discounts for what did not sell. I always thought that this format did not suit me.

And so I came up with a new model, which we tested in the last two collections. It looks like this. We announce in advance that we will have pre-orders open for the new collection for a specified three days. During these three days, people can purchase items with a 20% discount. After that, the pre-order is closed and the collection is no longer available for purchase for several weeks. In these few weeks, we are sewing products for pre-order, and also, based on the demand for certain things, we are sewing products for offline. After that, we open the opportunity to buy products at the full price offline and online.

This helps, firstly, to assess the demand for each model and not to send off too much. Secondly, this way you can use the fabric more intelligently than with single orders. Due to the fact that in three days we receive many orders at once, several products can be laid out when cutting, some parts complement others and there is less unused fabric.

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