SUSS UK is the brainchild of fashion designer Abigail Grainger and journalist Emma Grace Bailey, and aims to change the way we shop by providing insight into the destructive nature of our high street brands - providing access to ethical and sustainable alternatives for a healthier and happier planet.
Targeting the fashion loving millennial generation, SUSS UK are dedicated to raising awareness, not preaching about our modern life but demonstrating that we, as consumers, have options, and we deserve to know what those options are. Access and education form the basis of our philosophy, providing talks, workshops and guides that discuss the issues and solutions, with the hope of hosting pop-up shopping events that provide sustainable and ethical alternatives. These pop-up shopping events are the reason for this campaign.
Over the last five years, the fast fashion industry has grown exponentially, with the top five retailers growing 9.7 per cent year on year, according to financial holding company CIT. The fashion industry is estimated to be worth around $1.2 trillion globally, with brands churning out an average of 52 micro collections a year, resulting in new items in the stores every week and consumers buying an average of four times the amount of clothing than they did in the 1980s.
With higher production levels comes higher consumption, which is resulting in a quantity of waste that the planet can no longer deal with. In just one year, the clothes we discard in the UK alone could fill Wembley stadium, the equivalent of 1.5 million tonnes of landfill every 365 days. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, second to oil.
The resulting environmental impact is proving catastrophic. For example, the water consumption involved in making just one t-shirt is the equivalent to how much one person drinks in a three year period - 2720 litres. Jeans are even worse, with one pair taking over 7000 litres to produce, and 2 billion of them are produced every year.
Even the likes of cotton are not all they seem to be. Used in over 40% of our garments, it has come to have a clean and wholesome image, but in reality drinks water like no other, and is one of the most chemically dependent crops in the world. Despite only occupying 2.4% of the world’s cropland, it consumes 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of insecticides.
One extreme example of cotton’s effect on the environment can be seen in Uzbekistan. One of the world’s top producers of cotton, the country re-directed two rivers in Central Asia to irrigate their cotton production over 60 years ago. Today, water levels in the Aral region are less than 10% of what they were 50 years ago, and as the area has dried up, so too have the communities that relied on it. In addition, dust from the dry lakebed, which is saturated with chemicals and salt, creating a public health crisis, and settled on farm land contaminating the soil.
And it’s not just the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry that needs addressing. The human impact is equally as concerning, with poor working conditions and low wages a common issue throughout emerging economies who are desperately trying to keep up with the demand from the West. Tragically, these conditions have even led to death, a devastating truth that can no longer be ignored after the 2013 Rana Plaza complex collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1134 people. A price too high to pay for simply a t-shirt.
Unfortunately, these facts are less well known than one would hope, and with the fashion industry notoriously secretive it’s hard for consumers to realise the impact their purchases are having. Here at SUSS UK we believe we all have the right to know what we’re buying, where our money is going and exactly who and what is involved, so lets start asking more questions.
Abigail Grainger and Emma Grace Bailey met at the University of the Arts, London. Abigail graduated from Central St. Martins with a degree in fashion design with marketing. She has held numerous design roles over the past 10 years and currently works as a senior designer for a London-based supplier. Emma Grace Bailey graduated from London College of Fashion with a degree in fashion journalism. She has contributed to a number of national publications and spent 18 months working as an editor in Dubai. She currently works at trend forecasting agency WGSN.
Working in the heart of London and at the centre of the fashion industry, we are acutely aware of the issues running through its very lifeblood. Our firsthand experience of how the industry operates has caused us concern - we are over-producing and over-consuming and something has to change - and it is with this in mind that SUSS UK came to be.
Over the last six months SUSS UK have teamed up with numerous industry professionals who have backed our campaign and helped spread the word.
The Hackney Fairtrade group is a fantastic social and community initiative from our own home borough backed by the local council, made up of a group of volunteers intent on introducing fair and ethical trading practices. We have been lucky enough to join forces with them and are working to bring fair trade certified and sustainable brands together for the modern shopper.
James Fleming is another friend of SUSS, an experienced curator of public history who has held specialist roles at The National Archives and The National Army Museum, he has brought his background of events management and audience engagement to the brand, assisting us with the delivery of the education programme at the heart of our work.
We have also collaborated with three talented illustrators and a graphic designer, who are bringing the brand to life in a creative, visually exciting and contemporary way - helping us to maintain an aesthetic level that is inline with the fashionable consumer of today.
The same can be said for our film director, Isabelle Sieb, an award winning, British-German director who has worked with clients such as National Geographic and FIFA, and recently worked in partnership with Big Talk and Babycow Productions, producing a film that won the Chris Collins Best of British Live Action award at the Oscar - and BAFTA - qualifying Encounters Film Festival 2016.
The SUSS UK team have also sought advice from Allanna McAspurn, previous CEO of MADE-BY and a leading sustainable fashion consultant who has 15 years of experience working with major high street brands such as Primark, helping them work towards a more sustainable business model.
SUSS UK began over six months ago with Sustainable September, a month dedicated to raising awareness and offering the everyday consumer access to some of the industry’s top professionals.
Two evenings of talks in East London saw speakers from across the industry come together, providing insight into everything from consumer practices through to the negative side of charitable donations and the real life environmental, human and economical impact of our clothing consumption habits.
Speakers included a number of leaders, including Carry Somers, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, Tamsin LeJeune, co-founder of the The Ethical Fashion Forum, Amanda Johnston of The Sustainable Angle and Cyndi Rhoades, founder of Worn Again. Designer Diana Auria of Auria London - a member of Selfridge’s Bright Young Things initiative - debuted her new documentary about the sustainable practices involved in developing her swimwear line, whilst Amisha Ghadiali - a sustainable fashion guru - gave hands on advice to our fashionable audience about the simple yet impactful changes they could make in their own purchasing habits. Finally Amber Butchart, a specialist in vintage fashion, showcased a preview of her upcoming BBC documentary about the impact our charitable donations are having in the developing world - eliminating the need for their own fashion related industries, and limiting skill development and jobs.
Response was fantastic, with events selling out two months in advance, and sponsors including the likes of Mast Brothers, Vivid Drinks, Rude Health, Davines, and Ape Snacks, who all donated treats for our sustainable goody bags in promotional totes.
Press was also present at the events, with post-event coverage including features on Huffington Post UK and the WGSN Insider.
Our second networking event in November 2016, held at Work.Life in London Fields, was also a sell out event, where we reached out to the founders of new and established sustainable fashion and beauty brands, who came together to discuss their goals and how we could work together to achieve our overall aim. Building a community of likeminded people is key to the SUSS UK identity, as we believe we are better together.
INSTAGRAM: @isusseditout 700 followers
Huffington Post: Get Wise. Buy Better. Make a Difference
The Sustainable Angle: #Isusseditout - Get wise, buy better, make a difference
The Sustainable Angle: Sustainable Networking event hosted by SUSS UK
Bringing together sustainable brands across fashion, beauty, homeware, food and drink, our aim is to create a week long concept lifestyle store that can help make multiple areas of life more sustainable - from your wardrobe to personal hygiene. Access and education are key to our ethos, targeting the everyday consumer to make them more aware of the options available to them beyond the loud, white noise of the high street. By providing a brick and mortar setting where they can experience the product hands on, we hope to connect them to the issues caused by overconsumption and offer them practical and desirable solutions.
A curation of stylish and forward-thinking brands, we want to change the way that people view sustainable product, presenting it in a way that is exciting, design-led and on trend. Just because it’s sustainable doesn't mean it can’t be stylish and cool too.
Combining shopping with a breakout food and drink area, this is a place that will encourage exploration. In addition, we will be hosting workshops led by industry professionals, for consumers to better understand the problems caused by the current fast fashion model, as well as a series of talks that will run throughout the event.
Educate consumers about the destructive nature of the fashion industry and the need for a sustainable approach Provide access to sustainable alternatives that are fashion led and design focused Create a community of like-minded people including start-up companies and ethical, local businesses as together we are stronger
September 7th - 24th (to fall in line with our own Sustainable September initiative)
Hackney House, Curtain Road, EC2A
Thursday Evening 7th September: 7pm - 10pm: Launch Party Open to press, friends, and family and with 200 tickets available for sale. The evening will include talks from some of the industry’s top leaders, alongside live music and a key networking opportunity as well as a preview of the pop-up shop.
8th - 24th September:
Concept store open for business
Every Saturday & Sunday:
10am - 5pm: Pop-Up Shop, Workshops and Talks
Throughout the event - shopping will sit alongside food and drink breakout areas as well as workshops and a talk schedule that will take place over the weekends only. These talks will give attendees the opportunity to better understand the issues caused by the current fast fashion model and provide advice and easy-to-adopt tips that can be easily integrated into day to day life. Workshops will adopt a more hands on approach, with everything from organic wine tasting to knitting classes on the table.
As part of our continuing commitment to raising awareness around the issues of sustainability, we have launched a social media campaign that is already gaining traction. Using our unique hashtag - #isusseditout - we are encouraging the sustainable and fashionable community to tell us, via Instagram, how they live more consciously - from the brands they love that are doing it better, through to lifestyle changes such as using a ‘bag for life’ every time they shop.
If you’re kind enough to back our campaign we would love to have you join us on this endeavour and hold up our call to arms and help get other people on board.
Here is just a sample of those that have already joined the mission.
Top picks wall:
The three day pop-up shop will include an #isusseditout wall where we highlight some of the top brands and products on offer in the pop-up. The wall will take pride of place in the entrance of the store for all customers to see when they first arrive - driving traffic to particular brands.
In order to continue our educational objective, we will produce a guidebook, for sale at the pop-up, that includes information on all the brands and speakers that are partaking in the event. Revealing the stories behind each of the brands, this guidebook will help our customers continue their sustainable journey, with a pocket book of key brands that they can continue to invest in. Alongside this information, the guidebook will also include features from selected journalists, discussing the issues surrounding overconsumption and offering personal advice about how to change damaging habits for a brighter future.
My Sustainable Story:
All the brands involved in the pop up will supply us with their own sustainable story - how they came to be and why they chose to take this business path, as well as the key things they do that make them better for our world. We will exhibit these stories throughout the pop-up space, allowing all of our customers the opportunity to engage and connect with these inspiring journeys at their leisure.
Prospective brands on board so far:
We have already confirmed a number of brands to be sold in the pop up shop, with more coming every week. At present these include:
Your money will go towards the setting up and running of the pop up – from sourcing a venue through to promotional materials and even the look and feel of the concept store as we strive to make sustainable fashion as visually appealing as possible. In return, we have a host of rewards to thank you for your donation and to help bring you into the sustainable fashion community. Please see the infographic below for how the money pledged will be distributed.
You are awesome. Thank you for taking the time to read all about SUSS UK and our rather excellent mission to make the world that little bit better. We will give you the biggest virtual high five possible - trust us it will be powerful enough to rocket you into space and all that.
You are also super awesome, and shall receive a specially created SUSS UK guide book that will provide you with all the information you need to live your best sustainable life. Go forth and prosper.
Now we're talking. You mean serious sustainable business. In return for your love of our little planet will reward you with a SUSS UK guide book and a ticket to our exciting launch night event - which promises to be an evening of entertainment, great food and drink, informative talks from industry leaders, and will give you a sneak preview of the wonderful goods we have on offer. (50 AVAILABLE - you lucky few you)
This is where is gets serious. We couldn't make this dream a reality without people like you and you've really come through. You star. Therefore you will receive not only a launch party ticket and a guide book but a limited edition SUSS UK tote bag chock full of wonderful ethical and sustainable brands up to the value of £15. (15 AVAILABLE)
You're practically at God-like status now. We owe you big time, meaning your unique tote bag will be stuffed to the brim of goodies up to the value of £25 and you will also receive a ticket to one workshop of your choosing. As well, of course, a guide book and a ticket to our lovely launch party. (10 AVAILABLE)
Wow. We owe you and the planet does too. It's super happy right now. You've exceeded our expectations and we're seriously chuffed, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts. As a wave of gratitude we want to provide you with access to the entire month long pop-up - all the talks and workshops that you can fit into your personal schedule. (Please not that there will be scheduling conflicts in the line up so not every single one will be possible). You will also receive a limited tote bag full of goodies up to the value of £50 PLUS a ticket to the launch event and SUSS UK guide book. We really do like you. (5 AVAILABLE)
**All rewards will be sent out during the month of September**
Risks and challenges
The main risk to this project is that we don’t get enough customers through the door or attendees to the workshops and talks. It’s a big risk, but one we plan to spend a lot of time and energy preventing.
We aim to balance it by attracting as much press exposure to promote the event as possible, helped by Emma’s journalistic background and contacts, and our partners in Hackney Council, as well as reaching out to the leading figures who have supported us so far to use their reach to attract interested parties.
To pull this off, our small team of two also needs to connect to, work with and collaborate with a considerable number of people, including brands, writers, printers, workshop leaders, speakers, a landlord, designers and even furniture suppliers (among others) whilst working with a tight 6 month turn-around period.
Our team may be small and we may be facing a challenge, but we work hard, are incredibly passionate about this project, have extensive knowledge of the fashion industry and know that there is an audience hungry for this industry to step up and take responsibility for what they are doing.
With every relationship, comes communication and so we promise to keep you updated every step of the way.