To All The Brands I've Loved Before…
It’s been a difficult year for sustainable brands. Hands up, who else has spent less on sustainable fashion, beauty, and travel this year? Me too. With a drastic economic downturn led by Brexit and the covid pandemic, the cost of living rose sharply in the last few years, and has continued to reduce how far our money goes.
For many sustainable brands, this has cut two ways: first, in increasing the already high costs of labour and materials, which when sourced ethically, reduce profit margins; and second, in reducing custom from shoppers who can no longer afford to buy better when a regular grocery shop costs 10% more than in previous years.
At Sustainably Influenced, we’ve seen many of our favourite sustainable brands close their doors this year. And so, I wanted to write a tribute to the brands that we loved and lost in 2023.
Rather morbidly, I’ve kept a list of ‘obituaries’ on my notes app this year. It started after my best friend saw her old workplace close down, and from there, I saw more and more Instagram posts and newsletters with bad news and broken heart emojis. It’s been genuinely startling to see so many of my favourite places to shop close down, but more than that, it’s been a hard realisation to see sustainable businesses close their doors due to the current economic climate.
In times like this, it makes it all the more clear that our economy and its free market rules are to blame for the exploitation of people and planet, and for many, they have to do so simply to survive.
THIS YEAR WE LOVED & LOST…
When it comes to sustainable activewear, Asquith was one of my go-to brands. Heck, I was even nominated for their Sustainability Blogger of the Year Award a few years ago! So it was sad to see the brand close its doors this year. One bright spark that has come out of this is My Skin Feels, a new beauty brand, founded by Danielle Close, who previously supported Asquith’s marketing team. I recommend checking the brand out, as they’ve scooped all the awards this year!
Billi‘s closure felt personal to me. The brand made the world’s fastest biodegradable tights, and they were pretty, to boot. I personally supported their crowdfunding campaign when they first launched, and from there bought a number of pairs, featuring them heavily in my guide to sustainable tights. I’ll miss their Coco Tights the most.
In 2022, I bookmarked a swimsuit designed by Bower. “This is for my Brighton beach days in 2023”, I thought. Cut to 2023, and Bower had sadly closed its doors before I got the chance to ever live out my colourful swimsuit dreams.
While Common Thread‘s webshop is still open, the brand announced its closure in late November. In a ‘bittersweet letter’, they shared their intentions moving forwards. Put simply: it truly is a bittersweet to recognise that running a sustainable business just isn’t sustainable anymore. Shop up to 50% off their range while stocks last.
Despite all the hype – and furious investment – into fashion resale this year, Cudoni just couldn’t make it work. As a luxury online consignment store, it was one of the first to elevate pre-loved fashion and accessories into an exclusive space. Now, Sign of the Times has acquired some of Cudoni’s assets, so if you had your eye on something, you may find it on their site or at their pop-up at Peter Jones (open until the end of January 2024).
One of the brands that caused me the most heartbreak this year was Dai. I own a number of pieces from the brand, and they’re some of my most worn too. Designed with movement in mind, the items fuse sportswear designs with elevated fabrics, as this crew-neck top and cashmere sweater show. I’ll go on wearing these for years to come, even though the brand is no longer around.
EVE & KEEL
Eve & Keel created aromatherapy products to calm, soothe, and indulge. I owned a crystal roller of theirs a few years ago, so was sad to see their closure notice earlier this year. If you’d still like to stock up on their products, you can shop them for a limited time at The UNSEEN Shop* on Etsy.
The closure of Fiils was a shock this year. I’d known the brand as The Conscious Beauty Co. – which featured heavily in my guide to refillable beauty back in 2020 – and since then they’d gone through a rebrand. I’d happily spotted their products in indie boutiques and even an eco aparthotel I stayed at in London. This isn’t the end of refillable beauty by any means – but it does show how these practices are waning during costlier times.
In the luxury fashion space, Hanna Fiedler will be missed. From plush silk blouses to structured linen dresses, the brand created minimalist luxury and stood for high quality materials and craftsmanship.
When you get into sustainable fashion, sustainable laundry products quickly become a secondary focus. Kair provided premium laundry care with gorgeous fragrances – think amber, bergamot, cedar wood. Unfortunately Kair couldn’t go the distance, and honestly when it comes to laundry products, it is a David vs. Goliath fight against P&G and Unilever. I hope eco cleaning product brothers in arms Clothes Doctor and Norfolk Natural Living can continue the fight.
Sustainable loungewear boomed over the last three years, and sadly it’s looking like that pool is starting to dry up. With many of us heading back to work, loungewear has become less of a priority, and we’ve seen casualties like New Standard because of it. Saying that, you can scoop up some last-minute deals in their Clearance Sale while stocks last.
Eco-friendly period products are important, for both your health and the health of the planet. Ohne created cool eco period products, and I remember their launch focused heavily on CBD oil to reduce cramps. It seems obvious now, but until that time period pain relief wasn’t even talked about. In some ways, I think they changed the industry, so it was sad to hear of their recent closure.
One of the brand closures that really broke my heart this year was Pala Eyewear. I know the brand personally, having met with the team multiple times, and I would consider John and Kayleigh friends. Seeing Pala struggle this year made me aware of just how saturated the eyewear market had become, but also how important it is to support independent brands doing good things. I enjoyed hosting a clothes swap at one of their pop-ups earlier this year, and saw many of their frames go down the runway at Brighton’s first Sustainable Fashion Week. Not all is lost, however! While John and Kayleigh have moved on to pastures new, Pala is now part of the Coral Eyewear family. Be sure to check both out if you’re in the market for new sunnies!
The closure of People Tree UK caused quite a stir online. As one of the first fashion brands to champion true ethics and transparency, setting up in the 90’s and being one of the stars of the True Cost docufilm, to see their UK business close sent ripples of worry through the sustainable fashion space. While the brand has stayed quiet as to why they have ceased trading here, they do continue to make and sell clothes at their original location in Japan, and have opened a European website which promises to ship to the UK very soon.
In May of this year, Poshmark UK launched. The American second-hand peer-to-peer site had finally crossed the Atlantic, with much buzz. But by October, it was all over. What went wrong? Who knows. All we know is they promise to return, and we’ll be excited when they do.
Rho made some of the prettiest loungewear, in pastel shades and organic fabrics. Sadly, the business closed earlier this year, noting that the reduced number of orders made it difficult to continue operating. Rho was a victim of the cost of living crisis, and I hope to see its co-founders go on to better and brighter things.
Sustainable menswear is few and far between, and sadly this year saw the closure of one such brand. Riz Boardshorts made men’s swim shorts and swimwear in vibrant colours and patterns, with circular principles. In his final letter, Riz Smith mentions how the industry has changed, and that greenwashing and algorithms have deterred the continuation of the brand. It’s sad to see, and I hope this will peter out with more policing of greenwashing by UK and EU Governments in the near future.
Where to get your Riz fix: Brothers We Stand covers all bases for ethical menswear
While Sancho’s didn’t close down fully this year, it did close its physical location. After speaking with founder Kalkidan Legesse earlier this year, I learned that the decision came from a new direction for her work: the launch of OWNI, an AI-powered digital wardrobe helping encourage rewearing and sharing.
In an ideal world, would she have kept her shop open? Perhaps not, as she told me: “In terms of what’s interests me now, is recognising that even with Sancho’s, while it’s a brilliant business, it’s also [operating on] a linear business model where we’re just selling new items. I realised the mechanism for growth is just selling more and I had to sit down and think, is that the goal? Are we just trying to sell more stuff? Nice things, important things, necessary things, but is it our goal to sell more of it?”
As a handbag lover, seeing Shaker close was a sad day. Despite making sustainable handbags, Founder Jessica wrote in her final letter that she had “ironically” been unable to make a sustainable business in the process.
Tonlé stood for strong ethics, zero waste principles, and beautiful designs. They were a respected brand and so their closure this year shocked many. However, not all hope is lost. While Tonlé the brand may be no more, I hear whispers that Tonlé is still working to create sustainable change within fashion supply chains. Keep an eye out!
Another blow to the sustainable fashion community was the closure of Yala Jewellery. I had a great pleasure of working closely with Audrey Migot-Adholla, Founder of Yala Jewellery, on the development of the brand’s tone of voice and copywriting, and we collaborated for years after. Seeing the business close this year made me very sad, as I know the work Audrey put in to find and work with artisans and a women’s collective in Kenya. I’ll cherish the pieces of Yala I have in my jewellery box.
Finally, a farewell to an online boutique that I’ll miss! Zero Living curated beautiful zero waste products and homewares, and sadly announced their closure in the run up to Christmas. Their fate follows the one of my favourite zero waste shop here in Brighton, which also closed this year. The Zero Living online store remains open with 50% off orders over £20, so be sure to shop and support in their final days.
WILL 2024 BE ANY BETTER?
And what about 2024? For starters, I’m going to get a healthier hobby than keeping tabs on dying businesses (!) But in all seriousness, I hope the year brings more stability and prosperity for sustainable businesses. It seems the worst is over, with inflation falling once more, but with this government who knows…
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