Posted: Fri 10th Nov 2023
We partnered with Vodafone Business to launch business.connected, helping 800,000 small and medium-sized businesses take their digital skills to the next level over the next three years.
Business owners can take part in e-learning modules, digital workshops delivered by business.connected advisers and Lunch and Learn webinars, and have a free consultation with a Vodafone V-Hub adviser.
The business.connected programme covers a range of core digital topics, from SEO and e-commerce to cyber-security and connectivity.
We're catching up with some of the business owners who have been taking part in the initiative to find out about how it's benefited them so far.
Here, we talk to Esther Knight, founder of Fanfare Label, a sustainable women's clothing brand that works towards a "triple bottom line" of profit, planet and people.
Esther, tell us about your background and what led to you starting a business.
I've worked in the fashion industry for over 12 years, within the buying departments of many high-street and designer brands, including Vivienne Westwood. I worked my way up various buying roles in high-street fashion, developing collections across a broad range of womenswear departments.
Early in my career, I started to research sustainable fashion, which wasn't a buzzword back then. I predicted the sustainability shift more than eight years ago and have been championing ethical practices and change for over a decade.
Where did your idea for Fanfare Label come from?
I've always been captivated by the transformative power of clothing and its ability to reflect individuality and creativity. But it was during my time in the fashion industry that I saw first-hand the unsustainable practices and the negative consequences they had on both people and the planet.
This experience ignited a desire in me to create a brand that could help solve these issues and redefine the way we approach fashion. The concept of Fanfare Label took shape as I researched and explored sustainable practices, materials and production methods.
I was driven by the belief that fashion can transcend aesthetics and embrace sustainability at its core. I launched Fanfare Label with the goal of providing fashion-forward, responsible pieces that don't ever compromise on morals.
The idea was to provide an alternative to the prevailing throwaway fast-fashion culture by offering pieces that were designed to last, using sustainable materials and ethical production techniques that put people and the planet first.
I wanted to redefine the way people perceive fashion and show that style, sustainability and ethical practices can coexist harmoniously.
What are some of the key challenges you've faced?
One of the biggest hurdles has been sourcing materials that meet our high standards for sustainability without compromising on quality.
Finding fabrics and components that align with our eco-friendly criteria – such as organic or recycled materials – can be complex. It requires thorough research, vetting suppliers, and building strong relationships with suppliers who share our commitment to sustainability.
Another challenge has been striking a balance between sustainability and affordability. While we strive to create ethical and sustainable products, we also want them to be accessible to a wide range of customers.
As such, we have to carefully consider price, as sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing processes can sometimes carry higher production costs.
We've had to navigate this challenge by finding innovative solutions, whether it's exploring new business models, optimising production processes, or fostering strong partnerships with suppliers who offer competitive pricing for sustainable materials.
Overall, these challenges have helped us grow and innovate. They've pushed us to think creatively, collaborate with like-minded partners, and continually improve our practices. The incredible response and support we've received from customers, industry peers and organisations like the British Fashion Council has been truly uplifting.
The journey ahead may have its challenges, but with the overwhelming response we've received, we're more determined than ever to drive positive change and be a catalyst for a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry.
What do you enjoy most about entrepreneurship? And what do you find most difficult?
One of the things I enjoy most is being able to bring my vision to life and create something that aligns with my values. Shaping and building a business based on my ethics and beliefs is incredibly rewarding. It allows me to express my creativity, make a positive impact, and create change in the industry in my own unique way.
It can be demanding and it does require a significant amount of time, energy and dedication. And it involves taking risks, making tough decisions, and facing setbacks along the way. But the challenges are part of the journey, and overcoming them and seeing positive change makes it all worth it.
In this webinar, Kid-A co-founders Andy Silcock and Adam Toms explain how to set up a sustainable business while still driving your mission:
In your biggest moments of doubt, how did you find a way through?
It's been really essential for me to take a step back and assess the root causes of those doubts. Understanding the underlying reasons for uncertainty helps me find solutions or alternative approaches.
One way I pushed through my most significant doubts was by revisiting my initial vision and purpose. I reminded myself of why I started the business and the positive impact I wanted to create. Reconnecting with my core values and mission served as a source of motivation and drive during challenging times.
Also, seeking guidance from mentors and experts in the field proved invaluable. Their perspectives and experiences gave me fresh insight and alternative viewpoints that helped me gain clarity and make more informed decisions.
What advice would you give to other fashion brands wanting to make more sustainable choices?
Educate yourself about the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. Understand the issues at hand – such as pollution, waste and worker exploitation – and the role that fashion plays in contributing to these problems. Once you know, you'll be able to make informed decisions and seek out sustainable alternatives.
Make transparency and traceability in your supply chain a priority. From sourcing materials to production and distribution, aim to work with suppliers and manufacturers who share your commitment to sustainability and ethical practices.
Build relationships based on trust and open communication, and make sure your entire supply chain upholds the values you believe in.
Never underestimate the power of collaboration. Look to team up with like-minded people, organisations and initiatives that align with your sustainability goals. By joining forces, you can have greater impact and create positive change on a larger scale. You'll also have more opportunity to share knowledge and resources.
Finally, what's next for you and Fanfare Label?
Looking ahead, the future for Fanfare Label is filled with exciting opportunities. I'm actively exploring wholesale partnerships to bring our sustainable fashion to a broader market.
By collaborating with retail outlets and online platforms, I aim to make our pieces more accessible to a wider audience and allow more people to embrace sustainable fashion choices.
As well as expanding our reach, I'm really passionate about creating meaningful connections with our community. I have plans to organise more in-person events, such as pop-up shops and sustainable fashion showcases, where customers can engage with our brand and experience the quality and style of our garments first-hand.
Through these events, I'll not only be able to connect with our supporters, but also have a chance to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable fashion and foster a sense of community among people who share our values.
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