It is estimated that worldwide, around 107 billion pieces of clothing and 14.5 billion pairs of shoes were purchased in 2016 (Common Objective, 2018). Most of these items are made under unethical conditions and through a highly polluting supply chain.
Luckily there are great initiatives that are trying to change the industry for good and are offering consumers a different alternative.
Meet Iris Skrami, co-founder of Renoon, an Amsterdam-based FashionTech company that created a search platform for conscious shopping. They are on a mission to combine the love for fashion with caring for the planet, by simplifying the search for options that best fit your style and contribute to positive change in the world.
We were curious to learn more about what it is that Iris stands for, and how she came to the idea to create Renoon.
Better Magazine: How did you start in the fashion industry? And why did you feel the need to create Renoon?
Iris: Professionally I started quite early. I started working in fintech, in a position that was indirectly linked to fashion. I remember during my master's time wanting to work for Nike, as this has been a very inspiring brand for me. I admire the way Nike builds the company, but also their strong sense of purpose and power. So I started working for Nike, and that’s also how this journey started, because I moved to The Netherlands for that job. After Nike I moved to PVH where I was responsible for building a startup within a multinational. This took me to many different countries, digitalizing stores and creating new teams from different departments. It was a very horizontal position, as what I was doing took a lot of team expertise, so I saw a lot of what was happening in different teams and I learned so much.
But my personal journey towards sustainability and fashion started even before. I remember being sensible to the topic since I was really young and sustainability was not what it is today. When I was at university we did a case study on the Body Shop. It was really about how you can make an impact and have a deeper purpose as a company, that goes beyond making just products. I remember after that going back to my dad and telling him ‘I want to be the chief sustainability officer at a fashion company when I’m older’.
My passion for yoga was also a big trigger. I did a yoga teacher training, which escalated to a youtube channel with over 1 million views! Yoga has influenced my life deeply and made me think about certain decisions I made, for example with food. I started asking myself questions when purchasing things and I became more conscious about what I put inside my body. At one point I just made the connection with these decisions and how they also affect clothing, as this was the second biggest consumption that I would make. Being in Amsterdam also played a big role in this journey. Having Fashion For Good here, and so many different initiatives around sustainability. Then one day I needed a dress, but I wanted it to be sustainable, and I realised that it didn’t take me those 10 minutes and a couple of clicks that I was used to. Now it actually took me a month and a half to find something, and that’s when I realised that there is a problem. There is so much innovation and great brands that I started to discover after months and months of research, but it’s very difficult to make a faster change if you can’t even reach those incredible brands. How can I get in touch with them without having to spend so much time researching? Or in the worst scenario not even finding them. So as consumers you may have the best intentions when it comes to consumption, but it might not be that easy. Also when you think of all those brands that are actually making a lot of impact, how can they connect to the right consumers, without spending tons on advertisements? And that’s when Renoon was created.
BM: What do you wish consumers would see or could change from the fashion industry?
I: Being conscious about the things that they buy, and understanding that every purchase is like a vote for the world you want to live in. I know it can be hard when you want to make a quick purchase, but it’s really important to understand that you can make a lot of impact by making better choices. It doesn’t have to be the perfect choice, because there is also no perfect brand nor a perfect product, but to already acknowledge that our actions have a consequence is a great step into the right direction.
BM: What are Renoon’s Sustainability Standards, and why are they so important?
I: For us our Sustainability Standards are the basis. Sustainability is something that we not only look at at brand level, but also at product level. We have certain criteria that products need to pass before being visible on Renoon. When it comes to brands we look at things such as transparency or what the brand is doing in terms of supporting causes or company policies. At a product level we look closely at compositions, materials and certifications that support the positive values of that specific product with the highest industry recognised standards. So for example at the moment we don’t accept BCI standards, but we do accept GOTS. We do this to tailor the products to the users, as many times there is not a black and white difference between sustainable or not. It’s about what impact the product is making, and what impact do I want to make as a consumer. You can have personal preferences that could be linked to making an impact on the environment, but you could also be focusing on the ethical aspects within the supply chain or even animal well being. So it depends on the sensitivity we have to a specific problem, because again there is no perfect product and there are always aspects that could be improved. It’s about pushing the change and making this transition faster.
BM: What is in your opinion the best way to make the fashion industry more sustainable?
I: The word ‘sustainable’ has been used so many times, that it probably has lost some meaning (laugh), but it’s still important that we use it. Until we get to the point that we need to be at, we still need to keep on using it and be consistent.
The good thing is that it unites us all, because it’s such a complex topic that we can’t only have brands participating, we also need consumers to be part of the solution and authorities need to be on board too. The industry has been working quite some time in re-building the backbones. To go back on what surprised me from the industry is that there is a lot of talk about sustainability. I would hear executives talk about it, but in the end it would stay a concept and things wouldn’t be getting done. So what I believe is that the most important thing is just to do things, and probably being less critical about what is being done. Because something that is detrimental for brands to adapt sustainable practises to their business has been the finger pointing that sometimes happens from the consumer part, but also from other brands. If you are a sustainable brand you will get shot after the immediate first mistake that you make, and that also makes brands scared to come forward with their claims. So just do it, implement new things and make some mistakes along the way, learn from it and just go forwards with it, otherwise things will just stay the same.
BM: What do you see in the near future for Renoon?
I: We are pre-launching the 16th of February with invite only. We see a constant growth of the users and the people that really embrace the mission together with us and help us build it. Many brands are following along the journey and in both ways support us and we support them. We hope that our launch in The Netherlands will be successful and we can help more people become more conscious about their consumer behaviour. Instead of going to the usual shops you can actually find sustainable brands and shop in a very easy way. We are looking forward to officially launching and doing our part in this very big problem. The more we are tackling this the greater.
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