London-based womenswear brand Hide The Label was launched last year when brother and sister duo, Ryan and Shereen Barrett, set out to make a truly sustainable fashion brand; one that considered its social and environmental footprint at every stage of its supply chain.
The brand’s philosophy centres around creating effortless, well-fitting and long-lasting silhouettes that at the same time help tackle one of the fashion industry’s most prominent and longstanding issues: sustainability. Direct to fabric digital printing, recycled fabrics, biodegradable packaging, and season-transcending styles. Those are just a few ways the British brand is going about the task.
The ‘slow-fashion’ brand currently operates an online store, with dresses and tops from its debut collection ranging between 69 and 129 pounds.
FashionUnited spoke with Shereen about the company’s progress since its launch last year, the challenge of balancing sustainability with high quality design, and what it means to be a truly sustainable brand.
Ryan and Shereen Barrett, founders of Hide The Label
What’s the story behind the name, Hide The Label?
Both of us previously worked in the fashion and textile industry. Through working with both high end and low end brands we felt there was a need for slower sustainable fashion.
When Ryan was once on set modelling, a stylist asked him to hide the label from something he was wearing. He thought it would be a good name for the brand and it stuck. We both decided it represented our ethos - that fashion should be more about the garment itself and how it makes you feel, rather than about “who are you are wearing.”
Does creating a business with family, more specifically a sibling, pose any problems, or has it largely been smooth sailing?
Being brother and sister, we naturally have our disagreements. But there is no beating around the bush. We are both very direct and frank with each other but we feel that that’s really helped us work through problems quickly. Of course, having that trust and honesty means we fully support and trust each other’s decisions.
What role do you each play at the company?
We always try to consult one another on pretty much everything, however we both have particular strengths. We are both very creative people, so we bounce ideas off each other frequently. Ryan tends to be more technical and business minded, taking lead on imagery and a lot of the backend things, while I - having worked in the fashion industry for many years - handle design, production, social media and the PR side of things.
Could you give a few examples of sustainable methods you are implementing across your supply chain?
Currently 80 percent of our collection is made from either 100 percent recycled polyester or Viscose, which is biodegradable. We plan for this to be 100 percent in our next collection. Our brand tags are also made from recycled card and attached with unbleached cotton cord.
Our goods are also transported to the UK by rail instead of Air or Shipping which helps to reduce our carbon footprint. Our delivery boxes and tissue papers are made from recycled paper and our mail out bag is compostable.
We also never dye cloth. The water consumption for dyeing is extremely high, not to mention the chemicals that enter the water systems from it. Instead, we opt for a water friendly alternative - direct to fabric digital printing that uses gas to add ink to the fabric, meaning minimal water is used.
How do you avoid excessive waste?
We carefully design and fit our styles in-house to make sure the fit is exactly how we want it. That way we prevent overseas factories having to create multiple wasteful prototype samples. We also only produce each style in small quantities to make sure that we avoid deadstock. We would rather run out than have left over.
What happens to the part of the collection that doesn’t get sold?
We produce our styles in very small quantities so we try not to have deadstock, however if this does happen, we either donate the clothes to charity or recycle them.
Where do you source from and where are your clothes produced? Will this change as you grow?
We work with one supplier and have done from the beginning, they supply our printed fabric and do our garment production.
They are a small scale factory based in China. We plan to continue visiting and working with the same supplier as we are a big believer in building good working relationships and knowing the employees on a personal level. We are currently working on providing more transparency of our supply chain to our customers.
What has been your biggest challenge so far, either as a sustainable brand or as a brand in general?
Our biggest challenge has been learning to overcome problems quickly. By doing everything ourselves we have had to learn new skills in order to progress, for example web design, packaging design and even dealing with shipping which neither of us had prior experience with.
Also, wanting to build a sustainable brand on a small scale has required lots of negotiation with suppliers due to the restrictions on material quantities and costs. We are hoping that as we grow this will become easier.
Do you have any examples of other brands who you think are doing really well in terms of sustainability?
We love the transparency of Everlane and how they really care about their customers' values. Also Reformation for using deadstock fabrics and monitoring their carbon emissions.
Where do you find inspiration for collections? Would you say it’s typically English design?
All of our inspiration so far comes from nature. We both love being surrounded by flora and fauna and get inspired by our travels - so tropical surroundings, as well as the English Countryside where we both grew up. I wouldn’t say that the design was typically English, although the shapes are more suited to a British climate. We have both lived and worked in different countries around the world which have naturally had an influence on what and how we design.
Do sustainability and design ever clash? Do you ever see yourself making compromises?
A little. I think as suppliers continue to develop more and more options that are sustainable, the design element becomes more flexible. When I started out in the industry the only affordable options for recycled fabrics were polar fleece. There are now many more options to choose from which helps making more feminine, wearable pieces a possibility.
We have had to make some compromises, due to sustainable options for fabrics and trims being subject to high cost and quantities. This is reflected in our retail price. As a new start-up, this has caused some restrictions on what we can do but hopefully this will also become easier as we grow.
You say you are aiming to improve season on season. Do you have an example of how your next season (or later ones) will be better?
We are aiming for 100 percent of our fabrics to be made with either a biodegradable or renewable source for our next collection. We are now at 80 percent. We are currently sourcing Corozo buttons which are 100 percent natural for any future styles that require buttons.
We also have plans in the near future to offer customers an area on our site to re-sell/swap their Hide The Label purchases to help with a reduction in landfill. We think this will be great when there is demand for limited edition and small run items in the collection.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far?
The fact that we have launched a brand on our own with no external help or funding. We have built it from the ground up and have had total control from the beginning.
What are your future plans? Are you thinking of expanding or is it too early to say?
It’s still very early days. We would love to be stocked globally and maybe have a store one day, but who knows.
Photos courtesy of the brand