Even the purest aficionados of fashion know that this industry can be terribly costly to the environment. These last years have seen a surge in interest for clothing that helps shape the world they want to see emerge. Thanks to the efforts of young and inspired designers, a more sustainable way of doing clothe shopping is becoming possible. Assunta Crux is one of them. That is why she founded fineyellow.
Hi Assunta, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Can you tell me a bit more about you and the team behind fineyellow? How long have you been up and running?
The idea for fineyellow started in 2017 when I came across a lot of documentaries about the state of the fashion industry. I always knew that fashion wasn’t the nicest and cleanest industry in the world, but I was shocked to realize how unfair and dirty it really is. Just to give you one example: a quarter of all pesticides used worldwide are used in cotton farming. I started looking for alternatives to conventional fashion and found a lot of young sustainable fashion brands that produce stylish, modern fashion – but I couldn’t find a place to shop them conveniently. So in 2018, I founded the ethical fashion marketplace I could not find: fineyellow. Today I have an amazing and motivated team consisting of a technical co-founder, graphic designer, and business developers.
What is the history behind the name “fineyellow”?
To be honest I ran out of ideas so when we were ready to launch and urgently needed a name we took the first thing that came to my mind: fineyellow a mixture between my sister’s nickname “Fine” – which has pretty meanings in French, Italian and English and my favourite colour: yellow.
What’s the problem with fashion today?
Consumerism I guess – we are buying things we do not need and that we didn’t even know existed the day before. Companies tell us what we should buy and we have gotten used to buying them without thinking about where they come from or if we really need them. I did this until two years ago and I still feel a heavy urge to buy things even though I do not need them.
I feel like a lot of sustainable fashion designers already have the right feeling: Stop designing for a small audience of people that are idealistic about fair and sustainable fashion and start designing for the masses.
This (over-)consumption was possible because companies found ways to produce at affordable prices. And since the entire system worked really well, nobody thought about the real price: that we are exploiting our resources, polluting our environment and treating other humans unfairly. This is true for a lot of industries. But we are getting to a point where the system is not sustainable anymore and we’re seeing the consequences of our consumption.
When did clothing become such a polluting industry?
I guess, as part of the industrial revolution. Suddenly products (including fashion items) became affordable for the masses. A lot of the processes still in use today developed during times where environmental protection and its consequences were not thought of at all. What’s more, modern economics is based on constant growth of production at low prices so as long as nobody complained the companies didn’t change their production.
Is there a link between fashion style and its sustainability? Can a pair of blue jeans be environmental?
No there is no link – there are a lot of brands that show that you can produce sustainable fashion without sacrificing style. At the same time, it is impossible to produce a zero impact pair of blue jeans – as the production always needs resources (water, energy, soil, a colour source). But we can work towards minimizing the impact and educating people towards conscious consumption so that the environmental impact of the production was not in vain.
How can we make sustainable garment affordable?
I actually get asked this a lot. The question comes with the preconception that only cheap fashion is unsustainable, which is not the case.
If you ask me the answer depends on how you define affordable. I see it in two ways:
Price Segment: Sustainable fashion is very affordable for a lot of customer segments. There are brands in the upper mass segment, premium segment (which fineyellow is targetting) and luxury segment. In these segments, the awareness for all the great sustainable fashion alternatives out there has to increase. Unfortunately, there is not yet a way to produce clothes at price points that H&M, Kik or Primark offer without somebody paying the price somewhere else.
Quality over Quantity: We need to rethink our consumption of fashion. Three out of four fashion items bought are worn only once before being tossed away. What people often mean when they say “affordable fashion” is not a good price-quality ratio but cheap. Sustainable fashion definitely has a higher price, but if you invest in pieces that will become favourites and make sure that new clothes fit in with what you already own, they are worth the purchase – for you, the environment and the people producing the clothes.
From all I said before, I, of course, exclude people that do not have enough money to live off. For them, it is true, sustainable fashion is not affordable.
Where do the clothes you sell come from? How do you source and trace the sustainability of the products you have on the platform?
The clothes we sell on fineyellow come from amazing brands that set out to do something different. These brands have to strongly fulfil at least one of our ethical standards: environmental protection, social fairness and animal welfare. If a brand is certified by a renowned certifier like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the Fairtrade Foundation, that is definitively a plus. But we know that these certificates are expensive for small brands and we support their journey to become more and more sustainable. We are also developing tools to help our brands measure their impact more precisely.
How far can fashion go towards sustainability then? What should we start with as individuals?
When friends hear about my motivation for sustainable fashion they often say the government has to create stricter rules – which is correct – but they won’t. Unless we, as individuals, don’t start acting, nothing will change.
When we start buying more sustainable fashion and requesting more information, then the big corporations will start acting because they go where the money is and, second, the government because they (should) represent the will of the people in their country. They are elected to do what we want, but if we do not show them what we want, they can’t act on it.
So what you can do as an individual is to become a conscious consumer. As a first easy step: every time you buy something, think about whether you really need it. Does it fit in with the clothes you already own? When will you wear it? If you cannot think of more than three occasions – don’t buy it. More advanced: Get educated – certificates give you a first indication what is good, but knowing what fabrics are good, what brands are good will make a lot of difference (we actually have a guide that will give you starter tips on fineyellow).
What would you tell aspiring sustainable fashion designers?
I feel like a lot of sustainable fashion designers already have the right feeling: Stop designing for a small audience of people that are idealistic about fair and sustainable fashion and start designing for the masses. Sustainability and style need to go hand in hand if we really want to change fashion. It has to be a real alternative to conventional fashion.
On April 11, Plan A is organising a cash-free swap market event at betahaus, Kreuzberg. This is an opportunity for sunset drinks, sustainable fashion and meeting great people with better taste than most. Hope to see you there!
Assunta Crux is the founder of fineyellow, a marketplace for fair and sustainable fashion. Before working on making sustainable fashion available to a broader target group, Assunta worked as a business developer building and scaling startups in different industries.