Sustainability + environment
When DressCode was still just an idea, scribbled on pieces on paper, we worked hard to decide what our brand values - the things that the business would stand for – should be. It was important to us to recognise why certain things were important and what challenges we would face to ‘live’ and operate with those values along the way.
We felt, and still feel, that we have a responsibility to ourselves and the people who buy our products to make informed choices about how we produce products, being true to what we believe and value.
There’s no denying that the 'Climate Code' project with the British Antarctic Survey accelerated our ambitions, pushing us outside of our comfort zone and creating a greener product, something that we’re really proud of, but what have we done? And more importantly what can we continue to do for the future?
We started by shooting for the stars, we have always aimed high and those high ambitions come with a responsibility to look after people and planet.
No plastic in fabrics
From the start we only used 100% Cotton, which we know has it’s own chain of custody issues (we'll come to those in a minute), but one really important factor that is often overlooked is the natural breathability of Cotton.
If you’ve ever wrapped a plastic bag around yourself after a run or any other physical activity, you’ll know just how quickly your body starts to warm-up and sweat. That’s because you’re suffocating your skin, the bodies largest organ, stopping it breathing. Clothes with large amounts of plastic within the weave of materials do exactly the same thing, which is not good for anyone and certainly not good for the planet.
We are a small producer, so we don’t have a lot of influence, never the less we researched and spoke with various producers and suppliers to find Cotton that was produced with the least damage to the environment, with respect for the people who produce, grow and harvest the crop.
For us this was a no-brainer. Digital print is a win-win, there’s next to no waste product created and it uses much less water (around 10%) than traditional printing processes. The inks are created from plant based, sustainable crops as opposed to petro-chemcials which is also good. Using pigment inks removes the need for water and energy intensive post processing of the materials as the colour fastness of the cloth is achieved through heat fixation alone as opposed to lengthy steam fixation processes which are then followed by further washing off procedures.
Digital print also gives you better detail within your prints - holding finer lines, better colours and all the designer details that we love. Digitally printing on Cotton virtually eliminates the consumption of water (FESPA) and stops the discharge of noxious waste.
High quality, low volume
We are all about creating beautiful shirts that are hand-made to precision. We strive to deliver the very best products for our customers, that means working with people who are as passionate about their work as we are.
We were never interested in who could create a shirt for the lowest price. The relationships we have with suppliers are important to us, we are working in partnership and that means we pay them a wage that reflects their knowledge and craft.
What’s more we pay them for the work when it’s commissioned and delivered, something that many fashion brands still don’t do. We’re happy to do this because it feels fair, and we know that our customers appreciate it too, as our shirts not only look great but they are made to last by people with a passion for the products.
The Climate Code project
This project has given us the opportunity to explore and improve our processes. Every aspect of the business was looked at and we pushed ourselves to deliver the best product possible.
We looked at several sustainable materials before deciding on this one. Our biggest concerns were around the breathability of the material – see above section about plastics in cloth, could a man-made cloth be as breathable and durable as Cotton? After rigorous tests we felt happy that Tencel could and would also bring a new level of luxury and comfort to the business.
Tencel™ Geeks - the technical information
The Tencel fibers start life as wood, grown in carefully managed forests of trees soaking up the CO2 in the environment. Tencel is a fully certified bio-based fibre that is manufactured using an environmentally responsible production processes. The fibres of the cloth are certified as compostable and biodegradable.
Tencel uses Lyocell fibres which have a good reputation for their environmentally responsible, closed loop production process, transforming the wood pulp into cellulosic fibres with great efficiency and low environmental impact. This solvent-spinning process recycles the ‘process’ water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%. More info on the Tencel website.
Print and production
We already use digital printing but what could we do to improve the amount of energy used during production? We spoke with our partners about the options and listened to opinions, these were open discussions, the last thing we wanted to do was create something sub-standard, together we explored where we could help and what we could all do collectively.
We identified two areas where we could maintain the quality and reduce our impact on the planet. The first was introducing solar power, significantly reducing our consumption of energy. The next was to reduce the heat we used in the finishing of the material. Experience was telling us that we could reduce the heat of the finishing unit, further reducing the energy consumption and creating a unique finish to our material.
We use recognised carriers who operate with globally accredited carbon balancing programmes, companies who are exploring every avenue available to reduce their environmental impact through things like emission-cutting tyres, electric vehicles, more aero-dynamic vehicles and more, all of these activities are carried out with measurable targets and goals that are publically reported back.
Daily life at Dresscode - the small details
Every step that we can take to reduce our demand on resources helps with the bigger picture. For example we use Smol cleaners in our studio and office. We support the ‘Who gives a crap’ loo roll in the office and have adopted cycling as our primary mode of daily transport.
Next steps – short term
These are the things that we are working on now -
- Reduce packaging of products
- Use non-plastic tapes as part of our packing systems
Mid term goals
These are targets for the next 12 months
- Further reduce the amount of plastic used within packaging of products
- Introduce a fully recyclable delivery box
- Use more alternative energy sources
Long term goals
These are bigger ambitions that we are putting the ground work into building and developing.
- Expand use of Tencel and other sustainable materials for our products
- Introduction of a DressCode up-cycling scheme for our products.
If you'd like to know more about our work in these areas, please complete the form below.