As part of our founder interview series we interview Jo Godden from RubyMoon to discuss social businesses, micro-loans, and the importance of female entrepreneurs.
Prior to launching RubyMoon, you had experience working in swimwear and lingerie. How did your time in the fashion industry influence the creation of your own brand?
Working in the fashion industry really highlighted to me just how much time manufacturers and retailers spend seeking the lowest rate per hour for labour. They are continually moving from country to country for that reason. And see the work forces there as simply a way of making profit rather than as people who deserve a fair, living wage. In addition, when you find out that the most audited mills in China are still spilling dyes and chemicals into the local water supplies you have to decide whether you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. It was this that made me choose to start a brand which cared both about its workers and its environmental impact.
The ugly side of the fashion industry is often hidden from mainstream view. From your experience, what is one thing that you wish everyone knew about the fashion industry today?
I would like everyone to know that the garment and textiles industry is the second dirtiest industry in the world, and that it employs 1 in 6 of the worlds population, mainly women. Also, that consumers do have the power to change it and that there would be a global revolution for women if we did!
Ethical fashion is an extremely broad topic. What does ethical fashion mean to you?
For fashion to be ethical, the whole story must be complete – sustainable fabrics, living wages and profit share. There’s no point using sustainable fabrics; if it’s a company making profit from exploiting workers and having no positive social impact!
What responsibility do you think consumers have in creating a more sustainable and fair fashion industry?
Consumers can actively change the fashion industry from being detrimental to being a force for good. The industry employs 1 in every 6 people; mainly women, being paid below the living wage - this means they are effectively slave labour. As consumers, we have power to insist that workers are paid a living wage. This is so that the women can provide for their families, or withdraw our custom if companies fail to do so. Consumers have the power to create environmental change too; this is by asking to see the environmental accreditations and actively monitoring supply chains; something which will become easier when blockchain technology is introduced. We will be able to see exactly where and who manufactured our clothing - no more deceit.
You give 100% of the net profits from RubyMoon to small loans through LendWithCare.org. How did you decide to partner with this organisation and why?
After reading ‘Half The Sky’, I was inspired to look for a microfinance partner for the company. Since LendwithCare is based in London, we were easily able to meet. I decided they would make a great partner for the social impact aspect of RubyMoon. We are all about the women!
As a social business, RubyMoon is pursuing both environmental and social missions. What role do you think business can play in achieving UN development goals?
We set up RubyMoon a long time before the UN’s sustainable development goals were introduced; when they were launched they helped us to summarise all of the aspects of what we were already doing as a company. It makes perfect sense that all businesses should implement sustainable development goals as soon as possible; governments are unfortunately moving too slowly, so business needs to act quickly.
What has been your proudest moment since launching RubyMoon?
We recently hit the 200 mark for the total number of loans we have been able to give to women entrepreneurs; that was a significant milestone. I also get a terrific kick out of public speaking when I can see that people become motivated by our mission, simply making people aware of the issues concerning both the fashion industry and the environment is often enough to result in them changing their behaviour when making their next purchase. I have to say that each time I am given feedback by audience members who have reconsidered their views on the fashion industry, it is a particularly proud moment. We recently were awarded The People & Environment Award too.
How would you describe the style of RubyMoon? Where do you find your design inspiration?
The style is unique - we use bold prints and styles that are different to everyone else and that is why customers choose us. Inspiration comes from various holidays and design sources- overall we look for ‘fun’ over any other aesthetic.
If you had to have another career outside of the fashion industry, what would you do?
I would most likely be an activist, but working on campaign materials. Failing that, sustainable interiors or home design also interests me.
What do you see for the future of RubyMoon?
We are excited to be bringing out a great new product range for SS18, with a far greater number of items so much more choice. Hopefully each year, our product range will grow. We are also working on the production of other re-engineered products too. This is a really exciting time for us; as at last, people are starting to consume in a more conscious way. And because we have such a long history of developing well designed, great fitting, sustainable products we are in a great place to serve those discerning consumers.