As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Nick from Absolutely Bear about creating a sustainable label for men.
What is the story behind Absolutely Bear? What inspired you to launch the brand?
Three reasons really. We are from London and established the brand in London, but personally we are very much rooted in nature and we’re on a mission to help reconnect man with nature. 83% of the people in the UK live in an urban environment and we spend roughly 90% of our time in doors. Nature offers huge benefits to the urbanite’s hectic and often stressful daily lives and we want to help people reconnect with nature even in a small way, so they can enjoy the benefits of it.
We’re driven by a desire to change lives for the better and we felt creating a clothing brand that represents a generation of people who want to make a positive difference to society, could help us do this. We donate money to our charity partners, Become and The Born Free Foundation so every time our customers buy something from us, they help us achieve our collective goal.
We wanted to create a clothing label that could help lead the charge for men’s sustainable fashion. We feel there is a lack of choice for men who want to shop in a more sustainable way. Our goal is to offer men an experience and styles that are a cut above the fast fashion culture, that is so incredibly damaging to the environment, the planet and those communities that are exposed to it.
Why did you choose the symbol of the Bear to represent your label?
We wanted to create a symbol that like us was rooted in nature, but that also represented the values that drive everything we do, namely strength, respect and caring and we felt the Bear encapsulated these values well. We’re a London fashion brand and we design clothes for the urban man, however we felt the Bear brings together our London vibe with our passion for nature. Also, who doesn’t love ears?
‘Ethical Fashion’ can be a bit of a buzzword. What does ‘ethical fashion’ mean to you and how does Absolutely Bear embody this definition?
For us ethical fashion is a holistic concept. By that we mean it’s not just about creating sustainable garments that are ethically made, which in our world we believe should just be a given, but we also then give part of the proceeds back to society through our two amazing charity partners. And the cycle continues, so that people are benefiting throughout the whole process and our business is a force for good.
You donate 10% of profits to charity partners. Why did you decide to do this, and how do you choose the charities you partner with?
It’s really down to a fundamental belief that business can and should be a force for good in society. We live in an often unfair and unequal world and using our brand to help give back is just our way of trying to help a bit.
Given our grounding in nature and our love of Bears, we wanted to work with an animal welfare charity and Born Free with their focus of keeping animals in the wild really appealed to us.
We also wanted to work with a charity whose focus was helping to improve the lives of vulnerable people and children growing up in the care system in the UK are some of the most vulnerable. So, we decided to partner with a small London based charity just down the road from us who do amazing work to help improve the life chances of children who grow up in care. Just to illustrate the point, around 2 in 5 of all school leavers go into higher education; this reduces to just 1 in 20 care leavers; and almost one third of young homeless people have spent time in care; and around 27 per cent of the adult prison population and half of under 18s in custody have experience of care. (Source: Become, drawing on data from: Department for Education; Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Prison Reform Trust, Crisis).
How would you describe the design aesthetic of Absolutely Bear? Who do you envision wearing your brand?
We design simple, stylish and sustainable clothing for the socially conscious urban man. Our collections are built on foundations of comfort and sustainability. We view our clothing as a canvas to tell our story as a brand, who we are and what we represent. Everything comes back to the Bear. A symbol that represents a generation that cares.
What do you look for in other brands that you support?
It’s always comes down to their values and their mission. For example, we recently partnered with a brand called TRIBE who make 100% natural energy nutrition bars. Their mission is to fight Modern Slavery and end Human Trafficking.
Since launching in 2016, how have you noticed the ethical fashion landscape change in the UK?
It really depends on what you view as ethical fashion, but I think there is no doubt that sustainability in the fashion industry has become a much hotter topic together with an acknowledgment that the fashion industry has to do more to protect the workers that make the world’s clothing. You have also seen big brands like Zara recently commit to becoming more sustainable, but not until 2025, so I would just shout from the rooftops that whilst this should be welcomed and supported, there are already brands out there that are making sustainable clothing, but people need to perhaps work to find them in the noise that fast fashion has created.
How can we further make conscious fashion more mainstream?
From our perspective, it’s about choice and giving consumers credible alternatives to the fast fashion culture at prices that don’t make them run a mile. It’s also about information so that people can make more informed decisions, but bombarding people with facts and figures isn’t always the answer. Our focus is on building a brand with a clear message that appeals to people and creating quality designs that people want to wear.
Finally, we feel ethical marketplaces like MAMOQ also have a key role to play. The big challenge for any emerging brand is creating awareness and making themselves known often on small budgets, so being able to appear on MAMOQ is really exciting for us as we hope to meet more ethically minded consumers who are part of a movement of change in the fashion industry and more broadly.
How do you try and live more sustainably in your everyday life?
Good question. There are lots of small things people can do in their daily lives that add up to make a big difference. A few examples are, at home, we no longer eat meat Monday to Friday, we don’t buy milk in plastic cartons, did you know the milk man who re-uses the glass bottles is making a comeback! We also love fizzy water but were horrified about how much plastic we were using so we bought a soda stream. Small changes make a big difference.
How would you like to see Absolutely Bear grow in the future?
We have big ambitions for the Bear. We’ve enjoyed some early success and have sold in over 20 countries to some amazing people, but our goal is to reach a wider audience so we can continue to grow. As we often say, we want to make sustainable fashion mainstream, so we’ll continue to tell our story and hopefully bring as many people as possible with us on the way.