As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Sam from Goose Studios about starting an eco-conscious fashion label with his best friend, and Goose Studios' roots in music and sustainability.
What were you and Rich doing before coming together to launch Goose Studios?
Me and Rich have been mates for the best part of 8 years and have always shared a big passion for music. We’re both really into indie, electronic and disco (think Mac DeMarco, Bonobo and Chic!) and before Goose Studios we ran a Disco DJ night called “Goose Phat Studios presents…” in-between our University terms!
Imagine small town pubs and clubs with ages 18-80 on the dancefloor all getting their boogie on to Nile Rodgers, David Bowie and Wham! I’m fairly sure there was a healthy dose of Rick Astley towards the end of every night too…
Goose Studios came out of wanting to do a merch-line for our night, but then the next thing we know we’re running an organic clothing brand!
We’ve always tried to keep the same values of our DJ night in Goose Studios. We run our brand on the mantra of “Good Times, Organically Sourced”, which boils down to having the best time possible with your favourite people and respecting the world around you.
It also means allowing yourself to clock-out early on a Friday and get some drinks down by Brighton beach!
How did reading “Let My People Go Surfing” change your perception of fashion?
“Let My People Go Surfing” by Patagonia’s founder, is probably the most influential book I’ve ever read. It totally transformed how I understand concepts of consumption, sustainability and business.
To neatly sum up how I used to view fashion, by pure chance I picked up the book at an ASOS sample sale. Which is essentially fast-fashion addict heaven, picking up designer trend-led items for £2!
“Let My People Go Surfing” helped me to understand that every time any product gets manufactured, used and disposed of, there is a level of harm caused to the environment. It’s about how we successfully minimise and manage that harm.
Resources are used at every stage of a products life and as consumers we can often only control a small amount of harm through how we use and look after a product. The control over the majority of harm caused is totally controlled by businesses. How a product is designed, the materials it uses, the way its manufactured, how it can be disposed of – it’s all controlled by businesses.
Not only did this transform how I viewed what impact my constant consumption of fast-fashion was having, it transformed how I viewed my consumption of everything!
I very quickly realised the responsibility that every business has to the environment. In reality the responsibility every business has in helping consumers to make the least harmful and the most positive choices for the environment.
For fashion, this constant consumption at increasingly harmful levels seemed to be directly impacting upon climate change, water and soil pollution and human rights.
I suppose from initially just wanting to start a merch-line for a music night, “Let My People Go Surfing” became a massive wake up call for me and Rich to realise fashion was significantly harming people and planet - and we had a responsibility to go out and change that.
“Ethical fashion” is an extremely broad topic. What does ‘ethical fashion’ mean to you?
For us, ethical fashion means clothing that has been designed, manufactured, looked after and disposed of in a way that has the upmost respect for people and planet.
How does Goose Studios work to embody your understanding of ethical fashion?
In design, we stopped using cotton and polyester mix garments as we discovered there’s currently no way of separating cotton and polyester fibres at the end of the products useful life! So it then becomes a waste product, rather than something that can be recycled. That led us to using 100% GOTS organic cotton as it’s more respectful to our environment’s resources if it can be recycled or at least biodegrade.
Organic cotton also does a great job of increasing demand for cotton crops grown without the use of cancerous pesticides and insecticides. It means we’re creating more demand for a way of farming that protects farmer health, soil health and avoids water pollution that effects all biodiversity that relies on fresh water sources near to cotton crops. Which is all pretty damn great!
For manufacture, ethical fashion has to respect the rights of farmers and garment workers. That means meeting agreed definitions of human rights and employment rights such as safe working conditions, regulated working hours and fair pay and always pushing to develop and improve these conditions further.
It’s why as a small brand we’ve made sure to only work with suppliers who are audited by internationally recognised standards, such as the Fair Wear Foundation. Which act as our ‘on-the-ground eyes and ears’ for ensuring the maintenance and development of worker rights.
We’re always pushing to try and create a more rounded view of not just ethical fashion, but also what an ethical fashion business looks like. Be that from last year moving to plastic free packaging or this year trying to understand how we can minimise our carbon footprint in how we transport our stock.
How do you try and live more sustainably in your own personal life?
Me and Rich both have our homes powered by a renewable energy supplier! I’m telling everyone at the moment, but if you live in the UK it’s so easy to change to a green energy supplier. It takes about 15 minutes online and then you’re set up for 100% renewable electricity and 4-14% green gas. You’ll save literally tonnes of CO2 a year (I saved the equivalent of planting 957 trees last year) and I saved money!
Over the past couple of months I’ve also been slowly trying to go plastic-free. Starting off just buying anything that can be recycled or re-used and this month going totally plastic free!
It’s actually been really hard to do! I’ll never walk into a supermarket the same way again and I’ve never eaten so much tinned soup either. I’d recommend just trying going plastic-free even for a week to get a better understanding of how much stuff businesses sell to you is wrapped in plastic.
We’re also both ‘Flexitarian’ (the fancy word for just eating less meat) to try and reduce the demand for industrial animal farming that causes massive emissions. I tried (quite literally) going cold Turkey on meat and being vegan for a week, ending up putting cows milk on my cereal twice and eating a drunken McDonalds at the weekend! So instead now I’m going for a slow and steady reduction in eating meat and discovering a new love for Middle Eastern and Indian veggie food…who knew sustainability tasted so good!
How would you describe the aesthetic of Goose Studios? Who do you envision wearing your brand?
The Goose Studios aesthetic is a laid back, relaxed style that is crying out to be paired up with your favourite pair of jeans, a well-loved pair of Veja’s and a workwear jacket thrown over the top.
We’re not trying to be the latest trend. Instead Goose Studios always aims to make styles that become your absolute go-to favourite and get a whole lot of love. We’re all about throw on and smile fashion.
All our clothing is made to stand up to the good times. Whether that’s a weekend away up to Edinburgh where you’re scrambling up hills and cosying up in pubs or if you’re out and about in Brighton dancing the night away to some disco classics - you can count on Goose Studios to keep you looking right at home and to make sure it’s only you that’s worn out at the end of the night!
We’ve always been a unisex fashion brand too as we’re still yet to meet anyone who feels out of place throwing on one of our relaxed organic tees, styling it out a little oversized over some light wash jeans and a pair of vans, or tucked into some high-waist cords and a pair of DM’s. And who doesn’t love to cosy up in a super soft organic cotton sweatshirt on a Sunday morning?
How do you work to maintain transparency and accountability in your supply chain?
We’ve always been big believers in partnering with large suppliers who are globally renowned for being accountable. As a small brand that started out without any real experience of the fashion industry we’re realists in understanding that we can’t afford or really know where best to look for small-scale garment manufacturing partners that we could constantly monitor ourselves.
So we choose to go with large suppliers that are consistently found to be ‘Leaders’ in transparent, accountable and ethical production by the Fair Wear foundation. As well as providing certifications for organic cotton by the Global Organic Textile Standard and chemical standards through OEKO-TEX.
While certifications all sound rather boring, each one of them gives us the confidence from independent organisations that our suppliers run their businesses in a way we, and our customers, respect and value.
Happily we do screen print (using water-based inks) all our printed garments using our friends Steve and Craig down at Memory Screen Print Studio in Bath, here in the UK.
With Steve and Craig we’re able to see exactly what’s going on by going down there ourselves, sharing a beer, talking through business and checking-in with how life’s going.
It’s great to be able support another small business, not just through money, but also exchanging advice on marketing and designs too!
What does it mean to be a member of the Fair Wear foundation?
By making sure our key suppliers are members of the Fair Wear foundation there’s international recognition of their commitment to implementing businesses practices that focus on improving working conditions within the garment industry.
a.k.a, it means they’re pretty ace!
The Fair Wear foundation is built on collaboration between the Fair Wear foundation and its members on a Code of Labour Practices that’s based on internationally recognised standards. These include making sure employment is freely chosen and not forced, there’s no exploitation of child labour, workers are free to choose trade unions, there are safe and healthy working conditions…and many more good things.
To make sure members are meeting this Code of Labour Practices, the Fair Wear foundation completes audits in garment factories where members are performance reviewed. At the end of this annual review, there’s not just a report at the end, but a concrete action plan for any improvements with a clear time frame for execution.
The Fair Wear foundation also offers complaint helplines for garment workers who feel any of their rights are being violated, as well as providing a workplace education programme. This programme raises awareness about worker’s rights, what it means to have safe and healthy working conditions and how to make improvements.
All of this is something we could never achieve as a small brand by ourselves, which is why we feel it’s vital to make the most of suppliers who are members of such a great foundation.
How can we encourage mainstream shoppers to understand the impacts of their wardrobe choices?
Great question! And a big question!
I think the media have a big role to play – in the UK the impact of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II documentary and Stacey Dooley’s fast fashion documentary have really helped to show shoppers the unseen impacts of their consumption. Taking the unseen impacts of manufacture and exposing them via our visible mainstream media is so important.
Also as shoppers it can be quite hard to understand abstract percentages of how much better one thing is than another. Instead of e.g. telling shoppers “this uses 50% less Blue water” we should explain in it in comparative terms – “this is the equivalent of saving a 25m swimming pool of water that communities use for daily life”. I feel it’s then a lot easier to be “omg that’s a sh**load of water, I should definitely choose the less impactful alternative”.
How would you like to see Goose Studios expand in the future?
We’d love Goose Studios to become the go-to brand for affordable workwear-inspired sustainable style.
We’d like to reach a scale that means we’re having a serious positive impact on changing the fashion industry. It would be so ace to have a large audience choose Goose Studios instead of an unsustainable alternative.
I think lots of sustainable brands see staying small as being the most sustainable option. But at the same time we need to take on the large, old, unsustainable brands that have made the fashion industry the second most polluting industry on the planet. To do that, we need to be big enough to either take them on, or at least threaten them enough so they change to a more sustainable.
In the more near term, we’d love to make some clothing that goes below the waist! We’ve spend 3 years making fab relaxed tees and sweatshirts that it’s about time we started making some ace trousers! We also really like the durable workwear-vibe casualwear, so hopefully more of that is on the horizon.
Finally, we have a big commitment so staying sustainable and affordable. We really want to continue down this route, so everyone has the chance to afford to be sustainable! Price is so often the reason an unsustainable consumer choice is chosen over a more sustainable one. We want to make sure this doesn’t have to happen in fashion.