Having founded and created Relevé Fashion, an online retail platform for all things sustainability, Raia Gomez shares her motivations behind the website and how she hopes to shape the fashion industry.
What inspired you to launch Relevé Fashion?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and knew I wanted to be involved in the industry. It was while I was working in styling that I became more aware of garment waste, of the carbon footprint from so many shipments, and just the sheer volume of clothing that was being produced all over the world all year round.
I also realised that it was quite difficult to come by information about what designers and brands are doing behind the scenes in terms of production, material sourcing, and their supply chains. I wanted to learn more but I didn’t necessarily know where to look. I took the questions I had and developed Relevé Fashion to address these issues; what is sustainability, what does it mean for brands to be sustainable, how can we distinguish designers who are working ethically, where can I find them and how can we shop more responsibly? As cliché as it sounds, I want us all to be able to look good, do good and feel good about it.
Image courtesy of Relevé Fashion
How do sustainability and social actions come together on Relevé Fashion?
Customers can visit Relevé Fashion to shop confidently, knowing that all the products from the brands available have been assessed for their environmental, personal and social initiatives and policies. On every product page, we feature ‘Relevé Beacons’ to represent the brands’ sustainable and ethical commitments. Relevé Beacons are designed by children, as a reminder of who we’re working to create a better world for. In addition to this, shoppers can also distinguish brands that have been awarded the Eco-Age Brandmark and are Certified B Corps.
We hope to empower customers with informed choices. In addition to supporting sustainable brands, our customers can shop for good – from brands that are doing good, for products designed to be kept for good, all while supporting good causes. Every purchase on Relevé Fashion supports our official nonprofit partners: Global Citizen, Big Change and Nest, at no extra cost. Every time shoppers make a sustainable purchase, they’re also becoming change-makers.
What are your sustainable priorities for the business?
We view our sustainable priorities through four lenses; the shoppers that we serve, the brands we work with, the nonprofits we support, and our own operations. Among our objectives is to empower our customers and encourage them to purchase with purpose – to come to Relevé Fashion to shop confidently, buy what they love and feel good about it, while giving them the opportunity for social action.
We also want to help them find ways for a more sustainable lifestyle. In terms of our sustainable brands, we prioritize providing transparency, telling their stories and conveying their values at the point of purchase. It’s also extremely important for us to be able to advocate for our nonprofit partners and share what they’re doing. When it comes to our own operations, we want to be able to provide the most sustainable shopping experience that we can. Our supply chain, packaging, logistics, and carbon footprint are just a few of the factors that we consider and will continue to develop as the business grows.
Image courtesy of Big Change, official nonprofit partner of Relevé Fashion.
How has you eco strategy developed as you have grown?
Relevé Fashion is a young business, having launched just a few months ago. It has been a long journey in terms of developing our initiatives and building the platform based on those values. We’re constantly learning about the latest developments, current findings and new technologies and take these into consideration when considering our shoppers, brand and nonprofit partners.
How challenging has it been to maintain your eco principles?
Sustainability and eco-principles are at the very core and at the heart of Relevé Fashion. The challenge for us isn’t in maintaining our eco-principles but in continuously improving upon them to learn how we can do things better to effectively and authentically share those principles, and engage individuals.
What have been your biggest milestone and triumphs until now?
Of course the most recent milestone is being the first ever retail platform to be awarded with the Eco-Age Brandmark for sustainable excellence! In addition to this, Relevé Fashion is now also the inaugural retail partner of the Conscious Fashion Campaign, supported by the United Nations Office for Partnerships. We’re committed to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and doing our part to help achieve these by 2030. Other milestones for us have been being able to advocate for and support the vital work of our nonprofit partners, for Relevé Fashion to be the exclusive retail partner of Big Change, as well as for Global Citizen and Nest to establish a collaboration in the way we have. A personal milestone for me, as the founder of Relevé Fashion, is to now be a member of the Female Founder Collective, an amazing group of empowered women who empower women.
Image courtesy of Harem London, available at Relevé Fashion.
What have been the biggest challenges in building a sustainable business?
Like any business, whether sustainably focused or not, there are always many challenges, big and small. One of the biggest challenges is the misconception that sustainable fashion is not inclusive; higher product prices as a result of sustainable practices and materials have to compete with cheap fast fashion that is often no more than a cup of coffee. Fast fashion has misled customers on product prices, conveying the message that fashion doesn’t really have a cost or any consequences. It’s both a challenge and motivation to face those head on.
The upside is there’s a growing number of conscious consumers whose concept of value for money includes product quality, craftsmanship, design integrity and fair pay, to name a few. This is why we’ve included the cost per wear feature on every product page, encouraging shoppers to consider their purchases and use the item for years to come. At the end of the day, sustainable fashion can be more cost friendly due to its higher quality and encouraged longevity, and simply because it doesn’t cost the earth.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch a sustainable business?
Do what you can, where you can. There are so many factors to consider in terms of sustainability and so it can become quite overwhelming if you try to tackle everything all at once. I think it’s important to focus on what your sustainability priorities are – what’s aligned with your core values, as well as what makes sense and is achievable for your business, and build from there. I always think that taking baby steps, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is better than doing nothing at all. As the saying goes, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
What other sustainable and ethical businesses have inspired you?
So many, Eco-Age being one of them of course. I’m incredibly inspired by all our partners on Relevé Fashion – both the brands and nonprofits – for their unique journeys and how they developed their own sustainable enterprises and social advocacies. Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst, Everlane and Henry Rose are just a few of the other sustainable brands that I think are incredible. Outside of fashion, I find the brand values and company cultures of The Honest Company and Innocent inspiring as well.
Take a look at some of the incredible companies using their profits to make positive change.
Read more from our Bringing Business to Life series.