Life As I Know It: Carrot Banana Peach Founder Nigel Gartside

Nigel Gartside, designer and founder of activewear brand Carrot Banana Peach, built his business on a sustainable model after witnessing the pollution in Asia.  Here he shares his sustainability journey so far; from working as product creator at Nike, to his family history in the textile industry and how a desire to change the world has become his driving force.

Time to make a change.

I was initially triggered to make a shift to a sustainable lifestyle and business while travelling up the Pearl River in Hong Kong and seeing the fluorescent water flowing back down from the factories, or swimming in beautiful, tropical oceans in the Far East and watching a rubber glove go floating past, or finding a syringe on the beach. Living in Singapore and witnessing the burning smoke from the charred rubber trees in Malaysia smothering the land were all triggers that squeezed on my conscious. I realised that this cannot go on, something needs to be done to save these beautiful places.

Changing the world

The entire business is based on a sustainable model. From the very beginning I have done nothing but sustainable products – that has always been the main value, mission and promise of the company. 

The vision of being able to say we can truly change the world has been a driving force behind all the values.  Originally a product creator at Nike, I decided to start my own brand, focused on sustainable clothing and Carrot Banana Peach was born. I come from a family that pioneered and led the cotton industry for almost two centuries, so originally teamed up with other members of my family and friends to combine product and design with textile expertise. Carrot Banana Peach is now a world recognised brand that has consistently been producing high quality plant-based yoga and fitness clothing. 

A minimalist mindset

I am terrified by the state of the planet – anything I do is based on minimalism. My mindset on anything I buy for myself or family is, ‘do we need it?’.  I’d rather hang on to my old car for as long as I can before purchasing a new one (and the new one, is likely to be a second hand one – and I’ll choose it based on weight, distance it can travel on least amount of fuel, definitely going electric when my current car stops working!).  I detest the amount of packaging used in takeaway food or supermarkets, so I’ll buy from farm shops where I can chuck it all in a box and cook at home. I’ll limit our travel overseas and where possible drive to our final destination or use the train, public service. 

Nature is the best healer 

I believe that the natural products, materials and whatever you can draw from nature are the best healers and least harmful to people. Using natural materials is generally the best way forward in terms of sustainability and then any non-sustainable consumption after that needs to be about moderation. Using all natural resources in a balanced way helps the planet, but it is also beneficial to our human bodies. You don’t want toxins on your body, just as you wouldn’t want them in your body. Using sustainable, plant-based materials is the best for your body and skin and you can feel the difference when you wear synthetic fabrics versus natural, plant-based ones.  We have to look after ourselves, by dedicating 20% of our day to exercise and well being, we reduce the risk of health issues and putting further pressure on the environment. More time spent outdoors means less time indoors, therefore investing in your wellbeing. Sunlight will improve your sleep, your health and your happiness.

Only buy essentials

I try not to buy anything, I make my own clothes and I buy essentials only – and these are normally natural-based and therefore tend to be sustainable and ethical. If I buy something, it tends to be for my daughter and we normally buy toys from charity shops, her clothes I make for her or they are hand-downs from her countless female cousins. My wife and I don’t buy show pieces for the house. When the sofas look a bit shabby or the curtains, I’ll re-fabricate from my own fabrics and not buy new.

Mostly plant-based

You are what you eat, everything we do is all about food.  I’ve lived overseas for 50% of my life and travelled all over, this has enriched by palette and desire for fusion food and experimenting in the kitchen. I have to buy local wherever we are, it ensures its in season and ripe.  Where possible we’ll buy organic as long as it’s not ‘over-packaged!’ My wife is Indian so 90% of what we eat is plant-based. 

Use less

Use less of everything at home and work. We have a one tag policy on our clothes and they are made from recycled paper printed in soy-based ink.  We moved most of our production to the UK to lower our carbon footprint, less travel, less resources to move our products around the world.  The core ethos of Carrot Banana Peach is sustainability while maintaining functionality. We are trying to make everything we produce in the business 100% sustainable and 100% natural. Some of our products are 90% sustainable but we’re excited by our goal to reach 100% in all that we do.  We have consolidated our office and resources in the UK to a central location including our warehouse.

Family business

The family history pioneering the cotton industry goes back to 1870’s in textiles. Growing up it was a part of the culture, it was always a textile life; families would get together for board meetings in the mills, all my aunties and uncles worked in the family cotton business, we grew up around the cotton industry, always wanted to wear cotton and to aspire to produce the best, organic, quality products. I grew up in that culture, so it was always going to be textiles. As soon as I was at University, I was already applying to work at Nike as a product developer. It has all been a focus on staying in textiles because of the love of it, it was naturally where I was inspired to go. The business itself was inspired by the history of a handful of very good athletes in the family, so yoga and sport wear was naturally where I was to go with it. The original collection was made initially from organic cotton and over the years we have expanded the company’s plant-based range to include other fibres like organic bamboo, banana, soybean and aloe vera. Recognising the unique touch and feel of these plant-based products, we launched our first concept store in 2017 in North West England, where it all began for the family in 1870.

A winning formula

While I worked at Nike, the production and mission was to deliver high performance fabrics made from polyester and synthetics under a program called Alpha that delivered Dri-Fit etc. But my research showed an increasing number of people valued comfort over most of the performance benefits polyester offered. It struck me that if you could combine the two, I’d have a winning formula and a niche market in natural activewear. My mission was to find the most innovative, natural and eco-friendly fabrics and combine them with my extensive experience as a product creator at Nike to create a truly unique brand that delivers on performance and comfort as well as being mindful of the environment. Now, of course, companies are moving back into that sphere, paying more attention to eco-friendly, sustainable alternatives, but we have always been driven by that. 

Learning from nature

We have learnt that to be sustainable, you need to have a broad base of raw materials to produce from, to put pressure on one resource can have a devastating effect on the environment. By constantly looking at nature and developing fibres from a broad plant based, then the environment and all creatures that depend on it are unharmed and we can thrive.  Whilst bamboo remains our core business since 2004, we have seen our soybean and aloe vera production increase and release some pressure on the bamboo supply chain.  The other area we are working on is ensuring the protective bags that are currently used and biodegradable through light can be 100% compostable.