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Comment: Why I am launching a sustainable online brand in a crisis

Scott Joseph, founder of vegan, gender-neutral accessories brand Fashion Without a Face, discusses how he launched his sustainable Manchester-based business in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. 

Launching a new label during the Covid-19 pandemic may seem like utter lunacy to most people, but when you have spent three years creating a brand and building a plant-based collection around sustainability, traceability, gender fluidity and ethics, the show must go on.  

In the words of Karl Lagerfeld, “Fashion is a train that waits for nobody.” 

Now more than ever, it is important that we are resilient and stay true to both our purpose and vision. This is why we had to continue to launch our brand as planned during the pandemic, even if it meant changing our strategy and doing things very differently than we originally intended.

Just before the Covid-19 crisis began, we had begun to open a dialogue with some big high-end retailers here in the UK, both online and in stores, with a view to them stocking our products.

We had a plan to launch and had committed to launch funds. We were going to kick off with a preview of our collection at Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles in April, followed up by a showcase at The Ibiza Fashion Festival in the summer. We were also in talks with event organisers in the United Arab Emirates to launch our collection in Dubai.

Our strategy was based on a business-to-business model, but when news broke and the world went into lockdown, everything ground to a halt, investments got “carried over” and meetings were cancelled.

Our initial thought was, “What are we going to do now? Surely we have to stop?” But not wanting to halt spreading our purpose of cruelty-free fashion, we decided to continue. 

However, with non-essential stores currently closed across the UK, it made sense for us to switch focus for the time being. We decided to launch our own consumer-facing website, allowing customers to pre-order products instead.

We’d started putting out teasers and growing our social presence and had wonderful feedback, along with many people contacting us to see how and when they could buy our products. So, we felt comfortable to stay on schedule, even if that meant we had to do it differently. 

Our launch weekend here in the UK [1 May], surprisingly, couldn’t have gone better. We not only took in sales, but had interest from editorial contacts looking for fresh brands showing resilience during the pandemic. 

A key trend emerging from lockdown is a heightened awareness for the environment and making smart fashion choices. 

Coronavirus has been, and still is, a devastating blow to everyone, but it’s important the fashion industry shows resilience and makes the right choices to protect our planet’s future through sustainability. 

As soon as we settle into the “new normal”, we will continue to have those conversations and hopefully move forward with getting out collection stocked with major retailers. For now, we can concentrate on building a brand from the base up.

The initial range of Fashion Without A Face bags retails at £345.

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