Welcome to noissue's brand-new founder series! In this series of blogs, we will be speaking to business owners across a wide variety of industries to find out how they are bringing an eco-friendly approach to traditionally unsustainable sectors.
When sisters Amanda and Katie McCourt started to take an interest in the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry, they found that actually verifying brands' sustainability claims is incredibly difficult to do.
This led them on a path to founding their very own sustainable fashion model - a circular intimates brand which recycles t-shirts dedicated for the landfill into stylish, comfortable underwear.
With 'Pantee' now set to launch in 2020, Amanda and Katie spoke with noissue about their sustainable journey and the challenges of circular fashion:
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself; what is your professional background, and how did this lead you into the sustainable fashion movement?
Amanda: For the last five years I ran a digital boutique specialising in organic social media management. Although, I enjoyed it I always had this niggly feeling that I wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted to do and had hopes that one day, when the time was right I’d get to do social for my own brand. I actually had a blog years ago, called ‘A Rose Tint’, where I reviewed cruelty-free/vegan beauty products. I tried to branch out into sustainable fashion too but found it super tricky to find out if a brand’s sustainability claims were true or just good marketing. I became quite fearful of getting it wrong. I can remember thinking, ah-ha - maybe I could contribute to solving this big issue somehow. And, seven years later, here we are!
Katie: After graduating from University, I moved to Auckland where I lived and worked for just under two years. During this time, I started my first marketing role and got my first real insight into content and digital. Last year I moved to Vancouver where I live now, and absolutely love it. My background is in digital marketing, working for organisations in the tech, consumer goods, and non-profit industries. When Amanda and I first started talking about the concept for Pantee, I became engrossed in stats about the excessive waste in the fashion industry and quickly became dedicated to finding a product model that could help.
Q: What was it that inspired you to start Pantee? What is your mission?
Katie: We have both been fascinated by entrepreneurship for a long time and have always wanted to start a company together. The idea for Pantee really came together through a combined desire to reduce the amount of waste in the world.
Amanda: We truly believe that shifting to a circular economy will be beneficial in so many ways for the planet and we want to encourage this in the fashion industry, one of the worst polluting industries globally.
Q: How would you describe the concept of ‘circular fashion’? How is it the key to solving the fast fashion crisis?
Katie: We currently live with the mindset that we buy clothes, wear them a while, and then throw them away. Circular fashion is creating clothes that last longer and can be re-circulated back into use at their end of life. Instead of creating new materials all the time, circular fashion would re-use what we already. It’s a win-win – less waste goes to landfill and fewer resources are required to develop new materials.
Amanda: It’s really all about the mentality waste isn’t waste until we waste it!
Q: Do you think that consumer awareness is growing over the impact of fast fashion?
Katie: Definitely! The environmental impacts of fast fashion is widely covered in the media now, so it’s quite hard to miss. Trends are definitely shifting and it’s clear to see people, especially younger generations, rejecting fast fashion. Just look at what happened to Forever 21!
Amanda: Another telling sign is the rise in second-hand fashion, which is growing 21x faster than traditional apparel industries. The underwear industry is in danger of being left behind, as more and more people commit to not buying new. Pantee is the perfect solution.
Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge of running a sustainable fashion operation?
Amanda: Wanting to do everything 100% right! A lot of elements just aren’t quite there yet, for example, for underwear it’s quite hard to source biodegradable elastics and these materials are not cheap, especially for startup brands.
Q: Your business hasn’t officially launched yet. What steps are you taking to build a cohesive and recognizable brand?
Katie: We are really focusing on building our online presence by using social media and creating original content on our blog. The digital space is really important for us, considering we are planning on selling through a D2C e-commerce model. Branding is also extremely important to us, and it’s something we are still doing a lot of work on. It’s still early days, but we are really excited about developing the Pantee brand!
Q: Do you have any advice that you would give to sustainable fashion start-ups?
Katie: You can only do so much to fix the issues of the world. Sometimes it’s best to focus on one issue and try and solve that before focussing on everything else. For us, that is fashion excess and waste. It’s really easy to get bogged down by focussing on every element of your product and trying to make it absolutely perfect, but sometimes that’s just not possible.
Amanda: What’s important is doing your best and being transparent with your customers about the areas you still need to improve in. If you are doing more to be sustainable than other brands, then you are on the right track. You can keep striving to improve over time!