When I first started Contendunt a few years ago, one of the things I always wanted to do was make the brand as sustainable as possible.
The first t-shirt we ever sold was 100% Organic Cotton Jersey, made using wind and solar energy. It was climate-neutral and we opted for embroidery as, at the time, we couldn't find the right printing company that offered eco-friendly inks to print on the t-shirts.
As a small start up business, and being a young, naive 20 year-old lad with no business experience what so ever, I invested a large sum of money into a bulk load of t-shirts.
Whilst initial launch of the first t-shirts was a success, we didn't manage to shift all the units for a while. Eventually, we managed to sell all the t-shirts we ordered for our first release, but sitting on stock for a bit of time did make me wonder how sustainable bulk ordering products was.
Questions were racing through my mind consistently, trying to think of the next steps.
What if people didn't like the next design? What if the stock wasn't going to shift? How much money am I going to lose?
From this, I shifted towards two options.
Printing products on demand. - Whilst this has slightly longer shipping times, this meant we were not holding excess stock that we couldn't move, and only made what we sold. We found an amazing company to help us through this process, who fits with our message of sustainability and being eco-friendly. They use water-based, solvent-free & vegan-approved inks, as well as shipping our products in 100% plastic-free packaging. They also plant trees for every review that gets given to them.
In December 2019 I announced the Contendunt upcycle project - this was going to be a project where we recycled old clothing, hunted in charity shops or donated from elsewhere to upcycle and make some really cool clothes. Unfortunately, as this was being worked on, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which meant we had to put the breaks on this project for the time being, although it is something we are very interested in visiting again in the future.
The New Change
For the last few months, I have been looking at taking the shift to sustainability further with Contendunt.
We've been pretty quiet with new clothing releases, plans, and projects because a lot of our time has been spent researching our new path forward to carry on and maintain our message about pushing to be more sustainable.
The first test came from a very limited run of t-shirts we did.
The "Change To Survive" t-shirts were an experiment for us to see how people would respond to this transition we were trying to make.
The "C2S" t-shirts used a blank, oversized, 100% organic ring-spun combed cotton t-shirt. Instantly, this tee became one of the fastest-selling products we've released, and the feedback from our customers meant that the step up in quality had made a difference, as well as the sustainable approach to the item.
We have also been improving our research, to make sure the manufacturers of our t-shirts are looking after their workforce and paying them a fair living wage.
This is already a huge and, sadly, a problem within the fashion industry that is not vocalized enough.
We want to make sure those who manufacture the t-shirts we use are on a liveable wage, not 62p an hour. We also want to make sure their working conditions are fair and comfortable, giving them time to rest and relax... not working 16 hours a day to go home for 6 hours and then do it all again... that f***ing sucks!
Following this, we recently made the choice to invest in a heat-press machine, meaning we can start printing some of our own products from the comfort of the office (AKA My Home... lol) and, within the time frame of the last few months, I have been trialing and testing different clothing blanks, to see which ones are eco-friendly & high quality.
I think the most important thing for us here, is getting it right. We don't want to go with the first eco-friendly t-shirt that we find... they're notorious for shrinking in the wash! We want to help create a product that lasts a long while, not a product that you wear a few times before it starts shrinking, or the threading comes loose as you get in those high street retail shops... that's not cool.
With our first print on the heat-press, we wanted to keep it simple. Scraping back to the simplistic, minimalist style that seems to be the rave (And one I am secretly a massive fan of.)
We opted for a gothic style font that simply read "Contendunt Streetwear" - this simple t-shirt will be available in a few colors, and will be priced fairly to reflect the quality of the garment.
It will also help us fund future investments into new prints, of which we have some really cool ideas in the works.
This also means that we aren't as limited to what we can and can't produce.
The heat press machine allows us to experiment with different items and print styles, meaning we can start adding more variety to our products.
Here are some other ways we, and our products, are shifting towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly future for the brand.
- The people who handle our products are paid above the national living wage, regardless of age.
- Our inks use only water-based inks. They're OEKO-TEX approved (they don't contain any regulated or unregulated chemicals harmful to the environment).
- We are moving towards a wide variety of organic and fair wear accredited garments.
- All the excess and waste cardboard and paper we and our product handlers is recycled.
- Most of the packaging used to ship all orders is 100% plastic-free. We are currently working with our other suppliers to moving towards plastic-free alternatives!
There is much more that we are also working on behind the scenes to help Contendunt become as sustainable as can be, and we will be adding more insights into our journey to sustainability in future blogs!
This has all be a massive learning curve for me, and it is a journey I am very much enjoying. I am far, far from an expert on all of this, and I am still learning a lot about this as I go.
Our website has recently undergone a swanky shake-up, as well as our Instagram page.
Thanks for following our journey, and we cannot wait to see you represent!