Fashion Revolution Week: Lara Intimates on a Sustainable Fashion Future
20 April 20
It’s Fashion Revolution Week, an important time to think about the changes needed in the fashion industry. Lara Intimates opened in 2017 because we believed the lingerie industry was lacking in sustainability and inclusivity. Every Fashion Rev week, I reflect on Lara’s founding mission: We exist to celebrate women. We make products that fit and flatter, we provide jobs to machinists in London and we empower all women that believe in a sustainable fashion future. I want Lara Intimates to be a company that lasts 100 years, and that means putting people before profit and long term sustainability over short term gains.
Many of you already know Lara Intimates as an ethical underwear brand making non-wired bras from deadstock fabrics. In this article, I will explain how Lara works to be environmentally and socially responsible and share opinions from our team. Most importantly, I will tell you about our future goals and how Lara aims to revolutionise fashion into an industry that makes a positive impact on the world.
What does sustainability mean?
Sustainability is a huge topic, and everyone has different priorities when it comes to making change. In creating a sustainable future for fashion, we consider textile manufacturing, fabric dyeing, energy use, safe disposal of chemicals, waste reduction, fair pay for workers, safe working conditions, environmental pollution and end of garment lifecycle. It’s important for you to decide which aspects of sustainability are most important to you and use that information to inform your shopping decisions.
In writing this article, the Lara Intimates factory team discussed what aspects of sustainability matter most to them.
"I love how we use deadstock fabrics and source components from the UK or Europe...It’s important to me that we are making products in small batches in London and not exploiting workers and creating excess products which aren't sustainable."
Zoe, Head of Product at Lara Intimates
"At Lara, using deadstock fabric (to make) limited batches and not create more waste is key to being sustainable...Globally there’s a serious problem with working conditions. Workers are getting paid little to nothing and packed together in close living quarters. Also, if we want to help the planet, we shouldn’t be pumping hard chemicals into rivers like many companies do with their dye waste."
Nicola, Sewing Machinist at Lara Intimates
Both Zoe and Nicola talk about the unfair treatment of garment workers in fashion supply chains around the world. At Lara Intimates, we feel very strongly that people need to be treated fairly at every step of production, and our priority is creating sustainable, well paid and high quality work for women in the fashion industry.
How is Lara Intimates environmentally and socially conscious?
At Lara Intimates, our bras and briefs are made with quite a few conscious credentials. Here are some of the ways we make our underwear ethically and sustainably.
•All fabrics are deadstock, unused by large factories or brands that may otherwise go to landfill
•Elastics are made and dyed in England
•Gold hardware is made in France by one of the last remaining lingerie component makers in Europe.
•Garment labels are made in the UK
•The Lara Factory in East London makes all our garments
•Our factory creates zero fabric waste
•Every Lara employee earns London Living Wage or higher
Tell me more about the Lara Factory.
In 2017, Lara Intimates launched and decided to make all products in-house. We wanted to offer a wide size range, but we couldn’t afford to have every size and colour manufactured at a factory. At the time, starting our own factory was just a solution to a problem, but it turned out to be the best thing we could have possibly done for our business.
Lara is a “vertically integrated” company. That means we design, sample, manufacture, market and ship products all from our studio in London. (This is very different to most high street fashion brands that outsource pieces of their supply chain to different suppliers, often in other countries.) Being vertically integrated can be challenging because our team is responsible for so many projects. It’s also an incredible advantage because it gives us control over every aspect of our business and provides transparency. We know exactly how our team is being treated and what they’re being paid, and we can prevent any fabric wastage during production. Most importantly, we can create a culture where people are valued and wellbeing is prioritised over profit.
How will Lara Intimates contribute to a sustainable fashion future?
At Lara, we feel a responsibility to make fashion a conscious industry. We aim to do this through our own products and supply chains, and we hope to be part of a larger conversation about a fashion revolution.
Goal 1: Build the best apparel factory in the world.
The Lara Intimates Factory is the heart of our business. Our team is made up of women that love to sew, have expert skills and are always learning from one another. We want to use our factory as a platform to celebrate skills and promote a high standard of living by creating an admirable workplace culture and providing good pay to all employees.
Sewing machinists are the backbone of the fashion industry, and unfortunately they are underappreciated all too often. Fashion today is made so quickly and cheaply, we’ve forgotten how much skill is required to make clothing. At Lara, our machinists need at least a year of training because their work needs to be done correctly and meticulously. In the future, we want to expand our training programmes to upskill all of our factory workers. We also want to work in rotation so every employee has the opportunity to try different jobs, work with new people and learn more skills.
Our team is often talks about the future of fashion manufacturing and, Zoe recently said
“I would love to see big fast fashion brands putting people before profit. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing production to different countries but those people at every step of the supply chain need to be paid fairly, with fair contracts and regulated working conditions.”
Zoe, Head of Product at Lara Intimates.
Zoe explains that many fashion brands outsource production, which can lead to unethical supply chains. In many countries, people, often women, are working in factories with little pay, no paid leave and unsafe conditions. At Lara Intimates, we want to achieve the opposite of the infamous fashion supply chain: a factory with fair pay, enjoyable work and a high standard of living.
Goal 2: Be more inclusive.
Inclusivity may not seem related to sustainability, but it is! Lara Intimates offers 60 bra sizes. If we only offered 30 sizes, we could only provide an eco-friendly product to only half as many women. To achieve a more sustainable fashion future, we need to make products that cater to a range of body types, ages and lifestyles.
Goal 3: Find new ways to reduce waste and environmental impact.
“I’d love to look into eco fabrics so we can begin to develop a wider variety of products”
Zoe, Head of Product at Lara Intimates
At present, Lara Intimates only uses deadstock fabrics to manufacture products. While deadstock fabrics are a great way to reduce waste, they won’t work when our company gets bigger because they’re available in limited quantities. We hope to explore new materials that are perfect for lingerie and have a small carbon footprint.
Our sewing machinist, Nicola, also shared ideas for reducing waste.
“I’d love to see companies try and find alternative ways of dyeing clothing; maybe it’s a case of making smaller batches of clothing with organic dyes. Right now there is a surplus of clothing being manufactured and it would be amazing to see companies care more about the longevity...of their products.”
Nicola, Sewing Machinist at Lara Intimates
Nicola is addressing two types of waste here. First, she explains that textile dyeing can be very environmentally harmful because waste water is often dumped in local bodies of water. This can pollute drinking sources and have other negative environmental consequences. As Lara Intimates grows and considers new sources of materials, we can reduce environmental impact by choosing textiles that are dyed responsibly.
Nicola also recommended reducing waste by avoiding the manufacture of surplus stock. Today, it’s very common for conventional fashion companies to overproduce. Surplus stock is sold at mark down, burned or sent straight to landfill. This is an enormous waste of workers time, energy use, pollution and so much more. As Lara Intimates grows, we aim to produce little and often and reduce stock waste however possible.
Goal 4: Create a recycling scheme
Our team is very interested in setting up a garment recycling scheme. This would be a fantastic way to help customers recycle their underwear and reduce textile waste going to landfills. We hope to launch this in the next year or so. Stay tuned!
Let’s lead the way to a sustainable fashion future.
The Lara Intimates Team is made up of women with specialist lingerie knowledge and a concern for the wellbeing of our world. We practice our passions through our work everyday. At the same time, we don’t expect our journey to create a sustainable fashion industry to be easy. The decade of the 2020s is unbelievably critical because we need to reduce our carbon footprint to slow climate change. Fashion may not be the world’s largest polluter, but it causes very serious harm to people and the planet. If our small team can help to make positive change, that’s what we will do.
This Fashion Revolution week, we will be sharing our knowledge, story and sustainability goals with you. We hope you will join us in this conversation. What do you want the future of fashion to look like? What are your sustainability priorities? How can Lara help you make more sustainable choices? Together we can promote ethical practices, reduce waste and pollution, celebrate women around the world and revolutionise fashion for good.