Hello Readers! For this week’s blog we wanted to do something exclusive and invited Nanette Hogervorst, owner of Sustainable Fashion Gift Card, for a short interview to ask her some questions about her business and her thoughts about the future of sustainable fashion. We hope you an enjoyable read!
Hi Nanette, first of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview. In this interview, we want to get a deeper insight of you, your gift card and your perspective on the sustainable fashion industry.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Nanette Hogervorst, 36 years and living in Amsterdam. I am the founder of the Sustainable Fashion Gift Card. This gift card can be redeemed at 60+ sustainable fashion brands, (web)shops, clothing libraries and experiences such as the Fashion for Good fashion museum. Before starting my own business, I worked for almost 8 years in the field of communications and sustainability within the financial sector.
Next to loving design and fashion, I have always been socially engaged and worked voluntary and as an intern for organisations such as Amnesty International. Since 2017 I seriously started to shift my career to contributing to a sustainable fashion industry. I blogged and interviewed experts, and this eventually led to the Sustainable Fashion Gift Card, which launched this year in April: Sustainable Fashion Gift Card.
How did you come up with the Sustainable Fashion Gift Card?
While I was writing about sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship in the fashion industry, with my own online magazine Our World, this idea for a gift card for sustainable fashion came along a few times. I love writing and communications, but I also was looking for a way to contribute to the sustainable fashion industry in a far more concrete and positive way.
So, I figured, there’s something good in this idea of a sustainable fashion gift card. It actually started as an idea for a gift card for style coaches and separate a gift card just for clothes and accessories. But soon I realised I could better combine the two. Combining products with ‘experiences’ is also a must for me. I wanted something that really disrupts the way we look at our wardrobe, that goes beyond purchasing sustainably produced clothing. It’s about a change of mindset, which may result in purchasing sustainably produced clothing, joining a clothing library, or something else.
What are your goals with the giftcard?
There’s this simple goal of wanting to change the world through gifting. If we buy a present for someone, why not giving a good one? It’s a simple act of kindness to the world, yourself and the whom you give it to. That’s why we make it easy for people to give a good fashion gift through the SFGC.
Second, we want to disrupt the gift card market. Successful gift cards are mainly about sales, sales, sales. We are eager to drive up our sales targets too, but we’re also truly interested in the SFGC buyer, receiver and our affiliated partners. In comparison to many other gift cards, we’re not building our business model based on the fact that many people don’t redeem their gift cards. We want to contribute to accelerating the sustainable fashion industry, so we want people to redeem their gift cards! That’s why we engage people through storytelling on our website and social media platform, why we organize (online) shopping tours to bring affiliated fashion pioneers and SFGC buyers, receivers and people interested in sustainable fashion together, and why we’re working on a b2b strategy that really inspires your employees and not just gives you money in the form of a gift card.
Thirdly, if we succeed, we can easily scale. The fashioncheque has turnover of more than 30 million in the Netherlands only. Think about the scenario that all that money would directly flow into the sustainable fashion industry.
What is your vision or mission?
I want to show people a world full of good fashion. A world that isn’t restrictive but creative, offering you multiple options to consume clothing consciously and in a way that fits your personality and values. I also aim to inspire through positivity. Of course, I believe the era of endless consumption and ownership will need to come to an end if we want to prevent the worse climate change scenarios to happen and no longer want to exploit the people working in often complex and untransparent supply chains. However, I don’t want to tell people what they should do by illustrating these worse case scenarios. I don’t want people to change their behaviour based on some kind of fear.
With the SFGC I introduce a positive trigger for people to finally make that conscious decision, through a gift from friends, family and colleagues. And I hope, if they make a purchase with the SFGC, I have inspired them to do it again – and again. Not just because they’re scared, but because they understand and see clothing can be consumed differently and more consciously – in a way it better fits their personality and values.
What criteria do you have for new brands to be part of your gift card?
80% of more of the collection – textile and leather – needs to be sustainable and fall in one or more of the following categories:
People and planet, and animals depending on the business.
- Local and transparent – production within Europe
Overall, you should show that you take all measures necessary that assures your supply chain is good for people, planet and animals. More concrete, affiliated fashion pioneers should be able to give us full assurance that up to tier 3 of their supply chain (dyeing and finishing) sustainable practices are met for at least people or planet. Depending on the materials you use, it should be clear that animals are treated well in your supply chain.
- Community empowerment and transparent – production outside Europe
You make a clear impact by supporting vulnerable communities and help keep local and traditional crafts alive. Further, just like local and transparenet, you should show that you take all measures necessary that assures your supply chain is good for people, planet and animals. More concrete, affiliated fashion pioneers should be able to give us full assurance that up to tier 3 of their supply chain (dyeing and finishing) sustainable practices are met for at least people or planet. Depending on the materials you use, it should be clear that animals are treated well in your supply chain.
- Innovative business models: circularity and (reverse) logistics
A circular business model is applied throughout the business, like leasing or renting. It should be clear that the fashion pionieer is truly concerned with making impact, and not with implementing a so called ‘circular idea’ in a linear business context.
- Product innovation: materials and designs strategies
Uses innovative materials or applies innovative and sustainable design strategies. Think of zero waste patterns, multi-functional patterns to extend the lifetime and/or intensify the use of garments, using new and innovative materials – like apple leather, recycled fibres, and so on.
- Jewelry and eyewear
Jewelry should either be fully recycled, certified or your supply chain needs to be fully transparent
What do you think are the main problems in the fashion industry?
It’s a cliché, but we really need a system change. We do not only need to produce better, more environmentally, people and animal friendly but also less and more efficient. I do believe it’s better to make a dress that is made of organic cotton, but if we continue to produce in enormous quantities and these dresses do not even up in someone’s closet but will be dumped in landfill sites, I think we’re not getting the point. We cannot simply ‘buy our way out of fast fashion. This means the industry needs to change, from design to production, to the use of data and reserve logistics, but also a mindset change of people and the way we all consume clothing. It’s a big task, but the industry is making progress.
What changes in the fashion industry did you see the past years?
When I first attended the Dutch trade fair De Modefabriek in 2017, people were responding to sustainable fashion like: Uhm. Huh? Ok, well, I’ve heard of it, yes – I think. And they would continue trying to get a new deal haha. When I attended January 2020, people would respond: Sustainability? Yes, we’re aware of it… but we just haven’t gotton to it and we don’t really know how to start… But we know it’s something we have to start getting to pay attention to… And a few months before corona it, companies like Zara, Zalando, H&M… fall over one another in the press, disclosing their newly set sustainability targets and ambitions. And things have definitely been moving, especially in the innovation area – think of materials and re-commerce. But somehow… the people side of sustainability, how big companies treat their workers, were often underexposed. Corona however, showed once and again the major issues concerning the treatment of workers in the fashion supply chain.
How do you expect that the fashion industry will change the coming years?
I believe the fashion industry will become more and more sustainable every year. But aren’t we’re going far too slow? That said, fashion is also just part of an entire economic system that is built on endless growth, and together with that the exploitation of resources and people. One thing I hope is that we’re not going to implement so-called ‘circular ideas’ in a linear context and with a linear mindset, which I believe could only make things worse.
Looking a little bit into the future, I – may be – naively hope that some of the bigger players in the industry have managed to restructure their business in such a way that they will be smaller, and in the long, they could truly be a sustainable fashion business. And that some of the smaller fashion pioneers currently on the market, with sustainability truly embedded in their DNA, will grow into well known and loved businesses.