We had a chat with the multi-talented Elvynd Soh, Creative Director and visionary of homegrown label, QLOTHÈ. When Elvynd set his goal to build a sustainable fashion label that walk-the-talk, there was no holding back. Trust us on that .
When and why did you start QLOTHÈ?
Elvynd: We started QLOTHÈ here in Singapore just a little shy of 2 years. I never had the opportunity to go through formal design education, instead picking up skills on the side during my schooling days, so I’m a self-taught designer! Fortunately enough, my mom and aunties are veterans in the industry, and I was able to learn from the pros. I went down very traditional college pathway which I was never really passionate about, and so when the chance arose, I started QLOTHÈ as a way of self-expression, and to inspire everyone else to do the same. Everyone has their own little origin stories, and I wanted people to be able to do that through the way they dress themselves. Being a rather (read: totally not perfect) green person myself, I eventually decided that QLOTHÈ needed to be a representation of that, and that we have a duty to help people be more mindful about the way they consume fashion, and so we transitioned to being a sustainable womenswear label and never looked back.
Why did you decide to make the brand sustainable? E: Being a rather (read: totally not perfect) green person myself, I eventually decided that QLOTHÈ needed to be a representation of that, and that we have a duty to help people be more mindful about the way they consume fashion, and so we transitioned to being a sustainable womenswear label and never looked back. Knowing how the fashion supply chain works really opens one’s eyes to just how dirty the business can be, both in terms of unethical business tactics and environmentally damaging practices. It’s apparent to me that QLOTHÈ needed to play a part in being the solution, and ever since last year we really came in hard on changing not just the materials we use, but also the way we work.
How is your brand sustainable today? E: First things first, while we call ourselves a “sustainable womenswear label”, we strongly feel that there’s no such thing as being perfectly sustainable, and there’s a ton of things that we can still improve on.
That being said, we’re really proud of what we’ve done in 2019 to make ourselves a more sustainable womenswear brand. Our very first approach was to be mindful about the materials we use. Internally, we came up with a framework of fabrics and materials that we grade, and which we use to guide what we use for our garments. As much as possible, we avoid using less planet-friendly materials such as polyester (we currently only use minimal amounts of recycled polyester for linings), and virgin cotton, using instead materials with strong sustainability credentials such as TENCEL™ Lyocell, which are much less resource-intensive and are sustainably produced.
We collaborate with renowned international non-profit organisations such as Canopy to craft public policies detailing our commitment towards bettering our materials used not just in garments, but also packaging. We have begun work towards that by exploring more innovative materials for use in our work.
Giving back is also a thing with us. We collaborate actively with partners such as PMHaze and One Tree Planted (through our packaging partners) to work on their community project through our Buy a Piece, Plant a Tree initiative. For every piece of garment you buy, we plant a tree through our partners in areas of need (such as Indonesia) to restore the local ecosystem and also to help better the lives of the native community in these areas.
How transparent is your production process today? E: This is something that we’re constantly working on, and which requires a lot of work as well. Last year, we worked with a group of green data scientists in Canada to understand better, in quantitative terms, the kind of impact our customers make by buying our garments, with a cradle-to-gate comparative Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) study which covers all of our upstream processes from raw material acquisition all the way to fabric manufacture. Through this, we hope to help everyone make more informed decisions about the purchases they make.
However, there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of traceability, and we hope to be able to eventually answer the question “who made our clothes?” at every level of our supply chain, from Tier 1 (Garment manufacturing) all the way to Tiers 4 / 5 (raw material producers, farms and forests through which our materials are obtained). It’s a journey, and we hope to have everyone onboard with us!
What does QLOTHÈ as a brand represent?
E: A garment carries the stories of the people who makes our clothes, of the people who wear them and of everything around us that makes it possible. And QLOTHÈ represents these stories.
What does the future hold in terms of sustainable innovation?
E: So much! From newer, and more innovative materials (such as Orange fibre, Pinatex) to alternative business models that encourage circularity, there’s so much more space to navigate in terms of sustainable innovation. It’s really exciting!