Ethical fashion? Count us IN
We love the mission of Luke & Matt’s apparel brand, to produce clothes and help protect the planet. Coexistence Apparel is a British street wear brand that places waste minimisation, elimination of plastic and raising awareness for endangered species at the heart of what they do. For every item sold, the two brothers make a generous donation to IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). A global charity that protects animals and their habitats. We had a chat with Luke, one half of the founding brothers of Coexistence, to talk about their beginnings and how they ensure the sustainability of their operations.
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For starters, could you tell us about yourself?
I’m 24 years olds and I’m from Bolton, England. I went to Northumbria University in Newcastle to study International Business Management. I’ve had to work hard in life to achieve what I have. Having dyslexia, I struggled in school but through this realised I needed to work harder in order to keep up. This helped me discover the power of hard work and determination which allowed me to pursue my academic qualifications and graduate with first class honours. While at university I was scouted as a model and signed to multiple agencies worldwide. Since then I developed an even stronger interest in fashion, not just in regards to style and what’s fashionable but in relation to the logistics of the industry and sustainability of it. I now model internationally so I spend a lot of my time traveling the world and the rest of my focus goes into working on my brand. I love sustainability, fashion, travel, nature and animals, therefore I incorporate this into my brand, so really my passion is my work.
Matt, my brother, is 29 and by day works for a leading marketing agency in London. His background is largely marketing based, previously working in the USA and Europe both in house and in the agency world. He’s dabbled in a few entrepreneurial ventures before launching Coexistence with me, working as a freelance marketing consultant and running wine fairs in the UK. He also shares a love for animals and sustainability and brings experience and knowledge to my passion and enthusiasm!
What inspired you to create Coexistence Apparel with your brother Matt?
With us both having studied business courses at University and possessing entrepreneurial mindsets, we wanted to create an ethical business together, and a streetwear brand stood out as the perfect place to marry our talents. Matt comes from a strong marketing background and understands the more practical elements of running a company, having been in business for 10 years now, whereas I bring a creative spark and imagination that he lacks. It was important to us that our business was ethical and that it would have a positive impact on the world. Centering our brand around animal conservation was an idea of mine and Matt was immediately on board. We felt this could turn our clothing brand into a company that could better the world we live in. This backdrop gives us a great balance as a partnership and in turn, means we produce attractive products that are true to our story and mission.
Your brand really stands out by raising awareness and funds for conservation and biodiversity projects. Can you tell us more about why this is an important issue for you?
It's simple really, we love animals, the planet and finding ways we can coexist. Animal welfare and conservation is a really important issue and there is so much destruction caused directly to animals and more so their habitats and homes. It's heartbreaking and it's getting worse. The health of an ecosystem is maintained by its plants and animals, they are the foundation of the ecosystem. When species become endangered, it is a sign of an ecosystem’s imbalance causing it to slowly fall apart. This balance is difficult to maintain, the loss of one species often triggers the loss of others. Every plant and animal in our world is part of a wider network of species, and it’s hard to separate them from it. Plants and animals play an important role in supporting our ecosystems which provide us with important services. Humans depend on healthy, well-balanced ecosystems as they are essential to the purity of the environment. This is why we are committed to supporting IFAW, and other philanthropic causes, in their mission.
How do you ensure environmental sustainability when it comes to sourcing materials and producing your garments?
We work with a supplier based in Darwen, England - round the corner from our hometown of Bolton. This gives us the ability to regularly check out what's going on in the factory and at every step of the supply chain process. We chose our supplier due to their range of environmentally friendly products and practices, for example they plant a tree for each order to help offset their carbon footprint. Our garments are produced using recycled polyester and 100% certified organic cotton, meeting Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS). Other certifications our garments hold include Peta Vegan Approved, Global Recycled Standard, and Fair Wear Certified.
Fashion has a large impact at the consumer-level. Are there ways in which Coexistence Apparel tries to minimise this impact? Do you have any advice for shoppers when it comes to minimising their waste?
All our products ship in fully recyclable paper packaging and we aim to have a near 100% plastic free supply chain. As a shopper it can be difficult, we are wired to look at low prices as a positive in the decision matrix, however this kind of decision-making comes with a price (pun intended). Our advice to consumers would be to pay attention to where their products come from, as well as what the brands they are buying are doing to offset production and make the world a better place. The sad reality is a lot are doing nothing, so we suggest that people find the ones that are and consider the higher price tickets (within reason) as an investment in a better future for our planet.
How is the fashion industry innovating and adapting in order to become more sustainable? Are any of these innovations influencing your business?
There's a big push not only in the fashion industry but in the wider business world, to move away from plastic but generally in the industry we feel there isn't enough happening. Cost still drives a majority of the fashion industry and fast fashion generally means sustainability and earth-positive production are skipped in favour of saving a few dollars. However, we are committed to insisting every product we create is organically sourced and made to minimise environmental impact. We also look to minimise waste by creating our products to order and ensuring all our products are fully recyclable.