The online clothing store Amberoot, based in Brighton, UK, is run by the radiant and kindhearted Gintare, who founded the platform after a decade-long career in banking. Quite a career switch: Amberoot is dedicated to the arduous market of sustainable clothing, exclusively offering materials that are organic and biodegradable such as organic cotton, flax, hemp, agricultural waste fibres and lyocell.
Hi Gintare! As a store manager, you must be following consumption patterns closely. Looking at the market for sustainable fashion, what will be the key trends and developments in the future?
- "I think the levels of awareness will deepen: consumers used to look at the sector from an ethical point of view, expressing concerns about wages and working conditions. Now I see an expanding knowledge and interest in the environmental impacts. And hopefully that will translate into a comeback of fibres such as hemp and linen. There is also a technological trend of course. Automation is not revolutionising the sector just yet but it could turn the production process around: we might soon look at shorter supply chains, closer to the consumer thanks to 3D-printing and on-demand manufacturing."
You made a conscious choice to sell clothes made from natural textile fibres only. Recently, a number of brands have been claiming to produce clothes and shoes from regained "ocean plastic". What do you think of all of this? Is this a credible alternative to virgin polyester?
- “I think it’s far from good enough. Worldwide, two thirds of clothing are synthetics, while an average garment is worn four times and then thrown away. So while many people are upset about a single use plastic I think we should also be concerned about the four-times use plastic: which is today’s fashion industry. Each time we wash our synthetic clothing, hundreds of thousands of microfibers leak into our waterways, rivers, seas and oceans. So in recovering ocean plastic, the fashion industry is not actually going to close the circle. For these and other reasons, we simply try to stay away from fossil-based synthetic fibres. We offer traditional fabrics such as linen, hemp and organic cotton but also new innovative fabrics from agricultural waste, seaweed, methane gasses and mushroom mycelium.”
Do you visit the factories where the products sold on Amberoot are made?
- "Some of our linen is produced in Lithuania, where I am from. These are factories I often visit. We used to have a thriving industry of flax cultivation and processing - so I am happy to see there is a small revival now. I always wish we could do more to enable transparency, but we do our best. We provide supply chain maps for every product, and I’m quite proud that we are the first multi-brand retailer to do so - but it is a lot of hard research work. I visit the factories but often come home with fresh questions in mind, so it's an ongoing exploration. In fact, it would be wonderful if brands would organise tours along their supply chain, so that designers, managers and customers can see the process with their own eyes."
How do you see the future for upcycling?
- "Of course there is a future. Creativity is part of human nature - it is healthy! Knitting reduces stress and high blood pressure, so I think there will always be makers turning old products into something new. I do think it will stay more of a craftsmanship than a mass market product, as turning a used product into something new is very labour-intensive."
At the end of the day, you need to run Amberoot exactly like any other business - obeying the same commercial pressures. Or is there any difference?
- "Oh, it's definitely a battle. I always need to think both short-term and long-term. In the short-term we need to survive as a platform, just like any other business, while in the long-term things may become easier for players like us. Maybe the rules of the game will change, maybe our societies will start paying more attention to societal value and well-being rather than economic profit. Meanwhile, I think we need to show ourselves more, because the lack of awareness is our biggest obstacle.”
Who or what inspires you?
- "Nature and its beauty. The generosity of plants and seeds. I think we need to live more in harmony with nature and our environment, refocusing our senses towards natural materials. I am also inspired by the good and hard-working people I meet on the way."
A wish for the future?
"A healthy and happy future, with a more mindful approach towards nature and all sentient beings! We simply can't continue with the current system."
More info: https://www.amberoot.com/amberoot-blog