Written by Alexandra Palmer
You’ve probably seen that quote before: “Every time you buy something from an independent business, an actual person does a little happy dance!” And we can confirm this is true. As an independent business ourselves, every single purchase not only helps to pay our bills, employ our staff, make donations to our chosen charities and invest in the future of our brand but it means so much more than that; it means connection. It means that someone out there connects with our values and those of the independent brands in the Hibana collective and that we’re all striving for a better future as a community — for people and for the planet. So yes, it is true that every time someone makes a purchase on our site we unashamedly bust a groove.
July 4th marked UK Independents’ Day, a day to celebrate the diversity and creativity of the independent sector. Independent businesses start with someone’s dream, a passion, a higher purpose. Why else would you give up the comfort of a steady income, sociable working hours and the security of a pension for the sleepless nights, endless worry and financial strain that come with starting your own company? The grind is real and burning the midnight oil is a given. But for us at Hibana, knowing that you are contributing to making this world a better place, is a price worth paying and makes it all worth the while — and we’ve worked hard to build a collective of brands that feel the same. Often purpose-led rather than just profit-led, they’re all about making positive changes where they can and buzzwords such as ‘sustainability’ are already intrinsically built into their DNA.
Fanfare - sustainable fashion house fighting fast fashion.
Take fashion house Fanfare, for example, who were inspired to create a circular fashion brand to tackle the enormous environmental and social impact of the fast fashion industry. According to Fanfare, “Fifty per cent of fast fashion purchases are disposed of and 350,000 tons of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year. On top of this the fashion industry is a major contributor to climate change, pollution, human and animal exploitation.” Recognised by the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards in 2020 and spotlighted in Grazia’s World Earth Day 2021 round up, this is one revolutionary label proving that recycled, repurposed and reused fashion is very much à la mode.
“Good design means circularity. We create a seasonless, contemporary wardrobe, whilst using clothing as an expression for change, for fairness and for freedom. We will show the industry this revolutionary way of working, being attuned with nature and accounting for those making our clothes.” - Fanfare
Where large corporations are often driven exclusively by top and bottomline growth - with strategies that are decided by boardrooms and shareholders - independent businesses are driven by people that pour their entire soul into a product or business decision. In no other sector will you find such an abundance of creativity and innovation — progressive brands built with the pure graft and grit it takes to forge what is often the harder (and more expensive) path.
BEEN London - handmade accessories from recycled leather.
BEEN London was born when Founder ex-BBC journalist Genia Mineeva, so fed up with the waste created from single use coffee cups, set about doing her research. Finding that unless there is a market for recycled materials then those materials are landfill bound, Genia combined her design skills with one of the last bag-makers in London to launch the first BEEN London bag, crafted from premium, recycled leather. Led by creativity and purpose, Genia hopes BEEN London can “prove that waste can become beautiful, inside and out”.
The buck doesn’t stop at the fashion industry. Take tech accessory brand Nolii’s Founder Asad Hamir for example, who decided to actually do something about the uninspiring tangle of accessories he would carry about with him each day; “the bag full of stuff” as he calls it. The cables, batteries, chargers, none of which seemed to have been designed with much thought to the people using them. His brand Nolii is a ‘people-first ecosystem of modular tech accessories that help you do more, with less’ streamlining the technology we use each and every day. It’s this creativity that fills a gap in the market, and allows small brands to shine despite the uphill battle for brand recognition and not being able to rely on the eye-watering marketing budgets of the big players.
“Customers’ focus is on sustainable living now more than ever, and they’re willing to pay to protect the planet.” - Circular Online
Shopping independent means knowing who you are shopping with, and what those brands and businesses stand for — something which has become increasingly difficult in the global retail space. With the cloak and dagger-esque ‘who’s who’ of brands, the consumer demand for responsible businesses and the side effect of ‘greenwashing’ by many household companies, the retail world has slipped into murkier waters than ever before. As Behind the Brands demonstrates, most of the hundreds of household brands we know, buy and use everyday across the world, are owned by one of ten multinational corporations. The likes of Innocent Smoothies and Smart Water are owned by Coca Cola, Hellman’s, Colman’s and Knorr are all part of the Unilever family. Brands within brands within brands, to the point where it becomes unclear where one organisation ends and the other begins. When you start to look at the accumulative effect each of these businesses have, and the enormity of their reach, it becomes rather a hard pill to swallow.
Launched in 2016, Break Free From Plastic is a global movement with a common goal to ‘bring systemic change through a holistic approach tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure, and providing effective solutions’. Their 2020 Brand Audit Report identifies the top ten global polluters based upon a survey of 346,494 pieces of plastic waste across 55 countries and unsurprisingly there are some familiar household names — six of which form part of the ‘big ten’ multinationals.
“Only 9% of all the plastic ever made has been recycled, yet...producers continue to hail recycling as the ultimate solution to combating the plastic pollution crisis.” - Break Free From Plastic
Independent businesses as a more contemporary breed than their mainstream counterparts - who are often stalled by their own inertia - are more in tune and responsive to the modern, more environmentally aware consumer. Not only are they challenging these cornerstone brands with innovative and progressive circular solutions, they tend to have less of an impact on the environment by their very nature. Contur Clothing is a sustainable womens activewear brand, who not only source repurposed and eco friendly fabrics, but design and manufacture their range in London, reducing their ‘clothing miles’ and their carbon footprint. Small batch, hand crafted, hand poured are all phrases synonymous with the independent sector, whose tight but loyal following allow them to make each item with care, not just for the product itself, but for the environment.
NewGround - providing employment opportunities to ex-offenders.
It’s not just the planet that small companies aim to better, there are also the brands that put social issues at the top of their business plan. London based Nemi Teas works to provide employment to refugees, helping them to integrate into the UK workforce by giving them essential work experience and up-skilling their CVs. And then there is NewGround, a coffee brand which aims to positively impact people and society by creating job opportunities for ex offenders, helping to break the cycle of reoffending which costs the taxpayer close to four billion pounds a year. These two members of the Hibana collective certainly make your go-to morning drink seem even sweeter.
When it comes to the products themselves, there is an authenticity within the independent community which can’t be replicated or mass produced. Cultural pride is the spark behind many of the UK’s most inspiring brands who want to showcase and share the indigenous handicraft techniques of their heritage, many of which work with local artisans, providing employment opportunities and work experience to disadvantaged communities. Home-lifestyle brand Our Lovely Goods was founded by husband and wife Emmanuel and Ebi who wanted to share the traditional Nigerian weaving techniques they loved so much with their collection of woven raffia homewares. While A.A.K.S Founder Akosua Afriyie-Kumi launched her brand to introduce her favourite Ghanian weaving techniques to the UK, with her collection of striking, vibrant raffia bags. Though they may try, the en masse factories and production lines can never reproduce the heart and soul that goes into a handcrafted product, imbued with such pride.
A A K S - founder Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with her vibrant raffia bags.
“The essence of A A K S design philosophy is a complex combination of thoughts, design elements which come from a critical attention to craftsmanship, authenticity and ethical values in their production; while having a strong sense of identity and quality. Each collection silhouette is unique and tells a different story through detail, colour and shape” - A.A.K.S
Supporting independent businesses is about so much more than happy dances — it’s about supporting creativity and innovation, championing sustainability and ethical practices, pushing for social progression and authenticity. Supporting independents is about raising the bar for us all.
Looking for more independent brands from the Hibana collective? Discover them here.