By Lucy Kebbell, Founder of The Vendeur
It seems you can’t move for stumbling over the ‘c’ word these days. Community is a big deal, both in our personal and business lives. In the last few years I have really come to understand the word, and embrace it. Starting a business, having a baby and experiencing a lockdown have all been lessons in the importance of community. As the old saying goes ‘it takes a village’.
Having worked in the fashion magazine industry since I was 18, community wasn’t a word I heard much back then. I found my workplaces and my colleagues to be less of a community and more of a Hunger Games style tournament. Brands too were not fond of community. It was commonplace to be tightlipped. It wasn’t done to reveal the name of your factories or your fabric supplier, or, god forbid, how you disposed of waste. Brands didn’t speak to each other. The environment felt competitive, it felt like it was me or you, never us.
Fast forward to 5 years ago when I found myself adrift after quitting my role on the fashion team at a big British glossy mag. I’d lost my ‘community’, a team I loved. And I was having trouble seeing how I fit into the fashion industry anymore. As I began to dabble in the world of sustainability, I sensed a change. Brands were more open, more honest. It was ok to ask ‘who made my clothes’, or what are you doing to become more circular? Honesty speaks to me as a person, and it’s also an essential part of building a community. Because when we are honest with each other, then we can work together.
The problems that big industry and fashion specifically have created for the Earth are too numerous to mention here. But as I type this, in the midst of lockdown 3.0 in 2021, we all know that the fashion industry has to do better. I believe that community is the key to doing better. When we share knowledge, problems, solutions and ideas, then we all do better together. When one designer or brand keeps something to themselves, they don’t benefit the whole. In early 2020 I had the pleasure of speaking to Finisterre’s Product Development Manager Niamh O’Laoighre about their innovative plastic bags for shipping products. They have created a bag that breaks down harmlessly in water, it’s an amazing breakthrough for a fashion brand. But they needed more brands to come on board in order to make it financially viable. They were openly looking for partners to share their innovation. This is just one example of brands working together to help innovate us out of our waste problem.
The sustainable community is one where I finally feel at home. It’s not just a community of brands, it’s a community of global citizens. Consumers are now coming to the realisation that their voice matters, that where they spend their money or their time, directly affects how we evolve towards a greener planet. Huge brands like Arcadia (Philip Green’s fashion empire which included Topshop, Miss Selfridge etc) who never gave much thought to community, or the environment, will not survive the change. When brands don’t speak to consumers, and consumers don’t speak to brands, a vacuum exists that only seeks to pull us all further into the depths of climate change.
Through my work with sustainable brands at The Vendeur, I have realised the huge potential of community. I’ve helped brands collaborate with each other. I’ve introduced creatives to new projects and together we’ve made something beautiful and something worthwhile. Community doesn’t have to be something you create on social media. It’s the partners, peers and strangers we work with. Sharing knowledge, problem solving together is the only way to pull ourselves out of the proverbial grave that we currently find ourselves in.
2020 really brought community to the fore for all of us and it’s something precious that we have to hold on to. I am excited to announce that The Vendeur is working on launching our own community later this year, called The Societe. In the form of a membership portal, the brands and creatives we work with will have access to each other’s knowledge, problem solving and innovation. We’ll grow together as a community to strengthen the sustainable niche as one for the future. Admission is open to anyone who is excited for this journey. You can sign up to become part of the first cohort, receiving updates as we bring the portal to life. I’m so excited for 2021, to be part of Hibana’s community and to have them be a part of ours.
What’s in a name? Well it turns out - a lot. While we’ve been researching, learning and engaging, we discovered that The Société just didn’t reflect the space we are setting out to build for you.
The WIP marks our progression to build the definitive space to cultivate ideas together and make change for a world you want to work - and live - in.