Called to stand before the court of the Blue Planet for inciting over-consumption, to the point of exhaustion of human and natural resources, Fast Fashion has been the subject of strong criticism for several years. Quickly purchased and quickly thrown away, low-cost fashion, which is characterised by a very rapid cycling of collections, has moreover recently been renamed Fossil Fashion by several NGOs in the “Fossil Fashion” report published on 3 February 2021, to denounce the dependence of this sector on fossil resources.
In contrast to the way Fast Fashion works, the UCO Sheep Inc. is based on completely different values. For Edzard van der Wyck, co-founder of this new English label, carbon neutrality should – at the very least – be considered as a commitment by fashion companies. And the young DNVB goes even further in its responsible approach by claiming to be the world’s leading brand with a negative impact.
To produce its Merino wool jumpers, Sheep Inc. sources its wool from farms in New Zealand that use regenerative breeding methods.
Regenerative agriculture? This is an innovative agricultural system that increases biodiversity and enriches the earth with life and humus. By improving fertility and productivity, it stores carbon in the soil and vegetation (plants, hedges, trees etc.) whilst reversing current trends in atmospheric CO2 accumulation and global warming.
Brands such as California Cloth Foundry or The Trace Collective are already true ambassadors of this, but Sheep Inc. goes further to claim its status as a negative impact brand. In addition to sustainable commitments, it invests 5% of its turnover in biodiversity projects. These are projects that mitigate, at a minimum, ten times the CO2 impact of the entire life cycle of each jumper.
Transparency and traceability are other pieces of Sheep Inc.’s DNA and complete the picture of the responsible label.
The brand invites each customer to scan the yellow label at the bottom of the knitted garment to find out about the entire manufacturing process, the carbon footprint of the product, as well as to learn about the life and news of the sheep whose wool was used to design the garment. Major events, periods of transhumance, mowing, birth etc. All this information, shared with customers, gives meaning to consumption. Offering consumers the opportunity to connect with a “sheep-partner-wool supplier” is a fun and seductive idea. It’s an opportunity to create a link with a region, as well as with nature, animals and the rituals it is home to. Take a breath. Make a reasonable and reasoned purchase emotionally appropriate by familiarizing yourself with the history of the product and adopting a sheep. It also means reminding the customer that the clothes come from somewhere and have an environmental impact, as van der Wyck points out.
Guaranteed for life, Sheep Inc. garments are also perfectly in line with today’s consumer logic, following the mantra “less but better”.
The fashion world is going through a phase of serious self-examination. The big leaders are now challenged by a growing number of citizen-customers who demand not only commitments but positions and actions. UCOs such as Sheep Inc. have the merit of clearing new pathways. They are proactive, innovative, creative and sometimes a little provocative, but they are undoubtedly a real source of inspiration for the players involved. Some will disappear; others will constantly reinvent themselves. And perhaps others, too, will be the new champions of tomorrow.