To celebrate “Fairtrade Fortnight” we thought we’d run a Q&A to discuss why we decided to make Lala & Bea an ethical, ‘Made in the UK’ brand – talking frankly about the struggles we've had but also about why our ethical ethos is so important to our vision for Lala & Bea…
Why was it important to you to be ‘made in UK’?
Caroline Begley: I think it’s important to know where and how your products are made and any environmental or social impacts your choices can have. When we were young my mum wouldn’t let us buy any fruit from South Africa because of the awful things that were going on at the time. That stuck with me, to make conscious decisions and vote with your feet. By manufacturing in the UK we have complete visibility of the production process. Using organic materials where we can ensures that even the raw materials are accountable. It’s also great that we get to meet everyone in the process from the guy who programmes the knit machines to the machinists that stitch the labels in. It’s more personal and the service you get in the UK from small manufacturers is amazing. If we don't use them, they'll be lost forever.
What ethical principles does your brand represent?
We want to be the antidote to 'throw away fashion' and create pieces that can be passed between siblings and families... even creating heirlooms that are past down to the next generation! A lot of people are buying our blankets with that in mind, which is an amazing thought. We want to really change the consumer mindset so that they see the value in purchasing for longevity, quality and slow fashion that can be passed on...
Have you found it hard to stick to these principles in the fashion industry?
KG: Yes at times it is frustrating - when the lowest price seems most important to the consumer. We just need to stay focussed and target those consumers that care about the quality and ethical credentials we represent.
How can consumers help?
CB: Consumers just need to be aware of what they are buying and where products come from and so they can make informed choices. Consumers have the power and can vote with their wallet. The power of positive shopping!
Is it harder or easier to be a Made in UK business, why?
CB: A little bit of both really. The practical advantages are things like no time difference, no language barrier or communication issues, no importing issues or added costs and time delays from customs etc. It’s also easier to just head to the factory if you need to. It’s harder to find the right factories and there are definite cost implications because paying someone to make something here is going to cost more (and quite rightly so!) due to working regulations and pay scales.
The quality of our products is also really important and we have found factories who care about the products they make and want to produce. A lot of the factories closed down when cheaper alternatives were found abroad but there has been a resurgence in British manufacturing and new factories are cropping up. Finding them can be tricky, but we are part of a couple of great communities like Blue Patch, Make it British and the Made in Britain campaign who are able to help connect businesses.
KG: Harder for sure, down to cost mainly. But we feel passionate about what we have achieved so far and the connections and contacts we have discovered: amazing people with skills and talents right on our doorstep!
What makes you proud about your business ethics?
KG: Making products that last and stand up to washing, wearing and having fun! We pride ourselves on quality and longevity. We know that our picnic blankets can last a lifetime - invest in quality and you wont have to repurchase!
8/ Can small businesses make a difference?
Yes - We can change perceptions - everyone has to start somewhere. The journey of educating the consumer is getting easier and becoming more valued, so in time our hope is that our small business will grow into a medium-size business with even more power to get our voice heard.
What products are you excited about launching this year?
KG: Our skincare is proving a huge hit - we would love to develop even more products into the range this year. Working with Marion the medical herbalist at Brighton Apothecary is fascinating; we are learning so much about producing organic, sustainably sourced skincare. We’ve realised you can create really powerful products that deliver – without using chemicals and synthetic ingredients. Our ‘Get up and Glow’ face oil is fast becoming one of our bestsellers – the feedback already has been amazing for customers – it really works.
Which other ethical fashion brands do you admire?
KG: These aren't all UK business but I feel that they’re doing things right and I’m loving watching their journeys: