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Sustainability

Part 2: Otrium's Role

Our Purpose and Impact

15 DECEMBER 2021
Otrium was founded with the purpose that all clothing should be worn.
One in ten items made are never sold – this is not only a huge waste of the creativity and labour that goes into their production, but a waste of investment and natural resources. Founders, Milan and Max, wanted to change this.
We’re a purpose-driven, end-of-season fashion platform, developing technology and using data to match supply and demand within the fashion industry to reduce this impact. We’re changing the way fashion is created and sold through our technology which finds a match for every item on our platform, and then through our data, informs demand-based clothing creation. 
Fashion is trapped in a broken cycle of overproduction; creating stress and waste for brands, people, and natural resources. The industry is at a turning point, and thanks to technological advancements across the board, it’s the right time for us all to be pioneers of new and better solutions. Being purpose-led is at the core of everything we do. Similar to the circular model, at Otrium, we aim to close the loop of the previously linear industry model, by selling the unsellable: we polish, match, use data, and refurbish. How? 
1. We polish
We receive and ‘polish’ items to regain value. From product description, photography, packaging, and pressing, we ensure that every piece is ready to be adored by a new owner. We have state-of-the-art warehouses with top-quality equipment, to bring items back to life. Often, returned garments only require tiny ‘tweaks’ to be ready for sale, but are instead left lying in storage or end up as landfill.
2. We match
We find a match – an owner for every item on our platform. And for the small portion of items that cannot be sold on our platform, we sell them to stock buyers. As a company, we are motivated by our leading philosophy, that all clothing should be worn. Because of this, we use technology and data to match supply and demand in the most efficient way possible, matching each item to a fashion lover. 
3. We use data
Together with our partner brands, we use insights to create demand based fashion which removes the likelihood of excess inventory. We're taking the guesswork out of fashion production with data informed forecasting to reduce unsold inventory coming into the supply chain to start with.
4. We refurbish
Many returns in e-commerce remain unsold because they are returned with minor imperfections, some damage or are just not worth investing in repressing and repackaging, fixing up labels etc. We believe it's worth the effort, so we refurbish as many items as we can to ensure that they're sold and worn. 
Change for us starts with measuring and quantifying our impact. We approach our impact in two key ways; having no negative impact as a company, and having a positive impact on the industry. 
What? 
It is in our best interest to measure, monitor, map out, and change our processes where necessary. We are committed to measuring and managing our environmental impact from the perspective of our brand partnerships and the fashion industry as a whole. Our organisational boundary is set in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol – a global standardised framework to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Why? 
Almost 40% of our global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to energy generation, and half of that energy is used by industrial or commercial entities. We continually measure our environmental impact in order to manage it and keep it as low as possible. We measure our Carbon Footprint (+ link to report), through three scopes: 1. Controlled GHGs (combustion from the office and vehicles) 2. Indirect emissions (electricity) and, 3. Emissions resulting from activities (packaging, warehouse, and logistics). 
How? 
Due to the fact that we are a data-driven organisation, we use metrics and insights to inform our decisions. In order to track our impact, we’ve produced three reports. Each report looks into our impact, how we measure our impact, and what the future looks like:
We created these reports as a baseline to understand our impact and set goals.  
Moving forward 
Otrium is determined to drive this research forward to improve transparency in the fashion industry as a whole and to validate and quantify the impact of our business model. The first step is to find the right partners and institutions to collaborate with on this research. 
What calculations will we be making? 
We’ll analyse our material data and use it to build a strategy for lowering our impact. By nature, the fashion industry is diverse with an eclectic mix of styles and preferences. Because of this, it is important to have an in-depth understanding of the different materials we are working with. Secondly, we’ll carry out order process calculations, including those for the Carbon Dioxide that is expelled as a result of packaging and transportation. In addition, we will be assessing the life cycle of our fashion brands. For example, how much energy did it take for a product to be made? 
We will publish our 2022 results and actively communicate our progress and findings via the Conscious page on our platform. So keep your eyes peeled!

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Sustainability

Unravelling sustainability laws in fashion - EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles

At Otrium, we’re committed to  a future where all clothing is worn, by ridding the world of unsold inventory and changing the way clothing is created and sold. We want to help our current and future brand partners, stay on top of new and forthcoming laws and legislation around sustainability and achieve their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals.  So, in collaboration with leading Corporate Sustainability Consultancy Sustainalize, we’re launching a series of blog posts aimed at simplifying these new laws and legislation. These posts will also contain guidance to help fashion brands comply with these policies. We expect they will prove to be useful. Our first blog post unravelled the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and can be read undefined. Within this piece we’re focusing on the EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, what it contains, and how fashion brands can contribute to and prepare for this new strategy. The purpose of this new strategyThe European Commission published the EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles to tackle problems in the textile industry. The proposal aims to decouple economic growth from the consumption of finite resources by making steps towards a circular European fashion landscape. If successful, the strategy would be beneficial both for businesses and the environment.Greater longevity for clothing and sustainability-focused product design are key to reducing the fashion industry’s negative environmental impact. When implementing the strategy successfully, the European fashion landscape in 2030 will consist of:undefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedTo reach this vision several key actions should be taken:
On our journey towards a fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You – the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings. Using their know-how, we can now highlight brands that are going above and beyond to make a positive impact, and label them as Sustainable; allowing our customers to make more informed choices. To celebrate, we’ve been chatting to Sustainable-rated brands on our platform to find out their take on being conscious as a company, and more. We spoke to Caroline Gentz, Creative Director and CEO of IVY OAK. The Berlin-based brand not only makes modern authentic pieces but is also here to make a positive impact. Here’s what Caroline had to say about the stories behind their impact: Sustainability: what does it mean to you? For me, it’s a long-term vision that involves everybody along the way: employees, suppliers, customers, and investors, and it can only be achieved with all these stakeholders working together. We are taking a holistic approach, making thoughtful choices, and giving our customers a complete insight into our products, practices, and prices.  We create timeless pieces using high-quality fabrics and workmanship, so that our customers can wear them often and for many years to come.We promote longevity and style over trends and seasonality and still send a modern, authentic and relevant message.Choose well, love what you own and treat it with respect, that’s already a start. Tell us more about the brand. Our aim is to think about and work with fashion differently. IVY OAK is for the woman who values quality, sustainability, and style. Therefore, we strive to produce clothing that has got the durability of a high-quality product at a reasonable price point but is also inspiring and comfortable to wear. Style is an individual journey of discovery, which is what makes it so exciting to me. Our customers create our brand message, not the other way around. We are following the lifecycle of our customers and try to be as authentic as we can with them and are already thinking about our customers in the generations to comeWhere did the journey of the brand start? I founded IVY OAK in 2016 in response to what I knew was an existing product demand, but with the purpose to meet this demand in a new way and disrupt the old habits of the industry.I wanted the brand to be fashionable yet timeless, with a huge attention to detail. I wanted our clothes to dress women for the most important moments in their lives, but at a reasonable price point. Wanting to be innovative meant redesigning existing structures and practices. We had to think — and act — outside the box. Having gone through the essential process of a restructure, the whole IVY OAK team is fully committed to getting involved, and this has really shaped the development of the company.  What is your background/career and when did you start working on creating a positive impact? Before founding IVY OAK, I was able to gain insights in both the luxury and the fast fashion industry. I set myself the goal to combine the best of both worlds, closing the gap between high street and luxury fashion, and putting sustainability at the forefront. I love the process of creating fashion, from the sketch until the production of a garment. Fashion enables people to express themselves and this truly fascinates me. What achievement are you proudest of? I look back on the last years with particular pride. Our team has fought throughout these challenging years of the pandemic with solidarity for each other. I am deeply thankful for the support they showed, especially for our partners and customers. We are also very proud that we were able to improve our results especially in the areas of transparency and the achievement of our CSR Sustainability goals. We were able to increase the use of eco-friendlier materials on 81% of the styles in the last season. That’s incredible and really not as easy as it may sound for most consumers. Our customers can follow our journey closely in our sustainability reports.What are you working on at the moment? We just went through an exciting brand transition. IVY OAK is presenting a new brand CI. We are proud to be bolder now and to promote the sustainability and transparency of our garments even more. For selected styles, customers will soon be able to see how much CO2 has been emitted or water used to produce a garment. We also want to use this data internally to make data-based design and sourcing decisions, to allow us to lower our impact even further. Our team is also working on introducing circular design strategies to move further away from the linear and disposable model.At IVY OAK why do you place an emphasis on increasing the longevity of clothing through quality? We believe investing in quality is worth it in the long run to protect our environment. It means you will not have to replace your clothes as quickly, you can more easily sell quality clothing via second-hand channels and less new clothes have to be produced. We need to learn to love and value our clothes again and high-quality clothing ensures that our customers can really enjoy their clothes for many years. We also try to engage with our customers to create this mind shift. In our care guide,  for example, customers can find helpful information about the different fabric types and how to care for them in an environmentally friendly way so that they last longer.How do you use Otrium as a tool to make sure your clothing is ‘Timeless’?We want to be mindful about the resources we are using and that’s why we strive to create as little waste as possible. Otrium is an important partner to support this goal. We love that Otrium offers a second chance to our unsold items from past collections. Through Otrium, these items will still find a home with customers who enjoy our clothing for many years to come. Our styles are timeless pieces for a long-lasting wardrobe. They just sometimes need another time and platform to be recognized..What do customers value most about the brand and products? We notice that our customers are no longer interested in the traditional fashion cycle and therefore clearly focus on the importance of “style “, instead of constantly changing trends. Style is something that you must discover and learn individually for yourself - that's what makes it so exciting! Style is for everyone and should be all-inclusive. Our pieces can easily be combined to look either cool or classic, meaning that our customers’ personal individual style is also a way of developing our brand message. We want people to see our clothes as a life-partner rather than a quick fling. Our customer isn’t interested in the traditional ‘fashion calendar’ and wants clothes that last longer than just a season. Our product is the obvious answer to this. Who inspires you and why?I love browsing vintage stores or leafing through fashion history books. Fashion was and remains an expression of the times we live in. Every decade provides its individual style. I love being inspired by the past in order to develop a new present — and hopefully a trans-generational future. Where do you see your brand in 5 years? What do you want to have achieved by then? For us, our 360° concept means a holistic approach. We want to integrate sustainable and responsible business practices at all levels of the company and pursue the goal of further reducing our environmental footprint and achieving maximum positive social impact. We accept this challenge with joy and are proud of every milestone reached that brings us closer to our goal. We still have a long journey ahead, especially regarding transparency and circular fashion. We’re always working on involving our customers more on our journey: re-thinking will always be our guiding principle.. What does the future of fashion look like? The last years can be seen as a great wake-up call, in terms of sustainability, local production and inclusion. Partners and consumers are gradually becoming more aware of our responsibility for the environment and are demanding changes within the industry. Our customers are already consuming more consciously and asking more targeted questions about product origin and delivery processes. It will be essential for all companies to be more transparent and to develop strategies towards circular production and business models.  What is one thing you hope others learn from your work? I’m convinced that transparency is an integral part of positive change within the fashion industry. To truly understand a brand’s footprint, we need to look at how, where, and above all by whom each product is pieced together. It might sound obvious, but supply chains in fashion (and other sectors) are surprisingly opaque. Transparency isn’t always the easy option, but it’s needed to do business sustainably. That’s why we have just started to measure the environmental footprint of selected styles to make informed sourcing decisions to lower our impact even further.How do you stay optimistic and persistent in the fight against climate change? I think that we are responsible for what and how we consume. The more we look out for one another and share our vision in supporting fair working conditions and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, the faster we will make a difference in this world. Tell us about a recent change you’ve made to be more sustainable day-to-day?  My own behavior of consumption played a big role in starting my own business. I still wear a tweed blazer of my great-grandmother or a vintage trench coat, which I was able to buy years ago at a flea market in New York. I just recently got an oversized denim shirt from my mum, that she was wearing when she was my age. I love that and wear these styles with pride and they never get old.   With IVY OAK we want to offer exactly those go-to pieces that become classics in the wardrobes of our customers and which in the best case are passed onto the next generation. Do you have a pro-tip extending the life cycle of your wardrobe? Buy less and wear what you own more often. It seems boring at first, but you can try new combinations or have a piece altered to change its style. There are many options and every piece in your closet deserves attention. Do you have a philosophy you live by? Think differently, act differently.In the end, it all comes down to us and how we use our individual and combined power to create positive changeWhat’s a quick change people could make in terms of being more sustainable Choose more wisely and give old clothes a second life. Once you are over that amazing dress or perfect shirt, do not leave it hanging unnoticed in your closet for the next few years or worse throw it away. Look out for local clothing swaps and pass it on for someone new to fall in love with it.
Otrium continually works towards the  mission that all clothing should be worn. We do this by helping to eliminate unsold inventory and using  technology and data to change the way clothing is created and sold. On our journey towards a smarter,more sustainable fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You, the leading source of  fashion sustainability ratings. We’ve used their know-how to highlight brands on our own platform that go the extra mile to be more sustainable, which helps our customers make more informed shopping choices. Using Good On You’s data, we’ve introduced the Otrium Conscious filter. And now we’re speaking to conscious-rated brands carried by Otrium  to find out more about their approach towards sustainability. This week, we chatted to Eric Otten, CEO of cashmere brand So Good To Wear, who believes that ethical fashion should be the rule instead of the exception. So what does sustainability mean to you? “People have always thought we could  take something inexhaustible from our earth, to drive  mass consumption and economic growth. Unfortunately, the reality is the opposite. Sustainability means that we have to give back more to the earth than we take” Tell us more about your brand. “Cashmere without compromises sums it up. We redesign the production process of cashmere with new and restored values. It’s a more conscious and personal process.” What’s your role… and how did you get there? “As CEO of the company, I have to be a farmer for our Nepalese business and at the same time a fashion specialist for our western business. I bring those two worlds together, always with consideration of our vision and goals.” What’s your career background and when did you start working on creating a positive impact? “I have been in the fashion business for almost my whole career. I worked for private label brands and premium brands like Wolford. After five years, I truly realised there are no limitations for the welfare of our planet and so I joined the sustainable and fair trade brand MYoMY. From there, I moved to  So Good To Wear.” What achievement are you most proud of? “Putting the whole chain theory in practice! From our own cashmere goats to our spinnery, natural dying atelier and production in Nepal to our “slow fashion” models in the retail industry. The whole chain is fairtrade,  animal friendly and committed to rebuilding the economy in Nepal.”What are you working on at the moment? “We are expanding our retail network internationally and expanding  our own cashmere goat herd in Nepal.”What is the biggest challenge on your  roadmap of improvements? “The coordination between high demands in the western world and the limitations of the relatively primitive possibilities in Nepal. Some things take more time to realise in Nepal – time we sometimes don’t have.”What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received from customers? “I have never worn a more comfortable piece of clothing than my So Good To Wear sweater – it’s physical and emotional.”What do customers value most about the brand and products? “It’s high “slow” fashion without compromises, made from the finest quality cashmere, fully fairtrade, sustainable and animal friendly”Who inspires you and why? “Stella McCartney – it became a movement of a luxury fashion brand built on sustainability.” What’s the most important aspect you keep in mind when shopping for sustainable fashion? “I ask: is the brand really concerned about sustainability or is it a form of “greenwashing”?”Do you have a quote you live by? “Without action, we only have words.” What’s a quick change that people could make in terms of being more sustainable? “Actually, that is very easy! Start changing small and easy things in your life because it all helps: take your bike, not your car, don’t let the water run when you brush your teeth, don’t throw away food, put the light out in rooms you're not in, wash only a full machine and use biological soap, throw waste in a bin, not on the street, don’t eat meat every day and many more things that make more difference than you think, in your head and for nature.”
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