Sheep inc. – The future of fashion

Image: Sheep inc.

Has the time of style over substance ended? Making great fashion is no longer just about creating a pretty collection. Consumers are concerned more than ever with the impact of what they buy so brands are having to think more expansively. 

The role of the Fashion Industry in tackling the climate crisis is becoming more important. Brands are waking up to the impact of production as well as consumption. Many are making positive changes by addressing packaging, materials and supply chains. However few are stepping up to the plate in the way Sheep inc. is. Co-Founded by former Heist Founder Edzard van der Wyck, Sheep inc. is changing the way we make and consume fashion. Together with Michael Wessely’s financial background and Gavin Erasmus’ Blockchain know-how, they make for an unlikely fashion start-up team. However, it’s precisely this mix of environmental knowledge, together with technical expertise that has allowed them to address issues such as carbon emissions and overconsumption. 

If we are to keep global warming to just 1.5 deg C then global carbon emissions must start to drop in 2020 and reach zero by 2050. Even that will not be enough and to ensure that we bring the warming down to 1.5 deg C by 2100 we will need to have negative carbon emissions for the rest of the century.  The amount of negative emissions will depend on how quickly we reduce our emissions from 2020 onwards. One of the most efficient way of getting negative emissions is by reforestation and rewilding the landscape which has other benefits both environmental and social.” 

Mark Maslin,  Professor of Climatology at University College London

SHEEP INC. AND THE FUTURE OF FASHION

So what’s the premise behind Sheep inc? The company have taken the humble wool jumper to new heights by perfecting the design and materials. Designed by Alexander Lewis, the crew neck jumper comes in 5 classic colours. In Edzard’s words, it’s ‘an item that can find a place in anybody’s wardrobe.’ However, don’t be fooled by its simplicity. Each piece is crafted from ZQ certified merino wool, the World’s leading ethical wool. Produced in New Zealand, using high environmental, animal welfare and social standards. ‘They have the highest sheep welfare standards worldwide’, Edzard tells us. With each sweater you buy, you also adopt a ZQ sheep. The handy NFC (Near Field Communication) chip lets you keep track of your sheep. Sheep inc. also invests heavily in biodiversity projects that have been carefully selected and vetted by an independent advisory panel of climate change experts. In terms of environmentally aware fashion, it doesn’t get much better than this.

When starting Sheep inc. Edzard, along with co-Founders Michael and Gavin identified tackling the issue of carbon emissions as their top priority. ‘The number one planetary concern at the moment is reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And doing it quickly. This means drastically dropping our carbon emissions, or we are in serious trouble,’  Edzard explained. To do this not only meant addressing their production processes but actively working towards carbon negativity. They are proud to call themselves the world’s first carbon-negative fashion brand. 

How does a brand become carbon-negative?

You’ve probably heard a lot recently about carbon neutrality but how does a brand become carbon-negative? Simple – by going above and beyond their own production methods. Not only is the carbon footprint of their product important, but they dedicate 5% of their revenue towards biodiversity projects. ‘This allows us to offset around 325kg of carbon per sweater (although our mix of investments means our actual positive impact is in fact far higher).’ Edzard believes that only through investing in these projects can a fashion brand truly address the carbon they create. He admits that offsetting doesn’t mean a free pass to environmentally misbehave. ‘You have to be doing it in tandem with aiming for the highest sustainable standards as a business,’ he says.

NFC CHIPS AND TRACEABILITY

Becoming carbon negative is a huge plus behind this brand. But it doesn’t end there. By including traceable product information and including in a free sheep with every purchase, hence the name Sheep inc. Edzard hopes to address consumption concerns too. ‘One of the key things we wanted to do with a brand is also to bring people back in touch. To gently remind that every item of clothing started somewhere.’ While many fashion companies are attempting to do this through marketing, Sheep inc. wants the customers to link to their jumper to be tangible. 

The NFC chip plays a huge part in this connection between product and customer. It’s housed within a tag on each sweater and made of castor beans to lessen its impact. Edzard explains ‘ If you scan it with your phone (no App required), you’ll get a full breakdown of the jumper’s journey. From wool shearing dates to the name of the person who hand-finished your sweater. We also include details on the carbon-impact every step of the way.’ Gone are the days of messaging your favourite brand on Instagram to ask ‘Who made my clothes’ and being met with radio silence. Sheep inc. wants you to know every detail of its products journey. ‘We want to be totally transparent about how their product got made,’ says Edzard. 

Is this the future of fashion? We certainly hope so. Just imagine pulling out an item from your wardrobe and knowing exactly where it came from and which hands had touched it?

Is this the future of fashion? We certainly hope so. Just imagine pulling out an item from your wardrobe and knowing exactly where it came from and which hands had touched it? Imagine that the money you spent on that piece contributed to carbon negativity project, helping us to take a step further towards our goal of reducing our emissions by 2020. It seems far fetched but when people like Edzard take a humble jumper and not only make it wearable for years, but also environmentally responsible, there truly is hope. 

Disclaimer: The people and models in the images featured are not associated with The Vendeur and do not endorse it or the products shown. This post may contain affiliate links. Prices correct at time of publishing.