Unknown Origins

Jonathan Burns on Fashion

October 07, 2020 Unknown Origins Season 1 Episode 6
Unknown Origins
Jonathan Burns on Fashion
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Founder and CEO of the sustainable fashion label "Stylecrate" Jonathan Burns provides perspective on the fashion industry and what he is doing to offer eco-friendly clothes delivered to your door every month.

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Roy Sharples:

Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, and welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you an industry expert looking for insights? are you growing your career? Or are you a dear friend, helping display your old pal on? I created the unknown origins podcast, to have the most inspiring conversations with creative industry personalities and experts about entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film, and fashion to cold fashion produces more carbon emissions than all international flights, and maritime shipping combined. 20% of global wastewater comes from textile production, and more than three fifths of clothing ends up in incinerators landfill within a year of being produced. This is part of my guest today's big, bold idea to counter the staggering facts about the fashion industry. While studying for his degree at the Academy of contemporary music, Jonathan burns envisioned and brought an innovative venture to life by reimagining the fashion industry's sustainability, and reusability challenges ethically, and respectfully. Jonathan is a fashion entrepreneur, and the CEO of style crate, which provide eco friendly clothes delivered to your door every month. Hello, and welcome, Jonathan, what attracted you to become an entrepreneur within the fashion industry in the first place,

Jonathan Burns:

I've always been fascinated by design. And I've always been drawn to it as a subject. And I say that fashion is probably the most intimate and personal form of design. So it's really only natural that that I was actually drawn to the fashion industry as a result of that. So whilst I was studying my degree, I had the opportunity to research fashion industry in great detail. And it wasn't until that I, I really got into this that I discovered the true scale and costs of the globalized fashion industry. So the industry puts enormous pressure on Earth's natural resources, and is actually responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, which is more than international flights and maritime shipping, combined. I know Yeah. And I discovered that many of the people who make the clothes that we buy, in High Street stores, they work in really hazardous conditions, and a lot of them are severely underpaid for the work that they do. Yeah, and make enormous sacrifices, like not seeing their parents or their children to they can work in cities where they normally live in rural areas. And then on top of that, I discovered that three fifths of I think it's actually more than three fifths of all clothing. It ends up in incinerators or landfill within just a year of being produced. And that's the point that really got me. And I thought to myself, well, what's the point? Why waste all these resources and sploit really these workers and ship all these materials and produce all the wastewaters? Why would you do that? If everything or most of what's being made is never going to be used? To me that just seemed completely pointless. And, you know, no wonder we're not on track for meeting any climate targets anytime soon, when there's a massive industry like that play, causing all that havoc really. Anyway, after learning that, all I wanted to do was sit down and figure out making a way, making it work better. So that's exactly what I did. I felt like I had to do it. Just because I knew there was a better way that the fashion industry could operate. So I brainstorm so many ideas, and eventually one stuck out that I believed had some potential. And that's essentially where style creep came from. Really, that's, that's the genesis of it. I started with the question. How do you reduce the number of clouds that go into incinerators or landfill each year? And I said to myself, well, you can reuse them of course, but but how do you get customers to reuse someone else's clothes? And then I remembered that I've actually been running a deep pop account. I'm sure many people are familiar with that. I've been running a deep pop account for about two years now. And I and many other people often buy and sell clothes that that we've all worn and we've all used. So I think particularly amongst my generation, so Gen Z, and millennials and the up and coming generation one off to me, the idea of swapping, swapping clothes with someone is not really as as bad as it as it seems, amongst older generations. And I've definitely come up against a lot of resistance to people, you know, in the baby boomer generation, yeah, you say, Well, I don't want to work loads that are that have been worn by someone else. But you don't see that same resistance, you actually see an embracing of the idea amongst younger people. And I think that's, that's some really Stark evidence that people's, you know, consumer attitudes are changing, and they're changing really fast. And as, as time goes on, as the generation said, Millennials gain more purchasing power. I, I'm very, I really hope that we'll see more of a shift towards sustainability in fashion. And I think that's going to be what, what drives it, essentially. So the wider goal of my business is to sort of normalize sustainable clothing, and to encourage people to swap and reuse codes inside and outside of the business. And really erase this throwaway mentality that has come to govern. If you like the fashion industry right now, I could quite easily imagine myself to be born into a family. In a country where I'd have to work as a garment worker, and empathizing with people in that way, is really what, what what drove me to brainstorm ideas, and also, the points about the environments, you know, the, the industry creates so much industrial waste, I think 20% of all waste water in the world, comes from the fashion industry. So, so there's, and that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of environmental damage,

Roy Sharples:

great power, comes great responsibility. It's critical to have a social conscience and empathy for the environment, by continuously managing innovation, that powers the products you design, make and sell. And the businesses you run by killing deeply about the world we live in its inhabitants, inclusivity, and the pursuit of making people's lives better and moving society forward? How do you make the invisible visible by dreaming up ideas, developing those ideas into concepts, and then moving those concepts into actualization?

Jonathan Burns:

So I took a very holistic approach to consider everyone that my business and my actions as an entrepreneur would affect, and including the climate as well. So I'd really say that I'd have I summed up by having a duty of care, and everyone in the industry, and that I'm also responsible for the impacts that my business has on the climate. So taking the idea itself, I kind of I looked at all the areas and people that it would touch, and essentially, looked at it from a moral standpoint, as what's, what's going to happen, what will the impact be? And how can I reduce any negative impacts, you know, insofar as all the activities combined, so, the idea really, I, I'd have to go on a bit of a tangent, but I'd say there's there's two ways of, of having and fostering an idea. And one of the ways is kind of spontaneous, spontaneously doing it. Yeah, it's spontaneous. An idea will kind of pop into your head, and you'll take it from there and do it instinctively know what to do with it along the way, and the second type is more of a derived idea that you get after putting a lot of time and effort and thought into something and then the idea and what you need to do with it emerges from your from your work, and it just becomes clearer and clearer we need to do as you do it. So whilst I was Considering the holistic approach to my my business idea, all that research was, was basically telling me exactly what I needed to do to execute my business strategy. And it actually said, the more I, the more work could insert, the easier it became as with most things, yeah. Yeah, that's that's kind of how, how my process works. It's either spontaneous, yes. How I say derived, derives.

Roy Sharples:

I admire how you've taken an holistic approach to positively impact the ecosystem that you operate in. By taking a systems thinking approach, by having that holistic view of how your business operates, the industry that you operate within, and also the ecosystem, it affects by understanding how it all fits together, as an end to end system, rather than just seeing the specific parts or a polarized view, and prioritizing on what matters the most and then rigorously executing on that. How do you anticipate future trends inspired by industry, social, economic and technological developments? By combining both qualitative and quantitative research methods?

Jonathan Burns:

I'd say it's, it's all research, it's user research, you have to be on top of everything that's happening in the world right now. Because there's no only trends within fashion, but there's also societal trends and economic trends as well, which needs to be considered. So staying well informed on all of those things, the way that I kind of forecast, what would I need to do and what what needs to go into the books basically? The hardest one is probably the style trends, I'd say, yes. fashion, as you know, and can probably imagine, it's very, trends can fluctuate quite a lot between from season to season, even from week to week. So staying on top of that, many places, like Tick Tock on Instagram, in YouTube as well and keep up to date with the latest business journals like Vogue, business, fashionista, business of fashion, constantly reading those checking in and out of fashion. What's hard is the fact that because I'm dealing with sustainable fashion, yeah. That that area of the business cannot respond as quickly as the fast fashion sector, yes, which is the fast fashion and luxury sector as well, which generally what dictate the trends within the industry. So it's a kind of, it's a difficult balancing act to get the right trend at the right time. And with the right materials, I guess, because the a lot of the brands which, which I use they, they take a while to actually produce the clothing because they do it. Their process of manufacturing is much slower, their design process is slow, just because they're taking into consideration all the ethical and environmental needs of other of a garment.

Roy Sharples:

That's really impressive. Your whole entrepreneurial zeal, but also how you've led without frontiers, meaning that you fearlessly lead toward invisible horizons. By applying a do it yourself ethos to finding the future by being adaptive, persistent, and resilient, and bringing new solutions to the market. And that that's obviously a talking to your independent mindedness and self sufficient approach from start to finish. And always finding the alternative by rejecting the banal and status quo and your own authentic voice and style. Based on your experiences to date, what do you believe to be the essential skills for being an entrepreneur and specifically an entrepreneur within the fashion industry?

Jonathan Burns:

Because the industry is intrinsically linked to its natural cycles, and it requires so many different people doing so many different things. I think having a having a moral grounding as an entrepreneur, for which you can derive your motivation, I think that's really important is to have a moral purpose. Then you know if you can cite a genuine reason for your activity, As an entrepreneur, and not just say, Oh, I'm here to make a lot of money, I'm here to sell a lot of clothes. If you can select a genuine reason, then that will provide you with an unlimited source of motivation, because you will constantly as I know, you will want to fulfill on the change that you want to see happen. So having a reason, reason, depth, reason for being really being morally grounded is extremely important. And I think once you find that other skills like your communication skills, time management, organization, sales and marketing strategy, which is really important, they all kind of fall into place, like, you know,

Roy Sharples:

they will happen naturally and comes to you naturally, once you've found what your your moral motivation for it really is. A key theme and pattern that's omnipresent within your story. And your approach for entrepreneurship. And also and how you've tackled the challenges within the fashion industry, is that you've really applied that design for people first approach, by deeply understanding the needs of your consumers from multiple angles to uncover a deeper context and meaning, while challenging preconceptions and the status quo by answering questions that haven't been asked. And design begins by posing those valuable questions. You know, for example, if this could be done, what would it look like? Who is impacted? And what are the implications? Then generating ideas by asking, imagine if? How could we? Wouldn't it be incredible if, based on your lessons learned to date, Jonathan? What are the keys to success and the pitfalls to avoid from being an entrepreneur and the fashion industry

Jonathan Burns:

was really scared to share or talk to anyone about my idea? Just because a lot of the people that are in my close circle of friends and family are quite traditionally, occupationally oriented, and what I mean by that is they're, they weren't there, they either are or training to become lawyers, accountants, doctors, will not go working as a civil servant. Yeah. So having someone pitch a business idea to them, is, is not really what they enjoy talking about. So that's something that I'd encourage people to avoid, because you really want to tell everyone about your idea. If you have one, yes. Because the more people you tell, for a start, you get, in some cases, some free, very good constructive criticism, which is amazing, because that person will literally tell you what you need to do, and you should embrace it as much as you can. And second of all, the more as you tell more people about it, it will subconsciously drive you to fulfill on this kind of verbal promise that you've made. Yeah, of a business. And you'll start to feel like you have to, to to actually implement this project, which you described. Another thing, which I think you need to know and do in the fashion industry is, as I said before, research, research, research research, I'd say knowledge is power. And the more you know about the fashion industry, about your directs your indirect competitors, the landscape of the market, the socio political landscape, everything The more you know, the better the decisions you will make will be Yeah, and really, the better your business will perform theoretically. So people, myself, me, people need to keep up to date with what's happening. I think that's one of the most important things you should do.

Roy Sharples:

What's your vision for the future of the fashion industry?

Jonathan Burns:

So the main forces that I see influencing the fashion industry in the future, and arguably right now, a shifting consumer sentiment? A Coronavirus, obviously. Yeah, the C word and climate change. And finally, improvements in smart, smart technologies. So smart fabrics and wearable tech. Yeah. So I'll start with consumer sentiment. And what I mean by that is that it's already been happening. For about at least five, maybe even 10 years now. But slowly, more and more people are learning about the the the impacts of the fashion industry that ethical and moral impacts. And they're beginning to question why they're able to buy a T shirt for so cheap. Why should any be able to pay 10 pounds for this T shirt? How is it that that's possible when this t shirts come off around the world. And as more people are educated about the fashion industry, they tend to make more informed purchasing decisions. At the moment, those tend to be more towards sustainable fashion brands. So I'd say in the next few years, that that's going to reach a tipping point, if it hasn't done so already. An interesting thing about that is it'll be interesting to see how much how much sustainability and ethics factors into a customer's decision making process. And what I mean by that is, have we already reached peak sustainability or is it at some point in the future? Yeah. So that that's that's one factor, I see determining the future of the industry. The second one is Coronavirus, which is pretty obvious in terms of its effects. So if spending because of a lockdown has obviously forced a lot of people out of work, and even forced businesses to close. And if people can't go to work in countries with high Coronavirus cases, fewer items will get made. And that will lead to fewer sales. And the outlook is fairly grim for the industry. I think that's pretty self explanatory in many ways. The upside is that COVID has actually driven sales for online businesses. And lockdown, in many ways has allowed many people to reconnect with nature, which feeds into the first point that I made about sustainability, and changing consumer sentiment. And in terms of climate change, I'd say this is the big one, because the climate is this kind of this overarching umbrella under which everything for mankind's activities happen. So everything in terms of economics, politics, the fashion industry, every other industry happens and climate. So if the climate is unstable, then everything else would come and say that as well. That that will be the thing that will determine the future, the fashion industry and I hope will drive innovation into an r&d into smart materials and more wearable tech, which, at the moment, are mainly been developed for medical purposes. tumors to detect early signs, proxies of diseases like Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's but in the future, those those technologies once the price has been brought down to a level where people can actually buy it on the consumer, then it will provide many different ways to improve people's lives through tracking their fitness and health. And even trivial things like you know, being able to potentially charge your phone through a pair of jeans which gathers energy off your body. So the those kinds of innovations are just around the corner. Yeah, if you like and they will hopefully steer fashion away from a climatic environmental disaster and towards a more a smarter future for the entire industry. I've always been drawn to, to design. So in every single academic environment that I've been placed into, I've always naturally gravitated towards design based subjects in primary school, secondary school a levels. And although my degree is actually in music business, but I guess I class music has the way of designing sound.

Roy Sharples:

Yes,

Jonathan Burns:

in some ways. So I'd say that in the ways that creativity is looked upon or fostered or encouraged in the education system. It was very difficult for me, as I'd like to consider myself a creative person, but it was very difficult to me to actually to use it at all outside of the classes, which was set aside for being creative like designing technology, art, those kinds of stuff. And, and even within those subjects, there was there were a lot of constraints placed upon the student in myself in terms of marking criteria, assessment criteria, assignment briefs, and it was, it felt very, I felt very restricted in terms of what I could and couldn't do within those classes, and I really, personally felt like I didn't have the opportunity to perform to the best of my ability during those classes. And, and when which is a real shame, because I feel like without people who are creative, the world would stop, stop turning, nothing would happen. But people who, for those people who are creative, it's, it's a blessing and a curse in many ways, just because you're constantly coming up with ideas and solutions to problems that you see every day. Yes, but finding a way of I guess, monetizing that creativity is very difficult. When you're in when you're in a school, which is is molding you into a person who's who's going to be responsive to leadership, and, and discipline, and to be hard working for creative people, which I'd argue is everyone, it can be very difficult to respond effectively to, to those types of environments. So I say to anyone, well, to everyone, really, because I believe that everyone is creative in their own way that it should always take some time. Set aside some time to, to work on something that you can you've come up with, you find interesting to set aside some time to research, something you really enjoy. Because once you've been through the education system, we have really rewards people who are creative and rewards people who absolutely love what they do. And they're really passionate about everything that they create. So, so yeah, I tell everyone to research and start a project of their own. Just to get started learning to actually do something

Roy Sharples:

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What inspired and attracted you to be a Fashion Entrepreneur?
What is your approach from taking an idea to actualization?
What are the key skills needed?
What are your lessons learned: pitfalls to avoid and keys to success?
What is your vision for the future?