A question often asked of Honest By CEO and founder, Bruno Pieters, is if his sustainable business is sustainable financially. Why is it so hard to believe that a transparent business can be successful? Our misguided idea that things work the way they do because there is no other way is ludicrous. The idea that being cruelty-free is limiting shows no imagination. Honest By is proof. Wholly inspired by creating clothes that are sustainable, ethically- and most often locally-sourced, vegan and skin-friendly, Pieters says he has never felt more free in his design process. The results are as cutting edge, innovative and inspired as ever.
The transparency practised by Honest By is incredible in an industry that chases the bottom line and puts strict restraints of trade on outgoing employees to protect their trade secrets and sources. After natural disasters, sympathies are sent but factories are still expected to deliver on deadline. Honest By rejects this cut-throat capitalism entirely releasing a comprehensive list of all their sources – including their contact details – on their website. They embody the ideal of open source and were the first fashion company to release a downloadable accessories collection to be 3D printed by the buyer wherever in the world they may be. Honest By’s collections – designed by Bruno Pieters, by guest designers, or by winners of the company’s Future Fashion Design Scholarship – are released online only and remain on sale until they’ve sold out, not replaced when a new season brings with it a mandatory new collection. Clicking on an item in the online store reveals exactly where each element of the piece of clothing was made, how many hours it took to produce and how the costs are broken down. This applies to each button, label or zipper. The available information includes the mark up from manufacturing cost to retail cost and what this money covers in the business at various stages. It’s astounding to see, but it shouldn’t be. It should be the way things are.
As Pieters admits though, it’s not the sole solution but rather an offering of how to do things better. His beautiful clothes certainly aren’t what the everyperson can afford; but the steps he has taken are openly available to learn from. And honesty as a business principle is something that should be adhered to at whatever the scale of production.
One thing is for sure: we cannot keep doing what we’re doing and expect things to change. As Honest By frequently reminds us: #therevolutionbeginswithyou.
“I‚Äôve learned that to be successful in fashion you should indeed follow certain rules, but if you want to make history you need to break them.”
How has the move toward a sustainable and ethical business model affected how¬†you feel about what you do and the role you play in fashion?
That‚Äôs a good question. I don‚Äôt see myself as a designer anymore. I think I‚Äôve become more of an activist. My interest for design is still there. I love that there is a renewed interest for independent designers.¬†To be honest I don‚Äôt think about it that much. I just know what needs to change and what needs to be done to make that happen and that‚Äôs what I do. I‚Äôm not that interested in titles.
How does your schedule differ to the traditional fashion calendar which sees¬†multiple collections released a year?
At Honest By we are always working on something. Either it is a new collaboration, or creating new styles for the online store or helping a young designer develop their collection in a sustainable way or giving a lecture at a university. Right now I am working on an exhibition for the city of Antwerp. I don‚Äôt work as I used to anymore. I don‚Äôt follow the fashion calendar.
I‚Äôve learned that to be successful in fashion you should indeed follow certain rules, but if you want to make history you need to break them. It sounds ambitious but that‚Äôs not all I am, I am very passionate about what I do and believe in. This industry must evolve. And it makes me very happy to see more and more customers becoming aware of the power they have to make that happen. Because what I do is not the solution it is an offering. Ultimately it is the customer who will decide how they want their future to look.
“I believe that if we start marching for it; they will see us but if we stop buying it; they will hear us.”
How do your ethical choices impact your design decisions? ¬≠
I‚Äôve never felt more free. I feel liberated from what people expect from me.¬†Being ethical isn‚Äôt a burden. Fashion without ethics is clothing.¬†My ethics, my values, what I believe in has an impact on everything I do.
What else would you say inspires the clothes you make?
I offer clothes online that our customers need. I don‚Äôt make collections when we still have enough product online. ¬†What inspires me is the customer. Women and men who have their heart in the right place.
That‚Äôs all I need.
Considering the cost of your clothing, what alternative do you foresee for those¬†who can‚Äôt afford highly priced items?
There are a million sustainable alternatives out there. Many of us spend our lives in front of a computer.¬†Do your research. If you care about this life, stop complaining and start doing the work. There is one thing you must remember and that is that even the best excuse that is preventing you from changing will not prevent the consequence from happening.
Your company policy is to be completely honest about your sources and pricing,¬†even sharing a list of your suppliers. Do you see a shift to an open source practice¬†playing out beyond your own company to the fashion industry as a whole and then¬†further to the global economy?
I don‚Äôt see it but I hope to see it soon. It will depend on how urgent the public believes this is.¬†Companies don‚Äôt change if they don‚Äôt feel they have to. But they will if that is what the customer wants.
There is a very influential crowd out there that is growing bigger every day, so I‚Äôm very optimistic about our future. I believe that if we start marching for it; they will see us but if we stop buying it; they will hear us.
I think it‚Äôs time to make some noise.
What have you learned through rejecting the norm that you could offer as advice¬†for people finding it difficult to challenge the system they find themselves in?
Avoid the negative, the ignorant and the dormant. Their energy is contagious.
But wish them no harm.
Focus on the positive, the aware and the awakened. Their energy is infatuating.
And wish them no harm.
Look out for our collaborative video inspired by text by Bruno Pieters coming soon to Casimir.