Dominic Nowell-Barnes, Founder of The Giving Movement wanted to create a fashion brand that was about more than just providing beautiful clothes for his customers.
He wanted to create something that had a meaning and that gives back to society as well as supporting the needs for awareness of sustainability. The Giving Movement does just that. Born in the UAE, The Giving Movement is a sustainable activewear and streetwear brand for men and women that uses unique recycled materials to create luxury designs that not only look great but help to preserve our planet too. Made from recycled plastic and bamboo the two materials used to create the brand’s collections are changing the game when it comes to conscious consumerism in the UAE and proving that sustainable can be stylish too. This belief also falls through to the brand’s packaging which it made from bio-degradable plant starch, while a zero-waste policy is something of huge importance to the brand. All of the pieces are made in the UAE and workers are provided fair working conditions and wages.
But The Giving Movement doesn’t just give back to the planet. It also helps to provide a future for some of the most underprivileged communities in the world. For every single item sold from The Giving Movement’s collections, $4 (US Dollars) is donated to partner charities, therefore helping to provide a better life for those who need it most.
Founded by entrepreneur Dominic Nowell-Barnes, The Giving Movement launched just last year with a clear vision of changing the way sustainable fashion is seen in the region. We talk to Nowell-Barnes to discover more about his vision and the success he has had so far, as well as the plans for the future.
What was your vision when you created your brand The Giving Movement and what inspired you to create a brand that gives back to the community and protects the environment?
After 10 years running an e-commerce business in the UK, I read a great book by Tim Ferris called “The Four Hour Work Week” which helped me to re-evaluate my life and goals. A defining moment in the book, for myself, was a question that you had to ask yourself; ‘If I continue living this life in the same way for 10 years, and I get 10 times more of what I am working towards, will I be any happier?’ The idea is that if the answer is “no”, you need to make a change. At the time my business, as is for most people, was based purely on financial gain and it didn’t motivate me. I had a vision for what the next chapter of my life would look like and that was to find a way to put my time and energy into a project that would not only provide the financial stability we all need to survive, but where the main focus was being able to positively impact the lives of those who are most in need. As my impact was limited by the hours I could spend working in a day, I chose to create a brand where the vision was to donate USD4 from every item to charities who support those who are less fortunate. Rather than being a vehicle for positive change, I could create a vehicle for positive change that everyone could use.
Tell us about the unique fabric you use in your pieces?
Our soft skin sustainable activewear fabric is made from polyester, which is manufactured entirely from recycled water bottles, and our super softskin loungewear is made from sustainably sourced, FSC certified organic bamboo. One of the biggest surprises I had when developing the fabrics was how readily available sustainable yarns are, but how little they are used because they are around double the price of traditional fabrics. I found this disappointing when reviewing the choices major brands made, making me even more determined to make a positive change with The Giving Movement.
What is the goal you are trying to achieve with the brand?
The Giving Movement is on a mission to inspire a global movement of conscious consumerism and our goal is to donate one million US Dollars to our partnered charities by the end of 2021. We aim to shift consumer’s behaviour, to influence them to look beyond the label and create a positive impact on those who are less fortunate.
Can you tell us a little about the technical side of your pieces and why they are great to wear when working out?
Our activewear is made of softskin recycled polyester fabric and is made entirely from waste plastic water bottles, which are cleaned, shredded into flakes and melted down to molten plastic. The molten plastic is then pressed and stretched multiple times to eventually become yarn, which is brushed and woven into fabric. This makes our Activewear products breathable and lightweight, so your sweat evaporates through the fabric and you stay relatively dry. They are also durable and wrinkle-resistant.
Our loungewear is made from organic bamboo fabric and is 100% eco-friendly and OEKO-TEX certified. The fabric is made by dissolving bamboo pulp into its cellulose component and is then spun into fibres, once the garment has reached the end of its lifecycle the decomposition process doesn’t cause any pollution to the environment. Organic bamboo fabric is twice as soft as the softest cotton, making it the world’s most comfortable fabric.
What is a message you want to send to your customers to highlight the importance of sustainable fashion?
Fast fashion is one of the world’s greatest polluters, millions of tonnes of textile waste ends up in landfills each year and less than 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing. It’s time for a change, it’s up to us as consumers to become more aware of the negative impacts of t-shirts that cost less than a cup of coffee, and become more aware of sustainable fabrics and processes that can have a positive impact on the planet.
What more would you like to see being done in the industry in relation to this?
I would like to encourage other businesses to follow our path and join the process for positive change by becoming less focused on only financial gain, and more aware of how their business model and supply chain can become more conscious.
What can you tell us about some of the charities you support through The Giving Movement?
With every product purchased The Giving Movement donates $4 to our partnered charities, Dubai Cares and Harmony House India. So far, we have raised over $150,000 for our partnered charities; this amount has positively impacted the lives of over 30,000 children by supporting them with food, shelter, medical aid and education support.
Harmony House is a non-profit organization in Delhi, India, open to women and children from 6 months old, who live below the poverty line. The two shelters provide underprivileged women and children with education, nutrition, medication, hygiene facilities and social services. The families live in slums close to the shelters, with poor living conditions and limited access to clean water and medical intervention, most are unemployed, and others live on a small income of $1.90 on average per day, per family. Before the global pandemic, life was already extremely challenging for the children of Harmony House, but now life has become even more than ever with families who are more desperate to feed their children, these communities do not fear just the COVID-19 virus, they live with the reality of potentially contracting a number of highly contagious diseases every day, along with fear of hunger and starvation.
Dubai Cares is playing a key role in helping to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030, by supporting programs in early childhood development, access to quality primary and secondary education, technical and vocational education and training for youth as well as a particular focus on education in emergencies and protracted crises.
This has been a strange year for all but you have successfully launched your brand – what have been the challenges along the way and what is a lesson you have learnt from 2020?
I think the biggest challenge as a new brand in the fashion space was avoiding the temptation of taking the easy route but rather designing and manufacturing everything in house from scratch. From a commercial perspective, it is relatively easy to buy ready-made garments around the world and stamp your logo on them and I think this is a short-sighted plan and a trap that is easy for many new brands to fall into. Learning how to draw out tech packs, create patterns and fit garments was definitely a lot more time consuming during our launch but I think this will be the secret to our long-term stability in the market. As we do all our design and manufacturing in house, we can produce truly original clothing from scratch.
What is the secret to sustaining a business model that donates a portion of all sales to charity and how do you succeed in this during a global pandemic?
This is a really interesting question and was something that I was continually challenged on by those around me when coming up with The Giving Movement model. I was often told that launching a startup is hard enough without giving away a portion of your profits to charity.
I think by having our manufacturing in-house we can really get into the detail of what are the most efficient ways to manufacture a product. I spent a lot of time visiting some of the larger manufacturers around the world, posing as a potential customer so that I could understand how they constructed their garments and how they reached their cost price. We then took the most efficient methods and applied this to our own production. By making the production efficient, we then had enough profit to be able to trade at competitive prices and donate a portion of our sales to charity.
I think it’s a disruptive model that we wanted to prove would work in hope that we would inspire other brands to follow our lead. For us, it just came down to what our priorities were, were we profit-focused or did we want to create a movement towards having a positive impact for those most in need.
What is the biggest challenge you face with your brand currently?
Raising awareness of how important choosing sustainable clothing is. As in most parts of the world, you have your fast-fashion retailers producing enticing products at very low prices, and so for us, it is about not only giving the customer an alternative option but to raise awareness to some of the true costs of fast fashion and products that are not sustainable. Especially now, post-COVID-19, where the price of the product is even more important to the customer.
What can you tell us about the latest collections?
As a disruptive brand, it’s important for us to continue pushing boundaries and disrupting the seasonal norm, the newly released Crayon Collection in active and loungewear breaks autumn and winter wardrobe stereotypes with bright, bold and impactful pop colours to show that winter doesn’t need to always be dark, especially in the UAE.
As a sustainable brand that uses fabric made from natural resources such as bamboo, the designer and I were inspired by the Earth’s timeless palette of warm, rich and natural hues, therefore created a collection called the Earth Collection, including six earthy tones in active and loungewear.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or anyone who is afraid to chase their dreams?
If you believe in something enough to put endless amounts of energy into for potentially the rest of your life, do it! It’s not going to be easy; people may doubt you, but it’s up to you to do what they think you can’t do, it’s never too late for you to succeed.
What is your professional motto?
Small acts multiplied by many can transform the world.
What is your new year’s resolution?
My new year’s resolution is to continue making a difference, push more boundaries and continue to innovate through production and business opportunities. 2021 is going to be a huge year for The Giving Movement!