An interview with Enamore founders Rachel Braund and Gauruv Malhan.
The sustainable fashion market is growing, making it easier for conscious consumers to access responsibly made clothes. But what about sustainable underwear? Although several brands have jumped on the bandwagon of bras and panties made from organic cotton (even well-known brands like H&M and Victoria’s Secret), there is a need for more innovative materials and versatile ranges in sustainable underwear. UK-based lingerie company enamore is definitely on this track with its affordable new line of basics, and a fantastic attitude towards experimentation. With the aim of “changing the way people perceive eco-underwear,” this brand is on its way to doing just that.
Starting out as a pin-up inspired eco-lingerie brand, enamore has evolved in a completely different direction. The brand now adheres to the aesthetic of luxury basics, establishing their new collection on the concept of “effortlessly eco.” Enamore’s aim is to provide the highest quality, everyday range of underwear at affordable prices, hoping to wean the lingerie industry and its customers off petro-chemical textiles and harmful production processes. The collection showcases bras, panties, lounge pants and tops that are simple and designed for fit and comfort. All the materials used for this new range are produced from certified fabrics, in certified factories, and can even be washed at 30 degrees celsius. EcoSalon caught up with the Director Gauruv Malhan and Creative Director Rachel Braund to learn more about the business of sustainable skivvies.
How was the enamore label set up?
Gauruv: The label was set up initially in 2004 when there was a lot of destruction in the fashion industry, especially with the production of garments: sweatshops using synthetic materials and people not looking for alternatives. The label was supported by several charities at the time, and in 2011 went through a management change. Myself, Nina and Rachel took over, and we rebranded the whole company to make it into the simple and sexy pieces you see at the moment.
Are you using any specific, new technologies or materials for the development of the garments?
Gauruv: We’ve got a lot of innovation going on behind the scenes. For example, replacing the nylon liner that you have in bras with a completely sustainable, upcycled or organic fabric. That’s never been done before. We are about a year away, or at least two seasons away from using it in our garments.
To what extent do you directly collaborate with the factories producing fibers and garments for enamore?
Gauruv: We don’t use agents in any of our sourcing. We talk directly with our manufacturers and fabric suppliers. Cutting out the middlemen ensures a quality garment as things don’t tend to get lost in translation.
So you know your factory managers? Are you completely aware of their labor standards?
Gauruv: Absolutely. Our factories and our manufacturers adhere to standards set by organizations like WRAP and SEI. Those organizations have different grading systems and all of the manufacturers we use meet the highest possible quality standard that these organizations set.
How transparent is enamore? Are you planning on providing information of where exactly all of your materials and production are coming from on the website?
Gauruv: If any customer ever wants to see any of the certificates, authentication or see how our factories comply to different standards, we are more than happy to send those certificates across.
But you are not using transparency as a marketing strategy?
Gauruv: No, we’re not, and that’s an important factor for the new direction of enamore. Even though we’re an ethical underwear company, we mainly want to market the design and fit of the garments as opposed to being eco. Being ethical is close to our hearts but we feel that it’s being pushed in everyone’s face far too much. So if someone just buys our garment and sees that it is of really good quality, that gets rid of all the stereotypes of buying it with the knowledge that it is an ethical garment.
You’ve mentioned the quality as a key point several times. Why are enamore garments specifically of such high quality?
Rachel: From the design side, every detail is thought about, and I will produce garments over and over again to get that right, like all the stitching details. The design has to be perfect when it goes to the producers.
Gauruv: To add to that point, we source quality manufacturers. We’re now paying three times the amount than enamore was with the original manufacturer, just to ensure the quality. At the moment, we’re barely breaking even with our wholesale stock, because we would rather pay more for the quality to ensure that our customer is going to receive well-made products.
What kinds of difficulties has enamore faced?
Gauruv: One of the difficulties is actually showing people the quality of the garments. A lot of other lingerie companies aren’t as consistent in quality, and so when stockists see our garments, they are very surprised with the quality.
There is also another issue we’ve had, which is the concept of how “eco” our garments are. About 95% of our garments are completely eco, but the problem is that not enough research is going on in eco underwear and eco lingerie. Rachel has been working very hard to incorporate new eco innovations into our garments, but we’re still receiving feedback and criticism for not being 100% eco, and I find that a little bit harsh.
What exactly is preventing you from making 100% eco garments?
Gauruv: The liner, for example, is often made from a synthetic material but there is no other eco material that has the same durability. There are some materials, like plant-based nylons and polyesters, but they have never been trialed before and Rachel is working very hard on looking at these other options. So making 100% eco garments is only about a year and a half away for us, and no one in lingerie has done that before.
What is enamore’s long-term aim?
Gauruv: Our long term aim is to offer an alternative in the market for ethical, eco and sustainable underwear. We also want to bring down our prices. At the moment we’re charging 25 pounds for a bra, which is very reasonable for an ethically produced garment, but we still feel that we should bring that down a little bit more as the line improves.