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Fashion Revolution Week: Esther Knight, Founder of Fanfare Label, talks sustainability, fast fashion and modern slavery

Plus how we're styling our favourite Fanfare pieces.

Last Updated on April 23, 2021

It’s easy to put the sustainable fashion movement out of your mind and to continue buying fast fashion in a bid to create a stylish wardrobe, but once you witness the damage the industry is doing not only to our environment but its people too, it’s hard to forget.

Esther Knight, CEO and Founder of Fanfare Label, experienced this first-hand when she started working as a fashion buyer after graduating from University. When Knight came face-to-face with the realities of the industry, namely putting pressure on suppliers to fulfil their orders on time, it didn’t sit well with her.

After the 2013 Rana Plaza Disaster, which killed at least 1,132 people and injured over 2,500 working inside a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Knight could no longer sit back. She launched Fabric For Freedom in 2018, which was later renamed Fanfare Label.

READ MORE: 7 apps that will help you curate a sustainable wardrobe

Woman wearing Fanfare's upcycled blue jeans, a white bralette, a white shirt hanging off her shoulder and a beige wide-brimmed hat as she stands against a wall
Fanfare Label

While eco-friendly fashion has previously had a reputation of being uninspired, this couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to Fanfare. The label offers ultra-stylish and beautifully unique clothing, with every piece ethically produced right here in the UK, where the brand can guarantee fair wages and good working conditions for garment workers.

The collection is entirely plastic-free and all materials are sustainably sourced, so shoppers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they’re not contributing further to the inequalities and environmental damage that much of the fashion industry sadly does.

The label’s recycled range is particularly notable, with items that would otherwise be left to pollute our planet in landfill being repurposed and redesigned. Customers are also able to have their old jeans upcycled and repaired for £65, with Fanfare giving them a new lease of life with paint, words or embroidery.

This week marks 8 years since the Rana Plaza disaster, but the industry still has a long way to go to offer equality across the fashion supply chain. Founder and Editor of Wear Next Daisy Jordan sits down with Knight during Fashion Revolution Week to find out about her journey with Fanfare, the future of fashion and why we still desperately need change.

Esther Knight, CEO and Founder of Fanfare Label, sits on a grey sofa wearing a beige blazer and check red, white and black trousers.
Esther Knight

Hi Esther! What inspired you to start Fanfare Label?

I spent about 10 years in the fashion industry itself, working my way up since university. It all started for me in my first job as a buyer – I suddenly saw a problem with the industry, and I couldn’t ignore it.

As a buyer you are responsible for everything in a production line, you take the entire process from sketch to store. You’re the one that’s selecting fabrics, the one picking the suppliers and the one that is contributing to the sustainability aspects – or lack thereof – in a product. If there’s an unethical part of the supply chain, you tend to know about it. 

I was on the phone to the suppliers when they were still at work at 3am putting pressure on them to fulfil their orders and reduce their prices. I was doing this in the knowledge that it isn’t going to be me as the brand that suffers, and it probably isn’t even going to be them as the supplier that suffers, it’s going to be the workers that suffer the most from this pressure.

When the Rana Plaza disaster happened, it really hit a nerve because when it came to our own factories. We had been pushing and pushing for orders to be filled in time and giving penalties to suppliers who couldn’t meet deadlines. That kind of awakening was just so raw.

These moments changed my outlook on the whole fashion supply chain. Why are we just thinking about profit margins and not considering the wellbeing and happiness people that are making our clothes and the planet we all share? That really led me to start looking into sustainability. I wanted to solve the issues that I was witnessing and actively contributing to. It wasn’t a lightbulb moment for a new fashion brand, it was the realisation that the industry just can’t carry on the way it is.

Fast fashion is contributing to the 36 million people living in modern slavery and the 92 million tonnes of textile waste that goes to landfill each year. It’s creating and exacerbating so many of these huge issues that we hear so much about in the modern world. I used to volunteer for A21 campaign, one of the anti-slavery and human trafficking charities we now partner with, and when I found out that fashion was contributing to a problem I had been working so hard to help fix, I couldn’t stand by and let it keep happening.

There also wasn’t really a single business back then (we’re talking about 7 years ago now) that was doing the things that I wanted to do – being fair to people and the environment. I wanted to create that middle ground that offered modern contemporary fashion without compromising my ethics. That’s when Fanfare Label was born.

Woman stands facing a wall wearing Fanfare Label cream linen top and trousers with a chunky tie at the back.
Fanfare Label

READ MORE: Where to buy sustainable and stylish shoes

You’ve spoken about witnessing slavery within the fast fashion industry…

Fanfare has charity associations with A21 Campaign and Freeset Global, working towards ending exploitation and abolishing slavery in supply chains.

Unfortunately, fashion does contribute to the 40 million people living in modern day slavery today. I have highlighted some shocking facts below:

  • In 2018, it was estimated that 40.3 million were people trapped in slavery – more than ever before.
  • Human trafficking generates an estimated £115.25 billion per year.
  • Over 70% of detected human trafficking victims are women and girls.
  • Roughly 1 in 4 human trafficking victims are children.
  • There are estimated to be more than 136,000 victims of human trafficking in the UK.
  • In 2019 there were 2,360 British children identified as potential victims of modern slavery in the UK.
  • In 2019 the majority of victims referred to the National Referral Mechanism were male, with labour trafficking being the most common form of exploitation in adults and minors.

To find out more read our article here.

What makes your clothes ethical and sustainable?

The new hero collection from Fanfare combines bold and contemporary designs with repurposed and reused materials, designed to create a wardrobe of sustainable clothing made to last. 

Whilst the fashion industry discards 2 million tonnes of clothing each year in the UK alone, 80% of this can be reused. Fanfare reduces this waste it by turning clothing and textile waste into premium product.

Opting for a seasonless collection as opposed to trend-led ranges, Fanfare reduces the amount of pressure on the supply chain, allowing for high-quality designs that does not cut corners in order to meet deadlines. 

The Fanfare collection is entirely plastic free and materials are sourced sustainably using the latest innovative materials and are accredited by organisations including OEKO-TEX and GOTS. The collection also includes dead-stock and roll-ends that would otherwise be discarded in landfill by industry operations. Each piece is ethically produced in the UK.

Fanfare Label linen white trousers and jacket with embellished pale pink and blue tassels lying on tarmac.
Fanfare Label

Fanfare also offers upcycled garments – how does this help the environment?

We have a recycled collection that takes clothing and textile wastage that would have ended up on landfill repurposing them into new garments.

Each pair of recycled jeans saves:

  • 9,500 litres of water.
  • The 34kg of CO2 emitted to produces one pair, similar to taking a car and driving for 111km.
  • 1kg waste from UK landfill.

Each pair also supports 1.5 days of fair working conditions & pay.

Our mission is not to produce new but to re-use what is already out there, as only 15% of all fashion products are actually recycled or up-cycled.

85% of our clothes are disposed of into landfills where it can take up to 40 years for them to decompose if they contain nylon, or 200 years if they contain polyester.

On average, 14 million tonnes of clothing are trashed each year in the US alone; putting them through a recycling programme would be the equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide off the road every year.

What has been your biggest achievement with Fanfare so far?

We have recently been named a finalist in the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards 2020 and won the German Sustainable Design Award 2021, as well as being featured at London Fashion Week this season. 

What are your hopes for the future of the brand?

The future of Fanfare is definitely bright. Hopefully we will be recognised for the work we are doing within the industry trying to create change. In the near future we would like to advertise and raise awareness of sustainability in fashion and its importance. As for physical goals, we dream to have our own store where we can show people what the future of fashion looks like.

Where do you see the future of fashion?

Transparency will be an important theme for the industry both in terms of sustainability and wider cultural values. In an era of misinformation, consumers are demanding companies to be authentic and truthful in their mission. There is a growing demand to finally show a diverse range of people through their representation, whether that is black and ethnic minorities, disabled, trans individuals and other minorities. To ensure they take this inclusive approach brands are involving consumers in the process to create a fairer distribution of needs. WGSN describes this shift as “design equity.” There are more brands operating direct to consumer through online platforms, eliminating the need for wholesale. Communicating directly with their customers through social media means brands are directing their own narrative.

Although the past year has undeniably been tough for both individuals and businesse, there is hope that out of crisis, we can make new beginnings. Staying at home has strengthened peoples ties with local community and there was a strong shift towards supporting small business at Christmas, especially as so many small businesses have been started in the wake of furlough and redundancies. Having been deprived of many cultural experiences, whether that be shopping, visiting galleries and going to the theatre and events, the value of creativity and skill has been brought into focus as vitally important and a unique human trait that technology cannot replace. 

Now is the time for collaboration within the industry where sharing sustainable strategies, data and technology will enable faster recovery. Non-profit organisations have teamed up to create “Fashion Conveners,” a global partnership to collectively implement action across the industry with the shared goal that a sustainable industry is a more a resilient industry. The hope is that recent events have given the industry a kick-start to a rebuilding for a more sustainable and inclusive future. 

READ MORE: 3 mid and plus-size women on how they shop sustainably

How we’re wearing Fanfare

Founder and editor of Wear Next Daisy Jordan wears Fanfare Label upcycled jeans with chunky black boots and an oversized black sweatshirt, standing in front of a white garage door.

Upcycled Jeans, £65 – buy now

After sending off a pair of old jeans, Wear Next was honoured to receive an upcycled pair from Fanfare. They were transformed with stripes, creating a unique one-off piece we’ll keep forever.

We’re wearing ours with chunky black boots and a sweatshirt layered over a shirt.

Founder and editor of Wear Next Daisy Jordan wears Fanfare Label printed white boilersuit and black western boots as she stands in front of a red brick wall

Printed Jumpsuit, £225 – buy now

This printed boiler suit speaks for itself. Emblazoned with words about the planet, labour rights and the impact of fast fashion, the utility jumpsuit sends an impactful message.

We’re wearing ours with simple western boots, letting the jumpsuit do all the talking,.

Founder and editor of Wear Next Daisy Jordan wears Fanfare Label navy backless jumper with white bow and a  light pink pleated check skirt as she stands in front of a red brick wall

Backless Jumper, £120 – buy now

Made from 95% GOTS-certified organic cotton, this backless jumper is as chic as it is guilt-free to wear.

We’re wearing ours with a pleated check skirt.

Founder and editor of Wear Next Daisy Jordan wears Fanfare Label navy jumper with bodice, slouchy denim jeans, chunky boots and a pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses as she stands in front of a red brick wall

Bodice Navy Jumper, £159 – buy now

Made from 100% GOTs certified organic cotton and recycled offcuts, this bodice-style jumper is contemporary and flattering. We’re in love with the extra-long sleeves.

We’re opting for oversized, slouchy denim – one of this year’s most popular trends – with the jumper.

Follow Fanfare on Instagram: @fanfarelabel


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