Meet Nicole Jowett, founder of T-Shirts For Change, a profit-for-purpose orientated; socially, and environmentally conscious t-shirt and apparel brand.
T-Shirts For Change, founded in 2017, started as a once-off fund-raising project for a women’s shelter in response to women’s rights issues. Since then, the brand has gone on to develop its own range of t-shirts, sustainable t-shirts, Re-Wear tees, made from recycled plastic.
Tell us about yourself.
I'm Nikki and I am the founder of T-Shirts For Change. I’m a yoga and fitness loving vegetarian who tries to make better lifestyle choices for the earth and my health.
What does a normal day look like?
Normally a day in my life would look like this: I'd wake up, have a coffee, check emails, plan my day, and get ready for gym. I'd head to gym for an hour, come home to have a quick shower, followed by meetings or diving into emails. Later, I'd go to my office to pack orders, or do other of stock related things like stock count, receiving and photographing new stock, or tidying up my storeroom. In-between all of this I’m also planning content, liaising with customers, and working on wholesale corporate orders. As my office is at home, I make sure to properly “sign out” of work each day so that I don’t take my work “home” with me unless I have a very urgent matter that I have to work overtime for.
Since the Coronavirus outbreak, my whole routine has been turned on its head. I had to close my store and cease all operations which meant that I was faced with endless empty days. I've tried to exercise in the mornings to keep to some semblance of my daily routine. I have done some website improvements and have been working on my Australian store, however, my stock in Australia was stuck at the factory.
What does 'sustainability' mean to you?
To me, sustainability means a lifestyle that is not only sustainable but also achievable. I'd like to see more people doing less, than fewer people doing more.
What made you decide to start a sustainable brand?
I already had a t-shirt brand, and I was thinking of ways to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of trends. I knew I wanted to keep doing something “good” and a more sustainable approach seemed like a no-brainer to me. Fashion contributes so much to pollution and climate change, it was important to me to start changing the textiles and processes I use.
What have been some of your biggest challenges so far?
Working capital, and marketing capital! I've had to be really creative with marketing to try and get my brand out there without a marketing budget. I've had to ask for a lot of favours, but I believe that in business if you don’t ask you won't receive. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Working capital is always an issue for me, I have to invest in large numbers of stock in order to make my product at a reasonable price, but I don’t always have enough capital to do so.
How can people support your brand during the pandemic?
I am allowed to sell winter clothes so people can support me by buying clothing from me instead of from a cheaper mass chain. (Shop here for Nicole's amazing unisex puffer jackets).
They can also help by just sharing my page or content too!
What do you find most challenging when it comes to being a sustainable brand?
Working against systems that are already modelled and built in a different way. As well as having access to sustainable items. From a corporate perspective, its access to sustainable alternatives, for example, I'd like to use paper shipping bags, but I can’t source them locally - I have to import them which defeats the purpose. I'd like to see more investment in making sustainable alternatives available locally.
What advice do you have for people wanting to live a more sustainable lifestyle?
Do what you can, don't be hard on yourself for not doing it all, but don’t be afraid to make changes. It can take just a few days to adjust to a new change before it becomes second nature. Never be afraid that you aren't making enough of an impact.
What are some of your favourite sustainable brands?
Any advice for someone looking to start a sustainable brand?
I’ve seen a lot of brands make their start by importing a sustainable product, and while I see the need for that (yes, we want nice things in SA too), I think it's more sustainable for our environment and our economy to invest in setting up a supply chain locally. It costs a lot of money to bring in a product from overseas, oftentimes this money can be used to develop and produce it locally. Yes, it takes much longer but it is more sustainable in the end as it creates jobs, stimulates our local sustainable industries, and economy, and reduces the carbon footprint of the product. I think if a brand wants to be sustainable this is the only way to go.
Not to say that there its a place for imported products, I love me a good imported sustainable beauty or clothing product! But from a purely business and ethics perspective, I think it makes more sense to not import and keep it local, so spend that extra time, a little extra money, and effort on setting up production here.
Passion, a vision, and a “crazy" idea can go a long way.