Aligning values; Moving away from fast-interiors towards a more sustainable business.

The process of creating a pop-up online shop this summer has really got me thinking about the values that underpin the collection, and the foundations of Lulubells. I started 2020 having an instinctive feeling that I wanted to align business values with my personal ones. Lulubells began in 2014 and since then I’ve grown, changed and evolved. Haven’t we all?! And so has the world. We are living through a global pandemic and the biggest civil rights movement in history. How could we not be altered by these events, it’s what makes us human. Aligning values towards a more sustainable business has been very much on my mind.

Interrogating values

In doing the prep work for the shop, which was actually pre-covid, I had jotted down words such as handmade, ethical, sustainable, UK made in my notebook without really interrogating what each means. Many big retailers use these words to make claims as part of their marketing, they appear to be thoughtful and consumers feel good about buying with them (google greenwashing for more on this). Yet in reality many companies are not embodying their own values. I have read so many stories of companies not paying factories during Covid-19, which in turn means the garment workers don’t get paid, forcing people further into poverty. Workers are still expected to do long shifts, in poor conditions, for little or no money. I’m not just talking overseas, this is happening right here in the UK, in Leicester to be specific. @cleanclothescampaign is a good place to go if you are looking for more info on this.

In truth, I have learnt most of this recently, like many of us, learning and unlearning about the systems of oppression that perpetuates inequality and doesn’t prioritise the planet. I am by no means an expert on these topics. There are plenty of people who can articulate these huge subjects better than me. All I know is that I do not wish to continue with the status quo and I am no longer prepared to stand by while the injustices continue. I wanted to write this post to provide some context for the mindset and thinking behind the shop, aligning values and the shift in approach for Lulubells.

Room for improvement and mistakes

Now full disclosure, I am not saying that I’m perfect in all this. I have spent many years shopping in Primark, and Philip Greens retail empire. I spent my twenties buying a new outfit for each night out, not wanting to wear the same thing twice in succession. I’m not sure who would have even noticed, and where did this idea come from?! And I’ve just changed Indy’s nappy, it’s disposable. I am not perfect, none of us are. And there has to be room for improvement and for mistakes.

From a business perspective, something that has been bothering me since I read more around fast-interiors, like fast-fashion, is the linen we use. All bedding for Lulubells was bought from various highstreet retailers. Depending who had the best price. I didn’t look into this any further. It was a decision based on price and convenience. Who can deliver the fastest and how much. Over the past two years my awareness has shifted, and I now want to know that Lulubells isn’t contributing to this system.

Moving towards alignment

This post doesn’t offer tips on how you can align your business and personal values. That part is your own path. And I’m embarrassed to say that mine started during pregnancy, and really shifted when Indy was born. I wish I had felt as passionately as I do now, before.

SO, what do I do now. On a very practical level there are changes I am making in the business and how we run things. I don’t want to throw away all our bedding, that just adds to landfill, totally defeating the point and secondly I couldn’t afford to do that. Instead I plan to replace items when needed in a conscious way, by asking questions and understanding supply chains, being mindful of the fabrics used, opting for natural and sustainably farmed materials, as well as ensuring workers are treated fairly. This isn’t going to be straightforward, but I’m making a promise to you (and myself) to adhere to these values that form the foundation of this little business. This also ties back into the shop – what if I could create our own bedding range that are used in the tents, but also available to buy in our shop. I’d love to know what you think about that idea?

Another value I want to live in both my business and life, is to spend more time repairing, repurposing and reusing. For example, when a sheet is marked, or if a button is missing on the duvet, I will either repurpose it or fix it. The duvets can be used to make cushion covers. There’s lots of things we can do here to make positive impact.

I have updated our values on the website. I don’t know why but this post sort of feels like some form of confession. Like I’ve fessed up and now wish to do better. 

Conscious retail

The brilliant thing about the shop, is that I’m starting out with all this front of mind guiding every decision I make. By working directly with makers I know the people and story behind each product. I can work with values in alignment.

My hope is for all of us to buy less and spend more on quality. I grappled with the idea of continuing with the shop during the crisis, when people are struggling financially, facing hardship and loss. I guess that’s why the values and foundations of what this next phase looks like is so important and integral to the future. I’m also aware that making better shopping decisions alone won’t bring around change in the society. Collectively, we can use our voice to challenge those power and keep doing this work.

If you do decide to spend money with us be that in our shop or by glamping with us, I in return promise to make that experience feel good. And for our customers to know that their purchase from us, means everything. That it supports makers who are creating, it shows we can shop and live differently.

I also want to note that I am aware that I come from a position of privilege – I’ve had time to research all this stuff and can afford to make changes to my lifestyle and business. Not everyone can do that. I recently read a post by author Tansy Hoskins who said “the people in those primark queues are not your enemy” We don’t know the personal set of circumstances that led to them being there. Our anger can be directed at corporations who’s drive for profits is bigger than people, climate and lives.

Conscious and sustainable businesses we love

In setting up the shop and thinking about aligning values, there are a few companies that have inspired us in their approach so thought I would share with you. Please go check them out! They are brilliant businesses who live and breath their values and put people over profits.

@wowsanchos – ethical clothing, physical store and online shop. They are transparent in all that they do. Inclusive pricing structures and sizes.

@lucyandyak – we buy our workwear from these guys and brand them up for Lulubells. The most comfy dungarees I’ve ever worn.

@genevievesweeney – slow fashion, creates gorgeous knitwear and sock subscription. Lulubells will be stocking socks, hats and gloves from GS. Such a gorgeous company. Can’t wait to share more on this in coming weeks.

@beyondnine – small batches, consciously made maternity clothes for pregnancy and after. I still wear my linen jumpsuit all the time. Indy is nearly 2 years old. Totally worth the investment.