“Sustainable fashion is really about valuing key pieces and developing a confident sense of style, rather than chasing every trend,” says Paula Haunit, founder of the newly-launched ethical fashion website, Sheer Apparel. Lawfully Chic recently had a chat with Paula and we were impressed by her passion and excited by the possibilities for her brand in 2017.
LC: Congratulations on the launch (in November 2016). Can you give us a summary of what Sheer Apparel is about?
PH: Sheer Apparel provides a modern take on sustainable fashion. We’re a comprehensive sustainable fashion retailer where dynamic women with busy jobs and active lifestyles can go and know they’ll find something that’s well produced and going to make them look and feel good. We’re a multi-brand retailer, working with a range of ethical brands from across the UK and Europe and providing them with a retail platform. Our criteria are fairly straightforward but also strict. Everything must be ethically manufactured and made from environmentally friendly fabrics. It also needs to look great and be of lasting quality, otherwise people just won’t want to wear it.
LC: How and when did Sheer Apparel come about?
PH: I left a job in finance last Spring (2016) to start working on it full time. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since then. I’m an economist by trade, but obviously this is a very different kind of business and a different type of job! There’s a crossover though because when I studied economics, what motivated me most was to understand development and the impact of global trade. The textile industry is a key part of that, particularly in South Asia. I believe that if you help push the sustainable fashion agenda you can have a big impact on people’s lives.
LC: So what were the first steps you took?
PH: In the first instance it was a lot of research. I did all the kind of legwork that I’m trying to help my customer avoid! I went through about 200 brands, researching them all and actually discarded most of them. I travelled around trade shows, met brands individually in Europe and even tried most garments on myself because it’s important to fully believe in everything you sell. I also built the website myself. I’ve had no external investment, though I suspect there will come a point where my need for that is inevitable. I’d like the business to grow more as I really believe in this mission very much and providing more choice is key to appeal to customers.
LC: And how does it work exactly? What model does the website follow?
PH: To start with it was a classic retail model, meaning that I buy wholesale and sell retail – but I am moving it to a marketplace model which will better enable me to work with some of the beautiful, smaller, innovative brands who have approached me. But in any case, the collection will always be heavily curated according to Sheer Apparel’s expectations on style and ethics.
LC: What are your top tips for people wishing to be more ethically conscious as consumers?
PH: Firstly, think about the lifespan of your clothes; that is, think in terms of cost per wear, and buy quality rather than quantity. Also, buy a little bit less! I think it was Livia Firth who said: ‘ask yourself if you’re going to wear it 30 times and if you can’t commit to that, then don’t buy it’. Also think about style rather than fashion. Sustainable fashion is really about valuing key pieces and developing a confident sense of style, rather than chasing every trend. Trust your instinct more – get more creative – have classic pieces and then the occasional new thing every season.