UrbanMeisters met up with Green Entrepreneur Eleanor O’Neill- founder of ethical knitwear label label Study34. The brand produces produces exclusive & exquisite knitwear with contemporary designs that are responsible sourced & ethically made.
Having completed a degree in Fashion Knitwear in 2013, Eleanor worked for an international luxury brand, a small Italian label and a as global supply chain manager in New York before starting Study34. In 2014, she returned to UK to make her first foray as a green entrepreneur and set up Study34.
Study34’s uber-modern & clean fluid designs are all made to order using natural fibres – plastics and acrylics are strictly banned. O’Neill also uses wool spun from British sheep and materials that would otherwise be destined for landfill. Checkout their latest collection – The New Crew here. Perfect for your workwear & casual hanging out, the designs are minimal with no unnecessary detailing. While Study34 challenges the workings of fast fashion which they equate to an addiction (and something we have explained to you before on why fast fashion is all wrong), their own collection is made in limited quantities. But something you’d keep & wear for years.
Let’s chat with Green Entrepreneur Eleanor
Let’s begin with your personal green story. What made you choose to be a a green entrepreneur & greenie in personal life too?
I think both personal and professional are intertwined for me so it’s hard to separate the reasons.
It was when I was working at my last job – as a knitwear designer in Italy – that I started to think I wanted to do things differently. I was living away from my friends and family in a tiny little town, working in a hostile office where there was a total lack of teamwork and the management didn’t seem interested in investing in their staff.
I started thinking about the part of the industry that I worked in and how dysfunctional it was. And then started thinking about all the other parts of it, that I had little involvement in or knowledge of. I thought it was pretty strange that I didn’t know that much and was not encouraged to know that much about it.
What’s your vision for Study34 as a green entrepreneur?
Study34 is an ongoing project and always will be. I have two ultimate aims for it today. The first is to achieve a fully transparent and sustainable supply chain by working on all relationships involved in the making of Study34 garments and knowing as much as possible about the raw materials in use and making decisions based on these factors.The other is to change people’s opinions of what a factory can be. I would eventually like to produce all my garments in house along with a team of dedicated, enthusiastic and creative individuals. We would all be involved in the design AND production of garments as well as everything in-between in a collaborative effort. That way everyone gains a broad range of skills and can chose where and how to improve them.
The eco-fashion segment still represents only a very small portion of the total fashion industry, what do you think are the key reasons for this from the industry point of view.
The fashion industry today is dominated by big brands – and it’s difficult for big brands to change their ways in terms of their supply chain.Also, customers are only just beginning to be interested in the provenance of their clothing – until now big brands have had little incentive to operate differently. The world we live in today is hyper connected. Everyone can know everything about you at the click of a button and I think, and hope, that will bring about change.
With fast fashion giants like Zara & H&M dabbling in half hearted sustainability, has ‘eco-fashion’ become a misnomer or a mere marketing stunt? Or do you see these capsule collections as encouraging?
At the moment, I see any discussion about the subject encouraging because it gets people talking.It is very difficult to know what a bigger brand is up to. I do think though, that if change is going to happen on a mass scale, the bigger brands need to be behind it.
When you look at the fashion supply chain, where has in your opinion the industry advanced the most in making it greener? Which part is in contrary still not sufficiently improved?
The biggest problem the fashion industry faces today is waste. So to answer the last bit of the question first, the speed of trends is the real problem. Ethical issues surrounding the treatment of workers is something I personally find very difficult to read about and it often makes me extremely sad.In terms of the most improved area, I couldn’t say. I don’t think I’ve been working in the industry long enough to know. I think right now, I’d say awareness. While a still a niche discussion, awareness of the supply chain has increased recently which is promising.
What brands are for you the most advanced today in pushing the supply chain as sustainable as possible?
Veja and Patagonia are two of my favourite brands today. I love their missions, their style and how they do business – you should definitely check them out if you haven’t already! (Psst! Patagonia is our favorite choice for ethical sportswear too. Here’s why.)
We see that consumers lack enthusiasm for eco-fashion thinking it’s boring or expensive. What’s your take on this? Is it changing?
I read this all the time and this is one of the reasons I set up the blog alongside my knitwear brand. To try and explain these issues in an engaging way – and I hope I’m managing to do it. In terms of style, of course it’s changing – just take a look at what’s around you, what people are doing is incredible. They’re making things that you don’t just want to buy because they’re beautiful but what they stand for, what they mean, the work they represent is incredible. I love walking around knowing my trainers where made by an awesome brand working to preserve the environment and traditional crafts or wearing an organic t-shirt that simply feels nicer against my skin.
What should the consumer look out for in sustainable fashion brands- any guidelines? Any questions they should definitely ask while buying into the brand?
You can tell for yourself whether the design is a ‘sustainable’ choice for you – in the sense that you will get some good wear out of it. Fabric composition is normally displayed so that’s good. You should always try and get in touch to ask about where the products are made if that’s not indicated and also ask about what a brand is trying to do to improve their business/ supply chain.As customers we must not expect perfection at this stage and as designers we must continually strive to achieve it.
What are the latest trends in Eco-Fashion? Which brands / designers to watch out for?
Ooh, depends what you like! I would say it’s great to shop local, so the answer would be different for everyone. Try and source products made in your country of residence if you can.Brands I’ve got my eye on in the UK are PIC style, Henri London and Laurie Nouchka.
As a cool greenie, could you share some lifestyle advice with our readers? For example what is your daily green routine, what do you do for health & well-being?
Well I guess I walk to and from work everyday which is abuot 1 ½ hours in total. It’s a good time to think and reflect on the day to come or the day just gone.I read a lot, that’s very good for my mental well-being I think – and not just work related things but always trying to have a good novel on the go is a good idea.I don’t take any technology related items into my bedroom when I go to sleep. Consequently they are not the first, or last things, I look at in my day.I try to drink lots of water, I could be better at that.Eat a big breakfast to sustain you until lunch. My Sister’s an amazing chef and makes incredibly filling and healthy breakfasts. I try to recreate them sometimes but fail miserably… But I keep trying to improve! That’s the key.