The Auckland-based company, Humanity, have been on the scene for a while, touting their carefully selected collection of ethical & sustainably produced fashion accessories. You may have seen them pop up in Ponsonby Central, where you'll find them every few months selling an array of beautiful items from Proof Eyewear, WeWood Watches, Matt & Nat and Kerbholz. Humanity have just dropped their own line of ethically produced, surprisingly affordable clothing basics and we're pretty darn excited about it.
These guys are the real deal. All of their pieces are ethically manufactured in Fair Wear Foundation-accredited factories using sustainably produced textiles including GOTS organic cotton, tencel, modal and recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles.
We had a chat with co-owner Karen Francis, whom we spoke to a few months back when we wrote a feature on Matt & Nat. Karen has a big heart, a very cheeky sense of humour, and an endless passion for sustainable fashion.
What inspired you to start Humanity?
KF: Back in 2013, I decided it was about time New Zealanders had the choice of buying fashion brands that are ethically made. I also wanted them to be able to choose products from sustainably sourced materials and make purchases that give back to humanitarian and environmental causes. So much of this was happening overseas, but not so much here.
I felt that if I could get people to buy the kind of products we sell, then they would also change their mind-set and overall consumer habits. So, I set out to source and sell brands that share our core values and which genuinely want to make a difference to this lovely planet and its inhabitants.
The vision is that once you get into the rhythm of purchasing and wearing the products we offer, you can't help but tell people the story behind the brand. It really does become a lifestyle and soon it becomes pretty difficult to go back to brands that don't share the same values. It’s about creating a pattern of deliberate ethical choices and being proud of it.
I want people to become global citizens who think about the impact of their choices on others and the planet we share. Our belief is that every decision we make and every product we buy could be eco-friendly.
Why did you decide to go with basics?
KF: The Basics line is about our staple comfy ‘go to’ pieces. It’s fair to say that most of us have t-shirts and sweatshirts in our wardrobes which we love and wear a lot. Many people don’t want to wear garments with branding printed on them from head to toe. That’s where Basics fit in. The casual androgynous style is fashionable and here to stay, according to those in the know!
I wanted to offer basic mainstream clothing that is affordable, well-made, ethical and sustainable. Most brands with similar criteria are not so affordable or mainstream: they often aren’t reaching a wide range of customers and particularly not people in their late teens to mid-20’s. The aim is to reach a large market, so that we can spread our message far and wide.
Can you tell us a little about where and how the clothing is made?
KF: All of our garments are ethically manufactured in Fair Wear Foundation-accredited factories in Bangladesh. The textiles used are GOTS organic cotton (Global Organic Textiles Standard), tencel, modal and recycled polyester (which comes from recycled plastic bottles). Where the textile is a blend, the garments are certified under the Organic Content Standard.
The textiles are also tested for harmful substances under OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100. This standard means that our textiles are harmless to your health.
What role do you believe fashion plays in the preservation of our planet?
KF: A huge role. Fashion is number two, if not an equal first place with the oil industry now for its contribution to destroying the planet, through lack of empathy and compassion for all beings.
I think if people focus on buying ethically made, sustainable fashion, then this will make a significant difference to the preservation of humanity and our planet. To know that you have made a conscious decision to buy and wear an ethically made garment which has been manufactured from natural and sustainable materials using a manufacturing process that contains no harmful chemicals and is kind to animals feels bloody fantastic.
When you join this movement, you cannot help but share your enthusiasm. You feel proud. You feel you are doing your bit of greatness in this crazy upside-down world we live in at the moment.
What other people or businesses have inspired you along the way?
KF: I absolutely adore Sir Richard Attenborough. I have a deep love for animals and nature. He has been telling us about what we should be doing to not reach the stage we are at now for decades!
Richard Branson is super cool and quirky, and doing fantastic stuff to improve this planet. Elon Musk, well, like Richard Branson, is super disruptive. He gets on with it and is absolutely focused on doing good no matter what.
Gosia Piatek is a genuine pioneer. Her brand, Kowtow, is quite possibly the most real and recognised ethical clothing brand globally now. Like Gosia, Kelly Elkin, the co-founder of ALAS Clothing and Well-Made Clothes in Australia, is absolutely committed to doing the right thing for fashion.
So Are you sensing a shift away from THIS mindless consumerism towards a culture of more thoughtful consuming?
KF: Yes, I definitely am. When we started out 4 years ago, we spent so much of our time talking with people about our story and the brands we represent. I think those conversations have halved now because many people just seem to get it. People in their late teens up to late 20’s definitely get what we do; it’s just how the world should be in their opinion. I think 40+ people still have a long way to go.
In general, New Zealand has such a long way to go. I feel so strongly that we should be leading the world in this stuff. We are small, nimble, surrounded by beauty and natural resources. We could form the blueprint, however that is being left to Scandinavian countries for the most part. So in short, yes, I am sensing a shift, however it is not a big enough shift. We should be much further ahead than where we are now.
What is making you feel optimistic about the world right now?
KF: Although I am very worried about our population rate and its’ impact on our planet, I do feel optimistic that at the end of the day most people are truly good. Most people truly care for every kind.
I think we will go back to more basic living. Consumerism has already slowed down exponentially, globally. Bricks and Mortar retail stores are experiencing a major decline in sales due to the rise of ecommerce, over supply of shops and a renaissance for spending money on food, alcohol and experiences.
What I am really enjoying seeing is people’s awareness of not wearing leather. People are becoming very aware of the true cost of leather production and the shocking affects it has on animals, humankind and our natural resources. You don’t have to weather a piece of animal to look great!