Interview with Sam McCarthy, founder of Ivywake, the British Sustainable Clothing Company
Last month we showcased Pursuit for the first time at No Planet B festival, ‘the inclusive community for the conscious generation’. We’re going to be quite controversial here and admit that when we signed up to participate amongst some truly visionary brands we were unsure what to expect. For a lot of us, the words ‘vegan’ and ‘ethical’ can seem taboo, a niche perhaps on the restrictive side. We were proved totally wrong weren’t we!? In reality, it was actually incredibly inspirational to witness this widespread community come together with one commonality - conscious consumerism. This is something that we can relate to being a sustainable brand. Whether this means being conscious by bringing your own ‘keep me’ coffee cup, by buying vintage/second hand or choosing to buy new clothing which is ethically sourced and responsibly manufactured.
Amongst the buzz of ethical stalls, engaging talks and finger licking good vegan food, we were able to catch up with Sam Mccarthy, founder of Ivywake, the British sustainable clothing company, and regular attendee at No Planet B. When the queue for the Ivywake stall finally died down a bit, we took the opportunity to speak with Sam to hear more about the foundations of his impressive menswear brand, all things ‘sustainability’, the link between our two clothing companies and a bit more about what he gets up to in between his business commitments.
"I think the next 5 to 10 years will be really interesting for sustainable fashion. At the moment it's difficult as a lot of people still don’t grasp how bad the fashion industry is for the planet"
Sam, thank you so much for your time today, we are huge fans of your brand and would love to hear how you came up with the name and concept for Ivywake?
S: The concept came from doing research for a university project whilst looking into sustainability and I came across the concept of sustainable fashion. This made me realise that there wasn’t anything for someone like myself who is looking to do their part but doesn’t want to plaster it over their tee shirts. I want to wear a tee shirt that is a sustainable as a normal tee shirt, I don’t want it to be an activist tee shirt or to shove it in peoples faces that this is sustainable. I would want people who would buy a ralph lauren tee shirt, to buy mine, and when they realise its sustainable, that also helps them change the stigma behind sustainable fashion. Ivywake clothing feels better, it looks the same, there is no compromise.
In terms of the name…I was a wake boarding instructor for 4 years, the name Wake had a meaning for me and I liked how it looked on paper. I wanted a word that hadn’t been used before and rolled off the tongue and I felt that ivy gave the brand it’s prestige.
Who is Ivywake for?
S: It is mainly for men, although I have had Women buy all of our garments before. I wanted people to have the timeless style they want, the people who work in the city during the week, go to the country on the weekend. I wanted to make sustainable fashion for everyone, not just for the 20% who are all in. I wanted to make a wardrobe that you could take from a corporate environment to the countryside on weekends doing adventurous things.
Sustainable is a buzzword that gets used a lot recently but can have various meanings. What makes Ivywake sustainable?
S: The fabrics that we use, we use 100% organic cotton for our shirts, tee shirts and caps. We use Pinatex for our cardholders, which is a fabric made from pineapple leaves which are made from the harvest they usually burn. All of our knitwear is made in the UK, and the wool is sourced from sustainable farms in Australia & Peru. Another aspect of our sustainable focus is our packaging. We use 100% recycled cardboard packaging, you don’t get any swing tags or promo, so there is no waste at all. The packaging is a cardboard box with our logo on which can be used to go travelling to keep your clothing nicely folded. The third aspect which makes Ivywake sustainable is our donations, we donate to bring solar energy to rural medical clinics in Africa. We didn’t just want to partner with anyone, we wanted to make sure that we were partnered with a charity who were going to use sustainable methods to help people.
What are your top three sustainable brands?
- KEEP CUP: coffee cups which you can take with you to a coffee. Starbucks are are now giving 25p off if you bring your own cup.
- SWELL: A water bottle brand, which keeps drinks hot for 12 hours
- There’s a wholefood bulk buying food place around Chelsea way, you bring your own boxes, money incentive, there’s no down side.
You obviously keep very busy running your menswear brand, what do you like to do in your free time?
S: At the moment, I don’t have a huge amount of spare time. I work part time to fund Ivywake, so in between that and doing everything that needs doing, its few and far between. I try to exercise every morning at 6am, I work out for half an hour which helps me set my day. Me and my friend have now started going for 5k runs which is proving difficult. Hopefully as the business progresses, I’ll be able to go full time in it which will give me more spare time.
How do you see the future of Sustainable fashion?
S: To be honest, I’ve always seen it how the food industry is but 10 years behind. 10 years ago, people would say organic food was too expensive and now in these last few years, organic and veganism are huge trends. To be honest I find sustainable fashion to be at the beginning of that 10 year cycle, I think in the next 5 years, consumers will really get on board and it will be the norm. Any brand that isn’t doing it will have a decline in profits. I think there will be a shake up in the fashion industry as information becomes more and more readily available, people are realising the damage that fashion can have, I think the next 5 to 10 years will be really interesting for sustainable fashion. At the moment its difficult as a lot of people still don’t grasp how bad the fashion industry is for the planet.
"I didn’t tell any of my friends about Ivywake until it launched, that was 2 years that I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t feel that I had to prove anything to anyone"
Finally do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start their own venture whether it be a blog, business or any other start up project?
S: I would say the only way you’ll know whether it’s the right thing to do or not is by doing it. I would say at the same time, think is it something that you want to do, or is It because people around you are doing it, that you have to start something to match them, because sometimes that's the case. I didn’t tell any of my friends about Ivywake until it launched so that was 2 years that I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t feel that I had to prove anything to anyone, I wanted to do it for me. Just make sure you’re sure you want to do it. As long as there isn’t a huge capital up front to start it, is never a bad idea, the amount you learn from starting a business/blog etc is incredible. I have learnt more in these last three years than I have in my entire education. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have loads of contacts in places you would never have contacts with before, which will help you to get a job further down the line.
Follow @Sammccarthy & @Ivywake on Instagram and visit www.ivywake.com to shop!
Stay tuned for the next No Planet B festival which takes place on 25th October. Shop tickets here !