“[This will] give them a more tangible outlook on how their consumer choice helps people and the planet,” said Etiko founder and director Nick Savaidis.
“While some Australian fashion brands offer the option of tree planting when you purchase specified products, our program has that unique but important difference.”
Meanwhile, the Melbourne-based retailer’s tip-the-workers campaign will allow customers to tip the makers of the shoes or clothing sold by Etiko.
“By clicking a button on our website, customers will be given the option to tip the workers anywhere between $1-10,” Savaidis said.
The program will start with Etiko’s sneakers, which are produced in Pakistan, before expanding to the rest of their product range.
“The staff will then be able to use the funds however they deem necessary,” Savaidis said. “One hundred per cent of the tips will be distributed equally among the 93 workers who make Etiko sneakers on a quarterly basis by the local non-government organisation, Labour Education Foundation.”
The back story
Workers fairly paid for their labour, check. Avoids the use of plastic for packaging, check. Clothing uses certified organic cotton, fair trade and vegan, check. Plans to produce shoes made of plant-based leather, check. Offers recycling programs for old shoes — and even rewards customers for it, check.
Etiko ticks all the boxes when it comes to sustainable practices and that’s because, according to Savaidis, he had been aware of the exploitation in the fashion industry from an early age — and wants to avoid it with his own brand.
“My mother and many other members of my family worked in the industry when I was growing up and felt that there [should be] a market for a brand that did the right thing by those who worked in fashion supply chains and the environment,” Savaidis said.
According to Savaidis, Etiko, which was launched in 2006, was the first non-food brand to gain Fairtrade accreditation in Australia.
“Basically, that means Etiko’s growers, producers and manufacturers are paid a fair price for their produce and labour, they have the right to join a union and are paid a living wage,” he said.
Even at the height of the pandemic, Etiko made sure their workers were paid and given living wages, that the factories were safe to work in, and were delivered protective equipment.
He added that despite a general decline in textile manufacturing throughout the industry, they still supported their workers and the workers in their supply chain. One of the ways the business was able to do this was by releasing pre-sale items, while managing customer expectations relating to delivery delays.
The business’ wholesale sales dropped nearly 60 per cent last year but online sales rose by more than 20 per cent.
“Luckily that part of our business has recovered and overall, the business is in a much better position financially than it was pre-pandemic,” Savaidis shared.
The future of Etiko
After relocating Etiko’s flagship store to a more central location, Savaidis said they now want to expand their global distribution in North America by establishing a distribution centre in the region.
The company also plans to launch shoes made with plant-based leather, expand its clothing range and colour offering and take advantage of the rise in demand for leisure wear.
“Our wholesale business is also growing, thanks to our 2020 accreditation with Social Traders recognising Etiko as a certified social enterprise,” Savaidis said. “Through this partnership Etiko has the opportunity to work with Government and private sectors to help them achieve their ethical procurement goals.”
Etiko also plans to expand their footwear recycling initiative by the third quarter of this year to include clothing.
“In 2019, Etiko launched an incentivised take-back program for Etiko footwear customers no longer needed. By diverting the old shoes from landfill and working with a local recycling company, Save Our Soles, the sustainably farmed Fairtrade rubber from our sneakers and thongs is recycled into rubber matting,” Savaidis explained.
The clothing take-back program offers customers an incentivised opportunity to recycle their old Etiko clothing. Garments that are still in good quality will be donated to secondhand clothing stores, and the remainder will be ground into powder before being remade into new cotton threads by Brisbane-based textile recycler, BlockTexx.
According to Savaidis, he is quietly confident about Etiko’s future because people are now becoming more aware about the environment and about human and animal rights.
“[And these customers] typically tend to ‘shop their values’,” he said.