True entrepreneurs are often driven by a resilient sense of mission. They don’t start businesses out of a desire, but out of need and want to change the world in their own small or large way. More and more lately we see such social entrepreneurs appear in the fashion industry. They launch fashion brands as vehicles of a larger, bigger mission.

One such special and purpose-driven social entrepreneur is Lily Chong – the founder of the recently launched conscious luxury brand Ethical Kind.

We caught up with Lily in the eve of her first retail foray to learn more about her brand and her bigger social mission.

Lily Chong Founder of Ethical Kind peace silk fashion brand

Tell us a little bit about you – what is your background, and what have you been up to until now?

I’m the founder of a consciously luxury brand called Ethical Kind. We design luxury sleepwear that seeks to marry simple elegance in design with sustainability and ethicality. I mainly work in partnership with marginalised communities in India for the production and use of cruelty-free for Organic Peace Silk, to revive and regenerate traditions so the future generations can thrive.

Previous to this I was a commercial and event director for a conference media company,  and founder of The Fourth Sector, a service platform supporting social entrepreneurs and enterprises to start and grow their business through events, conferences and consulting.

What was your route to fashion? How did you end up wanting to launch a fashion brand?

I’ve always had an appreciation for clothes as my mother worked as a seamstress. I used to watch her make my clothes when I was young.  It wasn’t until more recently when I was running the Fourth Sector that I came in contact with social entrepreneurs, who found their business based on the social and environmental problems they wanted to solve.  For me, this was an underwear business that I was involved with, where we produced organic cotton underwear with a “buy one give one model”, every purchase provided a pair of underwear to help those in need. Ultimately, this brought my attention to the problems in the fashion industry.

I want the brand to be a voice for change; a brand that can ADD value to the wearer and others who make the clothes.

What gave you the idea and conviction to launch the Ethical Kind brand?

I hadn’t come across many luxury brands that incorporated a social business model, and it got me thinking as to why?

What if I could create something more luxurious and appealing and have a lasting impact.

I understood the fast fashion industry drives on price, and this is not good for the people who make our clothes. I wanted to build a legitimate, ethical business. Silk is one of the most luxurious fabric, so I began a journey to discover more.

How did you decide on the name of the brand?

I wanted it to be simple and easy. To say what it is. An ethical business, that is kind to you and others.

How long has it taken you from idea to launch?

I started my research journey in January and started designing in February, and we launched in November. So probably 10-11 months.

ethical kind organic peace silk sleepwear

What challenges have you faced so far in terms of working with “new” material and with a supplier overseas?

The main challenges have been time, making organic peace silk is a natural and labour intensive process.  Working with a supplier overseas, for example, India, you will have to consider the cultural factors such as holidays and festivities, poor weathers conditions,  infrastructure in marginalised communities (i.e power and floods). These all have a knock-on effect on meeting business timelines.

RELATED READING: Top Tips for Working with Indian Manufacturers

What have you enjoyed doing the most so far?

I love the creative process of bringing an idea to fruition, and visiting the villagers in India, it inspires me to see what I do, and the difference we can make.

Ethical Kind founder with organi peace silk workers in India
Lily surrounded by the women weaving the peace silk from which her sleepwear is made.

How did you discover “organic peace silk” and why did you decide to focus on it as your main material?

Silk is one of the most luxurious natural fabrics known, but it had not received much attention compared to organic cotton, bamboo and hemp,  so it caught my attention. I wanted to find out if there was a cruelty-free way of making silk, and this brought me to India.

What makes “organic peace silk” special and different from normal silk?

Organic Peace Silk is the alternative for people who care about the lives of animals and the environment, and for the people who appreciate the queen of luxurious silk fibres feminine grace and beauty.

Peace silk (also known as Ahimsa silk) means non-violent, silk breeding or harvesting.  It allows the silkworm to complete its metamorphosis (grow into) to a butterfly.  Once left, their cocoons are processed without the use of chemicals.

peace silk weaver at work
A worker using solar-powered machines for the spinning of peace silk

What impact would you like to make through your work with Ethical Kind and in general?

First and foremost, I need to make the business sustainable, so I can have the impact I want.

This includes: educating people about how clothes are made from farm to fashion, changing consumerism and buying decisions. We need to allow for an equal playing field for small brands,  promote fair trade and working conditions for all. I would love to see more support and for more brands to build a lasting relationship that empowers the marginalised communities with equal opportunities, fair pay and work so everyone can thrive no matter where they are in the supply chain.

It sounds like you have a bigger vision and mission entwined in your brand. Would you share it with us?

I don’t want to be just another fashion brand. There are enough brands out there already.  I want the brand to be a voice for change; a brand that can value to the wearer and others who make the clothes.

Our mission is to revive traditions, so the future can thrive.

I’ve seen with my own eyes and learned how farmland is slowly dying by heavy use of chemicals and given over to factory-made fabrics and other industries; this has imposed many environmental, social and economic risks.

Silk is a traditional process that has not changed for centuries and primarily involved in the killing of the silkworm in the process.

I want to revive and regenerate sericulture to a more sustainable, cruelty-free and eco-friendly practice.

Right now, we promote the production and use of cruelty-free Organic Peace Silk, in Jharkhand, India.

I would like to see this expand beyond – to other silk cultivation regions and improve the livelihoods for marginalised communities who make our clothes.

Eventually, I would like Ethical Kind to have a social entrepreneurship fund, where I can continue to support and inspire others on their impact businesses too.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

Currently, this is building my on-line presence and creating and exploring marketing opportunities.

What have you had to change in yourself to get to where you are today?

Trusting the process! And to believe that the decisions I make are right.

When an obstacle arises, you change your direction to reach your goal but do not change your decision to get there.

What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt from everything you have done until now?

When an obstacle arises, you change your direction to reach your goal but do not change your decision to get there.

If you can wave a magic wand – what would you wish for yourself and your business?

To be running a successful and sustainable fashion business with a great team.

If you weren’t doing Ethical Kind – what would you be doing?

That’s a tricky one; I’ll probably be running a wellness retreat overseas.

What does success mean for you?

Fulfilling your dreams and desires and doing what makes you happy.

Based on your experiences to date – what would you do differently if you were to start all over again?

Connect me with the right people and find the right coach and business mentor that has been there before you.

______

To view and shop the collection head over to Ethical Kind website.

Become a Fashion Insider

Launch grow scale fashion business fashion insiders

Join thousands of other fashionpreneurs and get excited about your inbox again!

Powered by ConvertKit

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here