Change is coming

Winner of the Spotted Award at Top Drawer, Be For Change is a sustainable accessories brand looking to fundamentally change the landscape of eco-fashion. Here founder Ana Carneiro tells us more...

Change is coming: Image 1 Tell me a bit about how the company started.
Throughout my design studies I was always interested in consumption patterns and when I graduated, I was very waryof joining companies designing products that were wasteful, made from unsustainable materials or manufactured in unethical factories. So when in 2015 the 5p levy on plastic bags went into effect it planted a seed in my mind about reusables and how I could make a difference through products.That's how the idea of Be For Change came about – to explore how products can have a positive impact in the world instead of being a source of destruction!

How were the initial products developed, and what wasthe response?
The first products were two different colourways of our fabric tote bags, the Bags for Change, and the initial response was really good. I started by selling at a market stall and people were really impressed by the quality of the bags, which was a very encouraging start and helped me get over how slow sales were at some points.I also sent a few bags out to ethical bloggers at the time and got incredible feedback from them, which made it much easier to start selling online.

Why did you decide to create a sustainable,eco-conscious range?
As I started out with the idea to be sustainable, the challenge for me was how to grow my offerings while staying true to what my audience liked about Be For Change. In the end I decided that I didn't want to be in competition with the many brands that were popping up and launching their own tote bags and produce bags, made to a lesser standard of quality and sold for cheaper. I decided to explore what would give me the most joy to make, and arrived at my current collection!

What sets you apart from your competitors?
The quality of our products and our approach to sustainability.Be For Change products really are made to last, which is why Iam happy to offer free repairs and a take back scheme at end of life. The quality is down to our sourcing of high-quality materials and investing in great manufacturing. For example, some of our Bags for Change have been made from jacquard fabrics that would usually have been reserved for high-fashion due to the cost of the material. During production, the patterns are matched along the seams, and all seams are covered with fabric tape that really adds to how resistant the bags are.
I would also say that our approach to sustainability is very different from most brands, as with Be For Change I've really tried to take a holistic approach to sustainability. It's not just the base materials that are sustainable, it's also the companies we partner with and how we manufacture. Our suppliers of off-cuts have great eco credentials too and are genuinely interested in supporting this business. We manufacture in small batches or made to order, partnering only with ethical manufacturers, like the social enterprise Juta Shoes. Pretty much all of the materials we use in our operations are upcycled or recycled, and all of our products ship plastic-free.
I know of only a handful of companies who can claim to be sustainable at this level, and you can't find this level of care on the high street.

How would you describe your current collection?
My current collection is mostly focussed on upcycled leather and is an ode to modern craft. I have tried to create designs that stand proud of our times: like the baskets which display details of being previously stamp-cut for upholstering, or the bags which are lasercut and then woven. Leather as a material has been around for thousands of years, but you wouldn't be able to craft these products in the same way even a hundred years ago. This is the aesthetic that I want to explore with Be For Change.

How often do you launch new lines and what are your best- selling designs?
My best-selling designs are the Wonky Leather Baskets and my original line of totes, the Bags for Change.

What are your future plans for the business?
I want to continue growing our Upcycled Leather Goods collection and grow our market within accessories and homewares. I then want to explore other waste materials of equal level of quality that are going to landfill and launch more collections that complement each other. Let's just say, it's going to be a couple of busy years ahead!


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