A designer and entrepreneur who has helped some of the hottest fast fashion brands gain exposure revealed how she used lessons from the industry to start her own sustainable slow fashion business.
Born in Manchester, Danielle King is now the head of her own business KIHT Collective, an ethical sportswear company.
Danielle, 35, from Sale, has held a variety of senior design roles for fashion giants including PrettyLittleThing, Missguided and Bon Marche.
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She said: My background has allowed me to see a cross section of the industry.
I have worked in the manufacturing sector, with e-merchants and retailers.
Back then, it was so exciting to be a part of fast fashion. It was really cool and we were breaking all the rules and changing the retail model.
Switching to PrettyLittleThing from Missguided in 2015, Danielle helped the now Boohoo-owned business in its rapid expansion, becoming one of the fastest growing fashion retailers in the world.
It was a really fun and crazy time, crazy as a business to be a part of because things were going to change week by week.
But she said the industry has never really been content with her, adding: I’ve been around the world with it, which has been an amazing experience, but I think just seeing the processes and what’s going on behind the scenes – there’s always been that negation. “
The fast fashion industry has been the subject of controversy over the past 12 months, not least due to the scandal over the working conditions of Boohoo’s suppliers in factories. It has also faced major concerns about its durability for years.
Danielle said: I think as I grew up in the industry and started to see the detriment of what fast fashion was doing, it became clear that I wanted to go and do something else.
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It is difficult. You didn’t realize it at the time, because you’re just part of this wave, but seeing the negative impact of it, I realized that it really needs to change and that our state of minds regarding clothing also had to change.
She started researching other sustainable models from fashion companies and said: I noticed it was so expensive, it was almost slightly elitist, and I just thought that for it to work, it it had to be accessible, so I decided to give it away on its own.
I felt like I had enough experience and understanding of the industry to take a chance. It was a little light bulb moment, really.
Launched a year ago, Danielle describes her business KIHT Collective as a slow fashion, sustainable and affordable sportswear brand – proud to make products that customers will wear regularly, not just when they hit the gym. sport.
She said: The business basically brought together all of my passions.
I wanted to see the change, and at the same time, I have always been very interested in health and fitness, especially from a wellness perspective.
Now more than ever in the wake of this pandemic, the mental health problem is huge, as is obesity.
So it was very important to show people how to lead a more balanced lifestyle – a holistic approach to health and fitness – was really important.
It is sportswear. So it’s performance based, but it’s about being fit for life – for whatever you want to do.
Unlike the lion’s share of fashion companies that manufacture in China, KIHT products are made in Portugal in carefully selected factories.
She said all packaging is environmentally friendly, made from recycled materials or can be recycled. The company also buys all of its factory seconds – items that failed the quality control process but are still portable – and donates them to charity. He also works with the TreeSisters charity to plant a tree for every KIHT purchase.
Danielle, who sells most products online and at pop-up events, said she had hoped to launch the brand sooner – but was hit by the early impact of the pandemic.
She said: The factories have closed, the world has closed, so I jumped in just as we were starting to come out of lockdown.
I just wanted to spread awareness of the brand – it was a now or never scenario.
I feel really lucky that as a sportswear brand, when the gyms were closed for most of the year, we were very successful.
In terms of the future, she wants to develop KIHT as a full-fledged lifestyle brand, adding: My ultimate goal is to be a leader in companies that essentially do more good than harm.
It’s not about being perfect, it’s just about building on what we have and keeping improving. These are my goals and at the same time I call the company a collective because I want it to be a group that brings people together.
I want to be guided by what my collective wants.
She is confident about the future of her business – and has said the invaluable lessons in fast fashion help her in slow fashion ”.
She said: One lesson I’ve learned – and it plays really well in sustainability – is that there are no rules – it’s incredibly flexible.
I think a lot of fat [traditional] retailers are struggling because they built big, complicated and slow building blocks, and I would say that with fast fashion the amazing thing about the way the business is built is that it is so flexible .
I think I really took that into my business. There are obviously things you need to do in a business every step of the way, and it was exactly the same. When I was working on building to help us be faster, I would look at every aspect of the business and ask myself ‘what could we do differently?
For fast fashion do we need this process, if we take it out will it make us faster? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this? ‘
I think I took the same in building a sustainable model – looking at every aspect and wondering if I should do it, questioning everything.
Danielle is convinced that the shift in sustainable fashion is starting to accelerate, adding: It’s about continuing to educate and continuing to really push it.
“Change takes time, and it’s difficult.
It’s not about trying to be perfect. It’s just about being honest about where you are and where you’re going, and being as open and authentic as possible with what you do.
I don’t think we have a lot of choice [to shift to sustainable].
But I think it’s a two-pronged thing. We have to work to become more sustainable, but I also think we have to work to educate a shift in mindset in the way people think about fashion.
Years ago I spoke to older designers who told me they would design something and it would be in front of the store for weeks. There would be less, but larger quantities because it would be say the jersey of the season.
While I think what has changed online is that it’s just about bringing something new every day, rather than for the season.
So it’s about changing people’s mindsets by thinking more about trends rather than fashion.
This week, the firm launched a new Birthday Essentials line to celebrate one year since its launch.
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