Vanessa Inniss-Palmer, founder and creator of Raw Apparel, speaks about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, sustainable fashion, starting her own business and living an ethical life. Interviewing people with the same aligning views as my own is so inspiring and I hope this interview inspires other people the consider live more consciously.
Business Name: Raw Apparel.
Personal Name: Vanessa Inniss-Palmer
Job Title: Founder and Creator
- Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your brand and the products that you sell.
Raw Apparel is a clothing website centred around vegan, ethical and sustainable fashion. We sell both t-shirts and sweatshirts and will be moving into more clothing soon! I’m Vanessa, I’m 22 and I run Raw Apparel from home. Since going vegan I always found that finding clothing that fit my values was really difficult, so after I graduated University I decided to start my own clothing brand and website to make it super easy to shop for stylish clothing that you know is also ethically made, contains no animal products and does minimal harm to the environment.
- So what does sustainable fashion mean to you?
Sustainable fashion to me means that I’ve caused the least amount of harm possible when buying a piece of clothing. This encompasses not only the environment but also animals and people as well. I believe that sustainable fashion is made from materials that work with the environment instead of against it. There are so many plant-based materials out there that are far more superior to animal skins such as pineapple or mushroom leather and cotton and all of these don’t need the harsh chemicals used in the preservation of skins. Sustainable fashion also means that it is produced ethically, in great working conditions by people receiving a fair wage. I don’t think the word sustainable just applies to the environment but also to humans, and for fashion to be sustainable it should respect the people who make it too.
- What led you to focus on environmentally sustainable and ethically made products in particular? And what makes your products ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly?
After transitioning to a vegan diet, I realised that just shifting my diet wasn’t enough and that I wanted all of my belongings to reflect my values and to not contain animal products. So I started to research more about vegan clothing and this led me into the environmentally sustainable and ethically made space. I became really passionate about the subject and realised that slow/sustainable fashion is so important in the conservation of the planet- but it was just so hard to shop for! This led me to create my own clothing that reflected these values and to in the future create a shopping experience where you don’t have to scrutinise every piece of clothing for it’s sustainable credentials, but to be able to shop freely and trust that all the clothing comes from a fair and sustainable place. At the moment our t-shirts and sweatshirts are made from between 85 to 100% organic cotton, they are accredited by the Fair Wear Foundation meaning that they are made sweatshop free and with fairly paid employees, are PETA-Approved Vegan, and are offset for carbon emissions. Also all of our packaging is also made out of recycled materials and is 100% recyclable!
- What is the meaning and ethos behind your brand?
Raw Apparel literally means raw fashion. Fashion straight from the source, as unprocessed and natural as we can get it! This means that in all of our clothing the environment, animals and workers are at the forefront of our decisions.
- What is your best advice for other people wanting to get started and create a sustainable business of their own?
My advice would be to really do your research. If you want to advertise and genuinely run as a sustainable business you have to ensure that your entire supply chain has been vetted to fit the values and credentials that you set in place.
- What inspired you to start your own business?
Even when I was really young I’ve always loved the idea of creating something new and different in this world, that is truly of value to other people. And so when I graduated university I thought it was the perfect time to get something up and running and to solve a problem that not only I had, but also a lot of others struggle with too. Also the opportunity to create a movement and to inspire people into considering the vegan lifestyle motivated me as well and ultimately pushed me into starting the business.
- What challenges have you faced so far within your business, if any? And what would you say is your biggest achievement?
I’d say our biggest achievement has been to keep going with the business through the challenging times. We have hit amazing milestones in sales and social media followers but our ability to have kept going for over a year now I feel is our biggest achievement. There really have been several challenges that we’ve faced and I think this is completely normal when starting a business, such as cash flow issues, huge delays with suppliers and mistakes made in the making of the clothes, but we’ve adapted to all of these and have always done our best to overcome them.
- In what ways do you live your life in a sustainable and eco-friendly way? And what does sustainable living mean to you?
To me sustainable living is to cause as little harm to animals and humans and detriment to the environment as possible. In my own life I follow a vegan diet, which I believe is essential in sustainable and eco-friendly living. All of my toiletries, beauty products and home cleaning products, such as laundry detergent, are also all vegan and made from natural and non-harmful or chemical ingredients. We recycle 80% of our rubbish and are working towards significantly reducing our waste. There are many ways that we try to live more sustainably and we are working more and more to implement new practices everyday.
- For people wanting to move towards a more ethical and conscious way of living but are feeling overwhelmed, what would be your best advice?
I would say to start slowly! There have been so many occasions that I rushed the process and ended up going back to purchase the old product! For example a couple of years ago I thought it would be a great idea to just throw away all of my old beauty products and replace them in one fail swoop. This not only caused havoc on my bank balance but on my mind too as I suddenly felt deprived and hadn’t even found suitable natural alternatives yet! Seriously go slowly! When something runs out then go out and find an eco alternative. This also applies to all things and not just beauty products, such as clothing, cleaning products etc.
- What are your favourite eco-friendly and sustainable fashion brands? Or favourite brands in general?
I love so many and there are really great brands out there now that I would recommend having a look at when following a sustainable lifestyle. My favourite for handbags is Alexandra K. She is a Polish designer and her bags are to die for! Everything is vegan and she’s just brought out a new sustainable bag made out of pineapple leather! I also really like Wills Vegan Shoes and Matt and Nat – they both make awesome trainers! In terms of clothing I of course love my own brand but also so many others like Conscious Tee and People Tree.
- I am aware that you are vegan, and I was wondering what inspired you to make the transition into veganism?
I initially transitioned into eating a vegan diet for health reasons as I was suddenly exposed to a lot of information about how the consumption of animal products is really dangerous for human health. From there I began to educate myself through watching documentaries such as Earthlings and Cowspiracy and reading books, on the more animal and environmental side of meat consumption. I realised that I no longer wanted at all to be a part of that industry and I was and still am shocked at what I learnt during this time.
- What are the main benefits that you have found from living this way?
I’ve experienced so many benefits I can’t even state all of them! Just in terms of my own health the benefits have been incredible! I have so much energy, I lost weight effortlessly, my eyes are clearer and brighter, and I no longer suffer with the digestive issues that I used to. I also enjoy life more, I’m more positive and peaceful and creative too. It really has changed my life and I would encourage everyone to try the lifestyle especially if you feel you’re in a bit of a rut with your health. I said I’d try it for ten days and nearly three years later I’m still vegan and have absolutely no intention of going back!
- What is your best advice for anyone wanting to become vegan that doesn’t know where to start?
I would watch and watch as many documentaries and YouTube videos on the subject as possible! Especially now there is so much information and advice out there to help you through any doubt, question or symptom that you’re experiencing. If you don’t know what to eat there are hundreds if not thousands of ‘Vegan What I Eat In A Day’ videos on YouTube, so definitely start there!
- Do you believe that everyone can adapt to a conscious lifestyle and live more ethically?
Yes I completely believe that we all, especially in the Western world, have the opportunity to live more consciously and sustainably. If we all take small but consistent steps in the changing of our detrimental habits I know we can all adapt. I think the problems come when we try to force change in our own lives or in the lives of others, as this usually backfires! So I think the trick is that everyday to make sure as much as possible that we are doing better than we did the day before. Also I think that education is so important too, so that we never lose our focus as to why we’re making these changes, but also to spread the message further and to stop the ignorance over issues such as animal welfare and human rights.
Quick Fire Questions:
- 3 office essentials? Laptop, IPhone, Wunderlist app (cheat one sorry! But it’s literally my life!)
- Describe your personal style in 3 words. Minimal, Urban, Polished
- What is your favourite go-to outfit? T-Shirt, Trainers, Ripped Jeans, Faux-leather jacket, Sunglasses
Shop Raw Apparel: http://rawapparel.co/
Follow on Instagram: @rawapparelco