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Rapanui: A Clothing Company That Embodies Sustainability

August 12, 2015 | By Haley Hansel

Rapanui crop

In our consumer-driven era, fashion has not evaded the trance of the modern world. There are constant pushes towards new trends and an unexamined “need” to update our wardrobe. And this clothing comes at a price to the environment.

Clothing requires the farming of materials, factories to process them and create a complete product, and transportation to ultimately get it into your closet.

We live in a world where we have a need for clothing for protection and warmth, but knowing what goes into the production of our clothes can inspire us to search for low-impact solutions.

A simple way to mitigate the environmental impacts of the fashion industry is to avoid buying new clothes, and instead try mending damaged items, trading, or buying used clothes. But when you really need to purchase a new item for your wardrobe, there are companies that strive to produce sustainable clothing options.

Introducing Rapanui

Rapanui is a UK-based clothing company that is built on sustainability. The eco-fashion brand, which is committed to circular sustainability, launched in 2009 with the vision of environmental consciousness.

At its origin, co-founders Rob and Mart hoped that what they learned through school about sustainability could allow Rapanui to become a source of environmental inspiration on all fronts.

“I think at the time [the inspiration] came from both of us spending a lot of time learning about sustainability and the environment – and a lot of that came through the content of Mart’s course,” co-founder Rob Drake-Knight said. “… We decided that there was a lot about sustainability that people didn’t know and we wanted to do something to affect it.

“We used the idea of fashion as a medium because it gets people emotionally inspired and we hoped we could us it to get people to change other parts of their life.”

Sustainability You Can See

Rapanui products are made with organic or recycled materials, low-waste printing technologies, and produced in wind-powered factories. They’re also committed to the transparency and traceability of all their products.

For each product sold by Rapanui you can study a detailed account of the supply chain to find out where the item was made, who made it, and how it got to Rapanui.

This traceability has become a pillar of the company.

“I think that it’s respect to be honest. I think it’s important for us to be open and honest about what [our customers] are buying and where it comes from,” Rob said. “Having respect for the intelligence of our customers is important and this allows them to vote with their purse to support the supply chain that they agree with.”

The clothing company has also created a labeling system to evaluate the sustainability and traceability of their products. Since the implementation of that system they’ve found that customers are willing to buy more expensive and highly rated products in lieu of less expensive and lower rated ones, which speaks again to consumer priorities when they are given full transparency.

Keeping Rapanui Out of Landfills

The average U.S. citizen throws away about 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. And the habit to dispose of clothes once we are done with them is a global issue.

In order to embrace truly circular sustainability, Rapanui has created a store credit program that allows customers to return any of their used Rapanui products for store credit.

“We thought about what happens to these products when they are finished up,” Rob said. “We didn’t want them to get to landfill – that was one of the reasons [for creating the program]. The second reason was marketing as well. When people return their T-shirts we still make a margin and it helps us to reactivate customers.

“If those garments can be reused or go back into the textile industry that’s great.”

Can Rapanui Be Replicated?

Rob and Mart had the foresight to create a business that revolves around sustainability, but that doesn’t mean that established brands can’t follow their lead.

“It takes longer for [established brands] to change to a more sustainable one,” Rob agreed. “But the main argument that I would have for sustainability in our experience is that it has actually saved us money and increased our turnover. Economics and sustainability don’t have to be opposing forces. They work for each other.

“I absolutely think that there are elements of our business, if not all, that could be used by mainstream businesses.”

New Rapanui Projects

If you’re interested in the work that Rapanui is doing, find out about the new projects that they are implementing:

Have a Positive Effect on our World

Although the negative decisions we make affect us all, so do the positive ones. Companies like Rapanui are making it simpler for customers to make informed, environmentally conscious decisions. And one positive decision has the capacity to inspire another. The more we can inform ourselves, the further our reach can be.

Our Up to Us engagement pathway is a series of workshops, courses and opportunities designed to inspire you to take action necessary to create a better world. Learn more about our complete vision for an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on our planet.

Find out how you can take the next step to inspire change for our planet.

Explore the Up to Us engagement pathway

Photo provided by Rapanui.

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