In conversation with female founders and designers of ethical clothing label The Endery
Discover more about the emerging ethical label The Endery in an exclusive Q&A with the label’s founders Ellen Saville and Kelly Phenicie.
RGDC: Can you tell us a bit about The Endery’s beginnings and why you decided to launch the brand.
ELLEN & KELLY: The Endery really began through our joint work on the manufacturing side in Peru. We always seemed to encounter leftover materials. Despite best intentions, it just kind of happens, and the more that a factory manufactures, the more leftovers there seem to be. Having a passion for knitting and sustainability, and being so close to the issue, we really felt like this was something we had to do. We already had the know-how and the relationships here in Peru to make it happen, as well as working knowledge of how to run a brand. We feel really motivated by the opportunity to take a bet on something that big retailers aren’t: pitching a certain level of variety to consumers if it means less waste. If we can prove that people are ready for this, hopefully together we can cause a really big shift in the way that corporate fashion manufactures clothing, reducing their waste or starting to incorporate “waste” into the manufacturing process.
RGDC: Why knitwear?
ELLEN & KELLY: We started with knitwear because it’s what we know best! We also love the artisans here in Peru, work closely with them (Kelly lives in Peru) and the quality here is phenomenal.
RGDC: What were you inspired by when designing the pieces?
ELLEN & KELLY: Colour is a really big factor. First off, so many sustainable brands focus on neutrals colour ways, there is so much value in using neutrals to create really timeless pieces and combat fast fashion. But we wanted to offer something different. We also had to had an abundance of various colour ways leftovers. So finding creative ways to mix those in an engaging and timeless way has been a really beautiful challenge.
RGDC: What does sustainability mean to you and how do you approach this through the brand?
ELLEN & KELLY: Sustainability is a journey. It’s impossible to do everything perfectly, but it’s also unacceptable to do just one little thing and call it ‘sustainable’. That’s obviously misleading. Sustainability for us means doing as much as we have access to, which right now is respecting fair trade principles with our suppliers (especially regarding wages and conditions), knitting manually, reusing existing materials to reduce environmental impact and reduce waste, promoting sustainable fibers (alpaca is amazing!) and trying to educate on these fronts. We are constantly looking for ways to improve, and also to be as authentic and honest with our community as possible. One of the most powerful ways to promote sustainability is empowering consumers to make responsible choices and we can only do that by giving them good information.
RGDC: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in business?
ELLEN & KELLY: Business teaches you so much. One great lesson has been how much value there is to exploring what other people won’t. A lot of people will gravitate to what’s “safe”, but there is so much value to exploring what others won’t. You always have to put in the work, there are always risks. So why not push the edges of current norms to create something better?
Also, mental health is so important. Business requires you to really learn how to handle the everyday stress of risk, responsibility and uncertainty, and if you can master that and learn to enjoy it, it can massively increase your quality of life on all fronts.
RGDC: What have been some of the challenges creating sustainable knitwear?
ELLEN & KELLY: One big challenge is price. We don’t want sustainable fashion to be classist, but it‘s hard to create responsible garments that are accessible. Ultimately we as consumers need to buy less and be willing to pay more per item, but we don’t want sustainability to be or feel exclusive. So finding that sweet spot that respects everyone in the chain can be tough.
RGDC: Finally, what is next for The Endery?
ELLEN & KELLY: We are really excited to explore new materials and also start collaborating with suppliers down in Peru. We’re also excited to collaborate with other sustainable brands. We fully believe that taking care of the earth and making a positive impact is teamwork. We are stronger and our impact is greater when we work together.