Clothing

Slow Fashion by Baukjen: An eco-friendly, stylish clothing brand

We all know that buying less and repairing more is the most sustainable way to be when it comes to clothing.

But if you’re into fashion, slow is best. When buying new, it’s good to support businesses that take genuine and significant action to minimise their impact. Not token steps to bang the green drum to be seen to be “doing the right thing”. There’s lots of greenwashing in this space.

So, today I want to share details of a clothing brand that’s making a positive difference: Baukjen.

A slow fashion trailblazer

Pronounced “bow-ki-eun”, this brand has been around since 2003. Together with sister brand, Isabella Oliver, it’s part of family-run business: House of Baukjen.  

Eco-mums may know that Isabella Oliver sells only maternity wear. I’ve heard good things. Even of groups of friends sharing its clothing for their pregnancies. Maternity-share! Maybe that’s already a common thing?

Now, although I consumed my body weight in chocolate over Christmas and lockdown to me also means chowdown, I’ve not resorted to maternity wear yet. So this post focusses on Baukjen. But many of the eco-credentials I mention apply to Isabella Oliver too.

Tell me more

Baukjen makes high quality clothing that is designed to last for ages. It’s one of a growing number of certified B Corps who comply with rigorous criteria to improve and sustain their social and environmental performance.

Some fabric facts:

  • 83% of Baukjen’s entire collection is made from sustainable fabrics.
  • It’s continuing to reduce use of synthetic fabrics and materials. Currently, just over 5% of its collection contains synthetic fibres.
  • Where synthetics are used, they’re made of (i) ECONYL which is recycled nylon or polyamide made from discarded plastic ocean waste (such as fishing nets) or (ii) NewLife, a polyester yarn made from reclaimed plastic bottles.
  • Almost 70% of of Baukjen’s viscose garments have been replaced by an eco-friendly, biodegradable jersey material called ECOVERO. This material creates 50% less emissions and uses half the amount of water required for viscose.
  • Any viscose used by Baukjen is sourced only from sustainably managed and certified forests.

For more details about the fabrics used by Baukjen and how these are sourced, see here.

Positive change beyond fabrics

As of 2020, Baukjen has been carbon negative across its entire supply chain. This is a step up from being carbon neutral as it removes additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Did you know that fashion is one of the biggest culprits for water waste? According to the UN and a report by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the fashion industry produces at least 1/5 of global wastewater.

Unsurprisingly, dyeing in the fashion industry also causes severe pollution. Multi-coloured rivers are having a devastating effect on human health and wildlife. This recent article by CNN, although upsetting, is worth reading for a detailed account of the impacts.

Baukjen has reduced water usage by 38% in the past year. And all its supplier factories follow a code of conduct to avoid water pollution/hazardous waste production or disposal.

Unlike so many clothing brands, Baukjen is transparent about where its clothes are made. It uses 23 factories: 16 in Portugal, 3 in Romania, and 1 factory in each of China, Bulgaria, Peru and England. For more details, see here.

Baukjen donates 10% of its profits each year to charity. It’s also one of few fashion brands to work with key sustainability global initiatives such as The Fashion Pact, the UN Fashion Charter, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Science-Based Targets for Nature.

If you want to learn more about Baukjen’s impacts and all it is doing for the planet and society, check out its Q4 2020 Impact Report.

What are the clothes like?

Baukjen only makes clothes for women. No mens or kidswear and, as far as I know, no plans for that.

You only have to glance at the pictures online to see that the collections are stylish and full of timeless classics. Lots of investment pieces. A nice mix of neutrals and colours. As well as interesting styles and prints that you could easily dress up or down.

Baukjen’s range is great for workwear, if you do a desk job or other job where you need to dress smart or smart-casual. There are also lots of great everyday and weekend options and a specific Activewear range, made from ECONYL and ECOVERO, as mentioned above.

The clothes wash and wear very well. The ECOVERO fabric is really soft and drapey. The cotton is thick and high quality.

It’s worth knowing that sizes for Baukjen do come up a little large. If you’re short, like me (I’m 5ft), the dresses and skirts may be too long. I’d love to see a petite collection in future.

Aren’t they pricey?

At first glance you might think Baukjen’s clothes are too expensive. Tops and knitwear in the current collection range from £39 to £129 with (non-leather) bottoms from £39 to £99 and dresses from £95 to £149.

While the initial outlay for Baukjen clothing is higher than many high street brands, the pieces are timeless and so well made, you’ll get loads of mileage from them. So the cost-per-wear works out to be tiny.

It’s no surprise that fast-fashion has warped the landscape here. Dirt cheap clothes exist only because someone else had to pay an incredibly high price for their creation. It’s sad but true.

One thing to bear in mind on pricing is that Baukjen has the best seasonal sales. So if you see something you like in the latest collection, you could wait to grab a bargain. Baukjen also offers 15% off for new customers and free delivery and returns.

What about the packaging?

Baukjen’s main packaging is plastic-free and biodegradable – deliveries come in sturdy recyclable or compostable brown envelopes, with the clothing wrapped in white paper. No plastic bags in sight.

Impressively, Baukjen is also on target to eliminate plastic entirely from its supply chain by 2025.

End of life programme

Baukjen’s production line is fully circular.  It has never sent clothing to landfill or incineration. Unlike some other brands who shall remain nameless.

I have yet to part with any Baukjen clothes. If I ever do, I expect they’d be very welcome in any charity shop. You can also return old Baukjen clothing for mechanical recycling into new fibres for future collections. A great option if any become damaged beyond repair.

Rental option

Finally, how many times have you bought a “special” occasion dress to wear only a handful of times? Weddings, christenings, big birthday bashes etc….

I was excited to see that Baukjen has started up a rental service. At the moment there aren’t many things available on it but I have been eyeing up the Lorelle jumpsuit. This costs £29 for two weeks. You can arrange a one-month rental instead if you need a bit longer.

After the rental period expires, you return to Baukjen for free who will dry clean the item(s) for onward use. 

The upfront rental cost covers insurance for minor/wear and tear damage. Having read the terms, they seem reasonable and fair.

I can’t wait to have a go.

Have you tried Baukjen before? What do you think? Do you know of any other clothing brands doing great things in the sustainability space? If so, I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Baukjen, available online here

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