When it comes to the world of business, there are few sectors in which men do not dominate. Even in fashion, where the majority of the graft, from sewing machine to shop floor, is done by women, it is men who have sat at the top of the chain.
Yet, as the conversation around clothes became increasingly focussed on sustainability and ethics, men’s voices were initially pushed into a secondary position. No longer. Today, a surge of men’s brands are looking to make their voices heard in the sustainability movement, and their influence is more than welcome.
“When I started my business seven years ago, I would often go to sustainable fashion events and it was just me, or me and one other guy in the room,” smiles Jonathan Mitchell. “Yet I was always made to feel very welcome, and often had people tell me they wished they saw more men in attendance. Now that’s starting to happen.
“Back then, I really felt there was a need to do something to provide an option for men. Now, there are an increasing number of projects engaging men on where and how our clothes are made. There is a movement. And that’s great, because this change needs to be something we all stand together on.”
Mitchell’s business, Brothers We Stand, is, in essence, a men’s shopping platform. Where it stands out however, is not just in its curation of only ethical and sustainable brands, but in its push for transparency throughout the supply chain. Every item on the site comes with a full footprint, detailing everything from fabric sourcing to factory standards, making it far easier for customers to know the answer to those most crucial of questions: who made my clothes and how were they treated?
“I really want Brothers We Stand to be an educational platform, as much as it is a selling platform,” Mitchell muses. “I want it to be somewhere people can come and learn about the social and environmental impact of clothes, and then become more empowered to live more sustainably in relation to their clothes. That really excites me. I mean, we love clothes, but we live on a planet that needs looking after, and we need to look after each other.”
Bringing blokes on board
Softly spoken and thoughtful, Mitchell is the antithesis of the stereotypical fashion CEO – unsurprising when you consider his background. “I studied international development at university and it’s a really fascinating course. You get to look at countries around the world, both on big-scale economics, how do economies work, and also through smaller scale projects. It’s all about improving life for people.
“At the same time, I was always interested in business. At school, I used to sell sweets and fizzy drinks out of my locker, and I guess this was kind of an opportunity for me to do something with my passion for business. I love the creativity of curating the range, as well as bringing my concern for the world into it. I wanted to show that I could kind of bring those different interests together and do something that has a positive impact in the world.”
For Mitchell, the drive towards sustainability in menswear is less of a leap than some might suspect. The mindsets inherent to conscious consumerism, he says, have long been present within in the men’s fashion sector.
“I think perhaps, as men, we’ve not grown up with that highly-consumerist message thrust upon us so much, in the way I feel that perhaps society has on women. That kind of expectation that you always need to look a certain way, or be wearing something new, we’ve been freer in that regard, fortunate to have perhaps had less of that pressure.
“And so, in a way, some of these concepts around sustainable style are not totally new to guys. I think buying less and better have always perhaps been part of how a lot of guys experience fashion, and quality and longevity are values that are deeply rooted in the men’s style community. But just because you’re investing a bit more doesn’t always mean the ethics are there, and when you dig and you see what some of these brands that people are buying and the stories behind their supply chains, bad practice is just as prevalent in the men’s space. And there is injustice, and there’s environmental degradation, and this is what we need to fight against.
“Women like Safia Minney, Orsola de Castro, Tamsin Lejeune and Eileen Fisher have often led the way in sustainable fashion, but men like Yvoun Charinourd, Bruno Pieters and Christopher Raeburn have made vital contributions to the movement too. Addressing these issues is something that we all, as humans, need to be doing. We all need to join together in trying to reimagine a fashion industry that is as we would like it to be.”
A new way
While Mitchell’s business is very much in selling style, his own approach to consumerism is refreshing. “I’ve been reading about people spending more than they have, getting into debt this year stuck at home, and that really kind of broke my heart a little bit.
“In a way, it doesn’t make me feel good to think that people might be spending like that on Brothers We Stand. I mean, that’s not really something I want to encourage. I really want us to be a place where people shop mindfully and only buy stuff that is going to make their life better in a genuine way. That they really like, and that they’re going to really value.
“In the last few years, more and more menswear brands have launched with a strong sustainable focus, and I really feel encouraged that men are increasingly now being engaged and are engaging with who made their clothes and how. The growth we’ve experienced over the last few years shows this.
“But we’ve all been online more this year. We get marketing messages sent to us a lot, and we need to remember there are plenty of other things we can do to spark a bit of joy in this time.
“We do all still need to wear clothes, and when you need to buy, we’re here for you. Brothers We Stand is a platform that helps with this one small part of life, and I’ve got a really big vision for where that can go. But the rest of the time, get out there and skateboard, go to the park, listen to the birds singing. We need to enjoy the world around us to really understand the importance of looking after it.”
Find out more about Brothers We Stand, or shop the collection, here
Full Disclosure: Brothers We Stand were invited to feature in The Flock’s Conscious Christmas gift guide. Every brand contained within the guide was selected by The Flock and invited to feature on account of their sustainable, ethical and/or charitable credentials. The for-profit brands included each made a small payment to help fund the cost of researching and producing the guide. No affiliate links have been used, and The Flock will receive no income for any sales made as a result of inclusion.