Created by two friends chasing the modern-day entrepreneurial dream, AmaElla 100% ethically made organic cotton lingerie challenges the importance of sustainable practices in undergarment industry today. To keep our planet protected, GOTS-certified AmaElla produces locally in the UK and in Portugal, and uses only the finest organic cotton and premium trims for its dreamy lingerie sets and nightwear. Whilst the girl team partners up to never compromise on the aesthetics, offering the wearer great quality everyday comfort and a boost in confidence made to last.
By Hanna-Amanda Pant
Julie and Lara, setting up a business with a friend is usually considered a huge taboo and no-go. Especially in the creative industries. How did it work out for you? Did you come across some cliched creative clashes along the way?
It has been a bit of a learning curve and we have pivoted along the way. At the beginning, we did a lot of things together, because it took some time to learn how to work with each other. Each of us had to find our place within the company and establish what it is that we are best at. As with most things in life, you need to test and evaluate in order to learn what works and what doesn’t work. Now, I’m responsible for Marketing & Sales and Lara is in charge of Design & Production. It’s been a journey working together, but there is not one day where we regret partnering up.
At AmaElla, you're crafting chemical-free lingerie made from organic cotton. How did your personal journey into the green fashion industry begin and develop?
Both Lara and I have come from the corporate world. I was working in the fast-fashion industry and Lara in the Marketing direction of fast-moving goods companies. We were disappointed by the limitations of our positions, because we didn’t feel we truly understood enough of the process that happens behind the scenes. We were a small part of a huge machine and we wanted to know more. So one day, we were looking for everyday-wear organic cotton lingerie that was beautiful and made with great ethics. We were deeply frustrated, as we could only find sporty or dowdy cotton underwear. We asked ourselves, why was it not possible to find beautiful lingerie that is made of organic cotton? So, we decided to create AmaElla to respond to a growing demand for more sustainable and ethical products. AmaElla is aligned with our personal values and this adds meaning to our work.
If I let you compare your lingerie to fast-fashion lingerie out there in the marketplace. What are the differences between production and use of materials? What are the most common synthetic materials lingerie is made of and why should we avoid them?
Comparing fast-fashion industry lingerie with ours is like comparing day to night. There are clear and distinct differences. However, we must remember that fast-fashion brands usually lack transparency which stops us from truly understanding what goes on behind the scenes. Therefore, we prefer to refrain from discussing their production as nobody knows for certain.
What we know for sure is what we see and touch. Our lingerie is soft and silky, and the premium quality of the organic cotton becomes obvious right away. Fast-fashion lingerie mostly tend to be made from synthetic materials, such as nylon or polyester, and occasionally conventional cotton. Synthetic materials are derivatives from oil, created chemically. Conventional cotton is grown in lands that are highly treated with pesticides and fertilisers. These chemicals used to treat the conventional cotton (cotton uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides, on 2.5% of agricultural land, source: http://www.pan-uk.org) cause damage to farmers' health, the fertility of soil, biodiversity and ultimately your health, as you put the chemically treated garments on your skin. It is very important to look for natural fibres, such as wool, cotton, hemp and silk. Preferably, look for fibres that are also organic, as this means that there is extra care added to growing them, farming them and harvesting them.
"Lingerie is a fine and fragile way of self-expression."
What do you personally think about the importance of lingerie in women's wardrobe? In which ways can wearing quality lingerie enhance our best features and boost our confidence?
Lingerie is a fine and fragile way of self-expression. We believe that a lingerie should make women feel confident, comfortable and happy. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to feel beautiful in what you wear. When women choose to wear quality lingerie, made with natural materials, it can provide them with an extra boost, as they know that the lingerie they wear hasn’t damaged our environment.
According to latest statistics, how important is conscious consumer behaviour to women shopping for lingerie? Do you feel it's somewhat still undervalued?
Conscious consumer behaviour is complicated to measure, due to the subjectivity and variability of what is ‘conscious’. From researches we have reviewed, age makes a difference. Older women tend to be more aware of the aesthetics, comfort, practicalities of bra purchase, breast support and psychological aspects, whilst younger women in their 20s and 30s may focus less on those aspects and more on the price tag (source: Influential factors of bra purchasing in older women, by Emerald Group Publishing Limited).
But we also see a new generation called 'LOHAS' consumers (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability, source: Understanding the LOHAS Market Report, from Natural Marketing Institute) which goes beyond age criteria. We see a rise in lifestyle choices, such as zero-waste living, vegan, animal cruelty free, chemical free, sustainable, organic and more and as people strive to become eco-friendly. Thus, they will become more demanding of fast-fashion companies to slow down and to be more transparent.
Conscious consumer behaviour is difficult to encourage within lingerie shopping, because it is still undervalued. That’s not because people purposely don’t pay attention. It’s because they may not be exposed to enough information to understand what is a right and what is a wrong product. The fast-fashion model has encouraged a quantity ‘trend’ rather than a quality one.
"We asked ourselves, why was it not possible to find beautiful lingerie that is made of organic cotton? So, we decided to create AmaElla to respond to a growing demand for more sustainable and ethical products."
Personally, what could be some of the solutions to end this cycle of mindless fast-fashion consumption, and get people to pay more attention on quality rather than quantity?
Ending the fast-fashion cycle is a great challenge, as it has been spiraling out of control for a while now. We believe that in order to fix this issue we need to take small steps and work hard towards bringing the truth about fast-fashion into light. Raising awareness is where we are starting. As people understand more and more about the true cost and origins of cheap collections, changing every week in stores and ending in the landfill, they will be looking at alternatives.
The answer may be to pay more attention on quality rather than quantity. But it may also be to upcycle, recycle, buy second hand clothes, buy less or stop buying for a while.
You operate in both regions, UK and Portugal. Where does the production take place and where does all the business happen?
When we say that we operate in UK and Portugal, we are referring to the location of the factories where our clothing is made. Each factory is specialised in something different. The skills of the factories vary.
The production of our knickers take place in Vila Seca, Portugal. This factory is a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified factory which means that the whole chain of the production of knickers (including all the materials) are certified organic. GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. To gain such a highly renowned certification is rare and therefore, very valuable. We are very proud to be able to say that our knickers are GOTS certified.
The production of our nightwear and bras take place in London, UK. Our partner in UK is a non-profit social enterprise that acts as a centre of excellence for the textile industry. They provide training and development for unemployed women and are the UK’s largest provider of technical fashion apprenticeships. They are a great example of sustainable manufacturing and skilled workmanship. The ‘business’ (meaning design, marketing, finances, etc) takes place in Cambridge, UK. AmaElla’s small, but dedicated team works from an office where we make all the magic happen.
Should we definitely wear matching lingerie sets in hope for some romance?
Matching lingerie or not, what matters most is what makes them feel confident. We believe that the most attractive thing about women is when they feel comfortable, beautiful and confident.