Wearth is a UK-based online shopping platform encouraging shoppers to make more mindful, environmentally-friendly choices. Offering a wide range of contemporary, locally-made products, from beauty and jewellery to homeware and gifts, Wearth is here to make conscious shopping online ever more convenient and accessible, without compromising on quality and style. Imogen and Edward, the two Millennial founders, talk us through the platform, and their already accomplished milestones on advocating positive change in our consumption habits with Wearth.
Words: Hanna-Amanda Pant
What are some of the personal insights that led to launching the Wearth platform, an online shopping space catering for the conscious consumers?
A couple of years ago, myself and Imogen started to learn about the negative impact the retail industry was having on the environment. We then started to live more consciously and found it difficult to find brands that aligned with this. From looking around more on the web, we found some great independent sustainable and ethical UK brands out there. This is where the idea of Wearth came from, an online department store which brings these brands together, making it easier for people to find these brands. And in general, making it easier for people to shop in a more conscious way.
What do you collectively aim to change about the way we shop these days with the help of your platform?
Consumer research shows that people want to buy in a sustainable and responsible way, yet it is often difficult, as there is a lack of transparency in the retail industry. Plus, our busy lives don’t give us the time to really research and discover brands that are more conscious. This is what we want to help change. By bringing together brands that have a strong environmental and ethical values, consumers can shop easily, knowing that the products have been made in a fair way, which keeps their impact on the environment to a minimum.
Also, with Wearth, we want to change the perception of what it means to buy in an eco-friendly and ethical way. That is the reason we partnered with brands that demonstrate you don’t have to compromise on quality and style, and still be sustainable. Our main mission is to really bring shopping consciously into the 21s century.
What are your personal 'shopping philosophies' that guide you when making purchases?
One of our main philosophies is trying to shop more locally and supporting companies who make their products in the UK, keeping the carbon footprint lower and knowing that the supply chain is regulated and smaller. This runs through our own store, where around 90% of our products are made in the UK, and we love that we are able to support British makers. Another ethos we have is trying to keep the amount of plastic we consume to a minimum. It is difficult to avoid plastic completely, but we try to shop in a way which avoids single-use plastic. Imogen is vegan and I am vegetarian, so we shop in alignment with this and all our products on Wearth are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.
Would you say it continues to be a difficult mission to encourage people to be more mindful shoppers?
It is definitely challenging, but we think that people are increasingly becoming more conscious of the impact of their purchases. A good example is when Blue Planet II came out; this really highlighted the impact of plastic on our oceans, and it was great to see how people started to reduce the amount of plastic they use. Convenience is definitely key for encouraging people to be more mindful shoppers. This is why we felt there was a need for a platform like Wearth, where people can easily discover lots of different products across a range of departments, including natural beauty, jewellery, homewares, furniture and gifts.
"Convenience is definitely key for encouraging people to be more mindful shoppers."
Have you witnessed a sharp shift in consumerist behaviours lately? How change is evident now?
Yes, definitely, we believe that we are getting close to the tipping point in terms of people wanting to shop in a more conscious way. This is exemplified both, by the sharp rise in vegan lifestyles and also the zero waste movement, both clear signs that people feel empowered to make big changes in their lifestyle to live in a more sustainable and ethical way. The retail industry has also started to react to this, which shows the scale of growth and this has only been over the last year. To name a few, well-known companies, such as Pizza Express, are banning plastic straws after a young girl sent a letter explaining how bad they are for the environment and marine animals. Other companies, like Iceland supermarket, announced that they want to go plastic free.
I (Edward) also studied Geography at the University and, unfortunately, in the near future, we will also start to be increasingly affected by climate change. With this impact, even more people will realise we all have a role to play to try and reduce our impact on the environment and consumerist behaviours is one of many important elements within this.
You only work with brands that have some relevance to the valued slow, artisanal approach. How do you choose the brands to work with and represent on Wearth?
Before we launched Wearth, we spent around 6 months researching brands that align with our values, which were independent UK brands that make their products in a fair way, and kept their impact on the environment to a minimum. Once we have identified potential brands, we look at their website and social media to get an idea of their values, and then we get in contact with the brands.
We also have specific criteria for each of our departments. For example, our natural beauty department has products which are only made with skin-friendly natural ingredients in small batches in the UK, using cruelty-free and vegan-friendly ingredients. We also partner with beauty brands who use reusable glass or metal packaging. Whilst, for example, our homewares and furniture are all made in the UK, using either sustainably sourced or reclaimed materials.
Has there been more of a dialogue going on with the brands in terms of mission and expectations?
If the brands are interested in joining Wearth, we then send our handbook which goes through our mission, expectations, as well as our criteria, and we build a personal relationship with the brands to really understand their brand values and what their aims are, as well as discussing what we want to achieve as a platform. We see Wearth as a community, both for our brands to reach a larger audience, as well as our customers who can discover these great brands and more easily shop in a conscious way.
What are some of the most innovative new brands you are currently collaborating with?
We’re always on the lookout for brands which use innovation to reduce their impact. Natural dental hygiene brand, Georganics, is a good example of this. All of their toothpastes and mouthwashes are made in Sussex using natural ingredients. Their innovation is with their packaging, all of which is plastic free, including the seals wrapped around their jars which are made from biodegradable cellulose. In terms of ingredients, The Salt Parlour is an exciting new beauty brand who we just started working with. They are the world’s first salt and sulphur body scrub brand, which harnesses the natural and healing goodness of the sea. Vextile is another innovative brand we work with, they make cushions hand sewn in England with the woven fabric used for each contemporary cushion made from 78% recycled materials.
As shopping as an activity takes up such a big part of our leisure time, encouraging consumers to shop more consciously sometimes does feel challenging, to say the least. In your opinion, why should we put mindful consumption in the spotlight in 2018?
We think that mindful shopping is the future and should be in the spotlight in 2018, because not only does it benefit the environment but the society in general. Being a mindful consumer should not be a trend, it should be our day to day, what we consume and experience. Brands and companies need to set an example because more people are becoming their own activists in researching and understanding what they are consuming.
This is why believe so strongly in this platform because we are promoting not only conscious brands, but supporting independent brands that make their products in the UK, reducing the impact on the planet and helping boosts the UK economy. We need both consumers and retailers wanting to reduce their negative impact. I think we have already seen some progress, but as you say, it is a difficult mission, and a lot of progress still needs to be made.
"Being a mindful consumer should not be a trend, it should be our day to day, what we consume and experience."
As you have chosen to opt for only the web store concept, does this model bring any restrictions to your business, e.g. compared to having a boutique set up with select brands only?
Being online has its advantages and drawbacks. Unlike on the high street, where you have people walking past, in the online world you need to work harder to attract people to spend time on Wearth. However, we have to say that the response has been great and the biggest benefits of being online is that we can have lots of different departments and add products quite quickly making it easier to improve our range for our customers. In the future, once we are more established, we would definitely like to have a physical presence. This could be as popup stores and maybe even launch a physical store one day.
What are some of the positive changes you would like to work towards in the near future?
Of course, continuing to promote conscious living and growing the Wearth platform to reach a larger range of consumers in the UK. After four months of the launch of our company, we are really happy with how things have progressed so far, but there is still a lot of work to do.
We will continue to be on the lookout for more brands to partner with as well as expanding our departments. One of the area we see some opportunities is in the clothing industry and we are considering to include these items in the future. We would also eventually like to launch our own products in areas where we feel there is not a lot of sustainable and ethical alternatives out there at the moment. So there is lots of different things we’ll be working on in the coming months and years.