There are online marketplaces for luxury brands, second-hand fashion and street wear. Why not for sustainable style? So wondered Agatha Lintott from her remote farmhouse nestled in the green rolling hills of the South Devon countryside in England.
Lintott, a former teenage model and previously a womenswear buyer for Tom Ford and Burberry left Burberry in 2014 to start a new life far from London with her boyfriend, Ben Howard, an award-winning, folk-influenced English musician.
“I felt quite disillusioned by all I had seen in my years in the business,” said Lintott, clad in a black T-shirt and black flared hemp pants, long brown hair falling down her back, over a recent lunch of grilled haddock and squid. “I realised that I didn’t know of anywhere on or offline that really inspired me to shop ethically or that offered me a range of items that I could feel proud about buying.”
So, from her kitchen table and with a full-time team of just three employees based across Milan, Devon and London, she decided to do it herself. She envisioned, she said, “a hub for earth- and human-friendly fashion across both vintage and new labels, that would also debunk this lingering idea that sustainable fashion was unglamorous.”
In April of this year, Antibad went live.
“Anti. Bad. It aims to do exactly what it says on the tin,” Lintott said.
The site is an online forum for more than 25 independent contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories vendors, including established Americanbrands like Mara Hoffman, Samantha Pleet and Clan of Cro. There are less well known brands, too: Mud Jeans, a Dutch recycled denim brand; Bower, a recycled fishing net swim brand; and the vegan footwear brand Ethletic.
Antibad is effectively vying to be the Net-a-Porter of green style. Prices start at about 25 pounds (Dh91.81), and each product comes with a “Why It’s Good” tab listing certain vital statistics: whether it has been made by an artisan, for example, or is a fair-trade product, and if the garment is more than 95 per cent organic, vegan, or made using upcycled fabric.
The site also has some specific challenges because of its mission.
“I spend a lot of time evaluating whether a brand ticks enough of the boxes needed for us to stock them,” Lintott said. She delves into the size and location of factories, whether manufacturing is outsourced or fully owned, the use of dyes and synthetics in production, transparency of supply chain and a company’s long-term intentions.
Although plenty of labels work aesthetically for Antibad, and nearly fit the bill in terms of sustainability on the surface, many don’t make the cut. One big issue, according to Lintott, is that some brands make part of their collection using reclaimed materials but use synthetics for other parts.
“‘Sustainability’ is obviously a word that is being thrown around a lot, and it is impossible to be all things to all people,” she said. “But for me a sustainable fashion company is one that is mindful and considerate of the people and planet. That is engaged with how it can support local economies and uses materials that are either biodegradable or recyclable.”
Admittedly, a growing e-commerce company, dependent on multiple repeat purchases and fast cross-continental deliveries, is not itself exactly environment friendly. So Lintott has done her best to offset the worst.
She uses only recycled packaging, works with a carbon-offset company to neutralise shipping emissions through donations to emission reduction projects, and uses a carbon-neutral server to host the Antibad website.
“It wasn’t actually that difficult to find — our server is in Ireland — but it certainly wasn’t a request our web developers had ever heard before,” she said with a grin. “That said, they all firmly agree that it works just as well as any other server. I think they have been converted.”
Unlike a marketplace e-commerce model like Farfetch, where the site works as a storefront for brands but never holds inventory, Antibad only buys wholesale. It also never places items on sale.
“Promotional sales are a big no for us, as a price should be fair and representative of the work that has gone into it — though of course that means a greater degree of risk for us at a time when newness drives the global fashion business,” Lintott said. Then again, more than half of the brands stocked do not follow traditional fashion cycles, which limits exposure to the inventory going out of season.
So far, the reaction has been very strong, Lintott said, though she wouldn’t release sales figures. She is expecting a good holiday season.
Investing in these brands, she said, feels “like we are putting our money — and that of customers — in the right hands,” noting that at this time of year, it’s especially important to examine our relationship with consumption.
“No one can offer a perfect solution to everything wrong with the fashion system,” she said. “But we can offer more choice to curious shoppers. And that’s a step in the right direction.”