At Orchard Moon we create beautiful and bold sustainable luxury pyjamas and resort wear
Founder’s Piece – Gabrielle Cave – Orchard Moon
I studied Textiles at University and have always had a natural curiosity to understand the science which underlies everything. My interest in science led me to investigate the way fabrics are made and I discovered how polluting the industry is. The huge amount of waste and toxicity produced by the fashion and textiles industry is destroying the environment and our reliance on fast fashion is degrading the lives and health of the workers around the world.
After becoming a mother, I became a freelance textile surface pattern designer, working for studios in London and New York. Seeing my children grow up in this world I realised it is more important than ever to try and help protect the environment by rejecting fast fashion and poor-quality clothing made from synthetic oil-based materials.
I wanted to create a luxury brand which combines my love of pattern design and colour with my passion for sustainability, using vegan cellulose-based fibres to create clothing which feels amazing, looks amazing and is good for people and the planet. As a vegetarian and animal lover I realised that there are not any vegan alternatives to premium silk pyjamas available. About a trillion silkworms are killed every year to satisfy the worldwide demand for silk.
At Orchard Moon we create beautiful and bold sustainable luxury pyjamas and resort wear. Our pieces are made from the most luxuriously silky-smooth vegan plant-based fabrics which are completely cruelty free. We create versatile fashion, that can be worn from bed, to beach, to bar and beyond.
We firmly believe that sustainable fashion doesn’t need to be beige. Every piece is adorned with exclusive hand-painted prints inspired by nature and the world around us. Every single detail of our luxury pyjamas has come from sustainable sources, from our fabric made from sustainably managed forests, to our buttons made from corozo nuts, to our elastic made from natural rubber and our eco-friendly packaging.
Orchard Moon is a luxury brand which puts people and planet first. We champion innovative sustainable plant-based fabrics combined with superior craftsmanship, ethical production, timeless design, and beautiful handmade prints inspired by nature. We avoid single use plastic and any animal-based products and manufacture in small batches in ateliers based in Europe. We are thrilled to work with ‘On A Mission’ to support worldwide reforestation projects, making all of our garments carbon positive.
Business and Market Challenges
We started Orchard Moon with a clear set of values. We wanted to create beautiful and bold luxury sustainable fashion without compromising on ethics or quality. We were clear we didn’t want to source anything from the far east, sourcing every component from as close to us as possible. Setting up a supply chain without compromise is not easy, it has involved working very closely with suppliers to ensure the companies we work with have the same values as us. Throughout our journey we have constantly pushed ourselves to ensure every element we source is of the highest quality, and this has taken considerable time.
Greenwashing is a big problem in the fashion industry, especially with larger brands who view sustainability and ethics as more of a marketing tool rather than an intrinsic part of their product and supply chain.
I get angry when I see a large retailer purporting a product or range as sustainable because it contains ‘recycled polyester’ or synthetic fibres mixed with organic cotton, with no mention of fair wages and ethical treatment of garment workers. Sustainability and ethics go hand in hand; without guaranteeing workers’ rights to good conditions, a living wage and a toxin free environment, talking about sustainability for the fibres is still greenwashing.
In 2020, 57 million tonnes of polyester fibres were produced, which makes up 52% of all fibres produced globally. At the moment it is not possible to commercially separate and recycle blended fibres. Some of it is used for car insulation, but most of it gets thrown away.
The reality is that polyester, recycled or not is made from oil and releases tiny microplastics into the environment. It is estimated that a single garment can produce more than 1,900 fibres per wash in a domestic machine. Artificial fibres are in the air we breathe, it’s in our lungs, it’s in the water we drink, it’s at the bottom of the ocean, it’s everywhere. There are not enough plastic bottles in the world to fuel the global demand for ‘recycled polyester’. Inevitably, profiteers have come up with a solution to this supply chain issue: many plastic bottles are made then ground up before they ever find their way onto a supermarket shelf.
Over production is a huge challenge for the industry and the planet. An estimated 80 billion items of clothing are now produced each year, and still growing. There are 8 billion people on Earth. Much of this new clothing is never sold or worn. Man-made fabrics such as polyester and nylon can take up to 200 years to break down in landfill.
Clothing production accounts for an estimated 8-10% of the world’s carbon emissions each year, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Factories often dump chemicals into local waterways and rivers, polluting the water and leeching into the surrounding farmlands and communities. In places like Bangladesh and Indonesia which are known to be cheap fast-fashion manufacturing hubs, regulations and monitoring are lacking and the problem is particularly bad.
A huge challenge for the textiles and fashion industry is the lack of accurate data. Facts and figures are thrown around but there is very little hard data on the actual state of the industry and the real problems it causes, in terms of clothing usage and the toxicity to the environment. We know rivers are polluted, but we don’t know by how much; we know that the Atacama desert in Chile and parts
of West Africa are becoming a dumping ground for clothes but numbers and rate of growth are an estimate. There is no global perspective, only small studies done in certain areas, which get crunched and extrapolated by various agencies and bodies who lack transparency and have their own agendas. If we really want to make a difference to the world by making the fashion and textile industry more environmentally sustainable then governments and large brands need to come together to fund research and testing around to world to see where we are now so we can meaningfully benchmark our improvements.
We need to reframe the way we perceive and consume everything, including the things we wear. The fashion industry is in crisis. Fashion is cheaper than it has ever been. It has created misconceptions about how much value we place on the clothing we wear, and it has contributed enormously to the degradation of both the environment as well as fashion industry workers in all steps of the supply chain. There is a cost to consider which goes beyond the price.
Orchard Moon is a sustainable and ethical company that puts people and planet first. There are many small brands now that are making products that are ethical and kind to the planet, however one of the main challenges that companies like us face is cutting through the noise of larger brands that have huge marketing budgets. The more awareness customers have around sustainability and ethics the better, with this awareness people can tell the difference between greenwashing and genuine sustainability and choose to support small companies who are really trying to make a difference.
Business and Market Opportunities
A lot of people have been at home throughout the pandemic and have had more time to think about their consumption patterns. There are big shifts happening in peoples purchasing patterns and decisions. A recent Deloitte study has shown that in 2021 there was a 7% increase in people that are choosing brands that have ethical practices and values. 25% of people are actively reading care labels and want to know what their garments are made of.
Consumers increasingly want to know where materials come from, how products are made, and whether the people involved are treated fairly. In response, more and more companies are expanding their sustainable assortments and working to boost the sustainability of their supply chains. Consumers care where things come from, the quality of the garments they are buying and now more than ever how the environment is being impacted by their purchases.
At Orchard Moon, we focus on every single detail to ensure our luxury pyjamas and resort wear are fully sustainable, from our fabric made from sustainably managed forests, to our buttons made from palm tree nuts, right through to our elastic made from natural rubber and organic cotton.
Sustainability is also about making quality pieces that are made to last, pieces that people will love and treasure for years to come. We don’t source any elements from the far east and make our exquisite pieces in small batches at ateliers in Europe to a very high standard.
The pandemic has also shifted the way people live and work, and hybrid working is set to remain for the foreseeable future. This gives people more freedom to dress informally on their home-working days and enjoy a hybrid leisure-work lifestyle.
Advice to Others Starting a Business
When you first start a business, it is easy to underestimate how much time and effort it will take to get it off the ground. You will meet many challenges along the way, some that you could foresee and others that you couldn’t plan for. If you care deeply about what you are doing and are truly passionate about what you are creating this will keep you going through the tough times. A burning passion will give you the grit to continue. Resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks will be easier if you truly love what you are doing.
Every new business should have at least one USP and to offer something that isn’t available elsewhere. Starting a business based on the expertise you already have, ensures that not only will you have knowledge of the market already, but you will have an understanding about what you need to do to stand out.
Whilst it’s important to use your own expertise, its equally important to ask others for help and advice. You will never be the best at every task, and it’s a skill to work out which elements of running business could be outsourced to someone that has more expertise in that specific area.
If you plan to start a business with strong ethical standards, then it is essential to decide on your ethics and your business morals at the beginning of your journey. This ensures that every decision you make can be tested against the set of ethical standards you have committed to.
Gabrielle Cave is founder of Orchard Moon
Sustainable Luxury Pyjamas and Resort Wear