Comfort clothing has been at the top of everyone’s shopping list this past year, with sweat pants and lounge wear becoming our WFH uniform. For me, (forever channelling Meryl Streep’s Donna in Mamma Mia), comfort is synonymous with dungarees, and I’d like to introduce you to my favourite dungaree brand, Lucy & Yak.
Their Title Tag on their website sums them up very well – Independent, Handmade, Sustainable Dungarees. On their charming, graphic novel style ‘Our Story’ page on their website, you will learn that Lucy & Yak was founded by a couple who, whilst on their travels around the world, discovered that fellow travellers loved the items that they were making for fun from old clothes. They returned to the UK and bought and lived in a van called Yak, out of which they started selling vintage clothing. They discovered they had an eye for fashion, and wanted to start to create the designs they both had in their heads.
They took off around the world on another adventure to find the right manufacturing partner, who they found in Rajasthan in India. Ismail shared the couples passion for ethical fashion, so they worked on creating 30 pairs of dungarees together. They started off selling the dungarees on vintage marketplace app Depop, where they sold out in a matter of hours. They were onto a winner, and Lucy & Yak was born.
The company was established in 2017 and has already been nominated one of the Sunday Times Fast Track ‘Ones To Watch’ with a forecasted turnover of £14m in 2021, with sales growing from £1.6m in 2018 and £9.7m in 2020. To those of you still thinking that sustainable fashion means hippies wearing hemp, take note.
According to the Telegraph in this article ‘Why sustainable consumption will be the new post-coronavirus normal‘, the term “Sustainable fashion brands UK” was in the top 10 largest growing sustainable retail searches on Google.
Lucy & Yak are absolutely on the money in relation to what consumers want. They are a brand that is dominating in a growing but still sparsely populated space.
Companies that call themselves ethical and sustainable really have to work hard to explain exactly what it is that makes them ethical and sustainable. It seems to me that they get questioned on their ethics even more than the companies running sweatshops. They detail on their website that, although they aren’t perfect, they are working very hard to ensure that every part of their supply chain is eco or is moving towards eco-friendly practices.
For example, they’ve worked with their now 30 strong team in Rajasthan to build a new factory that will eventually be 100% solar powered. Almost 100% of their clothing is made from either recycled or organic fabric, and their packaging and shipping materials are either biodegradable, recyclable or re-usable. They are working to completely eradicate plastic from their supply chain.
As well as their team in the UK being paid the living wage, their team of Indian tailors in the factory in Rajasthan also get paid 3-4 times the state minimum wage, and many work comfortably part-time. The company admits on their Ethics page, ‘we are far from perfect, but we are working every day to improve our social and environmental impact’.
On an announcement on their website, Lucy & Yak state:
“We are happy to confirm that we will be increasing our core products to cater to sizes from UK 6 to UK 28.”
From some digging, it looks as though this change has come about after some controversy, and that the brand have been called out about their sizing, amongst other things. Aja Barber accused the brand of using influencers and public figures like herself as free labour in exchange for ideas, and for behaving as though the size inclusivity issue was a ‘brand new one’ when they started to incorporate it into their brand values, when Aja says the plus-sized community had been raising this with Lucy & Yak for years.
In this public statement from 22nd September 2020, Lucy & Yak acknowledge their wrongdoing, and that they handled the situation poorly.
“We were defensive and did not acknowledge this fully, and our fear of the fallout prevented us from seeing clearly that we were wrong. This fear also impacted our ability to deal with said fallout. We know that we have hurt and alienated people who have invested in our brand emotionally and financially over the past few years. We recognise that in some cases it will take a long time to rebuild the trust that has been lost, and that in other cases that trust has been lost indefinitely.
Thank you for being there, willing to share your opinion with us and holding us accountable.
We know we need to better and we will.”
It will be interesting to see whether this has any kind of impact on sales, as online communities and ‘scandals’ such as this can have a huge impact on a fast-growing brand like this one. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on this story to see if there are any further developments, but I don’t think it will be putting me off from eyeing up my next pair of dungas.
Sewing For The NHS
Finally, Lucy & Yak have, like many other conscious companies, used the tools at their disposal to help the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. When PPE was in short supply, they started ‘Sewing for the NHS’, joining in with an incentive called ‘For the love of scrubs’ creating scrubs for the doctors and nurses on the front lines.
It seems to me that Lucy & Yak are working very hard to be the environmentally, ethically and socially conscious company that they want to be. It is clear that there is always work to be done to be better, to be accountable and to listen to community feedback, but they absolutely should be applauded for the work they are doing to counteract fast, throwaway fashion.
Now, please excuse me whilst I browse the corduroy collection…