Jess and Stef – podcast hosts, style influencers and sisters – founded TWOOBS as an answer to the problem they were facing in the fashion industry: the absence of stylish shoes that actually feel good to wear. For Jess and Stef, that feeling would come from more than just a statement platform and fashion-forward design: it would mean comfortable shoes that haven’t hurt the planet (or any of its inhabitants) on the way to your wardrobe.
“We are such animal lovers, we never even considered creating shoes from leather or any other animal products,” Jess and Stef explain, as we discuss the TWOOBS journey and their thoughts on the future of sustainable fashion. Being a vegan brand was the first step for Jess and Stef in forming the TWOOBS approach, but since their inception in 2015, sustainability has infiltrated everything they do.
“We started five years ago, and being vegan wasn’t a marketing strategy at all, we just never considered using animal products. We tested our digital marketing advertising our shoes as vegan, and the feedback was so strange. People would say things like “I wasn’t going to eat them” – vegan fashion just wasn’t understood back then. Now, even though for us it’s just part of the way we want to operate, our vegan commitment is a huge pull for a lot of people. People love that TWOOBS are vegan, they love that they’re made from recycled fabrics – people are shopping with their values so much more than they were even five years ago.”
Made from recycled, plant-derived fabrics, TWOOBS gained their PETA certification for their across-the-board cruelty-free approach, with everything used in their supply chain (right down to the glues) certified vegan.
What struck me as a consumer, delving into the TWOOBS website (and spending perhaps a little too long there) was the consistently playful, honest approach: no elaborate language or green-washed marketing, just transparency and a clear commitment to learning and growing as an ethical brand.
“It seems like sustainability has had the wrong PR manager for the past 15 years, selling the scary story as opposed to selling the hopeful story, which is what our future could look like if we all embraced better practices. So that’s something we really keep in mind with TWOOBS: how can we inspire through fun and hope rather than through doom and gloom.”
Jess and Stef’s tone clearly comes naturally (they’ve run a successful fashion blog together since 2012, which has earned them a committed following – fans of their unapologetic approach), but their knowledge is something they’re continuously growing. Since studying fashion and textile merchandising, Jess has gone on to complete a sustainability course at London College of Fashion, and is currently completing a course in Sustainable Business Management with Cambridge University. Stef is the marketing mind behind the brand (having completed a degree in professional communications at RMIT) and they share their insights on building a sustainable brand through the TWOOBS blog: A Kinda Blog.
“We’re really keen to share everything we’re doing so that other brands can learn from us, we want to be working together to make a difference. We started A Kinda Blog to document our journey as a sustainable brand, to make that information accessible to other people. For instance going carbon neutral can seem like a huge leap, but there are organisations you can work with which calculate how much carbon you’re producing and provide options for offsetting. I think a lot of people are afraid to ask the question: how do I actually do that? And by putting it out there, we’re helping people by answering those questions before they ask.”
“We’re definitely seeing a transition within the fashion industry, towards becoming more sustainable. I would say we need to see more, and we need to see it happen more quickly. We’re seeing a lot of businesses create ten year plans and twenty year plans, and I think in order to create systemic change it’s really important to have that long term view, but there is so much more that we can be doing in the short term that we aren’t seeing a lot of labels do. That’s certainly been a bit disheartening, and we really are hoping that with TWOOBS, by showing these little incremental changes that we can all be making right now that do have a really large impact, that that’s a really great place for a brand to start, and we’re hoping to inspire others to do the same. If you just start somewhere you can pick up momentum really quickly – there’s a low barrier to entry, you’ve just got to take the first steps. ”
I ask about a few simple steps that businesses can take to be more sustainable, and Jess and Stef explain:
“Reimagining what packaging is. We recently got rid of the satchel that our shoes come in, and that’s something so simple. If we had 1000 orders, that’s 1000 satchels that we’re no longer using. This season we’ve switched out our largest component to a completely recycled material, and the quality is the same. We’ve minimised our carbon footprint and we’ve offset the rest of our carbon, our office is solar powered and we use only non-toxic cleaning products. There are these little things that businesses can do today that will make a really big difference. It’s easy to look at the entire picture and get bogged down by the magnitude of the situation, but the sooner we take that first step, then we’re on the journey.”
While we’re on the topic of inspiring others, I ask Jess and Stef how TWOOBS came to be, and they explain the origins of the brand.
“We were running How Two Live (a fashion blog which documents their thoughts on style and life) and got approached by a couple of different brands to do collaborations. Our collaboration with Windsor Smith sold out in a couple of hours, and we recognised that there was this gap for shoes that are really fashion forward and fun and cool and are also super comfortable. The reason people gravitated towards How Two Live was more for the attitude than the aesthetic: from the two of us being so unapologetically ourselves through what we were wearing, we created a space for people to be unapologetically themselves. And that fun tone that you can see through TWOOBS, that was definitely born through our approach to fashion and life – we love to have a good laugh.”
With their experience in the fashion industry and clear interest in style, I ask Jess and Stef to share their advice to anyone looking to build a more sustainable wardrobe.
“Wear what you already own. Reimagine the pieces that you already own, because those are the most sustainable pieces. Second hand is a really great way to shop sustainably too, especially if you’re really into trends: going to your local vintage shop or op shop and looking for a great linen shirt (or whatever it is that you want this season) instead of buying it brand new. Buy something new if you really really love it, but before you do that, look into where it’s come from, look into the brand values, consider if you really need it instead of just going out and impulse purchasing. We’re encouraging customers to make thoughtful purchases, rather than ones that make them feel good with a buyer’s high in the moment.”
For more sustainable style advice, explorative interviews and other perfectly light-hearted content, visit howtwolive.com and follow them on Instagram @howtwolive . To learn about Jess and Stef’s experience in running a sustainable business, follow their blog A Kinda Blog, and to get your hands on some recycled, recyclable, super comfy sandals (if you really need them) visit aus.twoobs.com
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