In this recurring theme, we will focus on our retailers. This is where you get to meet our Pure Goods in person and find out more about their story. That’s one of the reasons why we love our shops. They tell our story and provide the consumers with good service, good products and have a nice story to tell. In this week’s post, we talk with Lonneke, store manager at Nukuhiva Utrecht, one of the first fair fashion stores in the Netherlands.
Nukuhiva: Pioneers of fair fashion in the Netherlands
The story of how Nukuhiva started is quite a remarkable one. In 2004, Dutch radio and tv-presenter, producer and writer Floortje Dessing wrote a book named ‘100 wereldplekken die je gezien moet hebben’, Dutch for ‘must see places in the world’. With the profit, she wanted to give something back to the world. That’s why she decided to start a school project in Uganda. After the project was running properly, she used the money that was left to open a fairtrade clothing store in Amsterdam. In 2008 the second store opened in Utrecht. The goal of Nukuhiva is to introduce fair fashion to Dutch consumers. Lonneke agrees that Nukuhiva is one of the pioneers for fair fashion in the Netherlands ‘I’m not sure in what way, but I definitely believe people use or have used us as an example’.
From music to clothing stores
Lonneke hasn’t always been working in the clothing industry. She’s always had a passion for music and therefore started working in music stores. However, due to the rough times for the music industry, the stores she worked for were forced to close. Lonneke ended up working at Vans, where the employees always had to wear clothes from their latest collections. Meaning she would get new items every season, resulting in a bulging closet.
‘At one point I realised I just didn’t want this anymore.’
‘I have been vegan for years now and when I buy something I always look for the option with the smallest impact possible’. Since the start of this season, Lonneke is involved in the buying process as well. ‘I really like the excitement of the buying process, because you never know if something will be popular amongst our customers’. The most important factor when buying the collection at Nukuhiva is of course sustainability. ‘If a product is not sustainable it simply doesn’t fit with Nukuhiva, plus we would not feel comfortable selling it either.’ Furthermore, it is of importance to think about the customers: does it fit with their style, but the fabric composition is important as well. ‘If a product contains viscose or polyester, it must be for a good reason, because I know some of our customers will not buy something with viscose or polyester in it.
Making people happy
The importance of sustainability isn’t the only reason why Lonneke feels at home at Nukuhiva. Dressing people and making them happy is what Lonneke loves most. ‘If people come in and are not feeling good about the way they look, to then dress them and see them leaving the store with a good feeling. If you work in a store where service is as important as at Nukuhiva, you build up a relationship.
‘I notice that our customers are loyal and like the way we give advice. The fact that they don’t feel forced to buy something and know we help them in a fair way.’
When asked about a favourite retailer’s story Lonneke can’t quite name one specific story. ‘It gives me a good feeling to know people come back to the store because of me. They like the fact that you still remember what they bought the last time they were visiting the store.’
The downside of fashion
The fact that the fashion industry has its downsides is nothing new. Lonneke notices that a lot of young people don’t care that much about the other end of the world. She believes that the impact of fast fashion really needs to be shoved into the consumer’s faces more often. Lonneke is not afraid to be the person to do so. ‘I once told friends I knew that people die, just to make those jeans available for €40 instead of €100’. That is something that makes an impact to people. Furthermore, Lonneke feels it’s important to realise that it doesn’t always have to be more. According to Lonneke, there is a misconception when it comes to the prices of fair fashion. ‘Sometimes people tell me they can’t afford it, but jeans of €100 which you can wear for years is, in the end, cheaper than jeans costing €40 which you have to throw away after a few times wearing.’
‘I’m sure that if a good friend of someone would work in a sweatshop they would never buy fast fashion again.’
Lonneke doesn’t think the group of aware consumers has outgrown its fast fashion counterpart. ‘If you look at the Primark or H&M, people are still piling up to get in. However, I do think the group of aware consumers is slowly catching up’. She also notices the change in Nukuhiva: ‘More young people are taking the first step towards a more fair closet. It’s important to realise that the change in behaviour doesn’t have to happen all at once. ‘If everyone for example instead of fast fashion jeans would buy Kuyichi jeans or any other sustainable brand, we’ve already come a long way’. Another great way of buying sustainable clothing when you are on a budget is buying from secondhand shops. This way you know that you are not adding to the negative impact of the fashion industry.