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Driving a sustainable future beginning with basics: Stephanie Devine (Part 1)

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Stephanie Devine is a pioneer in sustainable fashion, single handedly creating the world’s first zero post-consumer waste bra. In a two-part series, we learn about her journey towards success and vision for the future of sustainability in the fashion industry. In Part 1, Devine outlines the challenges associated with creating a zero-waste bra, and her observations on the fashion industry today. In Part 2, she offers her greatest tips to become more sustainably minded, and ease the confusion consumers may face when tasked with purchasing more environmentally friendly products. She also offers us a glimpse into the future of her brand, and outlines her mantra for staying sustainable.

When you think of environmentally harmful clothing, your mind tends to jump to the huge accumulation of fast fashion in many of our wardrobes, or agriculturally damaging textiles like cotton or wool, but clothing’s environmental impact does not stop there. Stephanie Devine realized this when she was unable to find any non-wired bras in proper cup sizes to see her through cancer treatment. She initially founded Bras Without Wires in 2012 and soon realized that bras carry a far more detrimental impact to the environment than simply the underwire. She then set out to create the world’s first zero post-consumer waste bra, in 26 cup sizes, made with natural and sustainable fibers. The name for this new product? The Very Good Bra.

Launched a little over a year ago, The Very Good Bra has been a resounding success, and represents a huge relief for Devine, who had traveled the world seeking the most environmentally friendly materials for the product. “It was heartening to realize that there are a whole bunch of sustainably minded consumers out there who are prepared to back something new and pay a little more to try and change the industry.” The Kickstarter campaign raised 350% of her original goal, and the bras quickly sold out. Devine is still having trouble keeping them stocked because of their popularity.

Her path to success was met with challenges however, especially when sourcing sustainable alternatives to a bra’s traditional materials. “The hooks and eyes were particularly hard as for decades now they have been made with synthetic fibers, laminate and glue.” Her journey took her to an old French maker who had to create pieces from scratch with organic cotton, sewn with TENCEL™ branded fiber thread.

TENCEL™ branded fibers became an important fiber for The Very Good Bra owing to its unparalleled versatility and softness qualities which are ideal for underwear. However, when asked about the main reason for Devine choosing TENCEL™ branded fibers, her response was simple. “The key factor is that I can trust using Lenzing’s TENCEL™ branded fibers with their high-quality.”

The need for trust and transparency is now echoed by consumers and suppliers across fashion and the difficulties Devine experienced when sourcing sustainable alternatives solidified that the industry still has some ways to go.

She cautions complacency, especially with larger brands who are still sitting on the sidelines without a realization that sustainability is everyone’s responsibility. “The paradigm is shifting and it’s a permanent shift, not a fad. 94% of Gen Z believes companies should address environmental issues.” However, she also understands the difficulties associated with change, such as cost. “I came at this with a corporate background, as a frustrated consumer, and so my position has always been to create products that leave no trace…not to worry about margin.”

Devine has witnessed a greater focus on sustainability and recycled fibers over the last two years, but urges brands not wait until the last minute. A change in thinking by the wider industry is still needed. Major brands must use their buying power to make sustainable alternatives more affordable and easy to source for the rest of the industry. Unfortunately for now she says, “Sustainable lingerie remains the domain of boutique brands.”

“It is much harder for large brands to turn large ships.”

Continue reading Part 2, where Devine delves into her tips for consumers to shift their mindset and have a positive effect on the environment. Please click here to view the article.

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