Several local brands are trying to educate consumers on buying products that are ethically produced, writes Nadia Badarudin
THE demand for lifestyle pieces and fashion items that are produced ethically and with minimal impact on the environment is growing across the globe.
A similar trend is picking up in Malaysia in recent years, with a handful of local entrepreneurs offering products meant for consumers who believe in making socially responsible and ethical choices, especially in the fashion and beauty landscape.
The Pilgrims is among the latest of such brands that retail items for the ethically-concerned and environmentally-conscious crowd.
Established recently in February, this boutique lifestyle concept store is located in Bangsar Village 2, Kuala Lumpur. The brand was created for tropical dwellers and travellers who believe in personal style as a form of expression and value ethical, simple and clean living concepts.
It is a collaborative effort by five unique homegrown brands — The Hive Bulk Foods, Root Remedies, Real.m, Fireworks and Nadsy. They sell handmade fashion and skincare products crafted by artisans using natural and sustainable materials.
UNDER ONE ROOF
The Pilgrims project was initiated by sisters Najmia, Naadira and Atiyya Zulkarnain, owners of Real.m. The brand retails towels, throw pillows, blankets and summer wear made of non-GMO cotton, bamboo and vegetable dyes.
Najmia’s determination to search for alternative options in the lifestyle scene started after she made changes in her purchasing habits for food, skincare and clothes. Her previous work experience in furniture production also exposed her to the social and environmental impact of mass-produced products.
“My sisters and I believe that people should know what they are paying for, where and how the products are made and the production impact on society and the environment.
“With Real.m, we have been pushing for sustainably sourced lifestyle products. We want to go against the grain by changing the cycle in mass-produced products and going for sustainable and ethical production,” says Najmia.
“The idea to look for like-minded people who do care comes with the business and that’s how we thought of bringing together five brands which share values but offer different products under one roof.
“Besides offering a wide range, we also hope to build a stronger voice together and have more resources to penetrate the retail landscape.
“The Hive Bulk Foods, Root Remedies, Real.m, Fireworks and Nadsy are all independent start-ups, so I guess the idea to collaborate under The Pilgrims gelled well,” she says, adding that the brands often crossed paths at retail events and artisanal markets prior to The Pilgrims venture.
Staying true to The Pilgrims’ ethos, each product is made ethically, right from the sourcing of raw materials up to the processes involved.
The Hive Bulk Foods retails stylish zero waste solutions such as metal straws, bamboo toothbrushes and shopping bags. Root Remedies offers botanical oils, handmade soaps and natural mineral cosmetics made of nature’s wonders including black tea, coconut oil and turmeric.
While Real.m works with non-GMO cotton, bamboo and handcrafted fabrics for its ready-to-wear and home items, Nadsy uses rattan, water hyacinth, raffia, natural seagrass and palm leaves for its bags and fashion accessories.
Fireworks offers leather shoes and bags as well as natural and hand-stitched linen apparels.
The Pilgrims brand embodies a consumer’s internal and external journey towards being kinder to Mother Earth, says Najmia.
“Products under The Pilgrims mainly use natural materials such as bamboo and rattan. Our leather shoes are made of leather by-products. Our zero-waste products are made of decomposable materials.
“Besides trying our best to source for more renewable and sustainable materials, we also strive to make sure that the production process of each product is environmentally-friendly,” she says.
Another important aspect is to ensure that the people involved in the production are fairly treated, says Najmia.
“All of us work with a network of artisans to produce the products. Apart from giving them an avenue to sell their quality crafts, our priority is to make sure that they are paid fairly and that they work in a safe environment,” she says.
“We are going back to the basics in production and reviving the human touch versus machine-made items. We need to revisit ethics in production for its true cost, not cut cost,” she adds.
The Pilgrims’ ultimate goal is to give sustainable alternatives for consumers in the lifestyle retail space and to create healthy demand for the brand to support a fair production ecosystem, says Najmia.
“Based on the resources and talents we have, there is huge potential for ethically-produced products in Malaysia. But, there is still a lot to do to take it to the next level. For instance, communicating the need for a shift in consumers’ mindset in understanding the cost and impact of their choices remains a big challenge.
“We are so driven to go for aesthetics and/or price appeal that we tend to miss out on other important aspects that make a good product and a worthy purchase. And we have to change this,” she says.
She adds: “The Pilgrims was created to offer alternatives and inspire consumers to make a more conscious decision when it comes to buying lifestyle products.
We want to inspire people to start re-looking at responsible consumption and production choices. You can start small, be it by buying a washable sanitary pad, a non-GMO cotton top or a home decor piece made of rattan. By doing so you have already made the step for a meaningful lifestyle change.”
MEET THE BRANDS
THE HIVE BULK FOODS
Founder: Claire Sanchelot
Product concept: Stylish zero waste solutions
Types of products: Bulk food, toiletries, shopping bags and bottles
Bestsellers: Metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes
Materials: Cotton, glass, bamboo and wood
The artisans: Women refugees in Malaysia, 25-plus small enterprises led by women and local organic farmers
Contact: www.thehivebulkfoods.com / Facebook: /The Hive Bulk Foods / Instagram: @The Hive Bulk Foods
Founder: Sian C
Product concept: Handmade skincare with only natural ingredients
Types of products: Botanical oils, handmade soaps, natural skin scrub, body balm and natural mineral cosmetics
Bestsellers: Masala Chai Black Tea Scrub, Nutmeg Kaffir Lime Soothing Lotion, Tangerine Coconut Oil Soap, Chrysanthemum Herbal Lip Treatment and Turmeric Lemon Roll-on Eye Serum
Ingredients: Chinese medicine, Malay herbs, Indian spices and botanical oils
The artisans: All products are made by the brand founder
Contact: www.rootremedies.com / Facebook: /rootremedies / Instagram: @rootremedies
Founder: Naadira, Najmia and Atiyya Zulkarnain
Product concept: Bringing natural fibres to everyday living through home textiles and clothing
Types of products: Turkish towels, bamboo travel towel, throw pillows, blankets and summer wear
Bestsellers: Gili II Bamboo Towels, Sands Turkish Towel and Sahara Poncho
Materials: Turkish non-GMO cotton from the Aegean region of Turkey, bamboo fibre from Gaziantep, Turkey and vegetable dyes
The artisans: Karen refugees
Contact: www.realm.com.my / Facebook: /realmtowels / Instagram: @real.material
Founder: Sunny Arora and Niki Loh
Product concept: Ethical fashion brand that will eventually become the travel buddy of the glocal millennials
Types of products: Handmade leather shoes, leather bags and natural and hand-stitched linen apparel for men and women
Best-sellers: Desis shoes (everyday, everywhere unisex shoes)
Materials: Leather and linen
The artisans: The artisans of Chambar community in India
Contact: www.fireworkshouse.com / Facebook: /fireworkshouse / Instagram: @fireworkshouse
Founder: Nadia Allatif
Product concept: Lively colours, unique prints and bohemian styles to match youthful and vibrant souls
Types of products: Handmade bags and fashion accessories
Materials: Rattan, water hyacinth, natural seagrass, raffia, bamboo and palm leaves
Best-sellers: Rattan bags handcrafted by Balinese artisans
The artisans: Artisans from the Wayuu tribe in Colombia as well as Thai and Balinese artisans
Contact: Instagram: @Nadsy.my