An Interview with Soli & Sun
In today’s interview we are joined by Clare Hyne’s, founder of Soli & Sun as she takes us on her journey to creating luxury, ethical handbags, jewellery and accessories.
Thank you for wanting to be part our exclusive network. What were your reasons for joining us and investing in the Ethical Brand Directory / Academy and community?
After nearly three years of living in the Philippines I will be moving back to the UK in 2019, bringing my brand back with me. I wanted to join this community to be able to network with likeminded businesses and consumers and to showcase the work I’ve been doing to an audience back in the UK and beyond!
Can you give me a brief overview of your brand and the type of products you sell?
My brand is committed to supporting local artisans in the Philippines and creating sustainable livings for them and their communities through craftsmanship. I sell jewellery that is hand crafted by me and the female artisans I’ve partnered with from Tacloban, Philippines. I sell bags that combine traditional Filipino textiles and sustainable materials, jute and Piñatex.
What are the 3 most important things that your people should know about your brand?
– The story of this collection started approximately 2 years ago when I first connected with an under-privileged community of female artisans in Palanog, Tacloban – the city associated with the 2013 Typhoon Yolanda natural disaster. This had a huge effect on me and started my path to creating an ethical brand.
– I’ve worked hard to build authentic relationships with the artisans & workshops that I work with here in the Philippines, something that would be impossible if I didn’t live here.
What was your WHY? What inspired you to set up your business?
I’ve always created and made things, even as a child. I believe craftsmanship is incredibly important and should be held in high regard.
When I came to the Philippines I was struck by how creative the people are and the beautiful craftsmanship that was on offer, from textiles to basket weaving. Unfortunately a lot of these traditions are dying out. My idea is to take some of these traditional techniques and elevate them in to a modern design. This helps to continue to provide much needed work.
What challenges do independent brands like yourself face?
At present my main challenge is logistics – ie how to ship everything from the Philippines back to the UK.
Marketing is also a struggle, how to get yourself seen and heard. Basically when you’re doing everything yourself, it’s a lot of work!
Why is it important to be ethical in business?
Because the alternative is pretty depressing! For the sake of the future of the environment and the future of vulnerable and poor communities all businesses should have ethics in place or have some form of CSR. I also think more consumers are demanding it now.
What is the link to your page on ethics on your website?
What steps are you taking to ensure your brand operates as ethically as possible?
When I set up my social enterprise in Tacloban, it was done with the help of GKonomics, they are a NGO platform that ‘brings together social entrepreneurs, skilled volunteers, corporations, and the academe to work with underprivileged communities.’ to make sure what I pay the artisans is the correct and fair wage.
I’m also in constant contact with the workshops that produce my bags and am able to visit to make sure the working conditions are good.
How important is sustainability for businesses? What are you doing in your business to reduce your environmental impact?
Sustainability is important to me and my brand hence why I’ve incorporated Piñatex in to my designs as an alernative to leather. I also use jute in some of my bags which is another sustainable material found here in the Philippines. We also try and reduce waste of the materials as much as possible.
What are you not doing in your business but want to improve on?
The main thing I would like to improve on is my carbon footprint in terms is the amount of materials and products I need to ship from country to country. But I don’t know how to do this?! My main focus for my brand is creating sustainable livelihoods for artisans and underprivileged communities in the Philippines, but sometimes I need to ship certain materials to these communities and then of course I need to ship the finished products back to Eurpope.
What is the link to your page on sustainability on your website?
In 10 years from now where would you like to see the fashion/beauty/travel world? From a business and a consumer perspective
In 10 years from now I would like to see that fashion brands don’t even need to say the word sustainable, that it’s a given that all fashion brands will HAVE to work in a sustainable way. That there is full transparency, and the consumer will know who exactly has made their item of clothing or accessory. I think consumers are starting to demand this more and more.
Do you have any favourite ethical and sustainable quotes, or any key influencers that inspire you?
Clare Press, Sustainability Editor-at-Large, VOGUE Australia ‘You totally can be chic while changing the world’
Livia Firth, Founder and Creative Director of www.eco-age.com
Sustainably Chic, (Natalie Kay) ‘because fashion can exist responsibly’
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, founder of Rags2Riches – this was the company I was introduced to when I first moved to the Philippines and who initially inspired me to start my own social enterprise.
Why should the general public care about supporting ethical and environmentally responsible brands?
Because the bottom line is the future of the environment effects everyone!
But I suppose we can’t MAKE anyone care, we can only be honest and tell our stories behind our brands, and hopefully this will inspire people to engage in our brands and purchase from us. When they can see that making that purchase from us really does have a direct effect on that artisan’s life, they are helping to create a sustainable income for them, helping their families and communities.