Sunday, 22 April 2018

Interview with Charlotte Instone of Know The Origin

Know the Origin is an Ethical Consumers Top Rated Fashion Brand which describes itself as 'style with nothing to hide' which I think sums it up perfectly. Their collection has everything that you'd need in a capsule wardrobe, with a classic set of colours and styles which are trans-seasonal and versatile (not to mention comfy). It hides nothing about their manufacture and, refreshingly, not only states that they produce fairtrade and organic fashion, but openly shows their customers how they are doing this and why it is important.
I was amazed by how much information their website provides on each stage of production, from the growing of the cotton to its processing and then manufacture, as well as the addressees of each manufacturer involved.
With Fashion Revolution Week 2018 kicking off on the 23rd of April, five years on from the Rana Plaza collapse, an interview with Charlotte Instone is very timely, as she was motivated by this horrific event to make the fashion industry a fairer place and to start her own brand, Know The Origin.

1. What inspired you to start an ethical brand?

I was studying at London College of Fashion, learning all about how to make clothes from design through to shop floor and I knew it was what I wanted to pursue as a career. Then 2013 came and a factory in Bangladesh called Rana Plaza collapsed, killing over 1100 workers, and out flowed all this information about the fashion industry’s profit-over-people mentality. I could no longer ignore it. I knew I was passionate about producing clothing, but I refused to be a part of the current system. It inspired me to look at fashion in a new way and I decided to channel my passion into something radically transformative. So the idea of a transparent, Fairtrade and organic brand emerged and now we have Know The Origin!

2. Why is it important that people understand how and where their clothes are produced?

So that we don’t underestimate the impact that they have. The fashion industry is huge and employs millions of people across the world. If we don’t know who they are, what their working conditions are like and the industry's environmental damage we don’t see the global exploitation that happens within the industry. However, if we can reverse the fashion industry from one of exploitation to one that supports its employees and the environment, the impact can be incredibly positive! We need to understand the value of clothes and their potential to transform global communities.

3. The textiles industry is huge - as a brand, how hard is it to get transparency throughout your entire supply chain?

It was difficult, but definitely worth it. I think the main challenge was always finding producers who wanted to be transparent. The first stage of ensuring transparency meant a lot of research! We travelled around India meeting different producers and co-operatives, from seed to garment, until we built a supply chain of producers who are equally as passionate about values of transparency and ethical practices. Because we have started with this strong foundation, we know that it will definitely be possible to maintain our values and transparency as we grow.  

4. Who makes the clothes for Know The Origin?

Our producers, from seed to garment, are all based in India and collectively create jobs for thousands of people! From our organic farming co-operative in the Adilabad District to our knitting mills in Tiruppur and our sewing factories in Tamil Nadu, we hire a pretty amazing team of people. All our producers are certified fairtrade and organic, as a minimum, and on top of that they constantly strive to support their employees and communities in new ways from pensions to medical care to training programmes. Check out our Seed To Garment page at to meet them!

5. What projects are you currently working on?

Lots! Anyone in the startup world will know that feeling! The one we are most excited about currently is our transition into becoming a transparent platform! After the success of our transparent pop-up in Shoreditch and meeting so many brands who are passionate about transparency in their supply chains, we decided to celebrate that by showing them off on our website! Watch this space to discover brands pioneering innovation in transparency!

6. What part of the design process do you enjoy the most?

Most of it! Not many people get to say their job is also their passion so I’m so lucky to run KTO (even when it’s incredibly busy!) I’m learning something new every day, meeting people from all over the world who are passionate about ethical fashion and working to create real change!

7. How can customers be encouraged to take a 'slower', more considered approach to fashion and shopping?

I think remembering to pause before buying! The fast fashion world has encouraged us to impulse buy and follow our ‘sales eyes’ and it’s making us mindless consumers. The next time you are shopping in fast fashion stores, pause to remember that the product you’re holding is not just a product of labour and the environment; but also a product of systems of oppression. Slowing down when shopping is not about feeling guilty, but about remaining aware of the realities and being conscious of how your money can be used positively!

8. Which products in your collection are your favourite to wear?

Our black Kesh jumper is my daily staple, it literally matches my entire wardrobe and is really comfortable whilst still being smart enough to wear to meetings. But if I’m going out for dinner or drinks my go-to is our Kady dress! Super flattering on and still ridiculously soft!

Thank you very much Charlotte for answering my questions! You can find more about how the clothes at Know The Origin are produced, and shop their beautiful collection at

                                                                               Beccy x

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