Iris van Melsen is the founder and creative lead at Permanent Clothing, a sustainable fashion brand taking Europe by storm. The brand, was conceived with the ambition to reflect the unique individuality of the Amsterdam streetwear culture through conscious collection concepts, in a more positive and sustainable way. Iris has lead Permanent clothing to be much more than a brand, and more of a movement, promoting a sustainable, responsible future.
The rapid success of her collection, has seen her range already picked up & stocked by high-end department stores such a Selfridges.
We caught up with Iris to chat about the process of turning her passion for education around sustainability into a fast growing fashion success story.
1) What’s the biggest source of inspiration for your products?
I’ve always been interested in fashion, but I didn’t think about starting a sustainable fashion brand until I found out about how the fashion industry is the second-largest user of water globally. I could barely believe how the production of one cotton t-shirt could require up to 2,700 litres of water, the equivalent of taking a 5.6-hour long shower. When I learned about these issues, I decided that I wanted to make a change, and educate others through fashion with my own brand called Permanent.
If I can let some kid think about their consumerism for a second, it would already be an accomplishment. The youth is growing up with Internet and therefore has easy access to way more information than any other generation had before. I feel like they are open for a change, and that we should make use of it.
2) What smart working habits have you implemented while building your brand?
The most important step for me is getting to know the theme of a collection, especially as informing others through my fashion brand is so important to me. If I know what I’d like to show with my collection, then I can base everything else on this idea. Such as: the designs, the editorials, and the description. An idea can be understandable to me; however, it should be clear to others as well. Therefore, I always try to see my brand as if I am a stranger. This helps to give Permanent a unique and recognizable style.
3) What are your core brand values, and why did you choose these?
It’s important to me that others are aware of the passion behind Permanent. That’s definitely one of the most important core brand values to me. I truly do this as I’d like to inform others and show them how they could become part of a movement that will make a difference in the fashion industry. Therefore, education is another important core brand value. Furthermore, I try to be very transparent. For example, people can see which blank garments I use as I am proud of them. Hopefully, this honesty and commitment motivates others to make a change as well.
4) What is your process for developing a new product?
As mentioned above, I always try to think of a concept for a collection or product first. Then I think of ways of showing this theme while trying to not be too obvious. It seems like a lot of sustainable brands have a target audience of consumers which already are aware of what ethical brands concern. However, I’d like to spread awareness to people who do not know anything about sustainability yet. Hopefully, doing so by showing them unique and interesting designs which simultaneously have a message.
5) Some of your Fairtrade products have now been stocked in Selfridges. How did this partnership come about?
Selfridges has contacted me as they are opening a sustainable area in their London store. It’s definitely great that they want to spread more awareness about the environmental footprint of the fashion industry, and I am honoured to be part of their chosen brands. I don’t have an opening date of the area yet, but I can’t wait to see which other sustainable brands have been part of this!
6) What are your tips for aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to start their own ethical brand?
I’d recommend trying to find out what you would like to have as a corporate identity of your brand, and whether this concerns a certain theme or message. After you have decided this and came upon ideas of your collection, you will obviously need one or more supplier(s). I personally felt it to be important to find a supplier / manufacturer who was just as passionate about sustainability as me. Clearly, them having certificates does help with this as you immediately feel more secure. Take your time, and don’t rush ideas until you are really happy with them. And most importantly remember: your clothing could be another step towards promoting a sustainable, responsible future!
7) How do you use A.M. Custom Clothing products for your business?
I’d like to target a broad audience through Permanent, and therefore prefer to use basic garments such as sweaters and t-shirts (which everyone could wear) as part of my collection. A.M. Custom Clothing offers a wide variety of sustainable, and Fairtrade garments which have helped me a lot with creating my first collection. What I also like is that many of their garments are considered unisex, which I prefer above making a division between men or women clothing.
Permanent Clothing, used our Fairtrade Certified Organic Neutral range for their collection, you can find the full range here. These can be purchased blank or with your own print or embroidery designs.
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Images from Permanent Clothing & Selfridges