Simple, sustainable and stylish - our feature brand this month is UK based FRNDLY A.F, started by an Australian with a passion to change consumers mindsets and make responsible shopping second nature.
Tell us about how FRNDLY A.F came about and what the driving force behind it was?
I started FRNDLY A.F in 2018 with the hope to spark change in the fashion industry. Fashion has always been a passion of mine and I had never really understood the impact it has on the environment until I travelled to Cambodia and witnessed first hand the devastation it causes. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. It’s a scary and sad statistic. I wanted to create a brand, which promoted being friendly in nature (to be a kind, caring and friendly person) and to be friendly for nature (caring for mother nature). This is how FRNDLY A.F started. The meaning behind the FRNDLY is pretty straight forward, and the A.F has two meanings ‘AS FUCK’ and ‘Andonia & Francois’ (the name of myself and my husband). At the end of the day our goal is to make buying responsibly second-nature.
How does it function and who do you have involved in the process?
I found an incredible manufacturer who aligns with my beliefs and who offers an incredible product, which is entirely sustainable, environmentally friendly and powered by renewable energy. Our business is very transparent. My mission has always been to promote be FRNDLY A.F in nature & for nature by creating a sustainable & environmentally FRNDLY A.F fashion way forward. From production to packaging, every aspect of our business is designed to minimise the impact we have on the environment.
FRNDLY A.F products are powered by renewable energy, made from certified organic cotton without the use of herbicides or pesticides, printed in the UK using low waste printing technology.
Our products are designed to come back to us when they’re worn out. When you send back your worn out FRNDLY A.F products you'll receive £5 store credit. We then make new products from the material we recover to help create a circular economy where zero waste exists.
The whole process of how FRNDLY A.F products are made can be found on the website. I create all of the designs, run the website and the social media accounts. I started the business with next to nothing and the goal wasn't to make money from it. FRNDLY A.F was created with the dream to help people think about where their clothes come from, how they are made and the impact they have on the environment.
Why do you think it's taken a lot of other companies this long to get on board sustainable principles in the fashion industry?
I believe ‘us’ as consumers have been somewhat blind/ turned a blind eye to how harmful the fashion industry is. We are constantly bombarded about the latest trends, the next ‘must have’ item, fast fashion brands release new products every single week and consumers have mindlessly purchased them because well they are ‘affordable’ and ‘on trend’. But at what cost?! Companies were never held accountable until recently; and I believe this is what has generated changed. We as ‘consumers’ have finally realised it is us who can be the driving force behind change. There are also so many incredible initiatives and apps which encourage sustainable living and consuming.
What advice would you give to someone just starting a brand?
Just go for it. It will never be the right time. I had the idea for FRNDLY A.F for many years, and I was so scared to fail, that I kept delaying it. I made up so many excuses out of fear. Fear that I would fail, fear that people wouldn't like it or get it, and fear that no one would support it. Don’t feel pressured to go down the ‘influencer’ route and send out free products. This may sounds strange, but I have never sent any products to ‘influencers’. Yes, it could get me more sales but I wanted people to buy my products because they believe in what we are doing, what we stand for and because they want to be part of the solution and not part of the fashion industry problem, not just because they saw an ‘influencer’ wear it.
What advice would you give to other people wanting to start their own brands or labels with a sustainable focus?
Believe in your products. Believe in your brand. Continually assess how you do things and the way you do things. Evolution is key. Always strive to be better, to do better. Educate yourself and encourage others to educate themselves.
It's primarily basics, T-shirts and sweaters at the moment, do you have plans to expand out further?
Yes, the goal is to launch more sustainable and environmentally friendly products. I’d like to create an eco-friendly marketplace. From clothing, to cleaning products, beauty products, homewares, food etc. A place where every single one of your purchases matter, and have a huge positive impact.
You started a kids wear range as well! I love seeing all the FRNDLY AF kids in their t-shirts. What have been some of your favourite moments or highlights in building up the brand?
I love receiving photos of my customers rocking our products. It genuinely puts a massive smile on my face! Seeing FRNDLY A.F kids is even better. We love that parents educating their kids at such a young age about the importance of being FRNLDY in nature and for nature.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in starting the brand?
The biggest challenge with starting the brand is initially getting it out there and getting a customer base. The marketing side can also be quite difficult; I didn't have a budget to invest in a marketing company to help me start up. I watched and read hundreds of marketing and social media videos and articles to help me. Another challenge, would be comparing yourself to other brands, worrying about trivial things like how many likes a photo gets on Instagram/ how many followers your account has. They are trivial. They are things you need not even think twice about.
What have been some of the biggest challenges or outcomes of COVID?
Covid has had a horrific impact on so many businesses around the world both small and large. We have been very fortunate and have received so much support from our customers. While COVID has been awful, it has also brought people together. I’ve never seen this type of support and / banding together of people. It has been beautiful to see. We have all gotten through this together, by supporting one another and being FRNDLY A.F.