ZERO WASTE: THE EMPTY INDUSTRY

Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame

”Now to get real with you, fashion is a great, it is an incredibly interesting and rich industry, but it’s also not that big of a deal, you choose what it is for you. We wont ever try to push something on you, you do you girl, we will catch up. We don’t believe in perfection, what we do believe In is messiness and authenticity. The most beautiful and fascinating things in this world aren’t perfect, and these imperfections are what makes everything around us unique and special. This is why our clothing is made to look slightly imperfect. Thats the message behind it.” – THE EMPTY INDUSTRY

When you get your piece delivered from TEI you will get a detailed care sheet, the story of the piece you purchased, and well as a lot of information about where was that particular piece made, who made it, and where were the materials purchased. All the garments are made in ethical conditions and in small quantities as the designers don’t believe in overproduction and overconsumption and try to help the Earth little by little, as much as they can.

Photographer: Renata Kats | Style: Alexandra Osina | Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame

UPCYCLING PROJECT – THE EMPTY INDUSTRY

At The Empty Industry they do their best to not generate any waste. A lot of our fabrics are non-recyclable, and we know how much harm this can cause our planet. Which is why they started UPCYCLING PROJECT.

All TEI garments returned will be up-cycled and used in their next collection or stored for future use to be up-cycled later. This way, the fabrics won’t go to waste, and you will also not need to spend too much of your time trying to sell it online (because we’ve all been there). We assure you that none of this fabric will go to waste! Ever! This is not what this is about. See more here: https://www.themptyindustry.com/en/pages/upcycling-project

THE MISSION

1) All the pieces are manufactured in ethical conditions, by people who don’t work extra hours, and get paid for their job. 

2) They do not retouch their product photos. What you see is what you get, you can be sure of that.

3) They try their best to stay as sustainable as they possibly can.

4) They do not overproduce. They underproduce. Every item is limited to a number of pieces, and they will only make a new production run if there is demand.

Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame

A TALK WITH NASTIYA RODIONOVA, CEO + DESIGNER of THE EMPTY INDUSTRY

How does your brand position itself on the international market?

THE EMPTY INDUSTRY is a premium Zero Waste brand. We don’t only sell clothing , we try and educate people on sustainability, create designs suitable for most occasions, make people comfortable, and follow them on their journey through figuring out life.

How the brand was born and how many people are involved in the team now?

The brand was actually born two years ago. I knew I wanted to make clothing but I also wanted to be responsible about it. I did not want my wanting to do what I love to impact the environment. So thats how the concept for T.E.i was born. It took a while though, as we still use some non-recyclable fabrics I had to figure out ways to deal with unsold inventory and somehow take control from the people disposing of our clothing, so we started the Upcycling project (https://www.themptyindustry.com/en/pages/upcycling-project) and I felt like the brand was ready to go.

Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame

We design not just for a specific customer, but we design for someone who shares our purpose. We want people to understand that being sustainable and buying sustainable doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice anything – cool clothing can also be sustainable. 

I also wanted to design something that was comfortable, so you wouldn’t have to sacrifice style for comfort and vice versa, but at the same time, keeping the designs unique. It’s a challenge, but this is key for me. As someone who never liked to dress ordinary, I found myself being a “fashion victim” at times, wearing things that felt horrible and they were just everywhere to the point where I spent my day dreaming of getting out of this beautiful piece I was just so happy about buying.I never wanted to make anyone else feel this way.

The brand launched in Paris in November, but I quickly realised that I wanted to bring it back home to Russia with me, as here people are very behind on sustainability – let alone fashion’s impact specifically. As I said, I wanted it to be deeper than just selling fashion. I simply felt like we could be more of use in my country. So we moved the brand here in March, we also run a blog on telegram (one of the most used social networks in Russia) to constantly educate people and explain our purpose to them. So far we are 6 people, we have an in-house production to produce and perfect samples so there are two people working there, then we have our manager, and two people in our digital marketing team. 

Photo: Anastasia Belyaeva Makeup and hair: Anastasia Bezhan
Photo: Anastasia Belyaeva Makeup + Hair: Anastasia Bezhan

What do you think is the biggest challenge for a young brand right now?

Getting yourself seen. There are so many brands out there and it’s just difficult to create enough noise for your voice to be heard.

Also staying true to yourself as the industry will constantly try and sort of mold you to it’s standards. If you make it out and still be as you were initially – you have succeeded. 

How do you want to achieve the long-lasting concept for your brand?

I wanna keep doing what I’m doing. So far we have the telegram channel I mentioned, then we have our own production which allows us to control waste and production runs without having to place large factory orders and overproduce, we have our upcycling project, but there are a lot of things that still need to be figured out.

The problem with our strategy is that it is going to take longer than it would normally.

As I mentioned, we are a zero waste brand. We are aiming to be fully sustainable in a year. And as much as the production part is quite easy for us to figure out, working with partners isn’t. We still haven’t figured out what we are going to do to convince large retailers to return the unsold pieces back to us. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the thing is I just haven’t figured out another way to make sure our pieces aren’t burned down or go to the landfills. Obviously there are retailers thhat share their strategies publicly, but most dont. I just haven’t found a way around that yet

Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame

How do you determine what is durable design?

A durable design is something that is everlasting. That means excellent quality as well as a style thhat can be worn for years. This means it cannot be stuck specifically to a certain trend. It has to be you, it has to be relevant for years to come

What happens to that part of a production that does not get sold?

We make our calculations very carefully with an intention to sell out. Always, even if that means having very small production runs. As I said, we have a small production in house, so we can always make extra pieces if we’re out of stock. We’d rather underproduce than overproduce

But in an unfortunate case where something doesn’t sell – we store it to be further upcycled as part of our Upcycling Project. 

Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame

How far do you go in terms of sustainability?

So far we have a strict zero waste policy, as I mentioned we have our own production where we monitor that carefully. All the small scraps or buttons and such things that are normally considered waste are upcycled at T.E.i. We have many plans as to what to use them for, our first one  is to make patched garment bags so this will be the first thing we do once we gather enough material!

I already talked about this, but having our own production allows us to monitor our production runs. So we underproduce first and then we have a system, where people can email us and “request” a certain piece and if there is enough demand – we will produce some more

With every order we send out personalised booklets to our customers where they can see who made that piece , where was the fabric purchased, how to take care of it, what inspired it. We cannot yet invest in expensive software that would map out the story of the garment, even though we want to, so this is the best we can do for now.

All our packaging is either recyclable or biodegradable, we actually import it to Russia as we found trouble finding recyclable poly-mailers here.

We have our Upcycling project, that im sure I mentioned already. So this was created to have control over what happens to the pieces we sold, and make sure they dont end up on a landfill. Every garment you buy from T.E.i is eligible for the project, you can simply return it to us whenever and no matter the condition of the item and get 10% off your next order. We will further upcycle the garment

In terms of our workers, our team is very small. For the production team they are only 2 people working full time as currently we are only developing samples, howveer, when it gets to producing larger orders we will hire part time workers as I understand that they will not be able to manage being just 2.

We also have a code of conduct that we give out to our employees, stating our values, and how they should behave in a company ( that being to not discriminate anyone for whatever reason and treat everyone equally). They are also paid twice a month

This is far from what we want the end result to be, we plan to be fully sustainable by 2021, use only recyclable and organic materials, perfect our wholesale system, and offset our carbon emissions, however, this is still all in plans.

Where could you serve as a role model for others?

I don’t like the term role model. But I do think we could set an example to people and show them that being sustainable isn’t a sacrifice and it isn’t more work. Its just a different way of doing things, the right way of doing things. And I hope we can encourage more designers to take this approach.

  • Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
  • Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
  • Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
  • Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
  • Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
  • Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame
  • Photo: Anastasia Belyaeva Makeup and hair: Anastasia Bezhan
  • Photo: Anastasia Belyaeva Makeup + Hair: Anastasia Bezhan
  • Photo: Anastasia Belyaeva Makeup + Hair: Anastasia Bezhan
  • Photographer: Renata Kats Style: Alexandra Osina Makeup + Hair: Christine Frame

ZERO WASTE: THE EMPTY INDUSTRY

Speaking of Mother Earth, check out the upcycling project!