BERLIN — Shop. For a change.
The eco-centric preorder platform Sardin has precisely that in mind. The Berlin/N.Y. start-up, which counts Parley for the Oceans as its primary partner, seeks to address issues such as overproduction, unjust work conditions and polluting practices within the fashion industry, as well as upping the fashion ante in the sustainable apparel market.
Online since September, Sardin has successively featured six exclusive capsules from Elliss, Phipps, 1017 Alyx 95M Visual, E.L.V. Denim, Rex and, most recently, Carcel, for a 30 day pre-order window. These “mindful brands,” as Sardin chief executive officer and founder Rune Orloff calls them, produce only what has been ordered on the site, thereafter shipping the products to customers using environmentally conscious packaging and shipping methods.
With the help of former Selfridge’s Designer Studio buyer Ruth Hickman, the brands spotlighted on Sardin have been chosen from an aesthetic point of view. “I hope we won’t be a sustainable web shop per se, but a place for the coolest brands out there,” Orloff declared. From a commercial standpoint, Sardin only supports and features brands “that take mindful steps in cleaning their supply chains, utilizing sustainable resources and tackling social issues.”
First up was London-based Elliss, whose designer Elliss Solomon created a Sardin-only collection of her organic and recycled jersey underwear and layer-wear in prints paying homage to historical suffragettes and activists. San Francisco born Spencer Phipps, who debuted his first namesake men’s wear collection in Paris last January, combined signature prints with functional styles for Sardin. Matthew Williams channeled bespoke and upcycling for three Alyx Visual must-have men’s basics, an approach shared by E.L.V. Denim, which created eight exclusive jeans pieces of deadstock denim for its Sardin capsule. For Rex, Hickman scoured the U.K. for a one-off selection of locally sourced vintage pieces, while Carcel, a Danish knitwear brand produced by women in prison in Cusco, Peru aptly went orange for its baby alpaca Sardin special. Next up in 2019: Ganni.
Proceeds from each sale are donated to environmental initiatives the world over, thus inviting shoppers to be a funding partner in concepts contributing to a cleaner planet. “Let power of purchase lead the way for positive change” is a key tenet of Sardin’s philosophy. And to see the fruits of this philosophy in practice, “Our next big thing is really to work closer with our partner Parley for the Oceans,” Orloff told WWD. “With them we will start developing a bunch of new exciting concepts based on upcycled Oceans plastic debris. Most important for us is to clearly bridge the gap between product innovation and the end-users.
“Most great ideas never get a chance at the consumer level — due to pricing policies, minimums and routine,” he continued. “We need to acknowledge demand at a much earlier stage in order to forecast to minimize waste and accelerate positive products.”
As with all start-ups, Sardin is on a learning curve. “We’ve established a very interesting audience that seem engaged with our topic,” Orloff said. “Going forward — we need to get more people outside of the ‘bubble’ to believe in the new methods,” he acknowledged. “We believe that great design will enable this — not necessarily the sustainable story.”
One bump, and a considerable one, is getting consumers to embrace the pre-order process, which is one of Sardin’s key concepts to eliminate unwanted overproduction. “But we’ve definitely learned that people are very used to shopping fast and with all the advantages of stock availability. Next day delivery, unlimited return policies, try at-home programs just to name a few.
“There will always be plenty of bumps on planet start-up, but it seems totally straightforward for us at this point,” said the ceo, who together with cofounder Oliver Kann have more than 20 years of experience in the fashion and lifestyle industries. Working with companies such as Mykita, Adidas, Y-3, Henrik Vibskov and Design Hotels to name a few, they lead brand strategy, product roll-out and global business development.
Orloff pointed out that Sardin’s new shopping concept “takes time to introduce and time to flourish. So our constant 30-day limited-edition program can seem a little stressful from an operative point of view. Carcel, for example, closes today [Dec. 14] even though it would be nice to keep that collection running much longer.”
And where do sardines come in? As the site informs its audience, Sardin was inspired by “the humble sardine — their spirit of collectivity and collaboration reminds one that small efforts can create big change.”