Rebecca Gray, founder of Fresh Cargo, is pulling no punches when it comes to affordable fashion that gives back to communities. Dissatisfied with the state of the mainstream fashion industry and determined not to remain a passive observer, Rebecca decided to blaze her own path by starting Fresh Cargo when she was only 24 years of age. Get inspired by this business woman’s determination and dedication to a fairer future for fashion as Kindness by Design brings you this exclusive interview!
Q. What drove you to become one of the youngest ethical entrepreneurs (aged 26) in the UK?
My grandfather was involved in activities that helped people in developing countries, from fund raising to sponsoring orphans, hence it is in my DNA and part of my family culture to give and help others.
As I grew older in my student years I became more aware of companies and how they produced products and started to look at their ethics. As a young person I struggled to find a company that did funky fashion for my age and was ethical i.e. genuinely fair trade or giving back. At this moment in time there are too many companies green washing or using profits against tax to look good rather than it being part of the culture of the company to help others as well as produce reasonable profits.
Q. How would you describe the design aesthetic of Fresh Cargo?
Fresh Cargo is about funky fair trade clothing and fair trade gifts that make you feel good on two levels, what you buy and how it helps others. I want the collections to be inspiring and a little quirky, a talking point when a woman goes shopping, is out on the town or when meeting friends.
How cute is this Bronze Small Robot Pendant! Fairly traded and handmade in Thailand
Our clothing line launches next year and currently we offer a collection of fair trade shoes, bags, jewellery and homeware.
Q. Can you tell us about your involvement with Maasai Treads and the Born Free Foundation?
I teamed up with Fareed Khimani another ethical entrepreneur and bought into the business last year. At the time both Fareed Khimani and I had inherited a bit of a mess; badly run, unprofitable and in all honesty not very ethical. We went out to Kenya and in less than three months we turned the whole operation around by designing funky flip flops, sourcing locally raw materials and motivating the team and not just by money. Both Fareed and I are very proud of what we have achieved. We have a stable and sustainable business and amazing standards in relation to ethics and the quality of our footwear.
We decided to support the Born Free Foundation as it made sense with the problems in Kenya. Key wildlife is on the verge of extinction and I am not exaggerating – wildlife has been hit hard both by foreign road workers and locals. We are very passionate about ensuring the Born Free Foundation can continue to do their work in prevention and education.
Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now?
Can I be honest, not many. Ethical design seems to attract designers designing for the few and not helping the many. I am not interested in the Stella McCarty customer – I am interested in the average Joe Bloggs. We create designs and build our business model to appeal to those people through designs that will last more than one season and a price that is fair and good value.
If we can appeal to a wide market audience guess what? We can reach a lot of people and change the lives of many. Lately I think Blake Mycoskie at TOM shoes is doing some amazing stuff and young people in the UK have picked up on this, he has done a great job.
Q. What makes Fresh Cargo a great choice for eco-conscious fashionistas?
We are transparent, we want to create products that are inclusive and we will not sell out! Our customers love what we do because we really care and I oversee all customer enquiries and queries. We take customer service very, very seriously as customers help us to help others. Without them we are nothing and I like to make sure our team understand the importance of customer service.
|Eye-catching Paneled Photo Frame made in Indonesia from recycled magazines|
Q. Do you have a favourite item in store right now?
Ok I am going to be a bit biased but I do really love our women’s flip flops especially our Maasai Treads button flip flops, they are not just awesome and so cool, but really comfy. Outside of my world I like Lalesso dresses they are really nice and well thought out.
Q. What’s your advice for young people interested in making a career out of ethical fashion and design?
Try and focus on brands that want to use profits to assist and help others, don’t be an eco-purist. I see a lot of young designers like this and they miss the point. The biggest crime in fashion is the turnover of fashion garments and how cheap pay is for workers. If a consumer buys one ethical garment then that can change someone’s life for a day, even a week. I would also say that trying to create fashion for your generation would also be a good idea as there is not enough young fair trade fashion in the world.
Q. What does the future hold for Fresh Cargo?
To create positive change! I want the company to be a household brand within 10 years and standing for fairness throughout all aspects of our business from how staff are treated, to how we work with customers and our producer groups. I would also like to see Fresh Cargo involved at a grass root level at schools, helping young people understand the importance of ethics in business. And of course, to have had a major impact with the charities we are working with and really have impacted upon the lives of those the charities are helping and supporting.