Sustainability and Ethical Fashion with Lucy Macnamara, Founder of Aspiga
It’s fair to say that, here at Ancient + Brave, we are smitten with many of the ethical, sustainable and stylish pieces available at Aspiga. But, what really draws us in and makes Aspiga so much more than just a pretty dress, is founder Lucy Macnamara’s passion and drive to do good in the world, minimising our impact on the planet.
Lucy’s charity background, love of travelling and concern for sustainability came together whilst on holiday in Kenya. The visit led her on a journey culminating in a fashion company that, from day one, exists with the desire to share beautiful craftsmanship and stimulate the economies of talented artisans. Lucy is working to fight poverty through commerce, with ethical trading and sustainability at the heart of all she does for Aspiga.
As a mutual B Corp member and part of our sustainability and community focus this month, we are delighted that Lucy has taken the time to chat with us…
Lucy, when did you first become interested in sustainability and how did this awareness shape your business practices?
I grew up in a family where recycling was the norm and almost nothing was thrown away. My mother was a war baby and even washed up plastic bags to be reused and used old camera roll boxes for seeds, egg shells for slug bait – and the list goes on. It instilled in me from an early age that resources are limited and the planet is precious and we have a responsibility to care for it. I also spent 15 years working for a charity which was all about Corporate Social Responsibility, so when I set up Aspiga I very much wanted the company to be about giving back not just about making a profit.
Consciousness and attitudes to sustainability and provenance have widely improved over the years. What makes you feel positive about a sustainable future?
I find the commitment by business towards sustainability very encouraging. It’s one of the reasons I am so proud to be part of the BCorp community, where businesses commit to write environmental and social advocacy into their legal framework, ensuring people and the planet are as important as profit.
Sustainable and ethical fashion practices are a huge commitment for a business. How do you meet this commitment within your processes, and what practices are you most proud of?
We support a number of small, family-run businesses in India and Africa who make unique artisanal products, thereby stimulating the local economy and keeping traditional crafting alive. We create long-term partnerships, commit to pay a fair price for our products and provide interest-free loans to help them grow their businesses. All our suppliers sign our Code of Conduct and we work with them to improve their sustainability practices across the supply chain. We have stopped working with brands who don’t comply with our sustainable criteria.
We also launched a Beach Clean initiative in Kenya in 2019 and now run beach cleans in locations near all our stores...
What are the biggest challenges in running a sustainable business?
By choosing to only work with the most sustainable fabrics we can source, it can be frustrating when we see something we love but it contains non-sustainable fibres. Increasingly, manufacturers are seeking sustainable materials which are more expensive to produce and this, of course, affects the price we have to pay. It can also affect the availability on occasion.
Can anything new be truly sustainable and how do you manage this concept?
Everything has an impact on the planet – which is why we are interested in growing our circularity model. We encourage our customers to shop and live mindfully and to extend the life cycle of their clothes by repairing their clothes and washing at a low temperature – We are also launching a pre-loved and rental service online and our Repair and Re-wear service in our Wilton store.
Do you have any sustainability heroes?
Sir David Attenborough. His amazing documentary A Life On Our Planet was one of the saddest and most inspiring things I’ve seen in a long time and his influence on consumer behaviour has been immense.
Name three of your favourite brands who are doing it right, and why do you like them?Am I allowed Aspiga?!
Pangaia – for their fabric innovation
Oddbox – for their work on fighting food waste
Turtle Doves – for their circularity model
What advice would you give to businesses looking to improve their impact on our planet through sustainability?
If you’re a small business and wonder how much difference you can make, every step you take counts. Start small, you’ll be amazed at how much and how quickly you can achieve. Ensure you set each member of staff a sustainability KPI as part of their objectives.
How has your attitude towards sustainability and ethical practices shaped your daily practices and rituals?
I always use up everything in my fridge and never throw anything away. I have really got into composting and have a hot bin in my garden. All my kitchen products are eco-friendly and I never buy single use plastics. I buy in bulk to reduce plastic waste and am very conscious of every purchase I make – scrutinising packaging and ingredients.
Finally, a few quick fire questions, share with us your favourite...
Oats, blueberries and yoghurt
Way to relax:
Exercise, whether its running, road cycling, riding my horse or yoga - I have to do something daily
Dose of nature:
Walking my dog in the country
I’ve just finished 'Lessons in Chemistry' in Audio format, which I loved.
The Rest is Politics and A Diary of a CEO
Item of clothing:
My responsibly sourced stretch cord Aspiga suit
Daily(ish) healthy habit:
Walking the dog and taking a probiotic as soon as I get up
Ancient + Brave product:
Inspired Collagyn for Brain
The fields around my home or Barbados
We hope you've enjoyed this insight into Lucy's thoughts around community and sustainability, discover Aspiga at www.aspiga.com