An interview with Lucy & Yak
A fresh wave of climate strikes on Friday 20th September saw an insurgence of people power across the globe, demanding urgent action towards the spiralling ecological problem.
With the hashtag #weekforfuture confirming it as one of the biggest global demonstrations in history, the need for sustainable and ethical resourcing amongst brands and emerging companies has never been more important.
Lucy & Yak is an independent clothing company that prides itself on this very idea, stating on their website that “The system is whatever we all decide to make it, so let’s make a system where everyone wins”. With their Brighton store opening on Gloucester Road in April, the brand’s reputation has continued to grow, developing a name as a standout sustainable fashion brand nestled amongst Brighton. I spoke to Tasha from Lucy & Yak to get to know a little more about the inspiration behind the brand and the popularity of ethically sourced fashion and clothing in today’s climate.
Can you tell us a little bit about the brand?
Lucy and Yak has grown from having no investment and very little money to employing 40 staff in the UK, all paid a minimum of £9ph as per livingwage.org. The majority of which are in Barnsley, an area that has suffered since the closure of coal mines in the 80’s.
We have a very unique business structure; working with Ismail as more of a business partner rather than a standard factory relationship means we can have full transparency with our supply chain. Ismail’s factory has grown to employ 70 people earning 3 to 4 times the state minimum wage.We personally visit all suppliers twice a year, meeting staff and owners and checking working conditions and pay. Other than Ismail they are all Sedex certified.
In addition, Lucy and Yak are working to reduce our already low environmental impact by working with organic and recycled materials in over 95% of our range. We choose organic cotton because it has lower water consumption and uses no harmful chemicals. Moreover, recycled materials help promote a circular economy. Our main factory that we built with Ismail is solar powered, so the majority of our range is produced using renewable energy. We use as little plastic as possible, packing 5 to 10 pieces in 1 piece of plastic in India and posting out to customers in recycled Indian Sari bags and bio-degradable mailing bags.
Our product is unique and we create a community atmosphere. We are proof that capitalism can be kind and successful. We are the new business model.
Where did the inspiration behind Lucy and Yak originally come from? How was Lucy and Yak born?
Lucy and Yak was born out of a love for travelling and not wanting to work for someone else. We initially wanted to make a few pairs of dungarees and sell them so we could keep travelling. Having set up on Depop selling vintage clothing we had already created a customer base who has loved the product ever since.
What was it about Brighton that drew you to expanding the company here?
We were drawn to Brighton for many reasons. We love the laid back and open-minded atmosphere, which is great for building a team of creatives in our design studio. We like that it’s the only place in the country that votes green and it is a city that still has the small town community feel.
In the wake of the recent Global Climate Strikes, do you think there has been a shift in people’s attitudes towards sustainable fashion since the company started?
It’s hard to say as we sometimes think we live in a bubble of people who care about these issues. It can be hard to tell if there is a shift in anything or if it’s just the people we surround ourselves with. People in Brighton seem to care already but is this the same elsewhere?
Out of your new range of Lucy & Yak products, what top three products would you say are staples for this Autumn/Winter?
Always the Originals as who doesn’t want a comfy pair of organic corduroy dungarees this time of year? We have just launched our Stevie and Blake fleeces made from recycled plastic bottles which very cosy and warm. Lastly, I would say something from our Made in Yorkshire range that is soon to come!
Term has begun! For all the students out there – is there a must have ‘Back to School’ item in at the moment?
Our organic cotton Dylan backpack is a great back to school item. It has been a huge hit and makes a great Christmas present!
Do you have any upcoming in-store events soon?
We have a meditation mindfulness evening coming in October that we are really excited about. This is something important to myself and Chris and we couldn’t have done all this without it.
Where do you see Lucy & Yak heading in the future?
In the UK we are working towards bringing manufacturing back to Yorkshire by opening our own sewing room. We are hoping this will grow to start our own factory here in Barnsley. Garment manufacturing is already present in the UK but often has poor wages and working conditions. We encourage fair working conditions for everyone that makes our clothes and are always looking at ways to improve the production. This is something close to our hearts as my parents always talk about how the closing of the factories and coal mines affected the community negatively. We would love to offer jobs to the skilled workers in the area.
Check out Lucy & Yak on 101 Gloucester Rd, Brighton