Reflect is a new brand founded by young entrepreneurs in Istanbul who believe that what you wear tells a story. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to catch up with Ece Altunmaral, one of the founders of the organization, and asked her questions concerning the origins of their organization’s story and what awaits them in the future.
What is “Reflect”?
How did the idea come up and what were you thinking of changing in the clothing industry?
“Reflect is a textile-oriented design studio, creating narrative products for both organizations and individuals. The studio operates with ‘storytelling design’ and ‘responsible production’ in its heart and relies on the power of stories that make feelings tangible and ideas memorable.
The idea came up as a reaction to the facts we heard about the dirty textile industry, and also as a realization that clothing is a great medium of communication and could be used for a good purpose. Although not widely known, the textile is the second most harmful industry to the environment, only after oil. The process behind our clothes is also kept opaque. We do not know where the fabrics of our clothes are sourced from, nor do we know how many people worked in the making of them.
On the other hand, clothes are the first thing we see when we meet a person. What you wear tells a story, and clothes are dialogue starters. So we thought, ‘why not use clothing as a medium to deliver a message, to highlight stories on social issues through a unique way of design?’ Radical change takes time, but we aim to challenge the current clothing industry by introducing transparency, responsible production and story-telling design.”
Three Articles in Reflect’s Manifesto
Starting with the article “What You Wear Tells a Story,” would you mind sharing with The Borgen Project the meaning behind the three articles you picked for your manifesto?
- Article 1: What You Wear Tells a Story. Appreciating the value of involvement, engagement and different perspectives, we develop our products “together” with designers and brands. The design process starts with collaborative workshops, results in lacing the outcomes onto fabrics and turning them into narratives. Accordingly, we invite all of our clients to become a part of the solution by designing stories around “Sustainable Development Goals”, which focus on environmental, political and economic problems that the world faces.
- Article 2: Radical Transparency Establishes Trust. Embracing the worldwide movement of “slow fashion,” we reject being part of the damage that the fashion industry causes on the environment. We guarantee an ethical and transparent operation from production to distribution while only producing internationally certified sustainable products and assuring long-term use.
- Article 3: Every Purchase Is an Endorsement. This last article is actually the reason why we have started a company. Every dollar we spend makes an organization live a day more. We do hold the power in our hands by choosing to shop from responsible companies. As three co-founders, we wanted to create a better alternative for responsible consumption.”
How was the designing process of your first ever product “Solidarity?” What does it reflect about your organization?
“In our first collection Solidarity, we identified our social challenge as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all. We focused on displaced Syrian refugee children living in Istanbul. We organized art therapy workshops in collaboration with a local NGO. Our creative art therapy workshops encouraged them to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a unique and subjective way through art. Their expressions have turned into the design of our garments. Our first organization is the leading example of our collaborative and participatory approach to communities around us as a brand.”
The Impact of the Organization
What kind of impact do you aim to bring to life and clothing industry by showing people that what you wear tells a story? What is the outcome of the desired social and environmental impact of the “Reflect” so far?
“Since our first day of operations (October 2016), we have reached out to 143 refugee children aged from 7-12, who live in Istanbul, to get empowered through our art therapy sessions. Through our sustainable production process for the manufacturing of our first two collections, we saved 53 percent of material waste and 77 percent of water compared to global industry standards. Furthermore, through partnerships with ateliers, we enabled the employment of 43 textile workers under fair-trade conditions.”
What waits for the organization in the future?
“For our products to be made accessible worldwide. We want to help increase the number of individuals who care about social and environmental causes across the world with our strong corporate commitment to the realization of sustainable development goals. We want more people to buy garment products manufactured sustainably and become part of the solutions that address such challenges through directly impacting vulnerable groups with every purchase they made from reflect.
We would scale up our impact through increased e-commerce activities and physical presence of Reflect products in major markets (European Union and North America). Moreover, we aim at expanding our market share in B2B partnerships for garment products. We are aiming to increase the number of long-term collaborations with mission-driven organizations. Also, we started our application procedure to become a Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) by fulfilling all the required criteria. By mid-2019, we want to become a registered B-corporation!”
Reflect is doing its part to provide sustainable clothing to the mainstream market. The organization is also reaching out to communities around the world, working with refugee children, supporting sustainable sourcing and working for a better future for our planet.