This ethical underwear brand has everything we look for in a sustainable brand - beautiful designs, soft, high quality fabrics and an ethical supply chain. We sat down with our new brand AmaElla's co-founder Lara to talk about the young brand and exactly what ethical fashion means to the founding team. Read to the end for a special treat to celebrate AmaElla's launch with Sheer Apparel.
What inspired you to start the brand and why did you call it AmaElla?
One of the greatest motivators was the desire to create beautiful everyday wear cotton lingerie. As consumers, we were deeply frustrated with mostly sporty or dowdy cotton underwear and nearly no organic cotton lingerie. We asked ourselves why it was not possible to find something as pretty as the existing lingerie but made from organic cotton.
We wanted to use cotton because it’s natural, breathable and fresh, and it is the best material for lingerie. We also did not see ourselves dedicating our energy and skills to a corporate world that did not resonate with our personal values.
So we decided to create AmaElla to respond to a growing demand for more sustainable and ethical products. Our ultimate goal is to encourage ethical shopping behaviour. Consumer vote with their wallets and they have the right to be better informed and to have a variety of choices, including more ethical products.
The name of AmaElla comes from a play of words in Spanish that means She Loves or Love Her by twisting the words Ella Ama, Amala a Ella. For us nature is feminine, therefore our name has a double meaning about loving women and loving nature.
Why do your customers love your collection?
We have received a lot of positive feedback about the design, softness and comfort of our products. I think all the fitting hours we spent are paying back. We searched high and low for the best quality materials for months. Our customers are happy with the long lasting quality of our organic cotton and all the trims. Nothing is more frustrating for us than a garment that doesn’t look good anymore after a few washes.
What does sustainability mean for your brand?
Sustainability for us is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. We exclusively use sustainable materials for our lingerie, more specifically certified organic cotton. The production of traditional cotton can be extremely harmful for people and the environment. It is just the dirtiest crop on Earth. Being aware of this, we couldn’t use anything else than organic cotton.
What’s your favourite piece of your collection?
Every piece has been put together with a lot of thought and care but my favourite one is probably the Delicate Triangle Soft Bra. It is exactly what we were looking for, a comfortable bra that gives you also a great support.
My co-founder Julie’s favourite piece is the Pyjama Set. She loves the leaver lace detail and the combination of cotton voile and velvet.
You go to great lengths to ensure every detail of your garment is carefully sourced. How did you find your suppliers and where are they?
As a start-up, sourcing is the most challenging task. We did extensive research over months: going to textile fairs, cold calling suppliers, reaching out to agents in the UK, and getting access to buying directories.
The GOTS* cotton used for the lingerie is grown in Turkey and is knitted in Austria. The GOTS and Fairtrade cotton used for the nightwear is grown and woven in India. The trims come from different places; the elastics from Japan, France and Germany, the leaver lace comes from Germany, and the velvet comes from France.
*Global Organic Textile Standard – the leading, globally recognised certificate for organic cotton.
How do you make sure the people who make your beautiful pieces are treated well?
Ethical manufacturing is non-negotiable for us. Despite making our lives more difficult, we are not willing to compromise on ethics. We work with two factories at the moment, one in Portugal which is GOTS certified, and one in London which is a non-for profit organisation that focuses on training and development of skills in the fashion and textile Industry.
The Portuguese manufacturer commits to strict environmental and social criteria to maintain the GOTS manufacturer certification, being audited every year. The London manufacturer provides training and employment to unemployed women willing to work in the textile industry, running the biggest textile apprenticeship scheme in the UK.
You are friends and co-founders. How do you divide your roles in the company?
It has been a bit of a learning curve and we have pivoted along the way. At the beginning, Julie was on top of the sourcing and production and I responsible for everything else. We did a lot of things together because it took some time to learn how to work with each other. Each of us had to find her place in the company and what we are best at. Like with everything, you need to test and review. Now, Julie is responsible for Marketing and Sales and I took over Design and Production.
What has surprised you most about running a business?
How naive you are when you start. No matter how much research, network and how many business plans you have, everything that could possible go wrong, it will most likely do. Nevertheless, you need to have a plan because improvising is just a lot worse.
I think being very optimistic and positive when starting a business is key. Rather than being disheartened by the things we could have done better, we value those learning opportunities. We have both gained a decent amount of resilience over the last year.
Building a business is more than just a job. How to you like to unwind?
One of the most important things for us is to take care of ourselves. We need to be our best for AmaElla and ready for the long run. We are both into mindfulness and we even mediate at the office sometimes. We also like yoga, running, and being outdoors. We are extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful place as Cambridge.
To celebrate AmaElla's launch with Sheer Apparel, the brand is giving away a beautiful lingerie bag made of soft cotton voile to their first ten customers via Sheer Apparel.