1. AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
I was twenty-three when I founded my company, Zèta. I remember seeing the concern in my parents’ faces – they wanted me to pursue a more traditional career and wait until I was older before branching out on my own. It was mirrored in the expressions of the bank managers when I applied for financing and the suppliers I met with while trying to set up our production. Surprise at my age, cynicism than my plan – to launch a brand of sneakers made from waste – was too ambitious, or that I was too young to pull it off. But my generation know what they’re doing. Thanks to growing up online, I believe we have a more global view of the world from an earlier age. I surprised everyone by succeeding – everyone except myself, that is. We’re the leaders of tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start today.
2. CONSUMPTION DOESN’T HAVE TO BE WASTEFUL
For decades we’ve been stuck in a linear economy – one that takes resources from the earth and processes them into products that are discarded at the end of their life. But we can’t go on like this. The circular economy is all about reducing the resources we use – including those we can’t see, or don’t think of, like energy and water – and making sure that materials and products live on once we’re done with them. The future is about renewable energy, seeking value from waste, regenerating and restoring nature. We have no choice.
3. FASHION IS BACKWARDS
I interned in the fashion industry and was shocked by what I saw. The impact of what we wear is enormous – far too great. Resources are taken from the earth, materials are shipped over great distances, production exploits society’s most vulnerable people. It’s simply not worth it – not for a dress or a pair of shoes that we discard when we become bored of them or our tastes change. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The fashion industry needs kinder, slower production. It needs smart reform – to evolve into an economy that is more circular, gentler on the planet. One that puts people first.
4. THE PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED HOW WE SHOP
I launched Zèta in France after the first lockdown. Already, I have seen an evolution in consumers’ minds. People are increasingly questioning where their clothes come from, what’s behind the production, who made the garment, how far it has travelled before it ends up in their wardrobe. We’re drifting away from fast-fashion – clothes bought for the purpose of an Instagram picture or two – and investing in sustainable quality pieces that are built to last. I receive messages from customers telling me that they normally buy such-and-such brand of sneakers, but they choose Zèta because they prefer our approach of made-from-waste, European production, short-circuit manufacturing, vegan shoes. Consumers are evolving their thinking.
5. BIG BUSINESS CAN LEARN A THING OR TWO FROM START-UPS
The collaboration between Zèta and Nespresso might surprise people – a multinational coffee brand partnering with an ecological fashion start-up. Beyond creating a great product, the partnership is an opportunity to learn, and they’re learning as much from us as we are from them. About the entrepreneurial mindset, and agility, about adapting at speed and daring to dream bigger – the key ingredients for a successful start-up. We have more in common than you might think. Our shared commitment? I can sum it up in five words: sustainable quality, made with care.
6. IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
No one has all the answers, and anyone who thinks they do is not going to learn. Curiosity is key to being a successful entrepreneur. Ask questions, even the ones that might seem obvious. That’s the only way to learn, grow, evolve. It’s where innovation comes from. Surround yourself with smart people, observe and listen. And don’t be afraid of making a few mistakes along the way. When I first launched Zèta, I thought it would be an international brand. After a kick-starter campaign to get the company off the ground, we had orders from the USA and Australia. I had a moment where I realised it made no sense for a sustainable product to be shipped so far. We pivoted, adapted our approach. Now, we only ship within Europe.
7. BRANDS ARE BUILT ON IDEAS
The idea for a zero-waste vegan sneaker might seem bold – the concept breaks all the rules of traditional production. But the best brands come from a simple idea that leads to bold innovation. Like the idea that cars can run on electricity, or that you can put a computer in a watch and wear it on your wrist, or that you can make barista-style coffee at home at the touch of a button. Brands built on bold ideas are the true game-changers.
8. WE WILL BE THE DRIVERS OF CHANGE
Our planet is in crisis. There’s a risk that the pandemic and conflict, all these headlines, the day-to-day, might distract us from the huge ecological challenge we face. When it comes to climate change the clock is ticking, and it’s us that will have to deal with the consequences – when the earth warms past the point of reverse, when our seas are full of plastic, when biodiversity is strangled, and our forests are choked. We cannot wait for governments to act – it will be up to companies, brands, and all of us as consumers to drive the change we need. Our economies, systems, societies… we need to rethink our world view. You can start with you. It might feel like a small change, but every individual, every second counts.