Launch date: April 2020
Category: Plant-based eyewear label
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It is important to communicate clearly and transparently to customers especially during a global health crisis, according to Lauren Chang, co-founder of eco-friendly eyewear label Mari & Clay.
Chang said consumers have become more curious to know the story behind a brand and what a brand represents so building a relationship with customers beyond just transactions is necessary.
“It is very competitive in the online market,” Chang told Inside Retail. “And consumers like to know where their money is going.”
To give their customers a more personalised experience, Chang said they plan to implement a virtual try-on and virtual stylist for their sunglasses to allow shoppers to confidently purchase the right shape of eyewear for themselves.
Mari & Clay is a modern eyewear label that crafts frames out of plant-based, biodegradable materials. While most glasses are commonly made of acetate, Mari & Clay’s frames are made of materials from acetate’s plant-based cousin, bio-acetate, which is biodegradable.
Bio-acetate is made up of responsibly-sourced natural materials including cotton seed and wood fibre and contains none of the chemical plasticizers found in traditional acetate. By using bio-acetate, it limits the use of fossil fuel in the production process. It is also a very durable material, which means customers can use the brand’s eyewear collection for many years and reduces the chance of needing replacements.
Chang said she and Chen, who are both optometrists, decided to launch the business when they noticed the waste in the eyewear industry and the lack of solutions offered.
“We started Mari & Clay because we wanted to provide a sustainable alternative for eyewear,” Chang said.
Chang said they planned to launch the online-only business in March this year but that was when the coronavirus outbreak started in Melbourne and the city went into its first lockdown.
“At that time, we weren’t sure when would be a good time to launch our store again,” she said. “We waited a few weeks and decided to go ahead with our launch not knowing how the pandemic would unfold or impact us. Thinking back, I am glad we started our store at the time that we did. As a team, we’ve learned to trust our instincts and be flexible around changes in the market.”
Chang said because of the extra attention from online shoppers – the site is getting around 300 to 400 new visitors each week – they want to now expand into wholesale.
“It is important to us for people to see and touch the product to get an idea of the quality we provide,” she said. “Now that the lockdown has ended, we look forward to building relationships with local wholesalers around Australia.
Chang said they will also be participating at the Melbourne Retail Festival early next year and are looking forward to doing photoshoots of their products outdoors again.
Mari & Clay’s frames are packaged in protective cases made from kraft paper and for delivery, the company uses DHL’s Go Green program. The retailer has also partnered with One Tree Planted so that for every pair of eyewear sold, one tree is planted to help restore Australia’s landscape after the devastating fires that started in December 2019 which lasted until the early part of 2020.
“We wanted to see change and we wanted to make being sustainable possible in our industry. That’s why sustainability is at the core of our values,” Chang said.
Founders: Twin sisters Santhi and Sari Tunas
Launch date: 2015
Category: Lifestyle brand with products that range from apparel to accessories
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With their online store being their only touch point with consumers during the start of the coronavirus outbreak, sisters and co-founders Santhi and Sari Tunas said they had to drum up Binary Style’s online presence and use social media channels to talk to their customers.
Santhi said they had to change their marketing strategy and post messages that are not meant to sell products.
“We posted many spontaneous, genuine and at times funny or silly posts,” Santhi told Inside Retail. “We didn’t want them to feel bombarded by marketing. We want them to see the face behind the brand and to show them how we are coping with this difficult time while at the same time showing them that we are relatable thus they are more willing to support us.”
“We want them to remember us and what we do so even when they are not buying at this moment, they will keep us in mind.”
Binary Style specialises in creating vibrant prints for products that range from apparel to accessories that are inspired by architecture and nature. The company also licences its prints to various designers and companies.
The company partners with several retailers that operate physical stores and also with some leading department stores in Singapore. But at the height of the pandemic, during the government-imposed lockdowns, most stores closed, leaving Binary Style to focus on their online shop.
“We have noticed that right now, the site visits and online sales are actually higher than before, so we assume that people are not really back full force hitting the shopping malls and physical stores yet,” said Sari.
“In the beginning of May this year, we started offering reusable masks that feature our vibrant signature prints,” she said. “This is a good move and we’ve had a significant increase in site visits. We have quite a number of spillover orders where people are not only buying masks but also other products too.”
According to the twins, they are postponing the launch of a full range of resort wear and are instead currently exploring collaborations with other designs and makers as a way to do product diversification.
They are also trying to explore using a more sustainable material and packaging.
“We work with a variety of fabric for our apparel,” Sari said. “Five years ago we started with synthetic material eg. polyester fabric, we are progressively making less of that range and right now we are looking into lyocell.”
Santhi said the desire to be a sustainable brand has always been at the back of their mind but they also learned that to be a truly sustainable brand takes a long journey.
“We are taking our baby steps now and we are even more mindful when we make business decisions,” she said.
Five Dot Botanics
Founders: Zaffrin and Brian O’Sullivan
Launch date: 2019
Category: Vegan skincare company
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At the height of the pandemic, skincare brand Five Dot Botanics distributed free hand sanitisers to local organisations in need of the product and gave the rest away to customers.
“Helping the community was just one of those ways of feeling useful in a crisis,” Zaffrin O’Sullivan, co-founder of Five Dot Botanics which produces natural skincare products that only use five ingredients, told the Evening Standard.
“We don’t even make a massive dent in this problem but we stand for community. This is our small way of telling people what we’re about as a business.”
O’Sullivan, who first came up with the idea of Five Dot Botanics in 2017, spent two years developing the products with a cosmetic scientist and had its first manufacturing run in 2019, sold direct-to-consumer.
According to her, enthusiasm and energy have helped the business succeed but human contact and feedback is still the best.
“There is something wonderful when customers send you a message on social media or leave a review letting you know they love their purchase,” O’Sullivan said in an interview with SmallBusiness.co.uk.
The beauty brand raised funding from startup seed investment fund Worth Capital and may enter another fundraising round later this year.
Five Dot Botanics will soon launch a pop-up in the luxury spa Urban Retreat based in The White House, Knightsbridge and has been disseminating the information through social media.