Here’s what you need to know: “‘Is this really sustainable?’ is the question that guides us in all aspects of our business, from the materials we use in our products to atomising essential aspects of our business,” says LastObject co-founder Isabel Aagaard.
“When thinking about our materials, durability is our biggest focus. If our products don’t last, our mission doesn’t make sense.”
LastObject’s aim is to eliminate single-use items by creating sustainable alternatives. The business started with LastSwab, the first reusable cotton bud. LastTissue followed – a pack of 100 per cent cotton reusable tissues – then LastRound, a set of six reusable makeup pads. Most recently the business launched LastMask x Spray, an eco-friendly face mask and sanitiser kit.
According to Aagaard, when looking at sustainability, people often get too caught up in what products are made of and how they can be disposed of. While these are valid questions, they forget about how long a particular item could be used.
“The most sustainable chair is not the one made of cardboard, it’s the one that has lasted for decades, been used in multiple homes and sold between families,” she said. “Sustainability is very much about quality. So our materials are chosen with durability in mind first.”
Last month, instead of running a Black Friday sale LastObject ran a Green November campaign.
“For each product sold during the month, the company vowed to remove 1kg of ocean-bound plastic with Plastic Bank,” Aagaard says.
“The goal was to remove a minimum of 10 tonnes of plastic by the end of the month, as well as reduce the amount of new single-use plastic waste. In addition, Plastic Bank’s circular economy for plastics provides opportunities for people in developing countries to earn a living through plastic collection.”
The company has so far helped eliminate more than 908 million single-use products since 2019 and the founders are aiming to make that 50 billion by the end of 2023.
Founders: Mayura Davda-Shah and Karan Shah
Launched: November 2018
Category: Sustainable luxury brand that features handcrafted accessories
Here’s what you need to know: Mayu is a sustainable luxury lifestyle brand that offers accessories and gifts like wallets, handbags and tech sleeves that use materials such as fish leather and vegan materials procured from Europe.
Interestingly, fish leather was first used by the Nords more than 5,000 years ago.
“This ingenious solution has been the core of our design process. Fish skin has its own unique tone and finish that stands out from other types of natural leather in terms of both look and durability,” Shah says. “Our whole brand is based on the premise of sustainability. Our seriousness on this subject can’t be emphasised enough.”
“One of our criteria for material selection to make our accessories and handbags is that it should be derived from by-products of the food industry apart from being durable, unconventional, innovative and sustainable in nature.”
The fish leather used at Mayu is sourced from organic fish farms in Ireland and treated with water provided by geothermal plants in Iceland. The products are designed in New York and crafted in India with customised embellishments and trimmings from Hong Kong.
Mayu recently launched its first vegan line of accessories made from a PETA-vegan certified leather alternative which is made by upcycling pineapple leaves and dyed using Global Organic Textile Standard-certified dyes.
Internally, sustainability is also a big focus at Mayu. The headquarters and warehouse are both fully solar-powered and the company uses environmentally-friendly packaging. It also partners with shipping companies that offer selected reduced carbon emission options.
“We believe in striking a balance between what we consume and what we emit as carbon emissions as part of our operations,” Shah explains. “We are not at a 100 per cent carbon neutral mark, but we work hard every day towards total carbon neutrality with big and small improvements.”
At the moment, Mayu is available online and also brick-and-mortar stockists. Since restrictions have lifted, foot traffic has been steadily growing, says Shah.
However, the business has the potential to scale up across categories and geographies, and one day becoming more of an international lifestyle and wellness brand.
“We took the time during the lockdown to reflect on our brand DNA and watched the changing retail landscape closely to reformulate our ideas and plans for the post-pandemic world,” says Shah.
Founders: Nasyitah Tan and Sherie Yeo
Launch date: 2016
Category: Bespoke lifestyle goods
Here’s what you need to know: Looms is a social enterprise that employs and trains women in need to create upcycled gifts and accessories using textile offcuts and bubblewrap, which are turned into pouches, wallets, pen holders, and most recently, face masks.
In an effort to encourage mindful consumption, the business introduced custom pre-orders, which are priced more competitively then ready-made products.
“The more important thing we focus on is the intelligent use of found and rescued materials, predicting consumer demand to avoid overproduction and adopting technology to assist human wisdom in production,” co-founder Nasyitah Tan says.
“We have successfully created a line of products that includes personal work essentials like a multipurpose notebook sleeve pouch and bespoke painted threads homeware pieces,” she said.
“Think little pieces of functional conversation-starting artwork. We will be launching the custom preorder notebook sleeve pouch just in time for Christmas. We have soft-launched the bespoke painted threads service in September and have completed three coaster set projects.”
According to Tan, about 50 to 75 per cent of materials that go on Loom’s products are “rescued” from various sources which otherwise would have ended in waste bins and the incinerator.
“We begin with the best of intentions. The tension is balancing a healthy bottom line and higher costs incurred with more sustainable and responsible processes,” she explains.