Ethical fashion is going granola. Organic clothing can be more than just basic tees or itchy fabrics. Dubai based BaemBu has successfully evolved by stepping up their game and creating trendy t-shirts without sacrificing efforts to make the planet a cleaner place.
Spotted recently at the sustainability fair organized by Dubai Chamber ofCommerce, the BaemBu stall was worth stopping by. Some innovative t-shirts were on display and gave us reason to explore the brand in depth.
It’s not hard to guess that the brand name BaemBu was derived from the fact that their t-shirts are sourced from bamboo fibers. But it wouldn’t have been that easy for its founders, Matthew King and Aimee Changco, to launch a new organic clothing company amidst the high competition from unethical fashion brands.
Speaking in length about the unique brand,Mr.King shared some insight behind the concept. According to King, BaemBu is founded on a strong ethical and ecological theme – the first t-shirts in the UAE which are made of bamboo and organic cotton. “We spend a lot of time ensuring our products can trace an ethical and sustainable path back to their origins, right through to the bamboo and cotton being organically grown and sourced through certified, fair trading schemes. Even the ink and printing process has to be ecologically as good as you can get”, says King.
Bamboo is a renewable resource: it’s naturally pest-resistant and grows fast, so it doesn’t require fertilizers or pesticides to grow, and to ensure this is the case, the company has chosen a supplier that is accredited by the Soil Association. To turn the bamboo into fibers, the plant is pulped using chemicals: 10 years ago, this process generated harmful waste, but now, King says the production is a “closed loop”. This means the same chemicals are reused over and over, and very little is released into natural ecosystems.
The t-shirts have certain properties which are passed on from the bamboo plant itself, for example, bamboo is Hypoallergenic, making t-shirts ideal for wearing next to the skin without irritation. They are also anti-bacterial and UV resistant, as 90 percent of the UV rays are blocked from passing through the t-shirts. The t-shirts are simple, but they do have a few USPs. According to the company, the bamboo-fiber fabric is softer than cotton; it wicks sweat away from the body and allows perspiration to pass through it. The bacteria doesn’t get to sit on the body and cause an odor.
Speaking about the impact the BaemBu tees have on the environment, King says, “The source of the t-shirts, which is the bamboo plant itself, has a lot to do with that. It gives out 35 percent more oxygen than a hard wood tree and comparatively matures early, which means that you can sustainably manage and grow the crop. Besides that, the use of organic cotton in the production process is a sheer contribution towards minimizing the environmental impact.”
To turn the fabric into clothing, BaemBu uses one of a few factories in Turkey adhering to the Fair Wear Foundation and Confidence in Textiles benchmarks, then appropriate retailers are chosen to sell the finished t-shirts, which are also available online.
The first batch of stock was sold at the Dubai pop-up market, Outside the Box, a year ago where the t-shirts sold out the day before the event ended – much of it to Emirati women looking for a base layer to wear under their abayas. Currently, the t-shirts are stocked at the fitness studio, Urban Yoga, and The Change Initiative, the sustainable store in Al Quoz.
The entrepreneurs declined to share investment and profit figures, saying that they didn’t think it would reflect where they would be by the end of the year. But it’s the brand’s ethical focus that the entrepreneurs have used to market their company.
Using their blog, which posts updates on ethical consumption, they posted instructions on how to turn a shoebox inside out and reconstruct it, then fill it with gifts that could be of use to low-income migrant workers. Suggested items were international phone cards, toothbrushes, sachets of electrolyte powder, coffee and tins of tuna.
After sharing the page on social media with the hashtag #ShoeboxLove, the campaign went viral within hours. Just over 600 filled shoeboxes were left at BaemBu’s drop-off points, which the business duo handed over to workers at a mosque.
Giving credits to Dubai Chamber of Commerce for organizing the sustainability fair and providing an opportunity to sustainable startups to showcase their products, King also extended his gratitude to the Dubai government for supporting sustainable companies like BaemBu.
Both King and Changco are confident BaemBu lives up to the country’s standard of green living. “Sustainable products are not just a fad,” King adds. “There is a growing consciousness about these things, and I don’t think it will die.”