Updated: May 6
There is no doubt that coronavirus has changed so much about the way we shop. Looking back at the start of 2020, we could have never foreseen the massive shift to our shopping routines - the facemasks, screens and the socially distanced queues.
While COVID might have changed our shopping habits forever (cheers to all the doomscrolling and zooming), it might have also given fashion the chance to change for the better. As 2019 drew to a close, it's essential to acknowledge that the retail industry seemed to be turning a tide in favour of sustainable fashion. After years and years of advocacy and education, environmentally conscious and socially responsible brands streamlined during that time.
As the world scrambled to establish and uncover the 'new normal in one's daily lives, Angelo and Tino Legrand – two brothers born in Luxemburg, raised in Monaco currently living in London delved into creating a more accessible sustainable clothing brand – for you (yes, you), for me (peak student broke life), for everybody.
While the term 'sustainable clothing' gets thrown around with exceptional ease in today's time, R4 Clothing is a sustainable clothing brand. Yes, I said sustainable, but the Legrand brothers actually mean it. Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to visit the brothers to chat about their exciting new venture.
What's the meaning of R4? And how did all of this come about?
Tino: R4 stands for reduce, reuse, recycle and repeat. The idea initially came to us when we were on a family holiday. Our Mum is the founder of a non-profit organization called TAF – The Animal Fund, which aims to raise awareness about the ocean's threats and its marine life. We were just doing some marketing material for her, like designing t-shirts. We just thought – this is so fun! If You could make some cool designs on a piece of clothing and do something good for the environment, why wouldn't you want to wear it?
At the time, we were both studying fields related to sustainability. We were learning a lot about different sectors that needed saving for the planet. Although we didn't study anything even closely related to fashion, we love fashion - and so we decided to apply our academic knowledge to the fashion industry. The three R's is a famous concept in sustainability. We added the last word – repeat - to emphasize the notion of sustainability itself, the ability to exist constantly. So, there's a whole cycle, also making reference to circular economy concepts.
Then obviously, I don't want to use the C-word – but Corona came around and kind of put a hold on everything. But, you guys set out to do it anyway. How did you reach out to an audience that was basically indoors? What was that like? Starting a business that in its nature is very tactile during this time? What made you go – fuck it, let's do it anyway?
Angelo: It's a super good question. COVID definitely made us reflect a lot during the whole process while we were doing it. We started brainstorming this in February of 2019, which was over two years ago. At that point, we were studying, I was finishing my Master's, and Tino was doing his Bachelor's. We were also preoccupied with other jobs at the time, which meant that it took us a while to develop simple things like the logo, brand identity or even the idea. When COVID hit, it was a blessing on so many levels but mainly because we weren't preoccupied with our jobs and projects. We had a lot more time to focus on R4, and we started to put all the pieces together. COVID just gave us the time and the structure to organize everything. 2 years down the line, we decided that we would launch despite the current climax we live in. COVID led to a surge in online shopping, so it was almost a blessing in disguise. COVID has also given us hope and motivation because we realized that we've done all this during a global pandemic without all the physical networking. We've gotten a lot of love and support whilst being stuck inside, so we can only be hopeful for when the world opens up!
Tino: Even though we had all these factors that told us that we shouldn't be doing this right now, the most motivating part is saying that we did it anyway. We were facing many barriers: we've got Brexit, which means the UK has become more isolated (challenging to trade with the European Union and other countries), and we've got a global pandemic putting the world on pause. Launching a business maybe wasn't the best idea in theory, yet we went along with it anyways. In times of crisis, there's also opportunity. We seized it and adapted to the new norm and just made the most out of it.
How did you translate these complex pieces of knowledge surrounding sustainability for your audience? What were you hoping to receive?
Tino: We broke it down very quickly. The way that we're approaching this brand is different from a lot of other brands. We're applying our studies, our studies in the content, and how we've been taught to think critically. Most "sustainable brands" use a sustainable fabric and then don't explain anything about their brand. It's not enough to be able to claim yourself a "sustainable brand".
So, in terms of reaching people, we wanted to make it very simple: sustainability across the lifecycle of garments (i.e. looking at multiple stages and from different angles). Essentially, we to become an educational platform for the normalization of sustainability in fashion. We don't want to greenwash. We want to be 100% transparent: and we want people to appreciate that we are not 100% perfect. We're working towards that. Obviously, we are still a startup with limited resources. We want people to come to join us along the way. If you support us, we will show you how far we can go as a sustainable brand. We want to promote the benefits of sustainable fashion and sustainable fabrics, always in a positive and optimistic light.
Angelo: This is the discrepancy that we're trying to cover; sustainability in fashion is an important topic that needs to be discussed. So, this is really just our take on it, and we're tackling this industry with our academic knowledge. We've learnt to be sceptical in our analysis, and that's why we rethink every step of the garment's life cycle. I think that's really what's caught people's attention is: "they are doing more than just using sustainable fabrics: their packaging is also cool!". Sustainability in fashion should be the norm. So although we are a part of a more significant movement, we're adding our own vision.
This summer, there will be more collections, with new exciting fabrics. The most important thing for us in the near future with restrictions being lifted is to network as much as possible. To find like-minded people who understand the importance of our mission and promote it to the world.
And so, just something for Unsettled, what were you listening to when you were working on the launch of R4?
Tino: We'll send you some playlists and links. Music that helped us forget that we're sitting 10 to 12 hours straight on our laptops on our sofa.
Here you go, folks. Tunes to inspire you to start your own startup within the four walls of your
Music sets to keep you going:
What are some independent brands and shops our readers should get involved with?
A very big thank you to Angelo and Tino for taking the time out between their busy schedules to chat with me about R4. Don't forget to follow their socials to watch out for their upcoming summer collections. And while you're there, use that payday money and treat yourself - buy a comfy as hell hoodie or t-shirt from their store.