In conversation with Pierre Boiselle From reception, Part 2

In conversation with Pierre Boiselle From reception, Part 2

Sustainability is perhaps the biggest buzzword in the fashion industry, and it has been for quite some time. But how can an industry that is one of the world’s largest polluters become sustainable? Is there any way for the production of new clothing to not be environmentally harmful? How can fashion businesses, small and large alike, change their practices to be more environmentally friendly? No one’s got all the answers, but we think it’s a conversation that’s always worth having. In this interview, we’ll be having that conversation with Pierre Boiselle, founder of Reception. This is the second instalment of our two-part In Conversation piece with Pierre. In this interview we discuss the idea of sustainability in fashion, the difficulties of production, and how Reception is approaching this issue…  

Reception is a small new brand, so I was wondering how sustainability factors into what you do. Is it something that you think about? How did you approach it when you started the brand?

Honestly, when I started Reception I was mostly thinking about the sustainability of our fabrics. It’s a major point, but it’s not the only point. Sustainability has lots of elements, things like manufacturing close to home, for example. The production process is extremely challenging, so while we had sustainability in mind, it wasn’t a central thought. It’s something we’ve seriously started to consider for FW20. For example, instead of working with rayon we chose Tencel, but unfortunately we don’t have the resources to do everything properly. Initially, I was just trying to get my brand out, so I didn’t give myself a restriction for sustainability. We mostly just focused on manufacturing high quality products, which is very important to us. We couldn’t stay in France because we couldn’t manufacture great products for the price it would have cost, so Portugal was a no-brainer. In our first season we imported a lot of Japanese fabrics (which were amazing), but that’s something we want to stop doing. Now we want to work as much as possible with Italian fabrics. We’ve got a lot more resources now, so we can look into sourcing sustainable fabrics for future collections. It’s going to be growing in our line in a natural way, but we’ll never make a statement out of it. Today, it feels outdated for a brand to claim that they’re 100% sustainable. I mean, it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it should just be standard today to be more eco-conscious. If you start a brand with sustainability in mind, you can build your framework around sustainable fabrics and manufacturing. Otherwise, you’re trying to catch up and you need the resources to find alternatives, so for us it’s a long process. We do what we can. For example, we used to deliver our products in non-recyclable poly bags, which pissed us off, but now we’ve found recyclable ones.

When you’re a small brand, I think just providing thoughtful, high quality products that people will keep a long time is very impactful. It doesn’t make you sustainable by default, but it’s a key starting point.

Yeah I agree, that’s just the new standard for us. There was no way we were going to try to beat the market with a huge margin and cheap quality clothes, especially considering the stores we wanted to approach. Plus, the brand is a reflection of our daily life, so that wouldn’t represent us. The design process and the production process for Reception are never ending. I’m never satisfied with what we do, I always want to improve. A friend of mine once asked, “shouldn’t you have started with a product you were fully happy with from day one?” I told him I would’ve never started my brand if that was the case. I always question myself, because we’re so small yet so global at the same time. We ship with DHL everyday and I travel a lot if I can, so where do I stand if I claimed we were a sustainable brand? Where do I stand myself? When you consume so much and you’re always on a plane, you’re not helping the earth. Where do you stop, where does the sustainability stop? That’s a question for myself.

Yeah, in the same way that you need to keep improving as a brand and adjusting how you see sustainability and production, you have to do that as an individual as well.

Exactly. As educated consumers who live in cities, who want to eat well, where do we stand with clothing? We still want good products. I don’t know, I don’t really have answers. Every six months I learn something new that makes me really think. At the very least, dealing with independent stores that are involved in their local life and making a good product are already some good first steps. And of course, sourcing quality materials that are fairer.

I agree with that. I mean, we’re working in the fashion industry. How do you be sustainable in an industry where everything revolves around shipping, travel, and natural resources? The system already exists so you have to tweak it however you can, even if only in minor ways.

It’s good to have sustainability in mind and try to evolve, but it’s still an industry that is a major polluter. In some ways it’s easier to be sustainable when you’ve got a restaurant. You can pick up your ingredients from local places, but then if you speak to a chef he might be wearing a Uniqlo t-shirt. Uniqlo is cool, its a decent product for the price, but I’m not sure it’s that fair when it comes to sustainability. You can always push it farther, and you should. But again, I would never push it from a marketing perspective.

I think marketing new clothing as sustainable is, like, I don’t wanna say that you’re lying, but it’s disingenuous. It’s an oxymoron.

Yeah definitely, unless you’re Patagonia and you contribute a lot to the planet, but even Patagonia isn’t perfect. They still pollute, they’re a big company.

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One last question for you. From a sustainability standpoint, what do you think is the way forward for the industry?

Have you read the new Business of Fashion article? They proposed a new calendar for production. They’re suggesting we combine men’s and women’s fashion weeks together so people aren’t travelling four times a year. Another thing is to stop investing in catwalk shows that are six months from when the product is going to be in stores. They’re suggesting there should be two showrooms: one for buying the next season, and the other for showing the upcoming current season. So, the product on the catwalk will be in stores in two weeks, which I think makes total sense. It’s silly to be excited by a product that’s gonna be in stores in six months, then once it arrives you don’t care about it anymore. This whole system is fucking crazy. As for Reception, in the future I would love to to show our collection to customers online, and COVID-19 might be creating this opportunity. I want to design a product, show it through a pdf and send swatch samples to my customers and say “look, we’re not gonna revolutionize our style, this is the look, here are all the fabrics, in two months it’s in your store.” It would be less frustrating and I think we would be more on point creatively. But it’s all one big thing, not being able to count on fashion weeks or any events. I want to keep traveling to see friends, make events, and do interesting things for our consumer, but the business side should be 90% online. Instead of spending crazy money for fashion week, spend it on visiting more cities and meeting more people. Another idea is to do less, like one collection a year that is broad and divided into different segments. These are some things I aim for. I hope we can reach them.

Those are all great ideas, and I feel like many other brands are going that way too. Anyways, thanks so much for doing this, we really appreciate it. Any last words you want to share about clothes, food, life?

Not really, but I’m eager to travel and see you guys at some point, probably in Europe in a couple months. If not, I’ll come to Vancouver. I’ve never been to Canada, and everything I’ve heard about Vancouver always excited me. That’ll be my last word, I want to come and see you guys (laughs).

Yeah man absolutely, I think you would really like Vancouver. It’s got some similarities to Lyon. It’s very green, very hilly, and it feels busy but not too big. Come on down and we’ll show you a good time! Alright, thank you Pierre!

Alright, say hello to the guys!