Maybe you already knew, maybe you only read it now, but the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. The clothing we buy is created using a lot of energy sources and harmful substances. It contaminates rivers, local farming areas and even drinking water.

Only the oil industry causes more harm to the environment. That should be a shocking awakening for both brands and consumers. The current situation makes it very clear it’s time for sustainable entrepreneurship - now more than ever. 

1. WHAT DOES BEING SUSTAINABALE INCORPORATE?

Working sustainable is all about the process of doing the best you can. For us this means trying to find the best long lasting materials and working conditions.

For us, sustainability is not only about using biodegradable materials, but also contains the cost per wear and the quality of your bag. A Lies Mertens bag should be able to last a long time when taken care of. 

1.1 Respect for the environment

It’s a good idea to take a step back and think about our production process at all levels. What raw materials are we using? Where do they come from? Under which circumstances are they being processed? What happens with remaining waste products after treating the material? How are finished products being transported? 

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy task. Imagine a factory might use a very sustainable approach, but is located much further away from your store. Consequently, pollution caused by transportation might have a more negative impact than when you choose a less eco-friendly manufacturer nearby. 

As a young independent designer’s brand, we have a smaller-scale footprint compared to bigger brands. All our bags are designed in Antwerp and handmade in Portugal by a local family business.

OUR VIEW ON SUSTAINABILITY
1.2 Respect for people

In our opinion, being sustainable is also about the working conditions. Employees shouldn’t be exposed to harmful chemicals and they should receive a fair wage for their work.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy task. Imagine a factory might use a very sustainable approach, but is located much further away from your store. Consequently, pollution caused by transportation might have a more negative impact than when you choose a less eco-friendly manufacturer nearby. 

1.3 Calculating the cost per wear

Awareness reaches further than developing and selling a product. What happens with our product after it’s sold? How long and how much do consumers use their bag? The answer tells us the “cost per wear” every item has.

We don’t want to create “it bags” that only last for one year. Products in our permanent collection should last for years, not only because of their straightforward and timeless design, but also because we work with long lasting quality leather.

As weird as it may sound from a business point of view, selling as much as possible doesn’t make us happy. What motivates us, is selling something to customers who really thought about their purchase. We’re happy to see people come in multiple times to save up for the bag they really love.

OUR VIEW ON SUSTAINABILITY
OUR VIEW ON SUSTAINABILITY
2. INVESTING IN AN ECO-FRIENDLY PRODUCTION PROCESS

We work with small family businesses who adhere to high ecological and technical standards. They don’t use harmful chemicals and work with natural products instead, such as resin. This makes the process more expensive, which might be a reason for some brands not to chose this way of producing. 

We understand that brands try to keep their cost prices as low as possible, but there’s a higher price to pay in the long run. A lot of western companies work with tanneries in third world countries, who often don’t take the well-being of local population into account. This degree of pollution causes skin problems and cancer. We can’t let this happen, not even for the highest profit. 

2.1 Choosing small family businesses as manufacturers

We design all products ourselves in Antwerp. Afterwards they’re handmade in Portugal by suppliers respecting the European guidelines regarding safe work environments and fair wages. 

We prefer working with family businesses. First of all, there’s a clear mentality shift regarding sustainability. It strikes us that smaller companies are making more and more conscious decisions and we hope bigger enterprises will follow. Working with a small business also allows us to have more personal contact and maintain full control of every production, which is a benefit that exceeds environmental impact.