Walking up to it, the warm glow of Sancho’s shop draws you in, lightbulbs hanging gracefully from the ceiling. The place is crowded with students, their chatter filling the air. The temptation of the 20% off sale and free candles with each purchase has tempted quite a few, even on this chilled October afternoon. The shop is just the right size for one to feel cosy and have a pleasant experience. Exploring around the comfy winter clothes it is easy to feel at ease surrounded by the greenery of plants inhabiting the corners of the shop, hinting at the eco sustainable nature of the venue. Accompanying your journey through the fully recycled coats and hand-crafted jewellery is the lingering flowery aroma of scented candles and spiced cinnamon.
Sancho’s was founded by two Exeter University students in 2014, with the goal of becoming involved with sustainable fashion. The pair started their project after visiting developing countries, such as Ethiopia, to become acquainted with the harsh reality that is veiled behind today’s ‘fast fashion’ industry. This industry is the cause of problems such as poor working conditions, mass dumping, social disruption and environmental destruction. With a desire to change the world, the business partners started an apparel store that would sell and promote sustainable clothing and fashion. Their goal is to demonstrate that one can live a conscious life without compromising style or quality.
Supporting fair trade companies and selling handmade products, Sancho’s has flourished as students’ desire to be more environmentally aware has spread within the university. The products sold in the shop meet the criteria of the Global Organic Textile Standard, the Fair Wear Foundation, The British Association for Fair Trade Shops and the World Fair Trade Organization. Today, the shop sources from 42 diverse brands, all with sustainable impacts on the planet. One of their major brands is People Tree which works with marginalised producers to help them towards economic independence, while creating ethical and sustainable fashion.
Many other sustainable fashion brands have now started to appear due to the rising demand in slow fashion. This term counters the idea of ‘fast fashion’ where numerous pieces of cheap clothing are bought and then thrown away after a short-lived life, due to the constant evolution of fashion trends. It was calculated that, compared to the 60s, we are buying four times as many items of clothing per year. Meanwhile, the longevity of garments has drastically reduced because they are poor quality in order to meet the low-price demands of consumers. This form of consumption causes devastating environmental consequences. In fact, the fashion and textile sector are the most polluting after the oil industry. For example, in the production of a kilogram of cotton (equivalent to one t-shirt), more than 20,000 litres of water are required. In addition, about 8,000 types of chemicals are used in the conversion of raw materials into clothing, and unsold clothes are often disposed of in landfills.
Sustainable fashion is undoubtedly a growing industry, and anyone can partake by taking the conscious choice to make a difference. Sancho’s might not provide the most affordable or fashion forward clothing, but it supplies sustainable fashion in a sunny and enthusiastic environment that is the start to changing our world for the better. And everyone is so friendly!