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TOWARDS
A MORE
SUSTAINABLE
ESSENTIEL

ANTWERP

TOWARDS
A MORE
SUSTAINABLE
ESSENTIEL

ANTWERP

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TOWARDS
A MORE
SUSTAINABLE
ESSENTIEL

ANTWERP

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MESSAGE FROM THE FOUNDERS


“During a panel discussion with other fashion designers a few years ago, I was deeply moved by the shared vision on how our sector seems to be stuck in a rat race of trends and collections. There is a growing awareness of how strongly our daily decisions impact other people and the climate. We have been questioning our own practices at Essentiel Antwerp, trying to break out of the old way of doing things, focusing on learning and improving. It's not just the company that is improving - I am also growing personally through this experience. No matter how passionate I am about Essentiel Antwerp, we cannot ignore the enormous impact of our industry on people, the environment and society. It is time to change.”

INGE ONSEA
Co-founder & Creative Director


“In our journey to bend this impact, we have to make choices, set actions and measure our progress. We take off in our design room, in determining our collection calendar, in choosing fabrics, in our collaboration with manufacturers, in our marketing and sales actions and in the small day-to-day decisions we make. It has become an evidence and we will hold on to this path, setting clear actions and ensure follow up on them. We are eager to learn every day and it is fantastic to discover how our team dives into these topics, looks for solutions and contributes to change every day.”

ESFAN EGHTESSADI
Co-founder & CEO

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ON A
SUSTAINABLE
JOURNEY
WITH EXPERTS

As this is a challenging and complex topic, we've taken on a professional team to guide us in our sustainable journey. They gave us an external viewpoint and a fresh perspective on our way of working that has been established for 20 years. This fundamental company change doesn't happen overnight.

Studio D is a small team but their passion (for sustainability) runs through their veins. That's where we saw our match. They helped us in making sure that all stakeholders are aligned and that all noses are pointing in the same direction. This journey is exciting, yet challenging and we're happy that we're not in this alone.

SHOW YOUR
TRUE COLORS

There's no denying that the fashion industry has a major environmental and social impact, which is why we have been working very hard behind the scenes to requestion ourselves. We have been putting our priorities straight, and sustainability is now guiding us in our next steps and working processes.

We want to be transparent in what we do, what we don't do (yet) and where we can improve, because we know we can do better. We have one clear goal in mind: making a greener and more socially responsible Essentiel Antwerp.

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BIG CHALLENGES
AND CHANGES IN 2020

For some brands, 2020 was a year of sitting back and waiting for the tide to turn. Not so for Essentiel Antwerp, where 2020 became a year of focus and teamwork. Big decisions were made, based on clear insight and a strong sense of direction. These included:

  • We undertook a full reset of our collection calendar. We reduced the amount of collections and the number of individual products.
  • During the very first phase of our creation process, the design phase, we now make more responsible choices. This has become an evidence. If we want to remain relevant as an international brand, this is an essential element of design.
  • We reconfirmed the importance of long-term supplier relationships, which proved to be a stabilizing factor during the uncertainty of the pandemic.
  • We made a huge shift in our distribution footprint, both as regards inbound and outbound distribution. Our biggest achievement was a drop of 28% of inbound air transport.
  • We took further steps towards digital transformation, with improvements on our Essentiel Antwerp e-shop, a digital customer and styling service and the creation of a digital showroom for wholesale customers.
  • We have been rethinking our packaging methods, aiming to ban plastics in store and in e-commerce.

OUR COMMITMENTS

Since 2019 we have been listening to the experts and examining our own sustainable entrepreneurship process. As an international player with a sense of social responsibility, we have been guided in particular by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. This international framework sets 17 goals for sustainable development by 2030, divided into the themes of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships.

As a result of our research, we have determined four strategic priorities - areas where we want to make a significant difference, both in the short and long term. These four priorities translate the Sustainable Development Goals into Essentiel Antwerp's business context and provide a roadmap for the future:

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A MORE
RESPONSIBLE
SUPPLY CHAIN

The fashion industry has become one of the most polluting sectors in the world, with more and more stories of unacceptable working conditions in clothing factories emerging.

Here at Essentiel Antwerp we realize that, as an international fashion brand, we have to take responsibility for our own business practices in this regard, and customers rightly ask us questions about this. Our company aims to be completely accountable for the social and environmental conditions under which our products are manufactured - accountable to the companies we do business with, to consumers, and ultimately to all those impacted by our choices in our shared world.


CODE OF CONDUCT

In light of this, we developed a Code of Conduct at the beginning of 2020, which now guides all our operations worldwide. We aim to work with suppliers that are as committed as we are to operating in a responsible and ethical manner, by respecting social, environmental and economic standards and upholding them in their business practices.

TRANSPARENCY

In 2020, around 67% of our clothes were produced in China, India and Turkey and almost 33 % in Europe. Each supplier has its own unique capabilities and know-how. In the last two years, we have moved more of our production closer to home (Portugal, Italy, Turkey). This has helped us to reduce our ecological impact and respond to the demand from our customers in a more flexible way. We aim to further increase our European production volumes in the upcoming year.

To promote transparency, as of 2021 we are now working with a specific questionnaire for our suppliers. We ask them about the number of employees in their factory, the proportion of men and women, and we ask them to identify their subcontractors and suppliers of fabrics, yarns and lining, with names, address and contact details. Furthermore, we ask them to provide social and environmental audit reports, if available.

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PRODUCTS WITH
LESS IMPACT

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SUSTAINABLE FABRICS

As of Spring 2020, our blues are green, our denim is produced in an environmentally friendly way with significant water and energy savings. Our most recent Summer 2021 collection contains 33% sustainable fabrics, such as organic cotton, recycled materials and EcoVero™ viscose. Our ambition is to reach 50% by 2025. To guarantee the sustainability of the fibers and textiles, we require the necessary supporting certificates from suppliers.

THE RENTAL REVOLUTION

In 2021, we will be launching an occasion wear collection for rent in our stores. Customers will be able to rent their favorite Essentiel Antwerp dress for a special occasion. With this service our collection can be used, reused and re-loved, and will have a smaller impact on today's mountain of textile waste.

100% MONOMATERIALS

Approximately 60% of Essentiel Antwerp collections are made of monomaterials. They have a much higher recycling rate and post-recycling quality compared to mixed materials items, which are difficult to separate for recycling.
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REDUCING OUR
FOOTPRINT

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WASTE AND REUSE

We are strongly committed to raising awareness internally about the waste streams that our operations entail. We want to deal with this consciously in our distribution chain, in our stores and regarding all materials that we use for our e-shop. With this in mind we have defined three focus areas: our packaging solutions, our use of paper, sustainable choices for visuals, circular merchandising and shop design.

We have already launched a project to replace all plastic bags with paper bags in-store, and recently implemented more sustainable solutions for these paper bags. In 2021, we will be investigating other possibilities to further reduce our use of plastics, and minimize waste generation in our operations.

TRANSPORT AND
DISTRIBUTION

We are aware of the immense impact of inbound transports on CO2 emissions. In order to reduce our emissions, we have been working on our processes within our organization, from styling to production, and we apply a guideline in which we focus on the use of boat and train for long-haul transportation, reducing the use of air shipping.

In 2020 we also tested transport from the Far East by train, and we will continue this in 2021, aiming for a further reduction of our emissions per transported piece. Where we can, we also focus on more local production.

In 2021, we will also take further steps to better map our emissions, which will help to enable even more targeted action.

When we deliver goods to our customers, we make conscious choices. In 2020, we set up various projects to optimize transportation to our own shops. For example, one innovation now means that physical transfers of stock between shops is no longer required, and orders can be delivered directly to the end customer instead. All the necessary IT and logistics adjustments have been implemented to enable this. For transport to our shops, we always evaluate whether we are shipping the right stock at the right time, to avoid sending incomplete or unnecessary deliveries to stores.

Within our e-commerce department, we are also looking for solutions to help us offer our customers the best service in the context of sustainable choices. We are focused on reducing web returns by launching innovations for our e-shop, including better product information as well as fitting information and advice. In 2021 we are undertaking further research and analysis to improve our products and services.

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SUSTAINABLE
PACKAGING

For all our packaging, we investigate the best options in terms of sustainable materials, options for reuse and recycling opportunities. We are looking for ways to improve our management and use of the plastic polybag. We have already switched to polybags made of recycled or recyclable plastic, and plan to conduct more research on better recycling flows in 2021.

For all paper-based packaging - from hangtags and gift-wrapping materials to the shopping bags we use in our stores and the bags and boxes we use for our web orders - we have now switched to recycled and/or FSC certified paper. FSC certification guarantees that our paper materials have been produced according to industry standards. We also pay attention to the recycling possibilities of our stationery, and therefore no longer use laminated paper products. By switching to soy ink for printing purposes, we have reduced the use of harmful substances and improved recycling potential.

We're currently taking next steps to further improve on our ecommerce packaging. Our current cardboard boxes are made from FSC certified paper and perform well in protecting your clothing on its journey. However, we will be introducing sturdy bags made from FSC certified craft paper to replace the cardboard boxes, where appropriate (this depends on the size of the order and type of products sent). The production of paper bags requires less material and has less impact on the environment. Using paper bags enables us to reduce the volume our packages take up during transportation by an estimated 34% to 80%, depending on the type of product. This means one journey can carry more goods, meaning we decrease the number of needed transports, reducing fuel and emissions.

In order to reduce the total amount of paper we use, we examined all our stationery requirements carefully, and we decided to stop producing paper look books and brochures in 2020. We also evaluated the number and use of shopping bags and made choices that entail lower volume consumption.

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ENERGY

In our headquarters and shops we look to make conscious energy choices. Opting for less energy-consuming devices and finding ways to use them to "work smarter" is already making a difference. In 2021 we will be further investigating our consumption habits and looking at this alongside other data which can influence our energy consumption. We have a dedicated and committed team ready to put these practices in place.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING

We love to create inspirational shop windows and align our shop design with the Essentiel Antwerp vision. We look for high-quality materials for shop furniture, with a focus on quality and long-lasting design. In our visual merchandising operations, we look for sustainable materials and avoid the use of plastics and non-reusable materials.

CIRCULAR DESIGN

Circular design always wins. In setting up our shop windows, our motto is that it's the clothes that tell the story. All extra visuals and materials are selected in the light of this principle. In our warehouse in Antwerp, we collect these materials, and our creative team is always finding new ways of using them. For those materials we cannot reuse (e.g. when we close a shop), we try to find a partner who can give the material a second life, for example schools, secondhand shops etc.
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PEOPLE


INCLUSIVITY,
DIVERSITY,
EQUALITY

What connects us at Essentiel Antwerp is our absolute passion for what we do. Our people are open minded and we cherish the international and diverse backgrounds of our team. It is the perfect recipe for creativity and positive vibes.

This also entails open-mindedness and a commitment to equal opportunities in terms of age, gender, personal expression and background.

Although our organizational culture is defined by openness and acceptance, we still decided to work on a comprehensive policy regarding these topics and to define best practice throughout the organization. This is because we believe we can use our brand and voice to translate our beliefs towards our customers and our own organization.

This is about creating vacancies without barriers for groups for which the threshold may already be high. It is about training our staff to approach and help customers without prejudice. It is about integrating relevant fitting information for our e-commerce customers so that they can have a fantastic customer experience, respecting and helping all of them. This is about daring to speak out in favor of equality and non-discrimination (cfr. #blacklivesmatter, LGBTQIA+ Community)



INITIATIVES CLOSE
TO OUR HEART

As part of our passion for social justice, we also support initiatives that are close to our heart. The charity projects we support and the collaborations we initiate are not governed by commercial concerns. They must be an authentic expression of our own values. Essentiel Antwerp's passion needs to run through them all.


Over the past few years and up to today, Essentiel Antwerp has supported the following initiatives:



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PEOPLE


INCLUSIVITY,
DIVERSITY,
EQUALITY

What connects us at Essentiel Antwerp is our absolute passion for what we do. Our people are open minded and we cherish the international and diverse backgrounds of our team. It is the perfect recipe for creativity and positive vibes.

This also entails open-mindedness and a commitment to equal opportunities in terms of age, gender, personal expression and background.

Although our organizational culture is defined by openness and acceptance, we still decided to work on a comprehensive policy regarding these topics and to define best practice throughout the organization. This is because we believe we can use our brand and voice to translate our beliefs towards our customers and our own organization.

This is about creating vacancies without barriers for groups for which the threshold may already be high. It is about training our staff to approach and help customers without prejudice. It is about integrating relevant fitting information for our e-commerce customers so that they can have a fantastic customer experience, respecting and helping all of them. This is about daring to speak out in favor of equality and non-discrimination (cfr. #blacklivesmatter, LGBTQIA+ Community)


INITIATIVES CLOSE
TO OUR HEART

As part of our passion for social justice, we also support initiatives that are close to our heart. The charity projects we support and the collaborations we initiate are not governed by commercial concerns. They must be an authentic expression of our own values. Essentiel Antwerp's passion needs to run through them all.


Over the past few years and up to today, Essentiel Antwerp has supported the following initiatives:

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Designers Against Aids
Through a collaboration with Designers Against Aids, Essentiel Antwerp designed and produced a capsule collection. The collection was inspired by punk couture and 90's club culture. Sales profits were donated to the organization to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS.
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Solid International
In 2019 Essentiel Antwerp created the TECHUA sweater, sourced from Solid International. The purpose of this NGO is to empower women and local communities in production countries such as Peru, Kenya and India.
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Plan International
For International Women's Day 2021, Essentiel Antwerp joined forces with Plan International to support the Saksham project in India, which empowers young girls to realize their dreams. They provide training and opportunities to encourage economic empowerment and gender equality. Essentiel Antwerp donated 20% of online revenues to the NGO to support this project.
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Antwerp Pride
Since 2019, Essentiel Antwerp released a limited edition set of t-shirts each year, designed by our creative team to send out a powerful message in a playful way. All the proceeds of the Antwerp Pride Collection were donated to the Antwerp Pride organization. Additionally, we supported the 300 volunteers to showcase their pride by offering them our rainbow-colored 'I am Pride' t-shirt.
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Response to COVID-19
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Essentiel Antwerp released a limited edition amount of printed facemasks. A part of the revenue was donated to the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, and to help its community to battle boredom, Essentiel Antwerp launched a creative contest in which people could submit their design for a T-shirt. Once produced and sold, all revenues of the sales were donated to the COVID-19 response fund of the WHO. Lastly, we collaborated with abroad suppliers to provide an amount of face masks to offer to a local Antwerp hospital when it was a moment of big necessity and scarcity.
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"When asking me why and how I commit to projects, I don't have particular boxes to tick. I follow my gut feeling and sense of connection with the cause. The projects are close to my world and should have a positive message, they are about the choices people make and should be able to make."


INGE ONSEA
Co-founder & Creative Director

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WHAT'S NEXT

Our priorities to reach by 2025:

  • We realize we have to invest in transparent and responsible supply chains. We engage ourselves to have tier 1 and 2 transparency and to a more active screening of labor conditions and living wages by 2025.
  • We feel very enthusiastic in using fabrics with a smaller environmental footprint. By 2025, we hope we can say that at least 50% of our fabrics are sustainable.
  • As we are strong believers in an inclusive society where inequality and discrimination have no place, we will further integrate these values in our own HR processes and in our corporate communication.
  • We aim for a further reduction of our emission per transported item. Where we can, we will focus on more local production. We will also take further steps to better map our emissions to enable even more targeted action.
  • We will limit our environmental footprint by decreasing our waste throughout the production, distribution and sales process.
  • We will take responsible choices related to our energy use.
  • We will do further research, and we will measure and analyze our data to improve (the sustainability of) our products and services.





Join us in building a better future.
Every effort counts.