Edinburgh designer starts sustainable fashion brand encouraging people to buy less and keep more

With an estimated 336,000 tonnes of used clothing going to landfill in the UK every year, an Edinburgh-based fashion designer is championing the slow fashion concept by encouraging people to buy less clothes, and keep what they do buy for longer.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 4:45 pm

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Polar Bears & Navy, which launched in March 2021, designs and makes garments that are made to measure, responsibly sourced and made to last.

The business was founded by Edinburgh-based Gemma Livingstone, 35, who left her job in digital marketing at Skyscanner to focus on designing garments and sourcing fabrics produced to high environmental and welfare standards full time.

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Polar Bears & Navy, which launched in March 2021, designs and makes garments that are made to measure, responsibly sourced and made to last. (Pic: Karo James-Griffiths)

Livingstone, who studied Law at The University of Edinburgh, previously held similar digital marketing roles in the city with Sainsbury’s Bank and Logicalware Ltd.

With 80 per cent of women owning clothes that don’t fit, and the average woman in the UK expected to own 248 coats or jackets between the ages of 18-80, the business launched with two made to measure items: a British wool coat and a Merino wool blazer.

To make sure they fit and are long lasting, the products are made to measure in Polar Bears & Navy’s studio in the Capital where durability is put at the heart of the design.

To maximise longevity of its products, and reduce the environmental impact of clothing waste, every coat from the brand comes with a lifetime repair service. They will also help customers to make repairs at home or find a local professional to help, if preferred.

The business has recently expanded its collection with a range of women’s tops and a blush pink top inspired by the cherry blossom trees in the Meadows will be launched soon.

The entrepreneur is hoping to further increase awareness of the dangers of fast fashion, and the benefits of slow fashion having applied to take an interactive stand at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

Owner Gemma Livingstone said: “People are buying 60 per cent more clothes than they did just 15 years ago. The more clothes we create, the more natural resources we use, whether that is animal fibre, plants, oil or water - it’s not sustainable.

“The biggest change we can make in the fashion industry is to encourage each of us to buy less and to keep what we do buy for longer. By buying clothes that will stand the test of time, we can reduce

the pressures the current rate of fashion production puts on worker pay and conditions, animal welfare, natural resources and waste management.

“At Polar Bears & Navy we will always use fabrics and materials that are produced to high environmental and welfare standards, and work closely with fabric producers to ensure traceability. Where possible, we source from local businesses to help them grow with us.

“This is something I have felt passionate about for a while. So while it can be daunting to turn your passion into a start-up, it has been a really rewarding experience, and I’ve been working every available hour to fulfil orders and respond to high levels of enquiries since we launched, so the demand for slow fashion is definitely there.”

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