A place where circular designers do business together
The current retail landscape, based on low production prices, mass production and throw-away purchases, makes it virtually impossible for individual sustainable fashion designers to enter the market without going under financially.
This is why the non-profit association Les Rebelles has joined forces with a series of Antwerp fashion entrepreneurs in the cooperative company Close Buy. During this project, we want to test whether an innovative cooperative business model makes circular entrepreneurship possible or even strengthens it. Together, we can give circular fashion, design and lifestyle a boost and enjoy a whole range of economies of scale and scope that we miss out on as individual players.
For example, we have set up a physical shop, Edo collective, which we run jointly: each of us works in the shop in turn, and the rest of the time we can devote to the creative side of our own business.
By grouping us together, it is a lot easier to offer extra services such as a repair or tailor service, something that would be impossible as individual players. If the opportunity arises, we can such as a workspace, a place for shootings, storage space, a showroom, etc. Group purchases of sustainable raw materials, often only available in large quantities, are also possible thanks to our cooperation model.
Apart from all economies of scale, working together ensures a continuous exchange of materials, ideas and knowledge, a cross-fertilisation that can lead to innovation.
We are convinced that this cooperative business model can be a game changer in bringing circular fashion out of the niche sphere.
After two years of experimentation, this project has led to a sustainable and economically profitable business model. Our company has grown substantially: from 11 to 50 members. We are ready to become an established name in Antwerp, and who knows, even beyond.
By operating our shop ourselves in turn, the traditional third party, the retailer, is eliminated. This puts us in direct contact with our customers, which is a positive, awareness-raising experience for both us and the consumer.
Thanks to the cooperative model, we have no need for external coordination: we divide all operational activities among the members of the collective and all tasks are taken up from the bottom up.
By selling our sustainable products in one shop, we make it easy for consumers. Those interested in sustainable products know that they can go to that one place. Edo collective will be a circular hotspot for sustainable shopping.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
In times of crisis (such as the current corona crisis), being part of a strong community is worth its weight in gold, especially for individual entrepreneurs. The principle of many shoulders making light work certainly applies here.
A collective organisation model is not always easy. A voluntary effort is sometimes (too) unpredictable to make future-proof plans. Making decisions with a growing group is no easy task either. Even a cooperative needs strong leadership.
It is striking that the term 'circular' has not yet become established among our consumers. Therefore, we switched to terms such as sustainable, slow or local, in order to better connect with our target group.
The community of sustainable entrepreneurs is growing and passion within this group is a common thread. The conviction of all these entrepreneurs to go flat out for their passion is very strong. We are therefore pleased to be able to contribute through this project to keeping that entrepreneurial passion warm.
50local circular makers
60.000sustainable product sales
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
These two years of experimentation have resulted in a sustainable and economically viable business model. We are taking off the hat of 'experiment' and from 1 January 2021 a new period will start, namely the continuation of the concept by the members of the collective.
We are convinced that this cooperative can become a game changer, with the potential to take circular fashion out of the niche sphere. We believe that after this first successful launch in Antwerp, we can also scale up our model and expand it to other cities.