In 2008, recent graduates and brothers Rob and Mart Drake-Knight were eager to start their careers. However, the job search in the Isle of Wight was slow going to say the least, so they decided to create their own company, Rapanui. Working out of a shed with £200 each, they set out on their new adventure and had no idea what the future would hold.
Having studied renewable energy engineering, Mart learned all about sustainability and the environment. Rob and Mart wanted to make a contribution towards sustainability, and saw an opportunity to do so in fashion. The young founders realized, “the power of fashion, and its ability to change lifestyle, behavior and buying actions. With Rapanui, we plan to use the same secret ingredient, the power of cool, to do some good.” Rob went further to explain how using the power of cool, makes it easy to educate and present information to consumers, and get acknowledgement and agreement, but by developing a brand that is cool, you can produce an emotional response to that product. Which is exactly what Rob and Mart set out to do.
Product and Supply Chain
First stop: fabrics. All of Rapanui products are made from sustainable materials or eco fabrics. Most pieces are made from organic cotton, but Rob and Mart also utilize bamboo and eucalyptus. Next, supply chain: the manufacturer’s factories. They wanted to know exactly how much water and energy were being consumed at the factories that manufactured Rapanui clothing. Which is why Rapanui uses accredited factories powered by wind and solar energy. Since a majority of Rapanui products are made from organic cotton, a material that requires a lot of water, Rob and Mart use cotton producers that obtain water from monsoon rains.
Communicate Supply Chain
In order to communicate the supply chain effectively to customers, Rob and Mart developed several tools to make the information easily obtainable. The first of which, located on the website, are interactive supply chain maps. A customer can click on any product, and you can see the supply chain map for that specific product. The map will show you where the products came from, and how they were made. “From the seed being sewn, picked, spun and transported: It is traceability from seed to shop.” You can even see photos and, now video, of the products being made in the factory.
Another innovative tool developed by Rapanui is located on the swing tag. They have placed a QR Code on the swing tags, which customers can scan with their smart phone while they are in the store shopping. The QR Code allows shoppers to view supply chain information for that product immediately right on their phone. However, if you are in a rush, Rapanui has also developed an Eco Labeling System, which allows you to quickly and easily see the eco-friendliness of a product based on an A-G rating. Rob described Rapanui’s mantra, “We think that it’s not that people don’t care, about where and how clothing is made it’s just that they don’t have the facts available to them to make informed decisions about what they are buying.”
Brand Identity: Make a Cool Brand and Use That To Promote Sustainability
Rob and Mart created Rapanui in the hopes of making a contribution to sustainability, not only through their clothes, but also by getting consumers to think about what they are buying in all aspects of their lives. Rob stated, “By being open and honest about where and how our products are made…We want people to start to think about their other clothing, or food, or energy…think about where that comes from?” This year, Rob and Mart will be taking their contribution to sustainability a step further by launching new jackets that are delivered on a circular economy. What does that mean? When a customer purchases one of these jackets, they can later return it to Rapanui, once they no longer have use for it, and receive store credit. Rapanui will then disassemble the jacket and reuse the parts to make new products, or they will send it back to the manufacturer to melt down into pellets for use. This process allows consumers to get involved in the life cycle of the products they purchase, rather than just buy items and throw them away. In addition to the jackets, Rapanui also plans to launch a collection for children. Now kids will be able to enjoy the “cool” that is also known as Rapanui.
For additional information on transparency / traceability in fashion check out THE DADDY ISSUE on newsstands now.