20 January 2021

Lingerie can also be eco-responsible

From lingerie made of polyester fibers, plastics and recycled maritime waste, Fanny André has abandoned mass distribution to make underwear. But eco-responsible! She hasn’t left the sexy and glam’ side either. A brand was born: Sans Prétention. An interview without fuss.

You come from the cosmetics and mass distribution sectors, how did you get into fashion?

Fanny André: I wanted to see something different and to be part of a process, not ecological, but eco-responsible with different consumption patterns. I created the company at the beginning of 2019 but Sans Prétention really saw the light of day in March 2020.

What happened between the beginning of 2019 and the beginning of 2020?

There were stages of building business plans, canvassing banks, looking for suppliers and manufacturers, making prototypes, checking goods for production, etc. It should have taken me less than a year. There was a delay because a supplier failed to produce the textile quality I wanted.

You talk about an eco-responsible approach, not ecological. What difference does it make?

I’m talking about eco-responsibility because the fibers I use are polyester. It is often not associated with ecology. Cotton, for example, is perceived as being more environmentally friendly because it does less harm to nature, even though production requires a lot of water. On the other hand, people always think of petrochemicals when they hear the word polyester. Except that I only use recycled fibers and therefore already produced. People also think that polyester pollutes water a lot. However, there are cleaner techniques, such as washing nets that prevent polyester fibers from being lost in the water. I’m also talking about eco-responsibility because a lot of elastic is used in lingerie. And elastic from 100% recycling is not easy to find. It’s complicated to do and in terms of quality, it’s not that yet!

Recycled polyester fibers

Why did you go for eco-responsible lingerie rather than eco-responsible ready-to-wear?

I wanted to go into ready-to-wear. But, I did a market study which revealed that a lot of brands were established in the sector. I naturally turned to lingerie. Afterwards, it’s not out of spite, it’s something I really appreciate. I also thought that the sexy and glamorous side was missing in eco-friendly lingerie, so I decided to enter this niche.

At the same time, I imagine that the eco-responsible lingerie market is less structured than the ready-to-wear market.

Exactly. In the ready-to-wear market, it is easier to have access to ecological or eco-responsible materials. It is also easier to assemble them. Lingerie does not have the same expectations in terms of finishes and manufacturing techniques. It remains very technical because it requires fine and resistant materials with an irreproachable finish as it is with intimate parts. It is not so much that there are fewer brands of eco-friendly lingerie but they are smaller. The world of lingerie has remained on very traditional values while ready-to-wear is starting to evolve on the subject. For example, I met lacemakers at trade fairs to ask them if they were designing eco-friendly lingerie from recycled fibers and I got a good response: “What are you talking about? Never in a million years! We are a century-old house! ».

What did you start with when you started?

I learned a lot about market research. Once I was convinced of the viability of my project, I went to trade shows to understand the market and the habits of suppliers. And, I officially launched myself into creation.

Is it in these shows that you went to get your raw materials ?

I absolutely wanted to start with recycled fiber certified Oeko-Tex. There’s already the unmissable lingerie trade show twice a year in France. It brings together all the lingerie brands and is associated with the interfilière, which in turn brings together all the French and international suppliers. It is mainly on these shows that I found my suppliers. Originally, I wanted to make a product 100% made in France but I did not find my happiness in textiles. So I buy from Spanish and Italian suppliers.

You have two suppliers?

I don’t have that many suppliers. When you are a small brand, you don’t have a lot of volume and the suppliers ask for volume to supply the material. It’s a bit of a problem. When we have a problem with one supplier, we can’t fall back on another. The weight of a small brand in the supplier’s production is ridiculous so sometimes we don’t get exactly what we want in terms of quantities and prices. We are a bit stuck and the suppliers know it! On top of that, we would have to redo the prototypes, re-evaluate the quality and redo all the labels. Afterwards, some suppliers propose surplus stock or end of series for small brands.

Are these suppliers the ones who provide you with plastics and marine waste?

Yes, it is my Spanish supplier who recovers all the plastic materials around his home. He goes to get the plastic bottles, but also all the waste he finds in the Mediterranean. I don’t prefer one recycling system to another.

A raw material: polyester

How do you guarantee that there is no health risk in using these materials?

Thanks to the Oeko-Tex 100 certification of all these materials. It ensures that the product is completely safe and no risk in case of contact with mucous membranes and intimate parts. Especially since in my lingerie, I made a small sprain by using organic cotton for my panty bottoms. I would like to find one day recycled organic cotton but today, the thicknesses do not allow it. Cotton is made of short and long fibers that form a mesh. When we recycle cotton, only the short fibers are left and to assemble the cotton properly, the product has to be a little thick. Except that for the bottoms of panties, you need a fairly thin product. It should not make diapers anyway!

In what form do you recover your raw materials?

I have a first supplier who is in charge of the transformation so he will recover textile manufacturing waste, unravel it, re-sort it and transform it into a yarn bobbin to be able to reweave behind. I have another supplier who adds to this transformation of textiles, the transformation of plastic bottles into a polyester yarn that he will then reknit. My suppliers also handle Oeko-Tex and GRS (Global Recycled Standard) certifications.

What do you do in your Lyon workshop?

I buy lace that is already made of recycled fibers. Then I do the assembly and finishing, which is already a good job! It is in this unique place, specialized in high-end lingerie, that we do both prototypes and manufacturing. My manufacturer has directly integrated the prototyping office, which avoids having intermediaries and possible surprises in the manufacturing of the piece, which can change between the workshop where it is prototyped and the one where it is manufactured.

Although you have European suppliers, the manufacturing remains well made in France.

Yes, but it is not simple. I was sorry to see, when I was looking for French lingerie manufacturers, that there was almost nothing on the market or that they were not visible. On the level of prices too, it is very tempting to go to other countries when you see the prices practiced on the manufacturing.

Lingerie eco-responsible and chic without pretentiousness
Photo credits: Lauréanne Dotti

Does an eco-responsible panty cost more to produce?

Lingerie is often already an expensive product in general. And when you add the eco-responsibility part made in France, the materials are more expensive and the production minimums are higher. This requires an important cash flow. But I wanted to guarantee a fair price for the customers. That’s why my model is mainly based on online sales.

You make about 150 pieces of each model. How is your production organized?

There is no restocking on products, nor collections according to the seasons. The idea is to make once and then start again on new fabrics, new laces on the basis of the same models. At the moment, I have new models in pre-order on Ulule.

Why do you only use black?

For logistical and technical reasons. With the minimums that I had to buy to develop my range, I couldn’t take several colors so I took black because it’s the most present in women’s lingerie but it’s also the most timeless.

How do you see your brand in a few years ?

I hope it will work! Today, I don’t live off the brand and sales don’t allow me to finance new models. That’s why a Ulule campaign is underway with pre-orders. I’d also like to launch a recycling system to ensure an eco-friendly end of life for No-Pretention underwear.

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