Alchemist’s mission is to combine luxury fashion with an ethical lifestyle. Founder Caroline Mewe believes fashion and ethical business practices are equally important. Beautiful clothes skillfully tailored and well-made from materials of sustainable sources.
"Fashion is personal, it lets you reveal who you are. Clothing is, of course, something that’s literally very close to you: you wear it against your skin. So you don’t want something that’s badly put together. We don’t believe people exist in isolation; we are connected with our environment. The story goes that alchemists were searching for the formula for making gold. They wanted to transform the mundane into something exquisite. By blending together different substances, they hoped to create the most precious material in existence. We pursue that same dream and believe that alchemy can occur when different elements come into contact with one another. We aspire to inspire, not to dictate. Because beautiful clothes feel right.”
For us, sustainability is no passing trend. It’s in our DNA and an indispensable part of how we work. We are continuously striving to make Alchemist even more sustainable, and therefore consider carefully any new steps we take in this light. Because sustainability isn’t something you can just plug into a company. It calls for constant dedication to working as sustainably as possible.
In the fashion world, people sometimes cut corners and that’s something we are determined not want to do at Alchemist. Our commitment is long-term: how are we currently doing and how could we do better? We regularly talk with other sustainable fashion brands, so we can pool our strengths and learn from one another’s business practices. Our founder and designer, Caroline Mewe, is a welcome guest at business conferences, speaking on how to make the fashion industry more sustainable.
In 2016, Alchemist signed the SER (Dutch Social Economic Council)’s International Covenant on Sustainable Clothing and Textiles. This is a robust covenant containing legally binding agreements between companies, government, trade unions and other stakeholders. We have high hopes about the ability of its hard-hitting pledges to improve the fashion industry, and the SER’s annual audit is certainly very thorough. Read all about the five-year plan of the covenant.
Finger on the pulse. Prior to 2016, we had set ourselves the goal that 90% of our production be by producers who have a certificate for social-ethical business practices. Since then, all the factories with whom we work have one or more such certificates, and undergo annual audit by various NGOs, such as BSCI, FWF, SA8000, GOTS and Smeta.
As a signatory to the Covenant, every year Alchemist undergoes a thorough mandatory audit by the SER. This means we allow two independent parties to look over our shoulder and make sure we do what we say we do. We believe this makes our sustainability claims credible. The analyses that come out of these audits also help us identify where we can further improve our sustainability performance.
We visit our producers at least once a year, but usually more frequently, to monitor the conditions on site. Since 2015, we have engaged a part-time employee to help us achieve our stated goals and to help Alchemist further improve its sustainability performance. In the first quarter of 2016, together with another FWF member, we commissioned an audit on the minimum wage policy of one of our most important suppliers in Portugal.
In our annual reports, you can see exactly what percentage of our collection is made from which sustainable materials. Alchemist produces two painstakingly assembled collections every year. Making sure our designs can easily be combined with those from previous collections. Our quality standards are high, because what is well-made lasts a long time. And that, too, is all part of being sustainable.
A few years back, we set ourselves the goal of reducing our CO2 emissions. To achieve this, we wanted as much as possible to bring our production back to Europe. This we have done. We now produce some 80% in Portugal, 5% in Macedonia and another 15% in Delhi, India.
Using these locations means our transportation routes have become much shorter and we now use air freight only from Delhi. Moreover, we combine freight shipments of various different suppliers abroad, so together we can fill just one truck and avoid multiple smaller shipments. We work together with production studios, laundries and dye works that are located close to each other in order to reduce local transportation.
Our Austrian fabric supplier, Lenzing, who make our Tencel, Modal and Lyocell, generate 80% of their own energy locally and sustainably.
Our commitment to sustainability extends right into the store itself: we ship our clothes in biodegradable packaging, so we can minimize the environmental impact right through to the end of the chain. We supply shops who sell our clothes with our own organic cotton carry bags to give their customers.
In our showrooms and our offices, we use LED lighting.
We are stringent about the number of magazines and showcards we produce. If we do choose to use paper, it’s always paper carrying an FSC label (sustainably sourced paper).
Once you’ve got your garments home, you can prolong their life through proper care. Don’t wash them too often, or at too high a temperature. Check the labels carefully, as fibres such as wool, silk and linen sometimes require different treatment. Learn more about clever care.
Are there clothes you don’t wear hanging idle in your closet? Rather than just throw them away, give garments like this a new life via a second-hand fashion shop. Damaged clothes are also still very usable, as the textile can be recycled. For example, we make new clothes out of recycled denim, wool and linen.