“I think so far we are the greenest platform out there,” says Magda Daniloaia, Aequem’s founder. “We’re at a point where brands want to be with us as a badge of honour.”
E-commerce has been one of the unqualified success stories of the last year, as consumers deprived of physical retail therapy have turned to digital platforms. While major e-tailers and marketplaces have seen impressive gains during this period, independent businesses have also been able to capitalise.
For Aequem, the online platform for sustainable and ethical fashion brands that saw a 71% increase in sales last year, this shift represents an opportunity to set new standards for the fashion industry.
“We see ourselves as being influencers in our own way,” Magda explains. “We’ve certainly turned away brands that didn’t meet our values and even with the bigger brands, we will only take their sustainable ranges. Our expectations are clear.”
‘Sustainability’ can mean different things to different people, but Aequem has strict definitions of its own.
Ethical working conditions are a must for brands looking to be listed on the platform. Each piece must also be made from materials that are either organic, upcycled, recycled, or use new and innovative sustainable fibres.
Every product on the Aequem site is labelled according to which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals it supports, after the company became the first e-commerce platform to align itself with the Goals in 2019.
And last year, the company even launched a new initiative to plant ten trees for every purchase made through the website.
Magda says that small brands can still find it difficult to source sustainable materials at a price that works for them, but that the situation is changing.
“Consumers are saying that they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. As more brands contribute to demand for them sustainable fabrics will become more accessible and affordable, especially because there will be a market for pieces made the right way,” she says.
Price-conscious sustainable shoppers can also use Aequem to find vintage and pre-loved pieces, extending the lives of garments that may otherwise have gone to landfill.
Although the shift toward more sustainable shopping has proved beneficial for the company, the success of the past year has also been driven by the digital community Aequem has worked hard to build.
“We used to run pop-ups shops to showcase our brands at trade shows and fashion weeks. When that became impossible our opportunities to network were hit massively,” Magda explains.
“So we looked how we could raise awareness of Aequem and our brands by connecting with people from all over the world in a more meaningful way online – which is ultimately where our customers are.”
The company called on its network of brands and influencers to launch a series of digital events on IGTV and eventually moved to Youtube, focusing on sustainable fashion and the opportunity to ‘build back better’ that is posed by the pandemic. It also ramped up efforts to listen as well as talk, forging more personal connections in sustainable living groups on Facebook and engaging with conversations on Reddit and Quora.
Although growing a community from scratch is a slow process, Magda says the audience has been receptive. In particular, over the months there has been a noticeable uptick in people engaging with the Youtube channel for events like live interviews with a sustainability focus.
“Popups used to work as a showroom where buyers, influencers and editors would learn about our brands and our shared values – but showrooms are less important now unless you have already created a buzz by building the brand online,” she adds.
“This strategy has given us lots of opportunities to do that work and engage directly with our followers.”
Aequem is always looking for new brands to work with, though Magda is also keen to forge new collaborations for channels like guest blogs and new interviews.
While continuing with this organic strategy – which has succeeded with limited budget – the company is now conducting testing and research for affiliate marketing that will help with its quest to ‘make sustainable fashion the norm’.
“If we have achieved this level of growth with limited investment, I can’t wait to see what is possible over the next year,” Magda says. “Sustainability has to be at the centre of the industry that’s emerging.”