Conscious to the Core – Novel Beings
FashionCapital talks to the founders, Khandiz and Alice, of ethical artist agency ‘Novel Beings’ on setting up a conscious company, keeping production local and breaking into the notoriously tough fashion industry…
FC: Please tell us what Novel Beings is all about?
Novel Beings is the first artist agency to exclusively represent ”˜conscious’ creatives in the fashion, beauty and advertising industries. What that means is, we do not simply represent artists based on their talent. They need to demonstrate that they practice their talent with a sound ethos and best practice, always.
The agency was designed around three core principals –
- How we can make a difference to our environmental impact by changing our working habits and promoting brands and products who also use best practice and still achieve high-end results.
- Skills development – a program is in the planning stages – we are developing a mentorship program to assist talent youth at risk, provide on site training in a number of creative fields with an emphasis on sustainable practices and providing the platform of an agency to find them paying work in their chosen creative field to work as a freelancer and developing their career. We are still looking for established organisations to partner with!
- People – making sure that the creatives represented feel part of a community that they know has their best interest at heart, and ensuring that our clients get the best possible skills sets and service.
FC: And what was your career history prior to this…
Khandiz: I have worked as a hair and makeup artist across various industries (movies, advertising and fashion) since 2000. In 2009 I started up a niche agency in Cape Town, South Africa that only represented assistant hair and makeup artists. The way Novel Beings operates is based on this concept – by continuing to work on shoots we are networking and building the agency in a different way to having an agent sit behind a desk and call people. It’s allowed the agency to grow organically – sorry, I’m South African, and I can’t resist a pun!
(Khandiz and Alice pictured right)
Alice: I have been styling for about 10 years and founded a sustainable Fashion and Lifestyle magazine, Futurefrock.co.uk in 2009. I then went to edit Eco Age for Livia Firth, working on sustainable product launches with luxury brands like Gucci and Chopard. When I went freelance again I was determined to keep working sustainably. It was a bit of a no-brainer when Khandiz asked if I’d like to run Novel Beings with her!
FC: It’s a big leap to start up your own agency what made you decide to do this?
Neither Alice nor myself were able to find representation that really understood the importance of how we chose to work – consciously. As their seemed to be a gap in the market for an agency that could ‘close loops’ for brands – for instance, if a designer was promoting the fact that they are sustainable, surely they would like to add impetus to their message by using creatives who have the same ethos? It was a no brainer really.
We also wanted a platform to offer our ‘best practice’ approach to new and existing clients.
FC: Do you think young labels setting up today should have a moral obligation to ensure that all aspects of their business are conducted as ethically as possible?
Yes! It should be a legal requirement. We now live in a global community and as it’s citizens we all have a duty to protect the planet and respect our fellow humans. Fashion is one of the most impactful industries on earth and shouldn’t be exempt.
FC: What do you think about the return to on-shore British-made production, do you think it will continue to flourish?
Alice: I think the potential is fantastic.
On the high street, M&S have their Best Of British range which is entirely made in the UK (and some of the designs are produced at FashionCapital’s sister company – The Fashion Enter Factory in North London) and there as also been a rise in brands using British heritage material Jigsaw and Chanel both source tweed from the same Cumbiran factory.
Customers are also keen to support British craft and production. Across the board we have a fine tradition of British Made products, our Menswear and formal wear production has always been strong and there is a now a new generation of designers and crafts people, like knitwear designer Katie Jones’ eponymous label and Lily Cole’s The North Circular who produce in the UK. Long may it continue.
FC: Please tell us about some of the clients have worked for…
The Fabulous Bakers
FC: What would your advice be to new labels starting out in the industry…
That sustainability and accountability are the future. Ignore this at your peril!
The social and environmental impact of your brand is just as powerful as it’s visual impact. You have the power to be positive, harness this, make conscious choices, and really consider what you are making and how you are creating it.
Work towards transparency in your business, your customers will want to know where their product is made and how it reached them.
We love to use the comparison with battery-farmed eggs. Once you wouldn’t have thought twice about where your eggs came from or how your meat was farmed. But now we fully understand the implication, free-range has become the consumer’s top choice. Even McDonalds now boast free-range eggs across their menus!
And if you still need some convincing, check out the Fashion Revolution website. Also the Ethical Fashion Forum, The Sustainable Angle and Offset Warehouse all offer amazing resources for brands. (links below)
FC: Are there any individuals within the industry that you find inspirational?
Tons! Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers are both hugely inspiring. Together they co-founded Fashion Revolution, the global campaign for transparency, accountability and reform of the fashion supply chain. It’s an incredibly powerful timely campaign that we as Novel are very proud to work on.
Orsola also co-founded Estethica – London Fashion Week’s ethical fashion showcase – and has done more than most to pioneer and champion sustainable fashion. It was a seminal space on the sustainable fashion landscape, launching some amazing talent and Orsola’s passion for all the brands involved was amazingly inspiring. It will be missed on the LFW schedule.
Stella McCartney, who has built a global brand without compromising her ethics, but is still brave enough to admit there is room for improvement.
Model Mak Gilchrist, who was one of the original models to refuse to wear fur and still continues to lend her voice to ethical causes.
Erin O’Connor, Debra Bourne and Caryn Franklin, who founded All Walks Beyond The Catwalk to challenge the industry’s dependence on unrealistic, limited body and beauty ideals. Awesome women! We need more of this.
FC: Do you take on any interns or apprentices?
Yes, we are always looking for super keen individuals to intern with Novel!
FC: If you were taking on an assistant what would be the core qualities that you would look for?
Enthusiasm and willingness to learn would be ideal. We don’t expect them to know everything about sustainability, but an interest is essential, as is good sense of humor and amazing tea making skills!
FC: Future plans for Novel Beings…
Working with more of our ethical and sustainable fashion hero’s
Launching our mentorship program
Doing more art direction
Taking Novel Beings international!
FC: The Novel Beings motto is…
Never compromising on ethics or aesthetics. Be a novel human being in everything you do.
Interview by JoJo Iles