2023 was really tough for small businesses globally. It was even tougher for UK-based ones, as Brexit measures began to hit. A 2023 survey shows that 57% of small business owners in the UK feel their business is at risk of closure in the coming year as a result of current economic instability.
It’s been tough for culthread too. Not only because we’re a small business as well, but also because our core value is sustainability. Operating ethically is very costly and difficult in the current economic climate. So, we’re taking a break. To go back to the drawing board, and to figure out how to be profitable while staying true to our values.
We’re not the only sustainable small businesses taking a break or closing. In line with our commitment to full transparency, here is why we’ve been forced to make this decision.
1. High competition and low prices that are just not sustainable
It only takes seeing a modern mountain of trash to understand that there are deep, fundamental issues with today’s consumer culture. When the garbage collectors in Paris went on strike, the sheer amount of consumption was reflected in mounds of trash piling up and up. That’s just one example – this exists everywhere.
Everything is so cheap, that we buy without thinking twice. Up to 100 billion garments are produced by the fashion industry every year. And each year, as much as 92 million tons of clothing ends up in landfills.
These low prices are continuously decreasing in the fiercely competitive landscape today. The low prices tend to rely on unsustainable and unethical manufacturing practices. They involve taking advantage of cheap labour, and cheap materials that are terrible for the environment. Where animal products are used (which is in more places than you might think), they also take advantage of animals through mistreatment.
The fashion industry is a highly polluting industry, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
2. Competing whilst being genuinely sustainable is just… not sustainable
Your £19 jacket cannot have been sustainably and ethically made. Believe us, we’ve tried everything to be affordable whilst staying true to our values.
Culthread is recycled, ethical, and cruelty-free. And we don’t just say that, our team revolves around that core ethos. From using sustainable paint for our shop, to recycling material for our packaging, we think about every aspect of sustainability.
However, the reality of this is that our product comes at a price. Not a crazy one, but definitely above £19. Recycling, paying our workers fairly, and animal alternatives are all more expensive. It’s 100% worth it, for the reduced impact on our Planet, People, and Animals, and the simple knowledge that you’re wearing your values. But, not everybody thinks that way.
We also don’t spend crazy amounts on marketing budgets, which often encourages thoughtless consumerism. We want our customers to buy a jacket which lasts a lifetime. Our jackets are designed to be versatile with that in mind: this jacket can take you to work, the gym, or for a party.
For in-depth articles about how fashion disrespects Planet, People, and Animals, check out:
3. Sustainability: lots of talk, no action
This brings us to the supply-demand issue for sustainability. If we were able to maintain sustainable prices, and have enough demand, there wouldn’t be an issue. However, that’s not the case.
A McKinsey report suggests that customers are increasingly putting their money where their mouth is, and spending their dollars sustainably. However, our experience at culthread is that this change is simply not happening fast enough for sustainable businesses to survive.
There’s a lot of talk, but still not enough action. Many claim to care about sustainability, but when it truly comes down to it, they do not buy ethically. Some people genuinely cannot afford it, but many can and simply choose not to.
4. The cherry on top: BREXIT
UK-based businesses can no longer ship to Europe without extortionate customs duties. To give you an idea, there have been times where the duties and shipping to France were more expensive than the coat itself!
Although our US market grew in 2023, and that was not directly impacted by Brexit, our European market was – big-time. At the start, we made great efforts to keep providing our coats internationally. After all, anyone anywhere should be able to wear a coat aligned with their values. But this was not financially viable. That’s why we made the decision to charge shipping fees, and ultimately to stop shipping to Europe completely.
We come back to the base issue again though: there isn’t enough demand for sustainable fashion in the UK to grow as a business. So, we need international markets, and that has been severely hindered by Brexit.
You CAN make a difference
It’s really sad – having to take a break, being unable to find an alternative solution that’s aligned with our values.
But, what gives us hope, is that this CAN change. We have the power, as consumers, to change this.
We can choose small businesses.
We can choose ethical businesses.
We can choose sustainable businesses.
We can actually inform ourselves about how each of our purchases impacts our Planet, People, and Animals.
Our website will remain live as we’d love more than anything to get the remaining products into good hands, but we won’t be designing a new collection for 2024. For now it’s back to the drawing board and you’ll be the first to hear from us if anything changes.
With that ray of hope, we’re saying “goodbye, for now.” We hope to see you soon!