Is Australian fashion brand Peppermayo sustainable or just more fast fashion?
When it comes to sustainability and ethics, fashion is struggling. At the center of most ultra-fast fashion brands — like Shein and Boohoo — is a business model that thrives on cheap materials and quick turnarounds. But while this helps many young people get their hands on endless amounts of new styles every month, producing clothes this way is hurting the planet and exploiting garment workers.
But not every new company falls into the category of ultra-fast fashion. Many fashion brands do emphasize sustainability and responsible materials, and make it a priority to pay workers fairly. And others fall somewhere in the middle. Peppermayo, which has grown rapidly in the last few years, is potentially one of these brands. Here’s more about the Australian brand, where it all began, and where it’s at now: A sustainable work in progress.
What is Peppermayo?
Founded just over a decade ago, Sydney-based brand Peppermayo started out as an eBay store, run by entrepreneurs Georgia Wright and Huayi Huang. “I started off selling clothes on eBay and after I saw that being so successful and turning a profit, combined with my love for fashion, I thought why not start an eBay account and Facebook store,” Wright told Health Lab back in 2016. “From then it kind of just grew organically, starting in a small apartment based in Paddington, Sydney.”
Now, the brand has its own designs, selling everything from mini dresses to shoes and bikinis to its main consumer base, which is made up of mostly women aged 16 to 24. In 2021, it hit $18.6 million in gross revenue. Its social media following is also significant, with more than 870,000 Instagram followers at the time of writing.
Is Peppermayo sustainable?
Undeniably, Peppermayo has its roots in sustainability. After all, it started off as a pre-loved clothing account on eBay. But as profits and turnover grow, it’s difficult to maintain this emphasis. So can Peppermayo really still be considered a sustainable brand?
It’s seemingly trying to give this impression. It sells several styles made with organic cotton, for example, and on its website, it has a page dedicated to sustainability, where it details its “key initiatives of focus.” These include zero-waste packaging, community initiatives, sustainable fashion, and going carbon positive. But right now, there is little detail about how it will achieve each of these goals. That said, the brand is aware that it has room to do more. “We are under no illusions; we can and have to do better,” it notes. “As a business that can have a profound impact on people, the community, and the environment, our social and environmental responsibilities will be our number one priority.”
One area that it does provide a wealth of information on is its “ethical trade” initiative. Here, it details how it strives to treat the people who work in its supply chain fairly. “At a minimum, we require all our factories to register with the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange,” it notes. (This is the largest collaborative platform in the world for sharing ethical supply chain data.)
It also states that its factories go through annual audits to ensure, among many things, that working conditions are safe, there is no child labor, and people work reasonable hours and are paid living wages.
It’s no surprise that Peppermayo is trying to become more sustainable. Its founders Wright and Huang seem to be conscious entrepreneurs and have even founded an eco-friendly toiler paper brand, called How We Roll.
But as the pair have admitted themselves, it’s not easy to take an existing fashion brand into the sustainable space. Looking at the brand’s website at the time of writing, it immediately presents a fast fashion-esque flash sale, advertising that nothing is priced over $20. And while it does use some more responsible materials, like organic cotton, many of its designs still use fabrics like virgin polyester and acrylic, both of which are made with fossil fuels.
So let’s revisit the question: Is Peppermayo sustainable? Right now, no. But it could be, and it’s important to recognize that its founders are trying to improve their business model.
And finally, if you want to shop from this brand, or any fashion brand, it’s important to employ your own sustainable shopping habits. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you love it? How many times will you wear it? Is it likely to stay in your wardrobe for years to come, or will it go into the trash after a few wears? Because, at the end of the day, while we may not be able to change the fashion industry overnight, as consumers, we can control how conscious we want our own wardrobes to be.
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