Fashion Revolution Week took place on the 20 - 26th April 2020 – and is an annual international day celebrated in over 90 countries. The initiative is an opportunity to celebrate fashion as a positive influence, raise awareness of the fashion industry’s most pressing issues, show that change is possible and celebrate those who are on a journey to create a more ethical and sustainable future for fashion.
Simon & Mary was launched in 2014 by Dean Pozniak who comes from a family of milliners and hat makers that started in the business over half a century ago, Simon and Mary honours the past but is inspired by the contemporary. The factory in Johannesburg stands as it did half a century ago. New designs or classic shapes are made with the same trusted machinery from the ‘60s by experienced machinists whose own children have inherited their skills and now work and grow within the business decades on.
"The first Simon and Mary collection was presented on the heads of Johannesburg's creative class; the brand has been inseparable from the city"
The first Simon and Mary collection was presented on the heads of Johannesburg’s creative class; the brand has always been inseparable from the city. Simon and Mary has cultivated a community of loyal enthusiasts who, like the brand, uphold individuality, style and the finest quality.
To shape a 100% wool felt hat requires a lot of steam. Making that steam requires water. The boiler at the heart of the Simon and Mary factory in Joburg is paramount for making their heritage-fueled collections of contemporary and classic hats but its environmental impact also weighs on founder Dean's mind. “It’s not easy but when starting a small business/brand you need to focus on the principle of the triple bottom line. Your business should not only be sustainable because it’s profitable, it should be profitable because it is sustainable,” he says. The company introduced JoJo tanks to the property to collect rainwater and in taking this one straightforward step they manage to save 30 000 litres of water every month. Any overflow of water is re-used in their pressing process.
Making products that can be passed down to the next generation means that sustainability has always been built into the family business. But Dean wanted to make a more intentional move toward good over harm. “It’s about bringing balance to the world,” he says. “We like to balance out the bad that we may be causing, with the good.” One way Simon and Mary does this is by partnering with reforestation and urban greening organisation Greenpop to plant a number of trees calculated proportionality to the sales of their hats. So far they’ve planted over 500 trees. Bringing balance to the world also extends to Simon and Mary’s workforce. Eighty-five percent of the staff are women; a percentage of who are regularly upskilled in various ways. This includes identifying potential in factory workers and enabling their move from factory jobs to working in the office. “We’ve always had a philosophy that upskilling within rather than hiring from the outside gives our employees a chance,” Dean says.
"Bringing balance to the world also extends to Simon & Mary's workforce, eighty-five percent of the staff are women"
In 2016, Simon and Mary released a collection made from hemp and this year will see a vegan range of caps. The Simon and Mary pin will soon be made from sustainable materials and the swing tags are printed on recycled paper. Of course, the climate crisis needs to be met with grand action but small, incremental and practical changes have impact when done collectively. “It’s important for brands in the clothing industry to be cognizant of what we are doing, and balance it out the best we can,” Dean says. In doing so, Simon and Mary are making a case for starting with the obvious and sharing what they’re doing with others. Perhaps the most revolutionary step that the clothing industry can take is embracing transparency.
"The Simon and Mary pin will soon be made from sustainable materials and the swing tags are printed on recycled paper"
Shop Simon & Mary hats here.
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Text by Roger Sivuyile Lupuwana.
Courtesy of Simon & Mary.