Urbankissed is the brainchild of Sophie Brunner. In 2017, the Swiss launched the “Slow & Ethical” marketplace because she was missing a platform that combines affordable, trendy and conscious clothing with an interactive customer experience.
Meanwhile, Urbankissed offers over 100 sustainable and ethical brands mainly from Europe. Besides clothes and bags made from sustainable and innovative materials, a selection of natural beauty products, eco-friendly sports- and swimwear, handmade home accessories and jewelry made from recycled materials are available for sale.
In addition, the platform operates with a self-developing “Slow & Ethical” index, which is intended to form its own value judgment of the products and help to shop according to personal customer values.
We asked Brunner to explain her concept in detail...
Please tell us a bit about your personal and professional background…
I’m a Swiss Millennial (25 years old) and founded the slow and ethical marketplace Urbankissed in 2017 after I left my job at the Swiss bank Credit Suisse. I built this platform during my studies in fashion business (Bachelor of Arts) between London and Milan (2017-2020). I successfully completed my studies one year ago and have been working full-time on this marketplace since then.
How and why did you start Urbankissed?
There are several reasons why I launched a slow and ethical marketplace for sustainable lifestyle products: I always wanted to build my own company as well as use my unique skill set ranging from business and finance knowledge to knowhow in the fashion industry. While I was working as an assistant of a relationship manager and as a marketing coordinator at Credit Suisse four years ago, I was missing the optimism and energy and couldn’t apply my unique skill set.
At the same time, when sustainable and ethical fashion wasn’t a thing at all three to four years ago, I got very passionate about it after recognizing the devastating impacts of the actual clothes I wear. I recognized that society is not aware of this at all as big companies have been hiding the truth.
That’s where I saw a big opportunity. I wanted to raise awareness and make conscious fashion accessible. Hence, I decided to launch the first marketplace for conscious fashion offering the right balance between joyful but conscious consumption.
I decided to work on a drop-shipping level, meaning products are sent directly from our brands to our customers (no middle stop), making sure that we don’t have a warehouse full of unsold stock. This business model wasn’t well known especially in Switzerland four years ago, but it allowed me to launch with a low budget, to build awareness on as many conscious brands as possible, to expand quickly and scale internationally. More importantly this business model enables my very small team to focus on our core business; verifying new brands as well as monitoring existing brands to guarantee that they produce fairly and as sustainably as possible.
I developed this marketplace on my own without having deep knowledge in website development. However, I self-taught all skills that are necessary and meanwhile our team has grown to three people in order to scale and improve our marketplace.
What makes your shop different from other platforms and stores for sustainable fashion?
Urbankissed is a slow and ethical marketplace offering 100+ sustainable and ethical brands on an engaging and educational online destination. When this platform was launched in 2017, it was one of the first of its kind. Hence, we are one of the oldest platforms and thus, have one of the largest and widest product offerings. Yet it is highly curated to guarantee trendy and high-quality goods. We primarily focus on small to midsize brands as these usually have very short supply chains. This allows us to monitor them easier and they can improve where needed very quickly.
Moreover, we really focus on the art of slow living to consume consciously. For example, we personalize brands and write in-depth blog posts to connect people differently with our products.
Even though you follow ethical and sustainable goals: Why another store? Wouldn't it be more sustainable not to offer any further incentives to buy at all?
You are right but without consumption, our economy would collapse. We just have to produce and enjoy fashion differently!
Our platform rather focuses on the art of slow living. We try to create a new connection between the goods and the consumers so that our items are enjoyed for years. Most of our clothes are not cheap but actually have the right prices to pay and produce fairly and of course have the right quality so that our products last long.
Moreover, our suppliers don’t overproduce. Actually, many of our brands produce on request. This may lead to a longer delivery period, but it is simply worth it.
However, it doesn’t stop here. We primarily don’t offer free shipping and free returns to avoid over consumption. We also make sure to offer a precise size guide and live chat if needed to make sure that the right size is ordered. Thus, we have an extremely low amount of returns.
That’s the most important question. As we don’t have to handle logistics, we can heavily focus on verifying and keep monitoring our brands. This is extremely important these days as indeed many brands are greenwashing. We constantly have to reject brands that apply as there are still too many question marks.
We developed 15 sustainable and ethical criteria along the supply chain forming our well-trusted Slow & Ethical Index. These standards range from ethically sourced materials, fair production to plastic free products. It helps us be consistent and transparent in selecting the fashion we showcase. Every single brand goes through this index before making the cut! Actually, every single product goes through this Index which indeed makes our process very unique. We check our brands on a product level and not simply brands as a whole.
Our customers can filter according to their own values in our catalog. On every product page they can see which standards each product fulfills, allowing you to make your own value judgment.
But it doesn’t stop here. We make sure that we bring brands onboard that are really born sustainably and ethically. We are in constant contact with our brands. We make sure that our brands have either personally visited their manufacturers to ensure the highest standards or work with manufacturers that are certified. The good thing is that our brands are very small and thus, have a very short supply chain. Many of our brands actually produce themselves at home.
Which are currently your bestselling products or brands?
Definitely swimwear made of Econyl, and vegan sneakers fairly produced in Spain or Portugal.
Where do you search for new brands?
We receive many brand applications daily. However, as already mentioned, we have to reject many brands due to missing transparency throughout the supply chain. We also do research ourselves on social media, newspapers or online in general to look for innovative and exciting brands which align with our values. Currently we have a long waiting list and therefore spend a lot of time assessing the brands on our list.
Our goods are shipped by our creators directly to your home, no extra stop. This way we create the least waste and CO2 emission. We enable you to shop directly from the source. Thus, we avoid a warehouse full of unsold goods but offer you the latest collections from a large selection of curated and mindful brands.
We ensure that every single delivery is carbon neutral by planting trees in our company forest in Madagascar. Replanting trees helps maintaining the water table, quality of air and quality of life alike.
Less than 2% of all goods ordered on our platform have been exchanged or returned. Our in-depth product details and size guides make this possible.
In your perspective, how did consumer behavior change in the last years when it comes to ethical and sustainable products?
The demand and awareness on sustainable and ethical fashion has increased sharply. As education and awareness has risen our audience understands the higher prices and the value behind conscious products more and more.
What are the plans for the future? Could there also be a stationary store or your own collection soon?
The recent events in the fashion industry (e.g., the allegations of forced labor in the cotton industry) have clearly shown that we are only at the beginning of everything. As the awareness and demand are growing sharply, the numbers of visitors and orders on our platform have grown a lot the last couple of months. In Q2 2021 we also closed a pre-seed financing round to invest more in marketing activities.
We endeavor to increase the awareness and support as many small brands as possible to offer the very best brands from different regions in the world and to offer the right balance between international and local shopping from conscious brands. Certainly, we would like to connect more within the sustainable fashion industry and engage in collaborations to spread our vision.
To scale and empower conscious brands even more we are looking to grow our team. By growing and making some noise we hope to also put some pressure on larger fast fashion brands to overthink their production processes and to change the status quo to the better.