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The Sustainable Bamboo Clothing Interview with Helen White of BAM

The Sustainable Bamboo Clothing Interview with Helen White of BAM

The Sustainable Bamboo Clothing Interview with Helen White of BAM

November 2nd, 2021

Tell us about the journey that led you to launch your brand BAM Bamboo Clothing…

BAM was founded by David Gordon in 2006. He wanted to build a viable and environmentally sustainable clothing business and was bowled over when he discovered bamboo: not only one of the planet’s most sustainable crops but also a natural performance fabric. It was the first bamboo clothing company in Europe.

I first met Dave when I was the Buying and Design Director at Sweaty Betty back in 2009. We immediately hit it off and I was inspired by his ambition to create a different kind of business. I’ve been on the sidelines with him since then but joined BAM in 2018 and am now the Product and Brand Director. This means that I am not only responsible for the ranges that we produce, but also how we present ourselves.

Everything I’ve done feels like it’s led me to this role where I have a chance to help the brand define who it is and to rethink the way that we make clothes.

Why are you so passionate about sustainability?

The clothing industry has become one of the biggest polluters of the planet, responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, so sustainability is now impossible to ignore.

Performance level activewear is dominated by synthetic fabrics, produced from fossil fuels with crude oil as the raw material. If that wasn’t bad enough, the resulting fibre is not biodegradable, which means that a pair of synthetic leggings will survive in landfill for thousands of years.

The statistics are devasting and speak for themselves. It has all been heading in the wrong direction and is clearly not sustainable.

But there is a change going on, and I’m so inspired that I can be part of it. There are a group of brands and manufacturers who are wanting to find a different way forward. The fashion industry will look very different in five years, with all the new emerging technologies, and it’s exciting to think that a tiny brand like BAM can play a part in that.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in business and how did you overcome it?

We have set ourselves a really ambitious goal: we want to be impact positive by 2030. As a business, this is our biggest challenge.

There are three key areas we are focusing on. Firstly, to take responsibility for the carbon footprint of the business. Like most clothing companies, the overwhelming majority of those emissions comes from deep into the supply chain, so we have spent two gruelling years tracing right back, beyond the garment factories, dyehouses, mills, fibre producers to where the bamboo is grown. It has been incredibly challenging, which is the reason most brands don’t do it!

The second area we are addressing is to be accountable for the end of our clothing’s life. A shocking 73% of clothing currently ends up in landfill or is incinerated. We want to get that to zero. This means us rethinking how we create products, being more proactive with fibre and fabric producers, and thinking creatively to find solutions to the complexity of creative circular fashion. One of the pillars of this is to invest in circular fibre-to-fibre recycling solutions as well as take back schemes to make it simple and convenient for customers. Our innovative 73 Zero range is the beginning of our products that have been specifically designed to be recycled.

Finally we want to take responsibility for everyone working for BAM; not just the people in our UK operation but throughout the supply chain. This is why having visibility of your supply chain is so important. If you don’t know who is producing your raw materials, fibres and fabrics, how can you ensure they are being treated fairly? We are in the process of visiting all our suppliers. This has obviously been hindered by COVID but we hope to resume our trips in 2022.

73 Zero Insulated Jacket (left) Balance Crop Top & Balance Leggings (right)

If you were to describe your business mantra in three words, what would they be?

Bold, curious, action-oriented.

What advice would you offer anyone interested in venturing into the world of sustainable clothing design?

It is a really exciting time. There are huge advances in technology which provide so many more opportunities for creative innovation. It is great to be part of a sustainable alternative. Collaboration is going to be key so I would say go and talk to as broad a variety of specialisms as you can. Some of our most inspiring conversations have been with chemists and agriculturalists, because together we realise what is possible.

Talk us through an average business day in your life…

I know it’s a cliché but there really isn’t an average day. I can be trend forecasting and setting a creative brief for photoshoots one day and then be in a meeting with an industry body the next. There’s never a boring moment.

I divide my time between the offices in Plymouth and London. Whilst we obviously abided by the government guidelines during lockdown, it has been great to get everyone physically back into work. It’s wonderful to be able to bounce ideas off each other and is so stimulating.

Business can be an upward struggle at times, what do you do to stay positive?

We have such an amazing team at BAM that it’s hard not to feel inspired. Their energy and passion for what we are doing is infectious.

I think I am kept going by the knowledge that we are doing everything we can to create a more sustainable future. We’re all working towards the same goal, so I find people are usually very willing to share information and help each other out. And I am so proud of how far BAM has come. We are, relatively, such a small business but we’ve been pioneering natural activewear since 2006 and now other companies are coming to us for advice.

Horizon Cropped Top & Enduro Leggings (left) Sustain Skirted Leggings & Unity Cropped Top (right)

What is your go to quote when lacking motivation?

Let’s imagine what we could achieve!

How much has social media played a role in the success of your brand?

The rise of social media has been instrumental. BAM’s customers are a community of likeminded individuals who live an active life with a light footprint. There is no quicker and better way to share stories and inspire each other than through social media.

How do you want people to feel when they first buy something from BAM Bamboo Clothing?

We want people to fall in love with the clothing and the brand. They are always surprised by how soft and comfortable bamboo clothing can be, and how well it performs as activewear. But we also want our customers to feel completely confident that the clothes they are wearing have been made by a company with complete respect for people and the planet.

We’re making it easy: we have measured the impact of all our clothing and compared it to conventional cotton. Customers can see for every item on BAM’s website how many litres of water have been saved, how many miles of emissions have been avoided and how much land has been farmed pesticide free compared to a conventional cotton equivalent. We’re innovating for our customers and the planet.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list, and which of your clothing items would you pack?

While international travel has been out of the question I’ve been really relishing the challenge of the South West coast path, which I’ve been doing with a bunch of girlfriends in sections over the last couple of years. It’s such a great way to catch up with each other, and we are loving getting to know the UK better.

The first thing I always pack is one of our base layer. Once you’ve worn one any other base layers just don’t come close.

We introduced our 73 Zero Bamboo Active Jeans last year, which I love. They took us years to develop but they were worth the wait. They look like conventional jeans, but are soft, stretchy and so comfortable. They also take two thirds less water to produce than conventional denim and are recyclable.

I top off the outfit with our new 73 Zero Insulated Jacket: lightweight, warm, made from recycled plastic and 100% recyclable so it need never been thrown away. And the women’s jacket honey colour is gorgeous.

Thermo Zip Base Layer & 73 Zero Denim Jeans (left) and 73 Zero Insulated Jacket (right)

You’ve had almost 30,000 reviews on Feefo, do you believe that reviews help with future sales of your products?

We pride ourselves on our customer service, and great quality products which is why we are always delighted to receive a Feefo Gold Service Award. It’s an independent seal of excellence. Honest reviews provide an indispensable guide, especially to new customers. We are lucky as we benefit from real customer loyalty. Once they have discovered BAM and tried our clothing, our customers stay with us and tell their friends about us.

What’s next for you and your brand?

We’re pioneering 100% recyclable active wear and working tirelessly to find better, natural alternatives to synthetics for activewear. More than 92% of the raw materials used in our clothing are already natural, renewable, grown without pesticides and biodegradable. But we have goals to eliminate the 8% use of synthetics which aren’t fully circular.

With our core UK market continuing to grow, we are also now poised to take BAM global. It’s an exciting time for the company.

Where can people find out more about BAM Bamboo Clothing?

On our website www.bambooclothing.co.uk and through social media.





Rachel McAlley

Rachel McAlley

A veteran in global travel, Rachel also loves to explore hidden gems on home turf. She’s a writing connoisseur of Britain’s best hotels, luxury beauty products, and UK food and drink launches.