What Do I Do?
Who says you can’t be stylish and sustainable? My name is Nadratan Rahman, and I am the sole owner of NAD.RAH, a small eco-lux accessories brand.
What is eco-lux, you ask? It means that I hand make and source each and every product for my online shop. Anything that is ethically sourced is either thrifted, vintage or up cycled to refurbish any of the remaining usable parts of the product. NAD.RAH handmade items are produced from thrifted, donated or dead stock materials. I source vintage products that would have otherwise been thrown away or contributed to the landfills. I do this with the goal to reduce waste within the fashion industry. To me, less fashion waste means a better world for us to live in.
My handmade items are broad-ranged, from scrunchies, bags, keychains, and even jewelry. Just as nadrah means unique, no two pieces are exactly the same. Numerous items, such as my personalized jewelry, can be customized for you to help you express yourself. Not to mention, products are available with both a Canadian and a South Asian flair.
For as long as I can remember, I was driven to one day have my own business. And I knew exactly what I wanted to produce and share with the world: sustainable fashion.
Growing up, I was conscientious of the harms of climate change and the amount of waste that is created every year. Even as a young child, I would always strive to reuse, reduce and recycle as much as I could, whether it be transforming a pre-loved piece of clothing into something new and trendy, or use an old newspaper as wrapping paper. I kept a stash of fabrics, cut up clothing, and colourful papers specifically to turn them in to new creations.
Access to technology helped me hone in and be self-taught in my craft. I would scour the web and YouTube on how to sew, cut fabrics, and bring life to any project I could imagine and design. As a Bangladeshi-Canadian, this allowed me to celebrate my own heritage in my work. Rather than be limited to what I saw in a storefront, I could play around and experiment on making creations based on both Canadian and Desi inspirations.
What Motivated Me to Start NAD.RAH?
Fast forward to my adulthood, where the level of waste humans produce has continued to grow. On average, people throw away 70 pounds of clothing per year. Globally people produce 13 million tons of textile waste each year.
A significant contributor to this issue has been the rise in fast fashion. Access to cheaply made clothes that gets shipped overnight has desensitized us to the issue of overconsumption. This is sensationalized on social media through content such as shopping haul videos. These haul videos entice people to go out themselves and spend more money on clothes and accessories than is realistically needed or ethically viable. I strongly believe that the majority of clothing should and can be reused or upcycled. As a result, I wanted to use my skills, my childhood dreams, and my desire for environmental justice to reimagine the fashion industry in a way that protects the only home we have. This was the spark that led to me creating my very own business.
In 2018, I created products for my small business from various materials, including pre-loved clothes collected from my friends and family, and deadstock fabrics from local fabric shops. I started off with designing simple accessories, such as scrunchies made from thrifted curtains. From there, I continued to learn as my business grew.
Currently, I sell over hundreds of upcycled and sustainable products, including custom made sustainable clothing and accessories for my clients. To remain sustainable, I only release each product in small batches so as not to create waste, I do not mass produce any items and the majority of my items are made to order. This way I am not wasting fabric nor supplies. This is the reason why many larger businesses are forced to discount items at the end of the season when they do not sell out.
Challenges and Opportuinities at NAD.RAH Faces
When the pandemic hit, I was one of the unfortunate ones to have lost my job. While I had originally divided my attention between my job and NAD.RAH, I decided to take this as an opportunity and put my all into NAD.RAH. This was risky. At the height of the pandemic, while some businesses caught the attention of their target audience, others were not able to gain a following and retain potential customers.
In order to connect with consumers who would be interested in eco-lux accessories, I enhanced my marketing strategies and was active on various social media platforms, including TikTok. I was one of the lucky small businesses to get noticed by a small community there. TikTok has endless algorithms for any business to be able to attract their exact target market. This is where I encountered my next challenge. One of the biggest barriers to getting noticed was the fact that many others were also starting a small business at this time. I had to use my creativity in a different capacity than designing my products. I thought of, planned, and carried out various TikToks that stood out from the crowd and attracted the correct market. It took time and consistent effort, and helped me broaden my skill set to another form of marketing. I was ecstatic when one of my videos went viral and helped me attract an audience as enthusiastic as I am about sustainable fashion. From there I was able to build a following, an email list, and a retention of repeat customers.
Another challenge for NAD.RAH is how saturated the accessories market truly is at this moment. Because of the pandemic, and how many people have started their own brands as well, competition has grown within the last two years.There are many other businesses within Canada that also produce high quality jewelry, scrunchies, and tote bags. This could discourage some entrepreneurs from entering the market.
However, whenever I feel discouraged, I remember why I started this. The NAD.RAH brand’s main goal is to stay sustainable and use as little mass producing as possible. My brand of ethical consumption helps attract my target audience of people who are conscious of how much waste they are producing and who want to be eco-friendly when they shop. The fact that I never mass produce anything also helps attract people with the fear of missing out on a product (This is what we refer to as “FOMO”) or who want unique products to help them express their individual style. With low stock from remaining sustainable, it means once the product is gone, it is gone forever!
Since NAD.RAH revolves around slow fashion, attracting customers in our current era of fast fashion can be difficult. We like convenience. We want things made quickly, shipped overnight, and that can easily be used once before they’re thrown away.
However, the tides are shifting and people are becoming more aware of what fast fashion is doing to the environment. I believe that slowly but surely, people are converting to slow fashion. With the rise of TikTok, it is becoming much easier to teach generations of new and old consumers on the negative impact of fast fashion has on the environment, and how the fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to our waste levels. Through both my low waste products and my marketing surrounding ethical consumption, I hope to encourage people to practice conscious consumerism.
My Advice to Other Business Owners
A strong business integrates their company’s morals and values into their mission statement. A business with a personality and soul is what keeps customers coming back. Retaining old customers through positive customer relationships will always be cheaper and easier for a business than to attract new ones. I encourage my customers to remember to up cycle, donate, sell, or give away any clothing they are not using anymore. And I encourage businesses to show their personality on social media and through newsletter email marketing. Voice your opinions, be clear about your values, and highlight what makes your business stand out from all the others in the market.
There are so many forms of social media right at our fingertips. The use of social media platforms is highly encouraging in attracting consumers but also promoting your brands with platforms such as; Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and TikTok, to name a few. I think it is important for all businesses for utilize as many as they can to the best of their ability. Continue to seek knowledge on how each one develops and changes to best benefit towards business growth. Social media is a completely FREE marketing strategy and tool. It is 100% possible to gain new customers and grow your business just by using social media. My advice is to find the one platform that works best for you and then recycle that content on all the other social media sites. People have different preferences, and not everyone uses all platforms. This way, you are attracting a wide range of people on various platforms.
There’s always ups and downs with business, especially with how the algorithm on social media is constantly changing. Your business may not change, but the way your audience consumes their information will. You have to continue to grow with your market. Do your research and keep up with how technology is changing.
My business was created to make a small ripple of change in this world. I hope to continue to develop my craft and raise awareness on living a sustainable life. My hope is that my ripple of change can continue to expand, and promote lifestyles that are both stylish and sustainable.
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