Meet the Founder of Non Denim, the Label That’s “Conscious by

Photograph courtesy of No. DESIGN BY Danielle Campbell.

Pete Hellyer launched Non with the ambition to change the denim space. Here’s what you need to know about the new London-based line.

Like many of us over the past year, Pete Hellyer – founder of Non, a London-based denim-centric brand – has searched for meaning. With 15 years of experience in the e-commerce and digital areas of the fashion industry, he has found that his customer-focused work becomes increasingly sporadic as the grip of the pandemic has taken hold. intensified. “I had a lot of free time and there was a lot of uncertainty,” says Hellyer, who had worked as a creative director for companies such as Ssense and The Outnet before becoming independent.

To put some joy in her life, Hellyer – who, again like many of us, found himself mostly wearing loungewear throughout the lockdown – decides to treat herself to a pair of jeans. . “I live in denim,” he notes of his typical outfit. “I’m one of those people with a uniform [of] a white t-shirt and jeans.

Finding a pair with satisfying styling, durability, and ethical production credentials proved difficult for Hellyer, but the process sparked an idea. “I thought, I have a lot of free time – I’m going to do some. Initially predicting that he could produce a small series of jeans that were both ethically made and environmentally friendly, the more Hellyer researched and studied materials and workmanship, the more he realized he would have to increase his reach to turn his idea into reality. “Making 100 pairs was not possible” with the minimums that exist in the textile industry, he says. And so, No was born.

non denim
Photograph courtesy of Ssense

“I had no intention of launching a fashion brand, and I don’t identify as a fashion designer,” Hellyer notes, describing her line’s origins as a “happy accident.” The name is a testament to Non’s lack of logo and branding elements, as well as the fact that the pieces are gender-neutral and their production strives not to waste. And unofficially, it’s an acronym for the idea of ​​”now or never” – a premonitory provocation given the perpetually tumultuous times we live in.

“What I really appreciated is that it gave me purpose,” says Hellyer of what it feels like to dive into this new company whose tenure is so opportune. “It’s a mission I really embrace and believe in, which I may not always have had in my job. In the fashion industry, there isn’t always a purpose behind everything we do.

Despite his admirable ambitions, Hellyer hesitates to describe Non as “sustainable”, instead endowing it with the philosophy of “Conscious by Design”. The brand’s selvage denim line of pieces, which includes a variety of styles of jeans, jackets and accessories, is made in Turkey by Isko, a factory that pays workers a living wage and is a bluesign® partner. SYSTEM (which means it adheres to strict and safe standards). environment-oriented production protocols).

non denim
Photograph courtesy of Non

“I wanted to push each element as far as possible,” Hellyer notes of the brand’s use of organic and recycled vegan materials, as well as its unisex design philosophy. No also offers a trade-in program, which means that customers can send in old items, which are donated or recycled, and receive a discount on their next order.

Additionally, Hellyer strives to give Non’s clothes an innate versatility (that is, you can wear them fitted or oversized) that gives them longevity. “If you have a jacket that you can wear in more than one way, it’s like having four jackets,” he explains of how he envisions design practices for customers to adopt better. consumption habits in the future. “And it is important that [these] are items that do not age. “

While Non’s styles may have an aesthetically timeless quality, they also have a distinctly modern feel: the inclusion of a scannable NFC tag that allows consumers to glean clothing care instructions and provenance information. the room. The nifty technology, created by Non-partner Eon, also offers future recyclers a data breakdown to “improve end-of-life management” of the item, according to the brand’s website.

“I’ve always struggled with working in fashion to some extent,” Hellyer explains of why he’s taken such steps with his new label. “I am a strong advocate of personal style, self-expression and individuality; but inherently being a sustainable brand in the fashion industry is a problem because the philosophy of the industry is the problem. The very definition of it is based on redundancy – the fact that something is extremely wanted and then unwanted six months later.

non denim
Photograph courtesy of Ssense

Faced with the complexity of need, want, and waste, Hellyer chose to take a Non-Transparency-centric approach instead of preaching or inundating interested customers with pie charts and often mystifying certifications. “I think that’s why greenwashing is unfortunately so effective,” he says of how much of the discussion around “sustainable fashion” has become an insider and an intellectual. Hellyer describes the information presented on Non’s website as “warts and everything,” indicating that he still wants to improve in his production setting. And that reflects the paradoxical nature of sustainability in the fashion world.

Hellyer points out how the current landscape leaves little room for improvement as so many aspects of it are treated as binary issues, and the recognition of who becomes a “conscious consumer” is also sorely lacking. “There are people who have the money to dress up and who can afford to wear ethically made products,” he says. “[But] It is difficult to deny someone who does not have the disposable income the same kind of pleasure or self-expression because they can only afford clothes that are unfortunately made in a less ethical manner.

For his part, Hellyer hopes the progress he and other like-minded brands make will influence and inspire more mass businesses, meaning that ultimately every consumer will be able to call better when they are. it is about buying clothes and accessories. “It’s exciting that things are moving faster in certain directions,” he says of the growing tide of biomaterials research, the consideration of production practices and the growing circularity of the industry. style space. Yet, as he so aptly continues, inclusiveness has to be part of the equation for these gestures to really make sense.

“If we can be a part of this conversation and show processes and materials that are helping to change big brands and broader segments of the industry, it will have a bigger impact than if I made a thousand pairs of jeans in such a way. ethical and sustainable, ”he notes. “It won’t change the world.”

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