繭裹子 TWINE - The Green Fashion
The background and the opportunity to found TWINE
In the past years, following the 10/10 HOPE team, I have had the opportunity to taste some delicious green and vegetable restaurants in Taipei. This time, the editorial team lead me to TWINE （繭裹子） in the Dadaocheng District, Taipei. The first time when I saw these three Chinese characters 繭裹子, the title of their business in Chinese, I had to stare at the words and try to read it slowly.
Liz Tsai and Vinka Yang are the founders of TWINE. Liz seemed to be shy, and Vinka looked resolute. Both of them have the artist's quality. Besides, they seemed to have many interesting stories and experiences, which made me curious.
Both have a background in architecture; they worked in an architect company in Shanghai before the founding of TWINE. By general standards, their job and income are quite good. At that time, the owner of the architect office was an American architect. The architect focused on energy conservation and environmental protection in design, and also put this spirit into daily life, and hoped that the colleagues would cooperate.
"At that time (about 2007), environmental protection and energy conservation were almost a slogan for the public. The owner, the architect, insisted on this concept and faced conflicts in profitability. However, the experience gave us an opportunity to understand environmental issues. Vinka explains to me how the opportunity had begun.
During the same period, Liz and Vinka joined in the business of their colleagues' hand-made store. A total of six people shared the rent of a little shop. Vinka spent his leisure time after work to make handicrafts such as puppets, stamps and wool felting accessories for sale in the store. Although this store had no significant income, it established the concept of TWINE for both of them.
Later, there was an opportunity for Liz and Vinka to participate in an environmental design exhibition held in Shanghai in 2009. At the exhibition, the two presented with wool felting goods and the clothes designed by Liz. It is interesting; they majored in architecture, how would they start doing handicrafts and fashion design? "This is complicated." Vinka answers, but both of them smile.
"We both have the background of architecture, and used to draw and to build architectural models; therefore, we are good at doing things with hands. But the biggest reason was because of the shared store in Shanghai. The store needed goods for sale, and at that time, I read a wool felting book. It was interesting, and it was how it started." Vinka tells me. Furthermore, Liz had studied architecture, but after she majored in fashion design for a year. Therefore, she was able to design her collection for the exhibition.
"There was no business pressure in that store, so all experience was gathered easily. After participating in the environmental design exhibition, it seemed that we had a turning point in life. That time, we wanted to come back to Taiwan and continue our growth here. So we left Shanghai without any hesitate. But, the architectural market has been saturated in Taiwan; it was difficult to develop. Hence we decided to start our own business."
At the beginning of doing wool felting, Vinka brought a lot of architectural ideas and structural thinking into the handicrafts. The products were exaggerated in style, similar to artistic pieces, not just jewelry. After returning to Taiwan, he even used a weaving technique to combine materials that were different and seemingly unrelated.
"Everything was playful. For example, filling wool into dried lotus holes, or using silkworm cocoons to create different accessory styles." After the interview, I reviewed their early work on the internet. His creative concept was fascinating. It can be seen from the early projects that their environmental awareness and the original intention of green fashion.
繭裹子在2011 年取得WFTO認證，在2012年成功申請成為會員。陸續在這些年來申請了FLO（國際公平貿易標籤組織）、B Corp（B Corp認證）、1% For The Planet，以及Fashion Revolution（時尚革命）等會員與認證。將取得認證的標章放在產品上希望讓消費者瞭解，同時提供清楚辨識的系統。
Fairtrade is not just a green organization but applying a concept into a daily life attitude.
After returning to Taiwan, Liz and Vinka’s family could not understand their decision to quit. However, both took this turning point as a new beginning. From the architect to the businessman, who used to draw in front of the computer, now check out at the checkout counter for customers. Still, I wonder, in the absence of related experience and no reserve supply, how did TWINE start?
"In the beginning, we were idealistic. Most of the materials we used for weaving are from Bangladesh. So we had the opportunity to get in touch with Fairtrade. We didn't expect it to be the most important key for us." At that time in 2010, the public in Taiwan had the opportunity to understand Fairtrade because of the introduction of fair trade coffee beans. However, there were no other similar industries on the market. Therefore, Liz and Vinka considered the possibility of introducing other Fairtrade products to Taiwan. They did not know much about Fairtrade; therefore, they spent a lot of time researching. Inquire about foreign Fairtrade companies, about how to apply for WFTO, and how to operate between different industries and brands.
They obtained WFTO certification in 2011 and successfully applied to become a member in 2012. In the past years, TWINE has applied for membership and certifications such as FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International), B Corp (B Corp Certification), 1% For The Planet, and Fashion Revolution. They placed the certification marks on the products, and hope to let people know and provide a clear identification system.
"The Fairtrade system in Taiwan is still not perfect. We have not yet established a comprehensive system. Therefore, many consumers do not understand the meaning behind the certification even if they see a certification mark." Therefore, in the stores of TWINE, our staff will spend a little more time explaining our business philosophy, and the spirit and practice behind Fairtrade when customers show interest." Moreover, since the beginning of 2010, the structure and numbers of organizations involved in the Taiwanese industry have been the same as eight years ago. Which means, there is no new development. In fact, consumers have a new and different concept now. There are more and more people who agree and are willing to support Fairtrade. Unfortunately, brands have not followed up to provide consumers with more choices.
Difficulties and bottlenecks in promoting green fashion
"Further, not only advocating ideas, but we also would like to change consumers' behavior and awareness." Vinka says. Although TWINE is operating on the principle of Fairtrade, it still needs to make a profit. Therefore, in advertising, it is back to change consumers' concept of consumption.
"Most brands can't disclose manufacturing costs because the bottom-level workers are completely exploited, so there are cheap clothes on the market. For consumers, it's just cheap clothes, but they can't imagine the situation and the pollution caused by these industries. We want to let consumers understand that it is not about which brands, but to change from the root, that is to reduce consumption. Do not buy so many cheap Clothes. Don't buy because of the low price; we must understand what the problem will be caused by cheap stuff. If it is because of demand, then buy valuable goods and carefully choose brands." Value does not represent the price, but can honestly reveal how the industry and brands operate.
TWINE's concept is similar to the idea of why you should spend more money and buy less clothes written by Lucy Siegle, a British author. Spend less money to buy clothes for only a few months, and spend more money on clothes that are for a more extended period; the total cost may be close, but the person and situation behind the concept are different. Therefore, TWINE hopes not only to affect consumers but also bring operators from the same industry to join.
Taiwan experienced serious food safety problems in 2015; so people are more concerned about diet, and it affects everyone's spending attitude. A clearer understanding of goods and ingredients of the daily necessities and clothing. Vinka believes that this is a great leap forward in concept. The more people pay attention, the concept of environmental protection and green fashion can be achieved in life.
台灣時尚改革Fashion Revolution Taiwan
Fashion Revolution是一個全球性的運動，發動的原因來自於2014年孟加拉一棟成衣工廠的大火，英國首先發起了運動。那一年，宜穎與士翔也在孟加拉，在當地認識了Fashion Revolution組織，於是加入時尚改革團隊，回台灣主辦、推動相關活動。
Fashion Revolution Taiwan
Fashion Revolution is a global event that was initiated by a fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh in 2014, and the UK first launched the campaign. That year, Liz and Vinka met the Fashion Revolution organization in Bangladesh. They joined the team and returned to Taiwan to host and promote activities.
"We invite related brands and industries such as green fashion labels, eco-fashion brands, vegan diet restaurants that are located in Taiwan (or Asia) to participate in the events. The groups and brands that have joined together are already the pioneers in the industry. We hope to influence the surrounding, especially other fast fashion brands to change the way of production. It is the final goal of Fashion Revolution. Later, we invite also antique and second-hand stores and other operators to join our events.
During the Fashion Revolution event, TWINE invited 10/10 HOPE to participate and to tell how to implement “Green Life” on beauty care. At the same time, they also introduced vegan and Not Tested on Animals beauty brands to consumers. In the stores of TWINE, they not only provide Fairtrade clothing but also use the brand Laundress from New York, which is represented by 10/10HOPE, to teach consumers the idea of washing clothes properly. Washing clothes in a proper way not only extends the life of the garments but also avoids environmental pollution caused by dry cleaning. Laundress is made from natural materials without adding chemicals. At the same time, pure plant formula is harmless to the environment and can be completely decomposed by microorganisms. The most important thing is that there is no animal testing.
Liz and Vinka take TWINE as the starting point and work on different ways to achieve the mission: to offer the best Fairtrade products. Because in the end, the product is the most important. Fairtrade is valuable, but there is no absolute price to define it. Connecting consumers through good products and build a new business type and concept.
Slowly, Fashion Design schools, Sociology Departments or Business Schools invite Liz and Vinka to give lectures. Both hope to promote green fashion or lifestyle ideas from the school system and gradually influence more people.
Implement the concept of environmental protection in life
During the interview, I kept asking questions about the details that I didn't understand. Liz and Vinka always explained in detail and did not show impatience. They hope to let more people understand the two critical points of Fairtrade, accountability and transparency. Transparency means that the information in all production processes is clear, and accountability refers to the complete responsibility of the producer to the consumer.
Eco-friendly, reducing pollution, and improve the environment and income of all manufacturers, these were just slogans. But now, people understand, accept, and promote gradually. Because of understanding, it affects ideas, and concepts will change behaviors; moreover, the action of the majority can shape the atmosphere of the situation. Let the public deeply understand the responsibilities of everyone and each business in the industries.
After our interview, the conversation with Liz and Vinka made me feel embarrassed. In the past, because of my job, I often received many gifts that were not needed or suitable in my life. Also for the needs of social media, I purchased a lot of fast fashion items only for one-time photo shooting. I thought I had a brilliant and beautiful life, but my mind was empty. About two years ago, I made up my mind to remove all the clothes I bought that I actually do not need. Then I reduce unnecessary consumption. If there is a real need, I will give priority to better quality brands and products. My life is much simpler now, but I am refreshed. I hope to change and improve myself slowly from small details in life.
I appreciate the attitude and spirit of Liz and Vinka. They use their unbiased approach to delivering their ideas, and they don't think that only their opinions are correct. Instead, bring environmental protection into life through an attitude of "maybe you like it too." Let us review our life and consumption behavior together.