Younger consumers have been holding the key to sustainability, ethicality, and the overall future of fashion. They are digital natives, tech-savvy, informed and aware, and are unapologetic in what they demand. Having a purpose and being value-driven isn’t just a personal requirement for them anymore – it is something they expect from all the people they follow, the content they consume, and the items they purchase.
Sarisha Ved, daughter of UAE-based retail giant Apparel Group’s founders Sima Ved and Nilesh Ved, launched F5 Global in March 2021. The 16-year-old started the brand as part of a school project, which then grew into a full-blown sustainable fashion business with an online store that sells sustainable, ethically produced athleisure garments.
“F5 means refresh and our tagline is key to sustainability. There’s huge customer demand for ethically produced products in the region. According to a recent study, in the UAE, 96% of adults were willing to take personal action on sustainability issues. 4 out of 5 people in the UAE are more mindful of their impact on the environment since Covid-19. So there is a place for a sustainable athleisure brand in the market,” said Sarisha Ved, founder of F5 Global.
While the sustainability movement is slowly but surely taking on the world of fashion retail in the region, a major problem today remains greenwashing i.e over-emphasising a company’s environmental credentials, often by misinforming the public or understating potentially harmful activities in order to lure customers and investors.
However, many investors, as well as customers, are now educating themselves more and looking for certifications and standardisation marks that can prove the brand’s credibility. “A lot of brands claim sustainability but being certified the way we are – with our GOTS and SEDEX – makes a huge impact,” she adds.
That is perhaps why the brand grew by a whopping 56% in profits in its very first year. Apart from being made available online, the products were also sold in some of Apparel Group’s brand stores like Athlete’s and Co. However, there are plans for the brand to open its own store in Dubai this year. “Our flagship store will open in the Dubai Hills Mall. The store will have our hoodies, bra line, leggings, crop tops, cycling shorts etc.” she said.
Of course, having influential parents and being associated with Apparel Group has been a huge help for F5 Global when it comes to sharing resources, marketing, and warehousing capabilities, but Sarisha wasn’t immune to the challenges presented by Covid-19 as the business was started during the pandemic.
“It was important for me to find a manufacturer that was able to produce a product in a short amount of time. It took me less than half a year to launch the brand. This means that the designs needed to be done, marketing needed to be done, and the products needed to be manufactured quickly. Once Covid-19 hit, we realised that we couldn’t just rely on one manufacturer and needed more in order to support us in case something goes wrong,” she said.
A non-negotiable for Sarisha at this point is same-day delivery. “If you are a brand that’s not delivering on the same day, I don’t know what you are doing. Why would a customer wait three weeks to get a product when they can go to the store and purchase it in an hour?” she asks.
6thStreet.com, part of Apparel Group’s e-commerce portfolio, which offers a large selection of shoes, bags and accessories from global fashion brands including Aldo, New Balance, Nine West, Dune London, Skechers, has even been doing 2-hour deliveries in the region. This gives Sarisha the confidence to deliver on the promise of same-day delivery working under the umbrella of Apparel Group.
When asked if she then considered sourcing products locally from the UAE, she cited the ethos of the brand and said, “UAE as a county is doing economically well. If I am going to produce the product, I’d rather pay someone that needs the money than someone who already has the money.”
Currently, most of the production takes place in India with items distributed across the GCC. “Our plan now is to expand in India and then tie up with Amazon to do something with the US and Canada,” she concluded.
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