Plain Tiger Is Proving That Sustainable Fashion Can Be Fashionable

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Plain Tiger
Photo: Courtesy of Plain Tiger

There’s no excuse for not shopping ethically and sustainably in 2022. We all have a responsibility to protect the planet’s scarce natural resources and ensure the people making the products we use are being treated with respect. With so much greenwashing and so many fast-fashion retailers marketing themselves as environmentally friendly, it’s difficult to know where to find products that are actually responsibly sourced. And when we do find ethically made products, we struggle to find pieces that fit our style and that we actually want to wear. Enter Plain Tiger.

Ollie and Alexandra Baillie‘s journey started with a medical diagnosis that changed their lives. After spending his entire career in banking, Ollie was offered an opportunity to make a more positive impact at a fintech company in South Africa working to provide impoverished people with access to banking services. A mere three months into the couple’s time in Cape Town, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and faced with an aggressive treatment plan to fight it. Brand new to the city (and continent), with only each other as a support system, the couple made the decision to optimize everything in their lives for survival.

As a result, they realized that the things that are good for us as humans are also good for the planet, and vice versa. It wasn’t easy to find sustainable alternatives to products they needed, but eventually, they found artisans and small manufacturers producing ethical products. These same small businesses were struggling to scale. At the same time, they were meeting people who really wanted to live more sustainably but couldn’t find the right products. As they successfully moved through Ollie’s treatment plan, the couple saw an opportunity. They harnessed Alexandra’s luxury retail experience and Ollie’s finance and tech expertise to create an impactful platform. 

Plain Tiger
Photo: Courtesy of Plain Tiger

Plain Tiger is connecting ethical vendors that are creating sustainable products to the people that are desperately trying to live more sustainably. Every product on the site has to comply with its five conscious criteria: sustainable materials, small-batch production, cruelty-free, fair treatment of suppliers and producers, and no worker exploitation. With such a comprehensive set of standards, you don’t need to spend time reading the fine print to determine whether or not a product you want is sustainable, Plain Tiger did all the work for you.

But these aren’t your run-of-the-mill sustainable products, a.k.a overpriced shapeless linen in earth tones and hemp jewelry. We’re talking colorful co-ords, platform sneakers, and tie-dye workout clothes that you won’t believe are sustainable. Not to mention their home decor and accessories, featuring some of the most unique stackable rings and funky throw pillows. They stock ultra-cool sustainable goods unlike anything you’ll find from high-street retailers and fast fashion brands. Plain Tiger products are anything but boring.

Take Mireia Playà for example, one of Plain Tiger’s shoe brands creating boots and loafers made of vegan leather. The tricky thing about vegan leather is that more often than not, it’s made of plastic. That’s not sustainable. Mireia Playà however, uses plant leather and recycled fibers to make its shoes. Because Plain Tiger has possibly the highest benchmark in the industry of 70 percent fully-sustainable materials, you can buy those Emma Chamberlain-inspired chunky loafers you saw on the site guilt-free, knowing they’ve been produced responsibly.

 

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Even the name “Plain Tiger” has a powerful meaning behind it. The plain tiger is not a tiger at all, it’s actually a butterfly. “The butterfly is an indicator that you will see a positive change in your life, so it was really fitting for us as a name. When we were discussing a list of names, a plain tiger landed on the windows of the conference room that we were in. So we took it as a sign and went with it,” explains Alexandra.

The couple’s venture into sustainability has very much been a personal journey from the start, so we asked them what sustainable living meant to them. They explained that it’s not about going vegan and turning into a hippie, it’s about making connections in your mind about the products you’re buying about the people and materials involved in their production. When you do that, you actually end up buying less by only spending on high-quality products made by independent designers that are not only more unique than what you can find at the mall, but will also last you much longer.

Sustainability is about progress, not perfection.

“Sustainability is about progress, not perfection,” adds Ollie. “I feel the best I’ve ever felt compared to the life I had before. Mentally, physically, and spiritually, because everything is now aligned. It’s not a sacrifice at all, it’s actually self-care, and people shouldn’t be scared of it. They should embrace it as a way of releasing stress in a stressful world and it’s never been easier to be sustainable.”

“I think most people immediately associate sustainability with climate change, sustainability is not just about climate change. It’s simply that if you can’t do something over and over again, forever, then it’s not sustainable. This even comes down to government policy, the rights of women, equal job opportunities for people of different races, genders, and so on, all of those are linked to sustainability. We need to take a holistic approach to it as nations and globally as humans because it’s not just about temperatures rising a little bit, it’s actually about building a way of living for humans on Earth that we can keep living forever because right now, we’re not doing that,” he explains.

Plain Tiger
Photo: Courtesy of Plain Tiger

It’s so easy to reject the idea that one person will make a difference and continue shopping irresponsibly, especially given that just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions. We asked Ollie and Alexandra how they respond to cynics who say that their lifestyle choices are not going to make an impact, and they compared it to the butterfly effect. Small things can have great impacts on a system, imagined with a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon. 

Alexandra explains, “One little butterfly, maybe doesn’t make a difference, but when all of us band together, it puts pressure on governments, it puts pressure on businesses that aren’t being responsible, and the ripple effect is massive. You have a choice to either try to make a difference or do nothing at all. And I know what I’d rather do.” Maybe your sustainable swaps aren’t contributing much to reducing the carbon footprint of the entire planet, but by rejecting businesses that are harming the planet, you are sending them a clear message that they need to do better and they will have no choice but to change. 

You have a choice to either try to make a difference or do nothing at all. And I know what I’d rather do.

Plain Tiger doesn’t only want to bring you brands that are producing sustainably, Ollie and Alexandra are going the extra mile with their Sustainability Accelerator. Instead of turning away brands who struggle to fit Plain Tiger’s conscious criteria, they are using their network, their team, and the knowledge they’ve acquired through their journey to challenge fashion brands to transform from wherever they are into sustainable and ethical brands that are up to their platform’s standards. Through the Sustainability Accelerator program, brands can gain access to experts from places like Fashion Revolution, the United Nations, and industry leaders in sustainability across all aspects of their business to help them produce more sustainably and ethically.

But enough from us, see for yourselves why we love Plain Tiger so much with this selection of some of our favorite pieces from the site.

Shop the Plain Tiger Edit Below

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