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FASHION - INTERVIEW

Interview with Phil John Wildbore, Founder and Designer of Monkee Genes, about Eco Jeans and Ethical Fashion

Friday, June 29, 2018

Monkee Genes

Monkee Genes

FASHION - INTERVIEW

by Mehmet Kaplan

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Monkee Genes was born in 2006. From the first day to now, Monkee Genes offers innovative denim collection produced sustainably and ethically. Monkee Genes has an ethical fashion manifesto that supports 'No slave labour, no child labour, no blood, no sweat, no tears' thought. In order to learn more about Monkee Genes and Ethical Fashion, I asked Monkee Genes Founder and Designer Phil John Wildbore.

Monkee Genes

Monkee Genes - Castaway Photography (@castawaypics)

Phil, before we start talking about Monkee Genes, could you tell us about your background and design experience?

I worked with John Ingram, he created Guys n Dolls Boutique and The Westerner (the first jeans store in the UK). I designed my first pair of skin tight jeans with no stretch when I was about 19. Started my own brand at the age of 26 which then evolved into ROAD Jeans, an iconic label from the 90s.

How did you decide to establish Monkee Genes? What inspired you to create eco jeans?

I had been aware for a long time that the jeans industry had a very dark side. The ridiculous situation of landing jeans in the UK for £3 was just too incredible to equate – someone was getting hit somewhere down the line. I wanted to make jeans with an edge, made with a conscience for both the worker and the planet. Monkee Genes achieved this and became the first jean to be awared Soil Association.

Monkee Genes

Monkee Genes - Castaway Photography (@castawaypics)

Could you tell us about Monkee Genes and your production philosophy?

One of the main criteria is how they feel. I like to use fabric that has a sensual handle - when making something that fits your silhouette it has to be. The jean has to have rhythm.

We currently have four manufacturing partners; two in India, one in Pakistan and our oldest one in Indonesia who I've worked with since the very start of Monkee Genes. They all have GOTS Creditiation as it is a deal breaker for production. Basically, if the owner has taken the larger step and expenditure to achieve this level, they are like-minded people, they care about the impact the fashion industry has on people and the planet. You definitely don't work in eco fashion for commericla reasons.

The natural evolution of jeanswear. How could you describe this to us?

If you were to look into the world's wardrobe the one thing we must all have in common is our stable, denim jeans. It's underplayed how essential this piece of kit is in our everyday lives. The perfect jean moulds to your shape and evolves with you, as if it were a living thing. Whilst jeans started as a rugged, hardwearing pant it now takes all different shapes and sizes – as you'll find on our website. Fashion evolves and so do we.

Monkee Genes

Monkee Genes - Castaway Photography (@castawaypics)

What is ethical fashion?

Realistically it's an umbrella term that discusses a lot of different issues surrounding fashion – a talking point or a conversation starter. Fashion can't be split between the good and the bad, or the ethical and the not ethical. There are lots of issues with the fashion industry and you cant just pick one and decide you're now an ethical brand. For example, you might be using sustainable fibres but are you paying your garment workers a fair wage? Or you might be paying your staff a decent wage but contributing to climate change. The fashion industry's impact on the world is far-reaching, and it's important people recognise that.

If brands and fashion mogals are actively trying to make a difference and coming up with new and innovative ways to promote sustainability and produce more ethically then we are all on the right path.

How do you ensure the sustainability of this production technique? What are the biggest challenges you face in this process?

Our manufacturing partners are always looking at new and innovative production methods. For Autumn 18, we will be introducing our new Eco Wash collection which uses significantly less water than regular denim production.

Monkee Genes

Monkee Genes - Castaway Photography (@castawaypics)

You have to work on many issues from design to distribution so you need dedicated team members. Please tell us about your team and their roles.

There's a dedicated team behind Monkee Genes of course. We have our main office in Derbyshire where I'm based, alongside the team behind the website, marketing, and social media. We also have our new financial partners and warehouse up in Glasgow that works with me behind the scenes, so that's the design and logistics. Then there's, of course, all our wondering agents and distributors dotted around the UK, Europe, and US.

I do work really closely with our manufacturing partners too, which is essential for building a brand like Monkee Genes. I visit them regularly to create the collections you can see on the website and think up new and innovative designs and production processes. It is a great way to work, like with cooking you need to be in the kitchen surrounded by the best ingredients.

How many types of organic jeans do you offer? Which one is your flagship collection?

We only use organic cotton in production so all of our jeans and chinos are now organic. Jeans of all shapes and sizes and superior denims to suit. We have our high-tech stretch denim which is perfect for those on-the-go days with lasting washes and a black that stays black. We also have our 'core' range which has the more classic denim washes in a variety of skinny and slim styles for men and women, and last but not least, our exciting 'Skate' collection of wider styles – all made from 100% organic cotton and perfect for the changing climate of fashion at the moment.

Monkee Genes

Monkee Genes - Castaway Photography (@castawaypics)

How often do you change up your collections? What are you paying attention to while designing new models for your new collection?

In the last year, we've introduced wider clocks based on original 90s patterns from my iconic ROAD range. We have a similar feeling politically and the disinterested youth are desperate to have a no conformist style that's anti-highstreet. Now is a great opportunity for individual designs flourishing in this mass fodder of throwaway fashion. The kids are moving away from this over-produced and trashy attitude to fashion, all it creates is landfill and misery. The hope is they find brands like us and know that there's an alternative out there.

What can Monkee Genes jeans offer us that other jeans have not?

Jeans with rhythm and soul. Fashion can be so heartless and 'throw-away' these days and that's not the way Monkee Genes work. There's a lot of passion in Monkee Genes and whilst we keep up with fashion we have an ethical edge, which is why everything we make have our mantra stitched on. You can buy our jeans and know that they've been made with care by people who are cared for and paid a decent living wage.

Social media is no longer an innovation but a need for us. How do you use social media for increasing your brand awareness? Which one do you prefer?

We have a team who runs our social media now in hope to keep up with its ever-changing climate of content. In terms of fashion, I think Instagram has the most potential. Its visual nature allows us to show off our better content, as well as being able to work with some great influencers and photographers. We also work on Twitter which tends to be the more customer service side of social, where we get questions and DMs from our customers. Then there's our Facebook page which is a great one for building awareness for campaigns and new collections.

Monkee Genes

Monkee Genes - Castaway Photography (@castawaypics)

How can our readers buy Monkee Genes eco jeans? Do you offer international shipping option?

We have a complete range of denims on our website at the moment, everything from skin tight to our new 90s wide collection so people can shop with us there. We ship worldwide and have regular offers on our social media to help encourage international shoppers. You can visit www.monkeegenes.com and it's all online :)

What is next for you?

We are gaining momentum at the moment. We are now showing on a few big online platforms at the moment and hope to be working with a few big names. We are already stocked on Zalando Europe, as well as River Island in the UK and Iconic in Australia, so it is an exciting time for Monkee Genes. It is my intentional to achieve 4 capsule ranges a year whilst still keeping our core collection.

Thank you Phil.

For more information, please visit website of Monkee Genes





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