This Scottish startup is rerouting surplus fashion to women in clothing crisis, creating a socially sustainable and circular business model. CEO Rachel Bews launched ALICAS after fleeing an abusive relationship and discovering the clothing offered through support services to her and fellow survivors were hardly adequate for starting their lives over.

We asked Rachel some questions about ALICAS for our March Circular Business feature.

ALICAS CEO, Rachel Bews

What’s your name and the name of your organisation?

My name is Rachael Bews. I’m the Founder & CEO of ALICAS, otherwise known as Ali’s Coats & Shoes.

Please describe your business in no more than 3 sentences.

ALICAS is a social venture that gifts bespoke clothing parcels to women in clothing crisis using surplus retail stock. Each of our parcels is tailored to the size, style and religious or cultural needs of each recipient, supporting them to retain their dignity, identity and confidence.

How is your business circular?

Almost half of new clothing in the UK goes to landfill or incineration each year (Global Fashion Agenda 2017). ALICAS offers clothing retailers, designers and members of the public an environmentally and socially responsible alternative to landfill and incineration, diverting ‘waste’ stock from destruction and unworn items from gathering dust in people’s wardrobes.

Beautifully packaged and complete with a hand-written note of support and solidarity, ALICAS
parcels are gifts, not hand-outs, and as such are designed to help survivors retain their dignity,
identity and confidence. Each wardrobe is suited to size, style, and religious or cultural needs.

Why is it important to you to adopt a circular model?

It is our mission to empower local communities to support each other. This means evenly distributing resources and ensuring no one goes without. With the excessive consumption we witness in the UK, there is much room for more responsibility in how and what we purchase.

Fast fashion and economies of scale have driven garment production to a point where it is ‘cheaper’ to produce in excess and destroy the rest, than it is to produce responsibly. Our planet cannot sustain this burden. We are calling on clothing retailers, designers and members of the public to be more responsible, by sharing what they have and don’t need with others who do.

What’s been the best thing for you about going circular?

Circularity has been built into our organisation from the ground up. For us, there is no option but to be circular. We are constantly looking for new and expanded ways of improving our circularity, such as re purposing garments that have reached their end of life. The best thing about circularity for us is being true to our mission of equality in resource distribution

What’s been the biggest hurdle?

Trying to change the viewpoints and working practises of established industries such as fashion retail is very difficult. Such industries are built on capitalism and as such, interest can be difficult to pin down unless it affects the bottom line. However what is working in our favour is the growing consumer and political pressure on fashion retailers to be more responsible, evidenced by the outcry over Burberry’s £28.6m incineration story and the UK parliament’s recent investigation into the clothing waste of the UK’s 10 biggest retailers.

In no more than 3 words, what motivates you to grow the Circular Economy?

Equality for all.

More information on how to support ALICAS can be found at
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