Building a Sustainable Clothing Brand: The Year in Review

Time flies when you’re having fun! (And when you’re building a small business from the ground up.) The last year has been one of major ups and minor downs, filled with tons of support, countless „firsts“, trips to the bank, the tax office, and European capitals (the latter being far more fun than the former two destinations listed), new relationships, crash courses into logistics, late-night Skype meetings, cute customer photos of chubby babies in our organic garments…the list goes on, and on, and on. With a name that stands for „people to people“, the best part of 2016 for us, was -without a doubt- seeing the impact that our business had on various stakeholders, from customers and their children, to our talented seamstresses in Albania.

Here’s a list of the top highlights from 2016:

Delivery of our first garments

After a successful Indiegogo campaign in fall 2015, we ordered our first batch of fabrics, and were able to produce and deliver all garments ordered as campaign perks. Customer feedback was positive, and tips were considered for future batches of garments, like including more branding on the garments themselves.

Registration of both LLCs in Albania and Sweden

In April of this year, we registered both businesses in Sweden and Albania, establishing the two enterprises that unite Pitupi. While minor changes occurred during the year, the team for the most part has remained the same since then; Stef, Maria, and Blerta running things in Sweden, and Stela, Majlinda, Entela, and Emiljan controlling the scene in Albania.

Opening of the web shop

Web shop, web shop, web shop. We opened ours this year and have taken orders from Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the US since then, and worked hard to revamp the shop to fit customer needs and requests. We’ve been met with various challenges, such as lagging loading times, and delivery delays…but we’re proud to have handled each bump in the road professionally and to have learned from our mistakes.

Fashion Revolution Day and Summer Markets

We never shy away from discussing our slow fashion principles, and were so excited to do so with other ethical fashion brands or ambassadors during Fashion Revolution Day 2016. We spent the day in Lund, showing off our wares. The day was followed up with various markets around Skåne in spring and summer, where we connected with customers and added them to our Pitupi community.

Trips to Berlin and Amsterdam

Travel was a top priority this year, with Stef and Maria making various trips around Germany and Sweden, and Stef also heading to Amsterdam to check out the slow fashion scene there. Berlin, as always, treated us well and we’re looking forward to expanding our presence there in 2017.

Caritas Italy Funding Received

So much of our opportunities were made possible this year thanks to the funding that we received from Caritas. The grant that Caritas provided Pitupi Albania helped us run operations and further support production in our fair trade workshop.

Entering Retailers

We did it! We placed our first collection in two stores this year, Green Stories Malmö and Mühlow at Triangeln in Malmö. We aim to expand considerably in 2017, and are currently looking for and contacting retailers who fit our slow fashion profile!

Tailoring Workshops in Albania

Thanks in part to our Caritas fund, we were able to host more tailoring training courses, allowing us to invest further in our seamstresses and to provide them with professional skills. This is one example of a an activity that is measurable and exemplary of our impact.

Participation in SoPact and BarCamper

Pitupi also took part in two separate accelerator programs this year, BarCamper, hosted by the Creative Plot, and SoPact. Both took place in Lund, and introduced us to fantastic people and pushed us way further down our path, offering us coaching and tips for measuring our social impact.

Pop-up Shop at From Skåne

What a treat this was! In late November, Stef opened up shop at Mitt Möllan in Malmö, taking over From Skåne’s space for one week. It was a crazy, fun ride filled with sales, connections, and engaging with the local creative scene in southern Sweden.

Christmas Markets in Sweden and Tirana

We wrapped up the year in the most festive way possible, by participating in Christmas markets in our two respective corners of Europe. In Tirana, Pitupi seamstress Entela was present to chat with customers and to experience a separate side of the operation, sales. We took some great shots of the event and hope to do more activities with the community there next year. Here in Sweden, we participated in both the Alternativ Julmarknad at Stenkrossen Lund and Malmö’s Sankt Gertrud Julmarknad.

It’s been such an amazing journey that would have been impossible without the support of our customers, our investors, our retailers, our family and friends, and all of those actively pushing for more transparency in the fashion industry. Going into 2017, we’re holding on to one of Fashion Revolution’s most celebrated quotes: „the revolution will look fabulous“. See you next year.

Stef and Pitupi