Rebecca Monserat launched Forivor; an ethical, magical, story-based kids’ bedding business with the environment in mind. But soon found herself with reams of unusable stock. In true eco-warrior style, she’s decided to sell it all, at a reduced price…
In 2013, with godchildren and the prospect of my own children seeming nearer on the horizon, I had an idea for a business. I wanted to make bedding that could inspire children to be passionate about protecting our natural world and encourage them to be creative storytellers. That would increase the share of sustainable products in home textiles. And that was beautiful and magical; that families would pass down from one generation to the next.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to Alice, a hugely talented illustrator and now my co-director at Forivor, and we got started on our first ‘Enchanted Forest’ design – a daytime woodland scene inspired by nature on one side. When you turn it over at bedtime, the other side reveals the mythical creatures the wildlife transforms into at night. The accompanying cards give facts for the daytime side and storytelling cues for the nighttime side.
I was working as deputy director at the Environmental Justice Foundation – an all-consuming job that I loved. When I fell pregnant, it was a hard decision to leave my role, but it seemed like the time to make Forivor happen, although I had no idea how running a business would work alongside having a child. I love to be busy, though, and in the early days when she was sleeping I was happy to put my mind in a more adult world. It’s not an easy balance running a business and being a mum. As is probably the case for most, I spend too much time thinking I could be doing both better but I wouldn’t have it any other way now.
Our greatest successes are the moments when children (or their parents) relay to us their experiences of using our bedding. The concept has always been complex to explain, but children just instinctively ‘get it’. When they talk excitedly about turning the bedding from day to night, know all the characters and are excited to talk to you about them, its an incredible feeling.
Despite a great first year, the second half of 2017 was challenging. We’d expanded from one design to a whole collection and we were excited as it had all sold well to stockists. The first problems started with delays to our production – not an uncommon problem – but as parts of our order arrived by air instead of ship, we found ourselves rejecting huge amounts of the stock that wasn’t up to standard. Quality control was endlessly time consuming and we had no time to concentrate on other crucial areas of business – especially press, which is vital for retail. We ended up rejecting nearly a quarter of our total order and after aiming to import everything by sea to save carbon we only managed to ship about 30 per cent due to delays.
For the size of our business, we were dealing with huge amounts of potential waste stock. We couldn’t bear to think about all the different parts of the supply chain that had used energy and resources to create something that could potentially just sit there. But as a luxury brand, we were worried that having a sale of the rejected products could damage our brand image.
To begin with, we used some of the stock to make the zip-up pouches our cards come in, but there was a still too much rejected stock left to ignore. We knew production issues weren’t uncommon in the textile industry – but we hadn’t come across many brands that were openly talking about what they did with reject stock. Sales have become a permanent fixture online and on the high street but primarily as a tool to turn over seasonal and fast fashion stock. Very little is faulty stock or framed around a conversation concerning the sometimes shocking realities of production waste.
While there is an increased understanding of ethics in textiles, there is still very little awareness of the fact that our global textile industry is the second most polluting industry on the planet. Forivor uses rain-fed organic cotton, but what is the use in creating a more sustainable product that sits in a stock room? Absolutely none – it may have been less damaging than a non-organic product to begin with but it has used water, energy, inks to print it, packaging and been shipped halfway around the world and then if you replace it with a ‘perfect’ product you have doubled the impact instantly.
We spent quite a few months finding the whole situation demotivating – but once we pulled ourselves out of it, we realised we had to tackle the issue head on and that’s when we decided to create the Perfectly Imperfect Sale. We hope people will enjoy their perfectly imperfect products for years and years to come.
The Perfectly Imperfect Sale
23-29th April 2018