Emerging Market Digital Brand, Urbanic, Introduces Sustainable Packaging
It was one year ago I discovered London-based digital brand, Urbanic. Their deep reach within emerging markets and unique approach towards inclusivity within them were intriguing. Their incredible growth, however, was fascinating and it became obvious they are quietly positioning themselves to be the next big name in the global fast fashion game.
Urbanic was founded with key Gen-Z qualities of individuality, social and environmental responsibility, and a non-bending mentality to making certain everyone has a seat at the table. The last has become pivotal to the brand because in the markets and consumer groups within which they operate are communities where, historically, only narrow standards of existence prevailed. For example, they’ve led the charge on controversial concepts s such as the acceptance of homosexuals in India or the amplification of body positivity in Latin America.
This mission of inclusive values and bringing stylish clothes to underserved populations away from city centers in regions such as Latin America, India and MENA–consumers who lack access to stylish yet affordable clothes–has paid off. Urbanic is now the #1 DTC brand in India and the company as a whole boasts annual sales of over 400m USD.
Most recently, they focused on fulfilling their brand promise towards sustainability through the introduction of biodegradable packaging. Executed quietly, this move is an investment into their future as a brand, and into the future as a whole.
“The biodegradable packaging is expensive for us and also a challenge because we are an affordable and accessible brand targeted towards the mass consumer in developing economies,” says James Wellwood, Partner at Urbanic. “But we were able to take on these costs because our inventory model is so precise. In essence, our machine learning and AI technology to create inventory on-demand as opposed to creating unnecessary stock keeps our production very lean and this has been our most important asset towards achieving other goals.”
Wellwood goes on to explain that Urbanic’s eye towards sustainability has been key to their forward movement. From the beginning, they understood because there was white space and an opportunity to build a clothing business, it didn’t mean they had a right to create more pollution for the environment. What it has meant, though, is that the brand has had to employ a slow and steady approach towards growth—rapid growth and being less polluting than their competition don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Growth, for Urbanic, has come with sustainably-minded strings attached.
“We started Urbanic with three core values that have driven our brand which are technology, inclusivity and ethics. As we strategized and executed our growth, we constantly asked ourselves if our initiatives were driven by these values, and in the case of our sustainable practices, ethics were the key driver,” Wellwood expands. “We were unwilling to waver on ethics, and sustainability takes time and investment, and we’re comfortable with the timeline as long as we reached our goals through our values. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”