Posted on February 28 2018
In the lead up to our men's relaunch and three year anniversary party, we want to tell you all about our Sancho's story: the highs and lows of starting our own ethical business, how we got to where we are today, and most importantly, why we are so committed to sustainable fashion.
Vidmantas and I, after having met at the University of Exeter, founded the shop in 2014, after travelling to developing countries, such as Ethiopia, together, where we saw first hand the effects of the fast fashion industry: low wages, mass dumping, social disruption and environmental destruction. We were straight out of university, just playful, young kids, curious about setting up our own business so we could share the ethical handmade crafts, jewellery and basketwork we found in Ethiopia.
Thus, Sancho's was born. From a couple's crazy desire to make a difference in this world by providing more options for conscious customers looking to make a positive change. We started by opening a pop-up shop in Exeter, where every other week we would have live music, and people could come hang out with us and shop. Opening this pop-up shop gave us an incredible opportunity and platform to talk about the cultural value of ethical goods in Ethiopia. It also meant that we could meet local people, make friends and engage in the local community. This was especially important for Vidmantas who came to the U.K. for the first time for university when he was 18 and, as is typical for students coming from abroad, stuck within the same social circles.
After the pop-up was done, we realised we actually really loved this way of life and wanted to make Sancho's a reality. We found a shop at 126 Fore Street and began to learn the ins and outs of running your own business. One of our main challenges was to source items from Ethiopia that we could guarantee were well-made, handmade and ethical.
In order to help fund our sustainable mission, we launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 so we could hire ten people to weave for us. This campaign was extremely successful: thanks to the help of 300 backers, we raised a grand £12,567. With the help of all of you, we began to slowly produce our own items, whilst also sourcing from fairtrade suppliers around the world. It's really important to us to support fairtrade companies as it helps create more fair jobs and opportunities in the world.
At the heart of our mission was a desire to show that you can live a conscious life without compromising on style and quality. Over time, we began to update our criteria of what we look for in the things we bring into our shop: items which meet the Global Organic Textile Standard, the Fair Wear Foundation, The British Association For Fair Trade Shops and the World Fair Trade Organization.
Fast forward to 2017, and we realised we didn't have enough space to offer bigger and better fashion choices to Exeter and other communities of the UK. So, we decided to open a new shop to enable us to do just that! Now at 117 Fore Street, we have our womenswear store and at 126 Fore Street, we have our menswear store.
We now source from 42 brands which have wonderful, positive effects in the world. People Tree, for example, is one of the main brands we stock at Sancho's. They are an active member of Fair Trade and social justice environmental networks, including the World Fair Trade Organisation, the Fairtrade Foundation and the Soil Association. People Tree work with marginalised producers in the developing world to create ethical and sustainable fashion. This helps producers in the developing world in their move towards economic independence. People Tree's clothing is made from natural resources to promote environmentally responsible initiatives for a sustainable future. When times are difficult, it's good to know that the umbrella of positive change is wide and far beyond the two of us and our little team here at Sancho's.
So, this brings us to the present day! Vidmantas and I recently spent a few weeks in Ethiopia where we visited fair trade manufacturers to source new items for Sancho's. We spent our first day in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where we visited weavers in Sabahar to examine the working conditions. We visited a fair trade weaving manufacturer and selected scarves that will arrive in store in April. After that, we went to the North and visited the rock churches and did some treks, before returning to Addis.
We visited Entoto Women's Crafts who treat women with HIV, teaching them how to produce jewellery to help them get their lives back on track. We then went to a bag maker who creates byproduct cotton and leather Afar travel bags, where the cotton is dyed with charcoal and natural herbs. Afar is a region in North East Ethiopia where there are lots of nomadic people, so these beautiful travel bags, which last a long time, would be really useful for the people living in this region. We're really excited to bring these bags in-store for you all!
We are now eagerly looking forward to relaunching our men's shop at 126 Fore Street where we will be providing a large range of staples, mainly focusing on tees, shirts, jeans and chinos. We hope that the men of Exeter, and the rest of the country, find that our cuts are flattering, our materials are of the highest quality, and our prices reasonable. With our alteration/customisation service, we hope you men can find exactly what you're looking for.
We are so grateful for all your support over the past three years and the passion you share with us for sustainable fashion. That's why we want you to come celebrate our men's shop relaunch and three year anniversary with us! On Saturday 10th March, from 11am-4pm, we will be hosting two big parties in both our women's and men's wear shops at 117 and 126 Fore Street! What can you expect to see there?
- Our famous goodie bags (including our first Sancho's journal, a free t-shirt and a store voucher!)
- Fizz and nibbles
- 10% off everything in-store
- Big raffles
Please click 'going' on our Facebook event and invite friends, family, strangers and anyone who loves everything ethical, along to the events! Thank you.