There is almost a frenzy around the Lucy & Yak brand, the best selling dungaree company who now also produces mini pinis, shirts, trousers, socks and pins. They are colourful and fun and have been taking social media by storm since their arrival as "new kids on the block" last year. If we were to be honest, they have also transformed our fortunes in store this summer and made us a definite go to clothes shop in St Ives and Truro. In fact, it would appear (much to our delight) that we are one of the top stockists in the Country of Lucy and Yak with the widest selections of styles, sizes and colours in store - we even were fortunate enough to have a couple of colours of some of the shirts before they went on the website - Thank you, guys - keep on coming....
So it was not without a great deal of excitement that I learnt that the founders, Lucy and Chris would be speaking at Creatival in Devon, an event that I was due to attend last month (organised by the fabulous Helen, from the Creative Business Network) It was only their second public speaking engagement and so I (and probably. they) did not know what to expect. What followed was a deeply inspiring and personal story of Lucy and Yak, an accidental success story. They did not set out to be a big, ethical company or even to be a big employer at all - they just wanted to make enough money to be able to fund their travels. They have come a long way from creating pouches on a foreign beach to where they are now.
Lucy & Yak have created a whole community in love with Lucy & Yaks. Just take a look at their instagram page and you will see all the Lucy and Yak love that exists from customers photos and regrams to comments from L&Y (mostly Lucy) simply engaging with their customer and enjoying the chat. I guess thats all part of the recipe of success for this genuine, down to earth couple from Yorkshire.
If you were to walk past them in the street, Chris probably attired in shorts and flip flops, you would have no idea that they have single handedly created employment for 54 tailors in India and 18 people in Barnsley since they returned from travelling just over a year ago. And thats not all, they have ripped up the book on fair pay and make sure that the tailors in India get what they think they deserve - and thats a whole lot more than the minimum wage or fair pay recommendations. Lucy has written a great piece on her blog to explain more what they are trying to achieve. But it doesn't stop there, Chris has to return regularly to India to ensure that the good working conditions don't lapse and that the tailors are enjoying the conditions that they should. This demonstrates Lucy and Chris's pure determination to make real changes to people lives for the good and it would appear that Chris has a bigger ambition to break the cycle of exploitation in the fashion industry too - We're with you there, Chris - Fast fashion is not good for us. There is no place for prejudice or inequality in the Lucy & Yak world either Everyone works alongside one another - Hindus and Untouchables, male tailors/checkers and female tailors/checkers.. For those, who know about the Indian culture, you will realise that this is unusual.
So what have I taken away from the Lucy and Yak story is so much but mainly don't be satisfied with just accepting the lowest common denominator that your business can operate within, push for the highest standards and the fairest conditions. We have always tried to do what we can at Ula but what Chris and Lucy have shown us is that I want to do better. And better we will do.
We plan to have an audit of our own sustainable practices and will set a series of our own pledges which will include reduction of packaging, improved sourcing of product and anything else we can do differently to reduce our impact on our environment and improve our internal practices to be a kinder more caring company. ..