By Annie Gillman
Creating the first ever sustainable fashion brand to offer a 30 year guarantee on clothing, Tom Cridland started his international sustainable menswear label in 2014. The fashion designer immediately made a splash, creating clothing for a variety of A-listers from Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Stiller to Clint Eastwood and Rod Stewart.
After reaching huge success with his 30 Year Sweatshirt campaign, designed to highlight the longevity of classic wardrobe staples, Tom is now launching a new concept: Entrepreneur’s Shirt. For this, he’s joined forces with Deki – a charity encouraging entrepreneurial skills in disadvantaged countries, and Young Enterprise, which helps young people develop business skills.
The aim of the Entrepreneur’s Shirt is, in Cridland’s own words, “an opportunity for you to support entrepreneurship in the developing world and amongst young people, whilst getting a sustainable Italian cotton Oxford Shirt in return.” Supporting young businesses is something he has direct experience with. He started Tom Cridland with a £6,000 government start-up loan 2 years ago when was only 23. Since then, he has campaigned extensively for sustainability in the industry with The 30 Year Collection and is very keen to give back and support aspiring young entrepreneurs, as well as those in the developing world, who he says “deserve the opportunity to start businesses and work their way out of poverty.”
Cridland believes that today’s young entrepreneurs suffer from poor advice and a lack of mentorship. “Listening to advice from people in the fashion industry is a bit like asking someone from Made In Chelsea how to become famous,” he says. “The chances are you won’t want to do it their way! It’s a problem facing entrepreneurs in general. Young people need greater encouragement to work on their ideas and not get bogged down by people urging them to think inside the box and give up too easily. Funding for young people to start businesses and young designers to work on their collections is sorely needed, even in privileged countries like Britain.”
As well as helping young entrepreneurs, sustainability is important to this designer: “Thanks to fast fashion, our industry is currently the world’s most polluting after oil… 25% of the world’s chemicals are used for textile production and 10% of the world’s carbon emissions result from the apparel industry!” he exclaims. “As a result more toxic chemicals are released into our air, water and soil, and greenhouse gases are created that deplete our water and fossil fuel energy resources.”
The Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 also illustrates the grave social and economic problems with the fast fashion model. Over 1,100 people were killed when the building they were working in, making cheap clothing for fast fashion retailers, collapsed. Corners had been cut in terms of cost of production and, tragically, health and safety had not been considered a priority.
“People have so many responsibilities and commitments in their lives – professional, financial, emotional, social and even charitable – and it is, therefore, tough to expect customers to shop for clothing with sustainability in mind and to consider the ethics of a brand over, say, the simple RRP of the clothing that they are selling,” he states. “Sustainability is important to me because I believe that through our idea, The 30 Year T-Shirt, we can engage the mainstream customer in sustainable fashion. That is both badly needed, as I have laid out above, and an excellent gap in the market for me as a young designer.”
Here, we’ve interviewed the young designer to learn more about him and his vision.
You’ve worked with and dressed a lot of celebrities. Who are some of your favourites, and what do you think attracts them to your range?
It has been a huge honour to make clothing for Making clothing for Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Stiller, Rod Stewart, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Piven, Nigel Olsson, Brandon Flowers, Robbie Williams, Nile Rodgers, Michael Portillo, Stephan Merchant, Frankie Valli, Daniel Craig, Neil Young, Danny McBride, Miley Cyrus, Clint Eastwood and Kendrick Lamar.
Without a doubt the most gracious of those amazing people is Nigel Olsson, who is a true friend and my favourite drummer of all time.
Which people trying to make a difference today do you most admire and why?
In terms of morality, Pope Francis is pretty inspiring and has been wonderful for the Catholic church and for tolerance around the world in general. Music wise, I’m still inspired by Elton John and his band, who still play over 100 shows a year and are the best live act in the world. In terms of challenging pre-conceptions and in terms of entrepreneurship, I have always admired Tim Ferriss for presenting advice attractively and concisely.
Which designers have impacted your work and style?
It is brands that inspire me, as opposed to designers. LA Eyeworks, Greats Brand, Harry’s, Ami Paris, Richard James, Turnbull & Asser, the list goes on and on.
What’s next for your brand?
I run three businesses with my girlfriend of seven years, Debs, and we are the only full-timers! Aside from Tom Cridland, we co-founded Tom Cridland Public Relations and Tom Cridland Entertainment.
We plan to establish Tom Cridland as the world’s leading sustainable fashion brand. Tom Cridland Public Relations has 15 clients already and we plan to grow it to become a leading PR agency for fashion and show business, as well as entrepreneurs. Tom Cridland Entertainment is currently producing a record at Abbey Road and developing a documentary.