RHIANNA KNIGHT, 28, is making positive and sustainable clothing a 'fashionable' choice. In an industry with a reputation for waste and unethical treatment of workers, Rhianna's brand Team Timbuktu is an exception.
Creating her entire label to incorporate recycled plastic bottles, and using only morally responsible manufacturers, Rhianna is a providing her take on the premier option for what we choose wear.
Tom Dunn: Who is Rhianna Knight?
Rhianna Knight: A 28 year old Melbourne based designer who’s passionate about adventures and sustainable fashion.
TD: Where did the original concept for Team Timbuktu (TT) come from?
RK: I was hiking in Patagonia, completing a 5 day solo trek in Torres Del Paine in Chile, one of the most beautiful places in the world whilst wearing some of the ugliest clothes in the world. With my background I knew it was possible to create technical apparel that didn’t compromise on style or sustainability.
TD: Why were you so passionate to not just to create another clothing label, but to create an environmentally friendly one?
RK: To me it was just common sense. I think it’s the values that were instilled in me as a child, to create no harm or negative impact upon people or planet. The fashion industry unfortunately is already an enormous contributor of negative impact and so by creating a label, I didn’t want to create any additional unnecessary impact. I’m creating clothes that are made for movement, and made for the outdoors, so it would be pretty counter intuitive to ruin the natural environment in the process.
TD: You highlight on your website that you've taken great care to consider the small things that contribute to TT (eg. using factories with ethical working conditions, and no plastic packaging for the shipping of your orders). What makes these small factors important to the TT business make up and why were you so keen to make an example of them?RK: Because these small factors aren’t actually that small when you’re operating as a business. Team Timbuktu is currently a very small business however we’ve been able to save thousands of single use plastic bags by simply saying no to the status quo and sourcing a more sustainable option. If you think about the size of global conglomerates, the ‘small’ touches such as recycled paper, compostable packaging and reducing/eliminating single use plastics all of a sudden turns into something that’s really significant and they have the possibility to create enormous change if they improved their small touches.
TD: Looking at TT on a larger scale, what is the ambition for the business?
RK: To create a brand that encourages its audience to get outdoors and move their body, not so much focusing on fitness, but to do so just for the fun, challenge and enjoyment of it. I’d also love to educate everyone about how to lessen their impact on the environment and what small changes they can make to make a really big difference.
TD: Is there a clear goal you're measuring that ambition against? Do you have a moment you've been dreaming about and when/if it happens you'll feel like TT is a success?
RK: The goal is always changing, as I’m really proud of what I’ve managed to achieve so far, however the next step is building out the team, as there’s only so much one person can achieve (and there’s very good reasons, most businesses have more than 1 employee).).
TD: Your first collection of clothing was released after huge support of your crowdfunding campaign (Raising over $19,000). From a business perspective the crowdfunding obviously enabled TT to begin, but what did seeing that much support for your TT concept mean for you personally?
RK: Crowdfunding was incredible and not just for the financial outcome. Access to the capital to fund production was important, however what was a bigger success was the community and audience it created. It was so amazing to have people that you’d never met before so invested in bringing the business to life, voting for their favourite prints and voting with their wallets for what kind of world they want to create. I honestly couldn’t have imagined how important and incredible the community could be.
TD: Along with TT there's a growing popularity for other start up brands that are using more environmentally friendly materials. How would you feel if the largest clothing companies (Nike, Adidas etc.) followed your lead and began using recycled materials too? Would the benefit to the environment outweigh the disappointment of losing the niche market and passion/purpose for yourself and other brands like TT?
RK: Some of the large brands actually are using recycled and more sustainably materials already, such as Adidas. However unfortunately it’s typically only a small portion of their product range right now, I actually can’t wait until all brands use more sustainable materials and reduce their impact. Right now it feels like that all Team Timbuktu talks about and I love it and I’m so passionate about it. But I also personally can’t wait until its just industry standard to not take advantage of people or planet within supply chains. And by then hopefully we’ll have carved out our niche of encouraging and supporting everyone to get outdoors to move their bodies, which is inclusive and community based and I’d be very happy if that was our point of differentiation then.
TD: What's the biggest challenge you face trying to spread your message?
RK: It’s really difficult competing with large brands who aren’t sustainable who have large teams and budgets to spend on marketing and advertising, as their paid reach is incredibly large. As a super small, one person big sized business that’s why it’s so incredibly appreciated when people do spread the word about the business and what it’s trying to achieve, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to articulate how grateful I am for that when people do it.
TD: Do you think the world could ever fully embrace reusable plastics?
RK: I don’t think it’s possible, or realistic to ever 100% eliminate single use plastics. Some people need things such as plastic straws to easily and safely eat and drink etc and then there’s also the situations which are unexpected where it’s better to use plastic, but try not to next time. But with a little lifestyle adjustment and preplanning I think we can reduce a very large number of them, without too much inconvenience or change from our daily lives.
TD: What's the next step for the brand?
RK: We’ll actually be crowdfunding again in the middle of June to increase our range, we’ve launched two collections which has been incredible and all revenue has been funding the businesses growth, but to expand the range and introduce more styles is quite cost prohibitive and so we’re going back to the community hoping they’ll support us again (but shhh this is top secret- you’re the first to find out!)
TD: On a more personal note, what else can we expect to see from Rhianna Knight in the coming years?
RK: So many hikes! Depending on if I can squeeze any time off from the business…. but on the to do list is the Larapinta, Overland, Thorsborne, Te Araroa and Annapurna trails!
TD: Any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
RK: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the negativity in the world and the very real and terrifying consequences of human’s negative environmental impact, but it’s easy to make little changes, like saying no to plastic bags, straws and single use coffee cups. So start from there and slowly start educating yourself about how you can lessen your impact, rather than get overwhelmed and do nothing at all.
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