This Gen-Z-fueled marketplace is the one-stop shop for luxury sustainable fashion.
Fashion-inclined Eliana Konsker and environmentally-inclined Brigitte Canty were the perfect Founder match-up. The duo met at university and were determined to find a solution to the difficult process of sourcing both ethical and stylish pieces. When we say ethical, we aren't just talking about the brands that performatively claim sustainability. We are talking about fully vetted brands that have inspiring stories of how each piece was made. Disproving the misconception that all sustainable fashion has a "granola-earthy" style, Zero features modern and high-fashion pieces. We spoke with the Founders about beginnings, adversity, and more.
How did Shop ZERO start?
We met at university. We both went to the University of Southern California together. Ellie's idea was to create a Revolve for sustainable fashion. I heard her speak about it throughout college, and then I was living in Africa when the pandemic hit. When I was living in Africa, I met this woman with a brand that was all organic hemp and cotton. It was my first introduction to clothing that was made in a sustainable way. Before that, my experience had been related to everything pertaining to the environmental world. Ellie was completely into the fashion world. But when I met that woman, I could see how it all came together. That's when I called Ellie, and we linked up.
What is your sourcing process for the different brands you guys offer?
We are always always always searching for new brands that could potentially meet our requirements. We look online and on social media. We also have a fair share of brands that reach out to us with intention of being on our platform. It's crazy because when we first started, there was a list of about 500 brands that we went through that claimed to be sustainable, and we broke it down to like 30.
So most of those brands were not sustainable? Wow...
Yeah, they were only marketing themselves as sustainable. It was devastating to us.
Talk about the product sustainability stories you guys feature on each product. Why is that important to include on the site?
So we are trying to grab the attention of people who may not be eco-warrior shoppers, more so people who would consume this fashion because they think it's stylish. We really want those people to shop on our webpage and be exposed to more information. Through that exposure, they may start to make more conscious decisions. We're almost trying to humanize pieces of clothing so people understand that they shouldn't just buy this piece of clothing, have it shipped, store it in their closet, and then throw it away when they're bored with it. We want people to see all of the countries that garment has traveled to and all of the people who have worked on it to truly understand that our pieces come in contact with so many different people and the lifeline it has should be honored.
That's so cool. Do you guys write those stories up yourselves?
Yes, we do. We'll have a vetting meeting with each brand where we go through their entire supply chain. We'll look at all the factories they work with, all the sourcing, and all the employees that come in contact with it. It's nice because we're verifying them for our site and forming their product sustainability stories.
I love how thorough you guys are. You do not mess around!
Oh yeah, we do not mess around! We are cut-throat!
What are some messages you guys have for fashion lovers who don't care about sustainability?
I think that's why we prioritize storytelling. There are a lot of facts on the internet that people can't actually relate to like. They can't necessarily be properly digested and understood. For example, you may hear that one cotton tee is 2,700 liters of water. But you can't identify what that actually looks like. So, we are trying to use more of a visualization method through storytelling so that people can relate to it more.
So just trying to trigger the ethos?
Yes. You can't just throw overwhelming stats at them. You have to emotionally show small efforts that can be made. We want to be known as a problem-solution platform where we don't just educate people on what's wrong, but we offer step-by-step solutions on how to shop better as well.
What adversity have you guys faced being self-funded and not nepo-babies?
We talk about this constantly. But, the difference in the business structure between a nepo-company and a self-funded company is how quickly it blows up. With more exposure and access, their companies can blow up faster. But, because of that, sometimes a business may blow up before it's really ready to. So, because it's just been us doing everything with our own money, time, and brain power, we really understand how our business operates. So, when the time does come for us to expand, we will be able to do so in a way that is structured. With that comes a lot of adversity. We have to figure out how to market ourselves and overcome so many learning curves.
What are some tangible goals you guys have for the next few years?
We did the slow-growth thing, so we're ready to blow up. This year, we are focused on funding and investing a lot into marketing for more brand exposure. We would also like to expand on the number of brands we offer — adding on brands in the skincare, beauty, and menswear spaces.