Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Ruby Raut – co-founder and CEO of period pant brand WUKA – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about how sustainable underwear is the way forward when it comes to being more eco-friendly.
Sustainable underwear brand WUKA stands for ‘Wake Up Kick Ass’, with the belief that nothing should hold you back when you’re on your period. And we’re here for it. Made by women, for women, Ruby Raut wanted to challenge the amount of period products that ends up in landfill each year.
After learning that 200,000 tonnes of tampons and pads end up in landfill in the UK each year, Ruby strove to create an eco-friendly option: and WUKA pants were born. Comfortable, leak-proof and made from antibacterial organic cotton and ocean waste plastics, they’re the planet-friendly alternative to more commonly used period products.
Now, WUKA has just launched it’s Everyday collection of bralettes and briefs made from Tencel sustainably sourced materials that are both biodegradable and compostable. With WUKA researching to find out that the average woman in the UK will get through 1,700 pairs of pants in her lifetime and these only last, on average, one-two years, this recyclable underwear made to be super comfy will change the way each of us contributes to fashion landfill.
Here, the Sustainable Shopper talks to Ruby Raut about fighting to beat the ‘period pant tax’ and tips on how to be more eco-friendly.
What is your earliest memory of sustainability?
Ruby: Sustainability wasn’t something that was at the forefront of my mind growing up, until I arrived in the UK as an adult after growing up in Nepal. There was a huge difference in culture and attitudes towards reusing and re-wearing something or buying new.
I studied environmental science at The Open University which truly opened my eyes. Having this knowledge definitely impacts the choices I make personally, and for WUKA as a sustainable business. I haven’t looked at fashion in the same way since!
Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?
We have this discussion a lot in the WUKA team, and we feel there is a difference between fashion and style: fashion implies trend-led pieces, which by nature isn’t sustainable. On the other hand, style is how you feel while you’re wearing something, and is all about discovering functional and enjoyable garments that last. Style is how you feel whilst you’re wearing something, and is all about discovering functional and enjoyable garments that last.
We aim to keep this front of mind when designing WUKA underwear, offering remarkable comfort whilst being planet positive. So, for our brand new WUKA Everyday underwear range, we chose to use Tencel fabric. Not only is Tencel biodegradable, compostable and produced in an entirely ‘closed-loop’ process, it’s proven to be 3.5x softer than cotton. The WUKA everyday briefs and bralette are truly pieces you’ll want to wear over and over – and the longer lifespan of Tencel means you can.
Investment pieces vs fast fashion: how do you get customers to care?
I think there is an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ view when it comes to sustainability and waste in general, so I believe that sharing information about the effects of fast fashion and plastic waste really helps to open our eyes about what impact it has on our planet.
Businesses and governments also need to act responsibly when manufacturing and making legislation; consumers shouldn’t be out of pocket when they want to make sustainable choices. We’re campaigning the government for fair and equal taxing of sustainable period products, and have been working closely with activists Ella Daish and Chella Quint to raise awareness of the menstrual mess that single-use period products cause.
We have a dedicated ‘abolish the period pants tax’ section on our website, full of information and resources you can use to help spread the word, if you would like to join the fight!
Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?
I have many but I prefer influencers who help to explain and educate and lead by example, giving helpful tips and tricks, rather than promoting an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to living sustainably. As a campaigner myself, I also admire those who are activists and promote change such as Ella Daish and Chella Quint.
What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?
I would like to see more transparency about where garments come from, for example through third party certifications. Sustainability is unfortunately becoming a bit of a buzzword – there’s a lot of ‘greenwashing’ within the industry, with brands claiming eco-credentials they don’t fully invest in. In this sense, I think it’s unfair to put the responsibility on consumers who might be having the wool pulled over their eyes.
Three sustainable shopping hacks
1. Only buy what you need – is there something in your wardrobe already that could be styled differently to create a new outfit?
2. Shop from responsible sources where possible – try charity shops, second hand shops and websites, swap clothes with friends, rent clothes for special events, and shop from local sustainable small businesses.
3. Read the label! A garment might be marketed as ‘sustainable’ or ‘conscious’, but what is the product actually made from? Who makes it? And where is it made?
Sustainable Shopper edit by Ruby:
The everyday bralette feels like a second skin, designed to move with you – perfect for anyone who’s enjoying the comfortable life working from home and not ready to go back to a full underwire just yet.
The everyday midi brief is a really easy sustainable swap you can make – the luxurious and flexible Tencel fabric comes from responsibly sourced wood pulp from carefully managed beech tree forests.
WUKA seamless brief
WUKA Perform Seamless Midi Brief Period Pants are my go-to when I want to be active on my period. Made from eco-friendly recycled nylon, a lightweight seamless fabric with a super absorbent hi-tech moisture barrier making it period proof and VPL-free.
WUKA ultimate midi brief
Made from eco-friendly and luxurious Lenzing Modal fabric with a super absorbent hi-tech fabric and moisture barrier making it period proof; our WUKA Ultimate collection are your go-to period undies, made from our most sustainable fabrics and constructed without compromise.
Earth Conscious deodorant stick
Made from 100% natural ingredients, the coconut oil and shea butter-based formula literally melts into the skin. Earth Conscious’ products are cruelty free, vegan-friendly and long lasting – a really ecological and economical choice.
Faith in Nature shampoo bar
This shampoo bar is plastic-free, and offers a more sustainable way of reducing waste in your beauty care regime – perfect for anyone wanting to be as kind to the planet as they are to their hair.
Lunar Glow make-up remover pad
These 100% reusable and machine washable make-up remover pads are the sustainable and eco-friendly choice over single-use wipes, which often disappear into our water systems.
Lunar glow remover pads only require water to lift off make-up, including stubborn and smear-proof product, from your skin – great for me after a busy day in WUKA’s warehouse!
Balance Me congested skin serum
Balance Me use sustainable, renewable ingredients that are kind to your skin – and to the earth. They clearly label all products with their percentage of natural for their customers to understand. This ‘on the spot’ soothing gel is perfect for pesky hormonal skin.
Images: courtesy of Ruby Raut/ WUKA