This post is generously sponsored by Kanekta, an ethical showroom that makes sustainable product sourcing easier for retailers and ecommerce stores and helps brands get in front of new audiences. As always, EcoCult only works with companies we believe are doing good things. Support EcoCult by supporting them!
One question I’m getting more and more from brands is some variation on this: “I’m coming to NYC! What stores do you think would want to carry my ethical and/or sustainable brand?”
As much as we recognize the benefits of direct-to-consumer models — in which brands sell right to customers instead of through a store — there are still some serious drawbacks, the biggest being the expense of acquisition, or getting customers to actually visit your website and shop.
And retailers still play a vital role in the indie fashion ecosystem. They gather multiple brands into one place, make shopping easier for consumers, and simultaneously serve as a platform to introduce new and emerging brands to help them gain exposure.
However, until recently, there was still a practical flaw in this idea: How do retailers actually find and connect with these emerging brands? Traditionally, it was through trade shows: expensive, stressful, clusterf***s in horrendous convention centers that stores and brands have to travel to. I used to go to these shows to find ethical brands, but finally gave up on them. It was too much time and work, with little reward.
Bridging the Gap
It didn’t take long for Kanekta Founders Priyanka Vasudev, Sheen Sagalongos, and Fran Aguila to identify a gap between conscious sellers and buyers. “The market was full of ecommerce stores and direct-to-consumer brands, but there wasn’t any way for a retail buyer to go find ethical products for their store,” says Priyanka.
So Priyanka, Sheen, and Fran–who met through school and have backgrounds in social entrepreneurship, supply chain management, and technology–spent about eight months building Kanekta before launching in January of 2018. Prior to their launch, however, they began to connect with wholesale brands and suppliers in order to identify the existing pain points and figure out how Kanekta can best fill this hole.
The response from the Founders of the ethical brands has been amazing, which further validated the fact that Kanekta is meeting a crucial need in the space. “The Founders are some of the most amazing influences in this whole ecosystem,” she explains. “When you’re the Founder of a brand, it’s really rare to find someone who will take the time [to talk with you], but they were all so willing and helpful to give feedback in testing the technology and making sure it’s something that will really help them.”
How It Works
The Kanekta platform allows retailers to place purchase orders directly from brands right on the platform, providing a simple, streamlined process for both parties involved and eliminating the majority of the manual paperwork that’s usually required.
The brands have complete control over what is sold through the platform, and their products are uploaded and self managed by the brands through the backend of Kanekta in order to create a virtual, shoppable showroom. Then, boutiques, ecommerce stores, or other wholesale buyers are able to shop from multiple brands straight from Kanekta. This not only helps brands get in front of new audiences without having to go through a sales person, but also provides wholesale buyers with a much-needed simplified shopping experience.
The brands are each vetted by the team at Kanekta in order to make sure they meet ethical and sustainable standards. Each brand must be either certified through a third party (such as Fair Trade International, for example) or they must pass a self-assessment which Kanekta created based on the assessment given by the World Fair Trade Organization, who Priyanka says was generous enough to let them model after.
“We’re not chasing perfection, because it’s nearly impossible [for companies] to reach a 100% ethical standard, but we encourage brands to set goals and then follow up with them in a year to see how they’re doing with sustainability,” Priyanka explains. “Our mandate to buyers is to be able to find brands they can trust.”
So What Do The Brands Think?
We wanted to hear straight from a brand working with Kanekta who we know and love. MATTER, who made some of my favorite artisan travel pants, pictured above, is a favorite of EcoCult’s, and one of the many companies that worked with the team at Kanekta to identify those pain points.
“Kanekta is still in its beginning stages of building up a network and we’re only just starting to kick off the process,” says Devonne Niam, MATTER’s Digital Marketing Manager. “With that said, they definitely fill a need in the market to help smaller brands such as ourselves to streamline the process or getting to other niche boutiques that are willing to carry our brand — something that we’ve found very difficult in the past years. Kanekta has been wonderful to work with, always helping out with any technical requirement and constantly updating the platform with any issues or upgrades we’ve found/suggest.”
”The process so far has been very educational and relatively easy,” she continues. “In the beginning, we completed a self-evaluation and had multiple conversations with the Kanekta team in order to rate our own processes and understanding of our productions, which was a good way for us to remind ourselves which areas we needed to work on and what areas we do better in. That process also helps them weed out any brands that they feel are not up to par.”
Kanekta serves as a showroom that not only helps eco-ethical boutiques find and purchase from brands that match their values, but also more conventional boutiques that want to start implementing more conscious products into their inventory. Many buyers may not know where to begin when it comes to purchasing responsibly-made goods, and Kanekta can serve not only as a valuable starting point to find brands, but also as a connection to a community of retailers working toward a more conscious and sustainable future.
In the future, Kanekta may expand beyond finished products and actually serve as a connection between textile and raw material suppliers and brands who are looking to source unfinished products. “We want to make Kanekta the industry standard for wholesale buying with the ethical industry,” Priyanka says. “We want to be the Ali Baba of ethical sourcing, where buyers will be able to find both finished or unfinished products, depending on what their needs are.”
So whether you’re an established ethical brand, a sustainable startup, or a conscious retailer, the team at Kanekta would love to hear from you and either help your brand gain exposure, or assist your store in finding conscious brands that match your values!
If you’re a buyer for a boutique or ethical ecommerce store, you can apply to buy here.
If you’re an ethical brand looking to connect with buyers, apply to sell your product here.
Be sure to follow along with Kanekta on Instagram too!