I love Lazy Oaf. For years, I’ve admired their clothes from afar, their designs always unique and trendsetting, but with a price tag a bit out of reach. I’ve decided to review one of their most popular products, the Flower Bed Knit Sweater, which retails at £85.00. As a highly sought after item, which has made the rounds on second-hand marketplace apps like Depop at an exorbitantly higher cost, it’s recently been brought back into stock on the Lazy Oaf website.
Lazy Oaf only has two London-based high street stores, and has no investors, being the independent venture of founder and CEO Gemma Shiel. They are a small fashion company, and thus do not produce on a mass scale - hence why their collections are often scarce and highly desired. Their online sustainability manifesto (“Oafesto”) highlights their desire to be as transparent as possible, and offers a suggestion box email for any customer who wishes to ask questions about or help improve their sustainability policy.
However, when we get into the nitty-gritty of Lazy Oaf’s sustainability, their commitments do not seem quite up to snuff. There is some effort there, and Lazy Oaf certainly has awareness regarding social issues. For example, they launched a non-profit campaign collection with mental health charity Time To Change and raised over £20,000. Moreover, all money from studio sample sales are donated to the mental health youth charity Young Minds.
However, their claims of transparency do not match up with the lack of real, quantified information available on their website. I would love to see Lazy Oaf improve to become as trendsetting in sustainability as they are in fashion.
This product is made of 60% cotton and 40% acrylic. Lazy Oaf does not mention whether this is organic or fairtradecotton, something they are keen to point out on their other products. As such, we can assume it is non-organic. There is little other information on the sourcing of any of the ingredients in this garment.
In terms of what sizes are available for their garments, Lazy Oaf have tried to become more inclusive, expanding their size range to fit between a UK 6 (US 2) to a UK 20 (US 16), and they hope to go larger once they’ve perfected the fit for sizes 16-20. This jumper, however, is only available in sizes S-XL. It is oversized in style, so I wonder whether it would truly fit oversized in the XL. For this product, they could benefit from adding extra sizing such as XS or XXL to truly align with their claims of sizing inclusivity.
Lazy Oaf does not use animal fur, cashmere, down feathers or the like in their products. They claim to be PETA approved, however, this certification only requires a company to answer a short questionnaire, produce a vegan promise statement and pay a fee. Once again, there is no type of audit involved or proof that they are sticking to this vegan promise, and we instead have totake Lazy Oaf’s word for it.
On the positive side, they have an ongoing collaboration with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organisation, demonstrating environmental consciousness and responsibility to a certain extent. Moreover, they have recently released their first swimwear collection made of fully recycled material. This is a great step towards more eco-friendly fashion for Lazy Oaf, and I can only hope that this is a sign of more things to come, rather than a one-off, greenwashed collection. Nevertheless, this jumper in particular hasa long way to go in being made sustainable.
What about packaging? According to their website, all their outer packaging is compostable (made from sugar cane), while all other packaging is either recyclable or compostable. They moreover prioritise shipping via water or road rather than by air to cut emissions. It would be helpful to see some statistics to back up these claims about emissions, but for a small company like Lazy Oaf, we may be positive about the steps they have taken to make their packaging more sustainable.
This product is 40% acrylic, which means it is made of plastic threads derived from fossil fuels. This use of fossil fuels is obviously detrimental to the planet, and there is no commitment on the Lazy Oaf website to reducing the amount of fossil fuel-derived products anywhere in their Oafesto.
There is also no mention of how much water usage is involved in the creation of this garment or any of their clothes, however the limited nature of their collections would suggest it is much less than other high-street brands. There is no mention of what chemicals are used in the dyes on their garments, nor any apparent initiative to make these less hazardous.
The Oafesto highlights the location of their factories in the USA, China, Portugal, Turkey, and the UK. They claim to have a “strict policy of ethical standards”, which include statutory minimum wage, entitlement to annual leave, sick leave and parental leave, a minimum working age of 16 and more. However, many of these commitments seem like they could be circumvented quite easily - for example, the condition of overtime being voluntary only - and there is no mention of the ways in which Lazy Oaf enforces these commitments on their website. Through my research, I’ve discovered that Lazy Oaf visits the factories they use twice a year to ensure these strict standards are maintained, but once again this claim is largely unsubstantiated and relatively vague. To improve upon this, they could benefit from using supply chains which have already been audited by established companies such as Sedex.
Their website also lists several other ways they are trying to be more sustainable which distract attention away from the more important things they could be doing. For example, their studios have water fountains so employees can use refillable water bottles. Moreover, Lazy Oaf centres the role of the consumer in sustainability within a blog post. An uncited statistic suggests 80% of CO2 produced by any garment occurs after purchase, and as such Lazy Oaf directs consumers to wash their products in a certain way to preserve the print and shape of the piece, to upcycle and redesign their products, or to sell them on Depopor a charity shop. While these are all great ideas for the consumer to make their garment last that little bit longer, it leads me to question whether Lazy Oaf are directing our attention away from the things they could be doing as a company to promote a more sustainable, circular economy. For example, they provide a way for customers to return clothes they no longer want for Lazy Oaf to recycle themselves.According toa Vice article, a Lazy Oaf car boot sale or swap shop may potentially be in the works.
We also should interrogate the amount of collection drops Lazy Oaf has per year. I do not know the number specifically, but being on their mailing list I know there have been several collaborations and drops only this year. While it is exciting in a creative sense to have new designswhich push the envelope, it is important Lazy Oaf do not promote fast fashion further by cycling through collections too quickly. Many high fashion brands such as Gucci have begun to reduce the number of yearly fashion shows they hold and the number of seasonal collections they have in order tomake their clothing more sustainable and timeless. Gucci and other such brands obviously have their many issues, but it would be great to see other fashion brands following suit in trying to reduce the number of collections they release. Nevertheless, Lazy Oaf’s collections are always small in number, meaning they are not mass-produced on a similar level to other clothing brands such as Zara. Their limited collections are in this way both more sustainable and more desirable.
Lazy Oaf claims they care about each person involved in their supply chain and has a code of conduct in the palace to protect these people. As we saw in the previous section, however, there is little proof to back up these claims and Lazy Oaf has no apparent certification or audit process.
They claim furthermore that the mental wellbeing of their staff is a priority, but on their websitethis only extends to weekly “free and optional meditation and mindfulness sessions” for staff. As a small business, it may be more difficult for Lazy Oaf to implement as many benefits for staff as it would be for larger fashion brands, however it would be useful to see more transparency on what their staff are entitled to or how they are promoting diversity, inclusivity and equality within their workforce.