This is the first of our Business in the Spotlight features to be published online for the world to see and we are so excited to introduce you to sustainable equestrian brand; Honest Riders. Editor, Hollie-Ella caught up with founder Zoe Kiff to find out more about the brand’s story and passion for sustainability.
With sustainability at the heart of the business, what made you choose to focus on this?
It was an easy decision for me. Before I started Honest Riders I’d gradually been making choices and changes to my own life to make it more sustainable. The more I researched, the more alarmed I became about climate change and felt compelled to play a part in making things better.
What setbacks have you faced through choosing to revolve the brand around living more sustainably?
Unfortunately and frustratingly, the eco-friendly option is often more expensive. From fabric to packaging, everything generally costs more to produce when you prioritise being sustainable. Finding suppliers who hold the same values has been challenging too. We hunted high and low for manufacturers who were willing to produce our sweatshirts from organic cotton and who produced from a carbon neutral factory. We’ve mandated that we will only work with factories who are ‘Fair Wear’ certified, meaning workers are paid fairly and treated humanely.
We’ve also worked hard to source horse care suppliers who are willing to send us their products in either recyclable or plastic-free packaging. It’s an ongoing battle, but we think the extra time, research and cost is worth it. We’re hoping we can lead the way in showing that it is possible to run a profitable business that is also sustainable.
What makes a truly sustainable brand?
I think to be truly sustainable, you have to look at every single element of the business. It’s the whole piece with every aspect under scrutiny. We consider absolutely everything: from how the product is made, materials used, packaging and how it is delivered to us; to the way our orders reach customers, our own packaging, couriers and even encouraging customers to care for the product and what to do with it at the end of it’s life.
Where did the idea for Honest Riders come from?
It was the culmination of many different elements in my life. Previously I worked in marketing for 12 years, but being a country girl at heart wanted to escape the rat-race of advertising, where I worked really long hours for big brands who I often felt didn’t have great values. It was time for a change, and eventually I felt brave enough to take the plunge.
What are your thoughts on the fast-fashion dilemma?
It’s a really tricky one. I too am guilty of hitting the high street for the latest outfit for a night out. But having now been exposed to the way some big high street brands produce their garments realise we need to vote with our feet and our wallets and good, conscious choices.
We don’t have to stop buying things to be more sustainable, but personally I now ask myself these questions before
- Do you really, genuinely love what you’re buying? If you can’t stop thinking about it after stepping away,
that’s always a good indicator.
- Will you wear it at least 30 times?
- Do you know how it was sourced?
- Have you checked out the values of the brand you’re buying from?
If more people asked these questions before buying their next item of clothing, we’d be in a much better place overnight. At Honest Riders, we make clothing that lasts. We use the best quality, sustainably-produced fabrics and want our customers to choose us because they love our clothing as a lasting statement of style.
What does fashion mean to you?
We don’t tend to use the word fashion at Honest Riders. For us it’s more about style. It’s about using the clothes you wear as a representation of your personality and values. We don’t follow trends because we want our clothing to be worn beyond just one season.
Best and worst things about being your own boss and running a business?
Best thing is getting to immerse myself in horses all day every day! The toughest thing recently has probably been dealing with copycats.
How can we as consumers, ensure our wardrobe does good as well as looking good?
I would say, just be more conscious in your purchase decisions. Take the time to find out about the companies you’re buying from and their values. And if you don’t like them, there are always more ethical options out there. Shop small and vote with your money.
Your branding and imagery really stands out from others in the industry – care to comment?
Branding is something that the equestrian industry as a whole needs to do better at – in my opinion much of it feels very inconsistent, old-fashioned and bland. Coming from a marketing background I understand the importance of consistent styling and imagery to convey our values and products.
Talk to us about the unique, Hidden Gems horse range you have curated?
I was fed up of impulse-buying horse care from my local tack shop, only to get to the yard and find it doesn’t do the job I need it to and finding expensive, unused bottles in the back of my tack locker. Obviously, we wanted to sell horse care that is cruelty-free and as eco-friendly as possible, but I only wanted to sell horse care that actually works! That’s what Hidden Gems is all about. I’ve pledged to seek out the known and lesser-known products that genuinely do the job they are meant to do, whilst also being sustainable.
If you could ride one horse past or present, who would it be?
As a child I would have said Milton. Now I’m into dressage I would LOVE to have a joy-ride on Hans-Peter Minderhouds dressage stallion ‘Glocks Johnson’. He’s the grandfather of my boy and I just love his power and attitude! Hans, if you’re reading this…I promise I won’t break him!
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
My freestyle dressage routine is to music by Katy Perry. Does that count?
One lesson you’ve learnt through owning your own business?
“There is always a better way”. Even when it’s felt impossibly hard to stick to our values – either because the solution I wanted just didn’t exist, or it made margins super-tight, I’ve realised that pretty much everything can be figured out. Now I give myself time to think laterally and look outside the box.
Do you remember the moment you fell in love with horses?
I was young when the addiction started! My Mum rode as a child and passed that passion onto me and my sister, and we grew up riding some fantastic ponies. I competed in pretty much every discipline, from mounted games, to eventing, to polo. I was horse-obsessed and still am to be honest. When university and a career in London took over, I had less time to event and focused on dressage, which remains my passion today.
We love the stylish slogan range which raises money for equine charities…
That’s a big part of what we do. It took a while to work out how we would donate to charity as we wanted to be super-transparent about it. Saying x% of profit goes to charity isn’t enough, so instead we assign each slogan to a specific charity and donate a fixed amount for each item sold. This is engaging too, as it allows customers to get behind their personal favourite.
What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given?
I’ve been fortunate enough to been given some incredible bits of advice over the years. Does ‘sit up and focus!’ count? I’ve got my Regional Championships coming up and my trainer has made sure that’s ringing in my ears.