Kapes, the homegrown sustainable school uniforms brand, launched in the UAE this September offering schools, parents and children ethically made school uniforms, free from harmful chemicals. Ethically produced in certified working conditions, Kapes uniforms are made in their entirety from quality sustainable materials, including GOTs certified organic cotton, recycled wool, recycled polyester, regenerated nylon, recycled ocean plastics and using only eco-friendly dyes. In addition, each school uniform is collected when outgrown to give them a new purpose as a pre-loved item, reducing emissions and supporting the community.
The Kapes founders, Matthew Benjamin, Sebastian Francis and Michael Bennett, stand by the understanding that it is equally important to know what goes on our children’s bodies as well as in. While the majority have an understanding about the importance of what is put in our bodies and the effects that this can have, there is a general lack of knowledge and attention when it comes to what is put on our bodies. Most uniforms contain chemicals that aren’t just bad for the environment but bad for the children who wear them, with the skin being the largest organ, absorbing components from general surroundings, including the clothes we wear.
School uniforms are often an overlooked part of the retail and sustainability industry, despite the fact that between the ages of 5 and 18, the clothing worn the most is a school uniform. Furthermore, due to the fact that children grow out of them so quickly or wear through them, the environmental impact is huge, as these garments typically are made from non-recycled synthetic fibres, like polyester, and end up in landfill where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. There is also a large social implication, as it has been documented that some uniforms are made in unethical conditions in developing countries. With textiles being dubbed the second highest polluting industry in the world, a school uniform is a great tool for educating children, as well as adults, about sustainability - and one Kapes wishes to take on.
Matthew Benjamin, Founder and CEO of Kapes said school uniforms are generally expensive based on the quality, with the latter ordinarily being quite low. Through Kapes, himself, Francis and Bennett are looking to change the market, offering higher quality, sustainable alternatives at a competitive price point to educate the masses, namely schools, parents and students, on the importance of conscious consumerism.
“There is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to school uniforms and for years parents have rightly complained about the lack of quality and the expense of school uniforms. We believe we can play a vital role in empowering children to become change-makers by encouraging them to be more connected to the things they wear, the people who make them, and the places the pieces are made. As these children become adults, they will therefore hopefully be more conscious consumers and continue to pass this onto future generations.”
“Uniform suppliers have a responsibility to focus on sustainability and transparency, but schools, parents and students must also vote for the change they want to see. We conducted a survey* and nine in ten parents agree that sustainability is important to them, which is perhaps why 92 per cent of parents would even be willing to pay more for higher quality and sustainable school uniform alternatives for their children. Not to mention 86 per cent of parents would be more inclined to return a school uniform if they were aware that it ends up incinerated or dumped in a landfill at the end of its life, which is where 80 per cent of clothing globally ends up. It is time to make a change for the next generation, who are the future custodians of the world we live in,” said Benjamin.
Kapes also believes that businesses should give back. Inspired by a study that showed school uniforms reduce school absenteeism by up to 62 per cent in Kenya, Kapes has committed to providing a free uniform in developing countries for a child in need for every Kapes uniform sold. Moreover, Kapes plans to incentivise parents to return outgrown uniforms to save on waste, and restore them so that they can be resold at a discount to parents who wish to save money, generating extra revenue for schools in the process, a further component to Kape’s sustainability commitment and educational narrative.
Kapes sets a new standard in the market for quality, sustainability, convenience, and transparency, using blockchain technology so schools, parents, and students can follow the journey of each product by simply scanning a QR code on the label. Using sustainable materials, manufacturing its products in certified ethical factories and making the process transparent, Kapes educates schools, parents, and children on every part of the sustainability journey. The UAE is home to the largest number of international schools in the world and Kapes plans to disrupt the market by working with the education sector within the region to provide an opportunity to show real-world leadership when it comes to these important issues.