Ethics ‘are playing a bigger role in fashion’ says Fabrikk founder Kate Pearson

Adam Warner, centre manager for Corn Exchange in Leeds and Kate Pearson founder of Fabrikk, which has just opened up in the Corn Exchange.
Adam Warner, centre manager for Corn Exchange in Leeds and Kate Pearson founder of Fabrikk, which has just opened up in the Corn Exchange.
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The fashion industry is increasingly trending towards ethically sourced items as younger consumers continue to show a desire to spend more on brands that have sustainable credentials, according to the founder of an accessories business.

Product designer Kate Pearson launched Fabrikk in 2016. The business started off selling handbags, that had LED lighting technology embedded in them, online. It then expanded into hats, travel pouches and wallets.

Fabrikk, which puts an emphasis on ethical production, has now opened up a shop at the Corn Exchange in Leeds.

Ms Pearson told The Yorkshire Post: “There will be more and more brands like myself. There are a lot of people that want to buy directly off smaller brands either through websites or pop-up stalls.

“I find that a lot of young people under 30 are vegans and obviously we’re a vegan friendly brand. That’s a big movement and a big avenue of sales for us.

“Young people are prepared to pay more knowing that it’s animal free, ethical and nothing’s been harmed or killed in the making of the product.”

Fabrikk’s products are all made by small UK-based manufacturers and the material is sourced from Portugal and Italy including vegan ‘leather’ cork.

Despite the increased emphasis on ethics in fashion, the industry still needs to do a lot more, says Ms Pearson.

She added: “Loads of different small brands like myself believe in the same things and working in the same way. It’s becoming a lot more easier, there’s a lot more new materials and ways of working out there to do that.

“There’s more that can be done by the bigger brands but even the bigger brands know that they need to start changing and they’re making that publicly clear.”

Part of the reason for the emphasis on ethical sourcing at Fabrikk comes from Ms Pearson’s own background.

“My dad’s side of the family are quite strong Quakers,” she said. “We’ve had that installed in us growing up I guess.”

Ms Pearson hopes the opening at the Corn Exchange will help bring her products to a wider audience.

She said: “It’s about having an outlet where people can come see the products and try them on, especially the hats. Then you’re also getting people coming in that wouldn’t necessarily do so.

“You have to pay quite a lot of money to drive people to your website. A lot of small niche brands can’t afford to do that quite often.

“The rent here is reasonable. It’s not a huge shop, it’s a small shop and it’s come at the right time.”

The Corn Exchange is undergoing a transformation, Ms Pearson says, and the “eclectic collection” of shops “draws in all kinds of people”.

The Grade I listed building and shopping centre will be getting a new food court as well.

Ms Pearson has a degree in industrial design. She spent time honing the prototype of the Vela handbag, which lights up when it’s opened, while at university.

Prior to opening up at the Corn Exchange, Fabrikk was appearing at a lot of shows and music festivals.

Ms Pearson said: “We’ve been travelling up and down the country doing different shows. We just started at the Corn Exchange about three weeks ago.

“It’s been going really well so far and it’s nice not to be running around so much.”

A place for innovation

Leeds Corn Exchange was acquired by property developer Rushbond PLC in 2017.

Rushbond is planning a series of new additions to the Grade I listed building over 2019.

Adam Warner, centre manager for the Corn Exchange, said: “Innovative entrepreneurs like Kate are the ideal tenants for us as we take the Corn Exchange into the modern era and embrace retail with technology and ethically-minded products.”

Fabrikk will host an official launch event on April 18 between 3pm and 8pm at the store.