Sustainability in the UK: Rapanui Clothing

Greg Reynoso Journalist

With climate change in the headlines of many stories, one company is doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint. Rapanui is an Isle of Wright local who makes clothing from sustainable sources to create little to no carbon footprint here on Mother Earth. Their cotton is 100% organic, meaning your next shirt from them will leave your skin thanking you over your last pickup from Urban Outfitters. GMO-Free means zero pesticides, no harsh chemicals and a smaller carbon footprint on our environment. Read more about Rapanui below, and make sure to check them out.



Rapanui founders Rob & Mart Drake-Knight grew up in Sandown Bay, on the Isle of Wight. Their childhood was a series of crazes – tamigotchi, yo yos, pogs, rollerblading and skateboarding – but the one that really stuck was surfing. From their clifftop home they spent a lot of time at the beach in-between school time… or sometimes during. Entrepreneurship started early; Mart’s most successful inventions (a fold up surfboard, a wind powered street light and a d-i-y downhill go-kart) all made it to the business proposal / patent stage thanks to older brother Rob’s appetite for business. Rapanui was their first successful venture. At 20 and 22 respectively, Rob and Mart set up their brand from a shed in their parent’s garden, which 5 years later makes some of the most sustainable casualwear in the world. (Thankfully the shed is gone). They describe their business as “another craze, but it’s got totally out of control”.

The business aims to make a genuine contribution to sustainability. Rapanui’s secret formula is in a question: “What if David Bowie was an eco warrior?” After all, Bowie managed to convince millions of men to dye their hair, put on makeup and dress themselves in high heels and tight trousers, It happened. That shows the power of fashion, its ability to change lifestyle, behaviour and buying actions. Rapanui plans to use the same secret ingredient, the power of cool, to do some good.

At Rapanui we design and make casualwear in line with the latest trends, but from more sustainable materials. We use ethically accredited factories that are powered by wind and solar energy – and by using cutting edge ‘eco-textiles’ Rapanui creates products that have a unique natural softness and feel when worn. The result is clothing that looks great, feels great and improves the world we live in.

Whilst the organic, ethical and low carbon approach to our supply chain is important to us, our real contribution to sustainability has come from our work towards traceability – basically making new ways to help consumers find out where clothing comes from, how it is made, and therefore starting conversations between shoppers, brands and their suppliers. Using our trace mapping tool, at Rapanui you can find out exactly where our products come from and how they were made: From the seed being sewn, picked, spun and transported: It is traceability from seed to shop.

We also realise that not everyone has time to trace the origins of every product they buy, so Rapanui is also working with UK MEPs to develop a potentially industry-changing eco labelling system to summarise the detailed and often confusing information on clothes packaging, and to make it easy for consumers to shop quickly with a conscience. This ability to make a quick informed choice is something missing from, but entirely compatible with, the high street. It’s fast, easy and free – and it means that consumer buying power works with sustainability. This work has gained national recognition in the press and at awards ceremonies.

In a few short years, this exciting new brand has already made a substantial contribution to sustainable fashion and created real change in an industry with a shady reputation. Mart Drake-Knight, designer, sums up Rapanui:

“Fashion is like no other medium, in that you literally dress yourself in what you believe in. Rapanui gives people a choice to vote with their wallet for ethical fashion. We want to use the power of fashion to make eco cool, and design traceable, transparent products that let you shop quickly with a conscience.”

Rapanui was founded in 2008 by Rob and Martin Drake-Knight, now aged 25 and 27, with £200 savings. After outgrowing their shop and offices in Sandown, they now employ 15 staff in their new factory in Cowes.

Mart and Rob feature on the Future 100 list of Top Young Entrepreneurs, whilst Rapanui featured on the Top 100 Start-ups list of 2008. Since Rapanui was established in 2008 the brand has won numerous awards for its work towards improving the communication and sustainability of the clothing industry.

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