Words: Paul Chapman
Banana Industries is a small Sheffield based online retailer, who are passionate about ethical, sustainable products – mainly clothes that won’t break the bank.
Banana Industries sell clothing, mountain bike stuff, outdoor equipment, homewares and some other bits and bobs, in fact you never know what you might find in their online shop, which they refer to as ‘an underground market’. Everything they do focuses on quality, needs to be made to last and be sustainable, not an easy task in today’s throwaway society, but I believe these guys have it right and know what makes them tick.
Set up in 2012 by Tom Knight and Fabio De Giuseppe, and emerging from a discussion on the skate park at Dev Green about how they hated the way things are done, as Uni students they studied marketing and advertising and decided to create a brand that was unmarketable!
It took me a while to get my head around this but what I think Fabio explained is, brands are created to fit a niche, to get an audience to react and buy the products. Was it possible to create a brand that broke the mould, a brand that didn’t know its market, that was a surprise, thus Banana Industries was born! Have you ever thought about marketing a banana?
What they do today has evolved massively. Day one saw them designing and selling clothing to the clubs and societies at Uni, the snowboard club, that type of thing. “Major corporates try and soak up this work but what they do doesn’t inspire and is just churning stuff out to take the money (Ed: think ubiquitous school leavers hoodies),” says Fabio. “What we did was create designs that were unique, chosen for their design, style and association, not just because they are the ‘uniform’ of the club. It quickly became apparent that people liked what we were doing.
“Our core product is the clothing and we’ve created some fab relationships with Sheffield based designers and illustrators,” says Fabio.
“From the very start we’ve ensured our products are as ethical and sustainable as they can be. Our packaging uses no plastic and is all recycleable, even the tape we use. This isn’t a cheap option but it’s important, it’s one of the core values that runs through everything we do”.
Banana Industries are supporting local artists and split the profits with the designers for the illustrations and artwork they use. It’s a way to get their designs out in the open and create a community that keeps coming back for more. The designs you see on their site (bananaindustries.co.uk) are unique and always have meaning.
Their products have a real quality feel about them, one of my lad’s favourite Banana Industries shirts is made from Rayon and he loves it, great quality, eye catching and unique. “Quality and affordability are at the top of our focus, they sit together with sustainability, they are all of equal importance to us,” says Tom. “We print everything in house, the clothing we use is organic, sustainable and ethical, we have our own quality control and can ensure everything is 100% at every stage of our process; from the order being placed to the packing and dispatching of the order. We outsource nothing.”
“Right now, we’re looking carefully at our product range, to see whether there are lines we could perhaps drop, to help us maintain a profit and stay true to our values. When we do festivals and hold stalls etc people love what we do, when they get their hands on the products, they can see the quality and how important the detail is, we just need to find a way to get this message across online!”
Look at their reviews; 600+ on Trustpilot giving 4.9 and Google, five stars from everyone, so they must be doing something right.
“We’ve been established almost ten years and we face a difficult time, it’s not easy in the present climate,” says Fabio. “There were five of us not long ago but now that’s down to four, costs are rising everywhere but we are absolutely committed to keeping our profits small, so our products are affordable, maintaining a high quality benchmark and ensuring we remain sustainable.
Interest whetted? Take a browse of the Banana Industries website, I’m sure you’ll find something to like, if not for you, perhaps for that mountain biking, skating, parkour loving, climbing, outdoor enthusiast, eco champion in your family!
May the banana be with you.