This article is brought to you in collaboration with 1 People.
Earth Collective’s ‘Interviews with the Collective’ series is a collection of interviews with likeminded souls from around the globe, who are working towards a better future for the planet and people in it. Today, we chat with Rea & Jonathan Tjoa Algreen, the Founders of Danish Luxury Fashion brand 1 People, which shares 40 percent of its profit to educate and empower new entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
What was your catalyst to diving into the world of sustainability?
Jonathan has been in business for many years. Early on in his career, he came to realise that businesses need to take responsibility for people and planet. In this process, he could also see that the fastest and most effective way to make a change within sustainability was to do it through business, instead of through politics.
For Rea, it started in early childhood with a love for animals and nature, and a strong urge to protect and nurture both. This urge to protect developed later on to also include people, particularly when stories about sweatshops emerged.
It seemed natural for us to start 1 People with all this in mind and with the mission to change the way business is done, through showing that businesses can change the world for the better.
Tell us about your business journey so far.
Like most startups, there have been ups and downs. Throughout our journey, we found out that the most challenging and most costly process was production. It has been a challenge to find suppliers and manufacturers who are aligned with our values and quality.
We had been testing out a lot of different materials and dyeing methods, and many didn’t live up to our standards. We started out with a very local focus, where we wanted to source materials and partner with manufacturers located in Indonesia. But we ran our heads against a brick wall several times because of a lack of environmental and ethical focus, or simply because their skills were not up to our standards. It has been a hard choice for us to stop collaboration with some of our small scale local manufacturers, but we have found other ways to continue to partner with many artisans and social enterprises, because supporting these has a strong positive effect on the local community.
In our manufacturer rearrangements we have found skilled small manufacturers in Portugal and India, which deliver the best in sustainability and also ensure their employees’ wellbeing and safety.
It has been such a ride and despite the challenges, we keep pushing forward with our mission and reminding ourselves why we do what we do.
What has been your proudest achievement to date for 1 People?
When we created our product look we wanted to design sustainable, luxurious and minimalistic clothes with roots in Danish design. Rea had spent month after month searching for this combination and we were assured that this was something a lot of women were missing.
So, one of our proudest achievements to date is filling out this gap of sustainable luxury clothing and with this also coming up with our own “Sustainability Score” to calculate our product’s sustainability rate and be transparent. We calculate the score by using a formula that summarises how sustainable each material in a product is and how much of the total product it constitutes. Scores from each of the impact materials are combined using a weighted average approach. And from this, we derive our sustainability percentage score.
What do you think is the biggest threat to our planet and the people in it today?
Waste and pollution, and unfortunately the fashion industry contributes a lot to both of them.
We need to find a way to produce less waste or to innovate what kind of waste we leave behind. It could be great to reach a point where we give more back than what we take. So, instead of leaving waste and pollution behind, we leave cleaner air and waste that benefits the environment and the communities.
Our Earth only has limited resources, so we must be clever. A sustainable and circular approach in the fashion industry is very much needed, so we can pass on a wonderful and healthy planet for the next generations.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
That everyday, we get to do work that helps millions of people get out of poverty, and that we contribute to creating a world that is people and planet friendly. This makes us excited every single morning. We want to be the voice and pioneer of change for the betterment of our planet and all of humanity. This fills our heads every day and we know that we are not alone in this mission.
Who/what has been the biggest influence in your life?
Definitely our two lovely daughters. They have made our lives better in every way and inspired us to do more good in the world. They want to grow up in a world that is far better than today. They have made us realise that these next generations will reach even higher. We are not in doubt that they will revolutionise so many things and come up with innovations for the betterment of all living on this planet.
What book(s) are you reading and/or podcast(s) are you listening to right now?
We are very much into philosophy and love to understand human psychology, which is why we are currently re-reading Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzche. We highly recommend this book, especially if you are into the human mind and spirit. We are also reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling, which is a fantastic book. It’s about the human mechanisms that make us interpret the world wrongly and make us put simple facts aside. It’s a great book for many interesting discussions.
What does the word ‘community’ mean to you?
A community is for us a strong bond between people who have things in common such as living conditions, interests, goals in life, aspirations etc. They support each other and they come together in realising their common worldview.
At 1 People, we are very much community-driven. We are so thankful to be part of a local community and for their support, and have in turn been supporting our local community, especially during these covid times, where many in our area have been struggling.
It makes us happy that we can help each other. Through our own community, our Loyalty Programme, ‘We Are 1 People’, we also do our best to give true value to our customers. They are very valuable to us and make our mission of changing the world possible. To us, they are truly queens and we treat them like the royalties they are.
What advice would you give someone who is looking for ethical and sustainable fashion options – what questions should they ask themselves and/or the brand when shopping online?
You have to ask yourself what the clothes are made of and who made those clothes? Are the materials biodegradable or recycled? Are the people being fairly compensated? Also find out if they have information regarding their sustainability – how do they determine that? Using what parameters? Make sure you make a conscious purchase.
Where are you heading to next in your journey?
We are now available in 16 markets across Europe, South East Asia, Australia and North America. We would like to expand into more markets such as India and Japan as we see huge potential in those markets. We also want to add to our community by providing much more benefits and special events through our Loyalty Programme, ‘We Are 1 People’.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
At 1 People, we believe in social responsibility, and that businesses both have the capacity as well as the responsibility to contribute to a better tomorrow for more people and the planet.
Besides a very strong and dedicated planet-centric approach to how we do business, we also have dedicated ourselves to strongly contribute to the eradication of poverty. This is why we use a fair amount of our profits on three big projects – our own Business for Planet programme. This is an educational platform where we mentor, educate and fund social entrepreneurs with a people and planet mindset. Our goal is to create more impact-driven entrepreneurs, who will create more impact-driven businesses.
Another project is ‘Youth Education’ where we donate to schools so more children and young people can get a good education.
The last project is ‘Feed the Hungry’, which is not solving the poverty problem, but it helps when people are pushed over the edge and into poverty and starvation.
These projects will change the lives of millions of people, giving them a much better chance in life and a better chance to get a good and safe job with an income they can live from, but also give them a better chance to not only survive, but to also give back to their own family and the community. In that way it becomes an upward spiral of positive and impactful development. We want to spread out this people and planet friendly way to run a business and show that businesses can be a force for good.
Rea and Jonathan Tjoa Algreen are the Founders of Danish Luxury Fashion Brand, 1 People.
Jonathan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 1 People, is a serial impact entrepreneur who has been building businesses since 2000 and Rea, Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), is a fashion enthusiast who combines style and sustainability in her approach and together their mission is to change the way business is done to be more people and planet aligned – making the world a better place for all.
With the help of their multicultural team at 1 People, they strive to achieve their goals every single day.