10 year old Lottie Cotton has started a second hand clothing business to prove that fashion can be both stylish and sustainable. Lottie, who lives in Shiplake and attends The Abbey Junior School, is passionate about the planet and wants to make a difference in the environmentally damaging fashion industry. With the help of her father, Neill, Lottie launched the e-commerce site Charlotte Cotton, selling a high quality collection of second hand clothing.
Lottie has been interested in sustainability for some time, having learnt climate change and the environment at school. Inspired by The Abbey’s fortnightly ‘eco-assemblies’, and of course by David Attenborough, she has already been making steps to leave the world a better place. Lottie recalls, “In summer of 2018, we were going for a walk in Harpseden woods and I dragged everyone back home to get bin bags because someone had left a pile of rubbish. Then we picked all of it up.”
The young entrepreneur became particularly concerned with fashion after learning about its destructive impact on the planet. “Because of fast fashion, 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes into landfill in the UK per year,” she says. “It’s too much that’s going into landfill and it needs to stop.”
It was during the November lockdown that Lottie and her dad, Neill decided to channel Lottie’s passions into a business. Charlotte Cotton offers shoppers a more sustainable alternative to big retailers, selling second hand garments from the likes of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. The website also sells handmade jewellery crafted by Lottie herself.
Neill Cotton explains, “We first found some of the ways of buying some of the clothes: from charity shops and from recyclers. I guess the idea has been germinating for a couple of months and we’ve finally only just finished the website in January.”
This was not Neill’s first foray into e-commerce, nor indeed the clothing industry. He says, “As you might imagine with the surname Cotton, I’m in the clothing industry. My business is in ties and scarves, and sadly the way the first lockdown at the beginning of last year happened, we had a large retailer in France collapse owing us a quarter of a million euros, so my business failed in the first lockdown. I’ve been through all the horrors of making a bunch of people redundant and starting again. Hopefully some of that entrepreneurship and resilience has rubbed on Lottie.”
During the first lockdown, Lottie and Neill launched a successful face mask business together, selling nearly 3,000 face masks. The experience turned out to be perfect training for the creation of Charlotte Cotton, as it gave Neill some practice in creating an e-commerce site. However, though her dad’s help and support has been invaluable in the process of launching Charlotte Cotton, the bulk of the work is Lottie’s. Neill tells us, “This time round, I’ve made sure that the website is safe and compliant, worrying about things like the checkout method, but everything else is Lottie’s work: the colour ways, the logo, the hours of work she puts into washing and ironing and photographing the clothes.”
When sourcing the stock for Charlotte Cotton, Lottie looks for timeless items that will work in every season. Most of her clothes so far are from Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, as she believes they will hold their value, but she would like to expand the number of brands she sells as the business grows. Lottie would also like to add more adult clothing, but has decided to focus primarily on children’s clothing to begin with as it’s easier for her to write the descriptions for the products. Much to Lottie’s disappointment, none of the clothes she has sourced so far have been her size, so she hasn’t yet had to wrestle with giving away garments she likes!
Lottie admits that creating a her shop was more work than she initially thought it would be, particularly when it comes to cleaning the clothes! Despite the heavy workload, she has enjoyed the project, and particularly likes writing blogs for the website.
Moving forwards, Lottie would like to introduce a charity scheme to her business. She says, “I had an idea that people could send in their old clothes that they don’t need anymore, and I sell them and give one-third of the money to them, one-third I keep, and one-third goes to charity. The charity I want to start with is WWF.” She is also looking at repurposing old DVD covers, or recycling paper to make into notebooks and postcards.
Looking much further in the future, Lottie would like to work in sustainable fashion, or at least an environmentally-focused job. With people like Lottie leading the charge on sustainability, the planet is destined to look a lot more green!