A relatively new Irish clothing brand, Human Collective launched in November of last year. A group of people who believe in spreading a message of equality and supporting social inclusion, they specialise in Irish Urban Leisure clothing that’s both environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive. Founder Conor Buckley shares more about the brand.
Tell us about you and your brand
Human Collective is an award-winning sustainable clothing brand that also specialises in corporate talks on sustainability and diversity and inclusion. The team is made up of a wide range of people from stylists and activists to campaigners and social psychologists. We believe in wearing your heart on your sleeve and, in our case, on your chest. All our clothing features the universal symbol of the equals sign. This a subtle reference to our mission and we encourage people to wear what they believe.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to spread a message of equality.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
No, I’d be lying if I said yes. Clothes are your most visible form of self-expression so we decided that we want to put a clear but subtle message on them.
What kind of items do you stock?
Our range of sustainable urban clothing currently includes crew neck jumpers, t-shirts, shorts, half-zip jumpers, hoodies and full tracksuits, beanies, sherpa full-zip hoodies and water bottles. All our clothing is Gots certified too. Gots is a non-profit organisation that certifies every level of production and manufacturing process of clothing. It’s globally recognised as the number one certification for organic clothing.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
Pangaia and Patagonia are two brands that have always resonated with me. A new brand called The Giving Movement in Dubai is also on my radar.
Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
100% and always is, but we are fortunate to have incredible kindness from the Irish public and so many others, whether it is Mercedes donating an Electric Car to us for our deliveries or various others who have given their time or their expertise to help us.
Best business advice you’ve gotten
“He who is everywhere is nowhere” – Marcus Aurelius. My great friend Donal O’Flynn said that to me once and I’m still working on it! Donal is a sustainable entrepreneur and has been with me as a mentor from day one of this journey. I love his positivity and wisdom in any situation. He’s one of the kindest human beings I have ever met.
Favourite sustainable style accounts to follow online
Pangaia and All Birds.
Best fashion purchase
I’m very practical so I have to say my All Birds runners, I love my them. They use Merino wool to manufacture the textile uppers of their Wool Runners shoes, they have laces made from recycled plastic bottles and insoles using castor bean oil.
Other sustainable Irish brands you love
Food Cloud are great. What they are doing in the food industry is remarkable. I actually met the team recently at the AIB sustainable conference “No Time to Waste”. They provided the food and we provided the clothing for all the guests and the VIPs – including Cate Blanchett and Dr Jane Goodall! It was amazing to be involved with such a powerful panel. Happy Days is another sustainable Irish brand I admire. Happy Day’s founder Rachel Hennessy and I were on a panel for the KPMG annual sustainability conference. She is doing great things to promote the circular economy.
Most useful learning since setting up a business
I have so many! For me, and I knew this starting out but I’ll always say it – try to get a business partner to join you on your journey because it’s a lonely road on your own. It’s seven days a week and you need someone who matches your passion, dedication and commitment. In my previous businesses, I was fortunate to have brilliant business partners in Paddy McKillen (Owner of Press Up Hospitality), Brian O’Malley (Krystle) and Barry Plunkett (Press Up & Events). My wife Lauren has been amazing as my business partner on this but with two small babies aged one and two, she hasn’t been able to be as hands-on as she would like. My great friend Donal O’Flynn has been like a mentor to me and thankfully we have hired good people like Joanna Duda, Paddy Smyth, Peter Dowling, Diana Frame and Michael Darragh McAuley. You need people who match your company values. Especially when your mission is social justice.
Proudest moment so far
We have had big wins like replacing Patagonia in The Google Store in Europe and winning the PWC Sunday Business Post Sustainable Award for social inclusivity and it’s important to celebrate them, but then move on to the next goal. Our pop-up shop in Stephen’s Green opened this week and has provided a fantastic opportunity for us to meet our community and for new customers to get hands-on with the product so they can better understand the quality. It was also lovely to see Ireland AM Stylist of the Year Emily O’Donnell saying Human Collective’s Clothing was the best quality clothing she ever tried on, on live TV!
I want my brand to be remembered for…
I guess there are three big things I want my brand to be known for. One, for encouraging and reinforcing the need for social inclusivity through clothing and helping to spread a message of equality. Two, for producing incredibly comfortable, high-quality clothing that lasts not only through the seasons but through the years too. And three, for driving conversations around diversity, inclusion and sustainability in Ireland and abroad.
If I could dress anyone it would be…
Dead; Nelson Mandela. Alive; Rochelle Humes and Cate Blanchett. Both women are elegant and stand up for others and humanity. Cate actually does have a Human Collective jumper already, and by all accounts she loves it!