OUR THOUGHTS ON THE SUSTAINABLE BRAND NU-IN - A Shift
Thoughts

OUR THOUGHTS ON THE SUSTAINABLE BRAND NU-IN

Posted in Thoughts — 24. September 2020 — Written by Mona

Recently we have posted a piece about more budget friendly sustainable brands as it is often still difficult to find sustainable clothing that is affordable for all. In that article we included the very young brand nu-in with two of the founders being public figures Stefanie Giesinger and Marcus Butler.

However, after posting a story about our article one of our followers on Instagram made us aware of how nu-in isn’t fully sustainable confirming our team’s initial concerns about the brand. So, why did we keep the brand in there after all? What are our thoughts on nu-in? And is nu-in sustainable?


Screenshot of the Instagram account of the brand nu-in
nu-in on Instagram

Nu-in launched just a couple of months ago and our small team has had discussions about the brand ever since. Right at the beginning we noticed that a few things didn’t add up, but we weren’t fully sure about our thoughts on nu-in, yet.

Nu-in claimed it was 100% sustainable, that their garments were biodegradable and that they used clean GOTS certified dyeing methods. When we looked at the different materials used it became apparent that not everything was biodegradable or clean at all. The brand still offered garments made from virgin polyester, often mixing fibres and even the material ‘5% other fibres’ could be found in some descriptions.

However, we wanted to give the young brand the benefit of the doubt and therefore a little more time before making up our thoughts on nu-in, as the team had just launched the brand during a pandemic it couldn’t have foreseen. Maybe they just needed some time to add more information later on?

Who is behind the brand?

The founders Stefanie, Marcus, Mike and Poppy call themselves a small group of friends on their website. To outsiders it may look more like these four people found each other while previously working at or for NA-KD which would be completely fine. This could be a great story about four people in the industry with similar aspirations and goals who decided to team up. We just doubt these four met up after work one day to watch movies together and suddenly decided to found a sustainable company together while being drunk on wine. In the brand’s IG TV video ‘the birth of nu-in’ CEO Mike even explained how the four founders had only met three months before on a Skype call. While in that same video Marcus Butler explains how they want to be honest – and I quote directly – ‘We’re not saying we’re here, we’re perfectly sustainable in every element of our life’ it makes us wonder why they decided to present their brand as 100% sustainable even though that is clearly not the case (yet)? 

Mike Mikkelborg joined the fast fashion brand NA-KD in July 2018. Poppy Warwicker-Le Breton used to work as a senior designer at NA-KD after she worked for other fast fashion brands UNIQLO and Boy London – yeah the brand with the questionable logo. While there were a lot of rumours going around about how CEO Mike has many ties to the fast fashion industry in Asia and used to be the co-founder of NA-KD even having ‘co-owner’ in his LinkedIn bio – which isn’t the same as founder and he already removed it – we have to keep in mind that people can change their minds and grow and maybe this is where Marcus’ quote applies, too? The answer is up to you.

Similarities to the fast fashion brand NA-KD

The similarities to the brand NA-KD are pretty apparent. The logo, the website, the designs. Regarding some of the founders’ pasts it makes sense, though. While Poppy used to design for NA-KD she now seems to use her knowledge for trends at nu-in and Mike seems to have picked up some things while consulting – or maybe really co-owning – NA-KD. It makes sense that Mike and Poppy – and maybe even the other two of the bunch – have met at work before creating something together they all believed in. But wait, could this mean nu-in is just the greenwashed version of NA-KD?

Maybe. Maybe nu-in ist just a money grab for serial entrepreneurs who used to dabble in the world of healthy snacks or worked in fast fashion before, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe the team’s intentions are genuine and good.

Transparency issues

After the team launched nu-in the brand and the founders received some harsh criticism and backlash. Justified, if you ask us, but we can’t only be negative. What even happened, though? The brand advertised with being GOTS certified or at least using GOTS certified methods and materials. However, if a brand itself isn’t certified by GOTS it can’t advertise with these certifications as only their suppliers have them. When a person called out nu-in in the comment section of their first IG-TV Q&A it turned into a whole mess and even GOTS themselves commented. On top of that, claims about biodegradability have been made and sometimes product descriptions included 5% other fibres. What fibres you ask? No one knew. Since then nu-in has made a few changes, though. Now you can’t find the word GOTS anywhere and the 5% other fibres have been explained. Even the material of the tags can be found in product descriptions now. 

The big issue here is that nu-in started out with claims it couldn’t really uphold. Thankfully, later on more information came out and some things are a little clearer now. However, there is still a lot that could be improved. Do we expect all of this change right now? No, of course not. It takes time and we all know the famous quote: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

We all start somewhere

When a brand is just starting out – especially smaller sustainable brands – we usually know that maybe they don’t have all their certificates yet, maybe they don’t have a huge team or enough money to be as fast and transparent and ‘perfect’ as we want them to be. So why is it any different with nu-in? While we do think every brand deserves some time to really get into the game and patience is key something made us quite curious. Who invested in nu-in? Where did all that money come from? Did the four founders do everything themselves? When looking at the launch and the website it gets clear quite easily there is some big money involved.

We were definitely ready to go down a deep rabbit hole for this one but thankfully the lovely Lara from the eco magazine Peppermynta did it first in her article on nu-in – which is really worth a read. In a scanned document that Lara included in her opinion piece you can see that next to the four founders the company VGI SOLUTIONS LIMITED is listed with 51% of the shares with an address in Ireland. Mike Mikkelborg is listed after with 27% shares, then Stefanie and Marcus each with 8,5% and lastly Poppy Warwicker-Le Breton with 5% meaning the two ‘faces’ are only shareholders. So, VGI founded it with them? Who are they?

Screenshot from the Irish Companys Registration Office's database showing that VGI Solutions Limited was registered just three weeks before nu-in
source: Irish Companies Registration Office

We digged a little deeper and looked up the company on the Irish Companies Registration Office’s database. See anything interesting on the screenshot? VGI SOLUTIONS LIMITED was registered in November. Just one month before nu-in was registered on December 13th 2019. It all seems pretty fishy. Who is behind VGI SOLUTIONS LIMITED? 

Are there any positives?

The keyword fishy brings us to the next topic. Yes, while the background of and the intentions behind nu-in are not really clear and probably never will be – the brand does sell the guppy friend our team at ASHIFT really loves. Even though nu-in offers many garments with recycled polyester the microplastics still get into our oceans. So selling a guppy friend and sharing knowledge about the dangers of plastic is good. 

The brand also quickly implemented changes after the whole GOTS fiasco happened and it got called out for inconsistencies and intransparency. On top of that, the social media presence and communication seems to be going well and is quite open-minded so far. 

The best thing about nu-in, though, is that the famous influencers Stefanie Giesinger and Marcus Butler are raising more awareness about sustainability and shopping more consciously, especially to younger generations. This could be an amazing thing as a lack of knowledge is usually often the case with consumers when it comes to the fashion industry.

So what is our conclusion? 

It is pretty clear that a lot of things seem sketchy behind the scenes of nu-in. However, we as consumers will probably never know the complete truth. Building a brand has a lot to do with transparency and integrity. So, it makes sense that some people are kind of skeptical regarding everything that has happened so far. Maybe people are right when they’re saying that this is just another way to try to make millions or even billions. Maybe the founders are truly genuine, though, and want to change fashion as we know it. The thing is, do these two things have to be mutually exclusive in the type of society or system we live in? Every brand wants to make profit. The things that matter are the intentions behind it, that no one gets harmed – as much as that is possible – and the consumers aren’t being lied to. 

The only thing that personally irks us about nu-in is the fact that there have been too many inconsistencies with what has been said and some things aren’t being addressed publicly enough. Some things get discussed in Instagram comment sections instead of making a transparent statement for everyone to see. It is still not really clear how the prices can be so low on top of a few other things.

Is nu-in sustainable?

All in all, we will definitely keep an eye on nu-in. The core idea seems to be genuine. Profit and positive change don’t have to exclude each other. It is on us as consumers to see for ourselves if we can trust nu-in and if the brand fits our own definition of sustainability. On the other hand, nu-in could be a good start for a lot of younger people – or anyone really – to get into a more sustainable lifestyle as they might not be able to afford highly expensive garments, but maybe show an interest in wanting to shop more eco-friendly. Not everyone is privileged enough to buy a sustainable linen shirt for 80 Euros. We can definitely see the appeal in nu-in and are curious for what’s to come in the future.

What are your thoughts on nu-in? Have you purchased something from the brand? Do you have any information we don’t know about yet?

7 comments

  1. Maryam says:

    Thank you for pointing this out! This was very much needed. So many brands jumping on the “sustainability” train just because it’s something that sells, even though they’re not that sustainable. Let’s consider H&M sustainable then, since it has a “conscious” collection 🙂
    Besides that, i just realized i used to confuse these two brands and now i can see why, there are so many similarities easily spotted. The whole background story now also makes a lot of sense…

    1. Sophie says:

      Yeah once you dig deeper into the whole founding story it gets sort of shady and very much NOT transparent. It’s important to look at new brands critically but also always remember that no brand is perfect – especially when starting out – we will have to see how Nu-in evolves in the future. One thing that is definitely a big positive factor is that they do get the conversation about the need of size inclusive sustainable fashion going!

  2. Kurt_poppy says:

    Tbh I found nu in, in a tik to video for sustainable brand alternatives. And so I went to see their explanatory pages about how they’re sustainable. I’m new with all this, yet I found it very blur compared to another website Ive seen just before. I guess it’s cool they make use of “leftovers” produced my textile industry. But the way they promote themselves and justify everything in their about section is a little obscure to me. And so that’s how I ended on your article, searching to see if I was the only one getting the feeling, even as a non well informed consumer. In my opinion,their business is good, but there’s an overly greenwashing tone that I don’t buy.

    1. Sophie says:

      Happy you found your way to our article! We believe that brands should always communicate transparently what is not going 100% well yet, too. And not just promote themselves and market themselves. Nu-In has a lot of mixed fibres in their clothes which for us is also always a red flag. We do believe that no brand can be perfect (ever) so we will see how Nu-In will develop in the future.

  3. Sisi says:

    Thank you for the interesting article, as a fashion designer, specialized in sustainable practices, I was intrigued by nu-in when they came out. I also bought a pair of jeans, which are well-constructed and well-sewn, however, it sounded too good to be true. Now, “fast-fashion” and “sustainability” cannot exist in the same sentence. The price point and the seasonality of nu-in are typical trades of fast-fashion manufacturing. Sustainable and ethical fabrics are sadly still more expensive, so that explains why there are a lot of recycled polyester, which can be cheaper sometimes. However, even recycled polyester and non-certified cotton are STILL a better option than the cheap polyester clothing a lot of young consumers prefer due to affordability. Whether I think nu-in are greenwashing customers?…Absolutely. It’s just profitable. There’s also a lot of reasons why truly sustainable brands like People Tree are not making billions and why nu-in will probably reach that in a few years.
    I wonder what you guys think regarding Good on you App and their evaluation of nu-in’s sustainable model. According to Good on You, they create their reports by carefully sorting the supporting documents the brands provide them with, in order to establish whether the materials and manufacturing are truly conscious. Nu-in’s rate is “good”, which is not the highest possible rating, but I have a feeling that there might be advertising strategies going on or the absolutely
    unbelievable thing and they are indeed that “good”?
    At the end of the day, I do agree that nu-in’s biggest positive is that they provide the opportunity for younger consumers to shop more sustainably (even if it’s not perfect) and choose something better than the generic fast-fashion brands.

  4. Jeffrey Harris says:

    Glad I found this in-depth article! They seemed way too good to be true and incredibly vague in describing their sustainability. Even compared to Gap or Everlane they are insanely opaque and saying they care only about “impact” and not profits is when I had to call BS. Ofc profit should be valued less than human and environmental concerns, but it seemed a little too perfect

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