Dubai: This homegrown fashion label is bringing new consciousness to fashion

Dubai - Meet Dominic Nowell-Barnes, the man behind The Giving Movement

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 7:03 PM

Conscious consumerism is such a buzzword, and we all know these “fashionable” phrases tend to become words that are just flung around without any clarity or conviction. That is where the born-in-Covid brand The Giving Movement fits in. This Made-in-UAE, sustainable street and activewear brand has been a total disruptor. Just a little over 15 months old, The Giving Movement seems to have ticked every box of being a conscious fashion brand — and has attracted a cult following in the region. With almost half a million followers on Instagram, fashion influencer Karen Wazen and Emirati lifestyle influencer Taim Al Falasi are just some of the local celebrities who have given the brand a social media shoutout. But it is not just the fashion set, The Giving Movement has caught the attention of the average consumer too.

Sofia Gomes, a wellness professional, first bought her pieces during the lockdown. Athleisure is her daily uniform and she is still wearing it on a regular basis. “During the pandemic, I realised how important it is to support homegrown brands. It’s sustainable, size-inclusive, culturally sensitive (they have modest pieces too), ethically produced and socially responsible. We need more projects like these in Dubai,” she says. The homegrown brand uses sustainable material (such as recycled plastic and bamboo) and has a giveback policy — donating Dh15 for every purchase to its partner charities (they have already donated well over $700,000). Every detail has been thought of, including the packaging made of biodegradable plant starch to its supply chain and fair working conditions and wages are a priority for this brand. Not even two years old, The Giving Movement is set to be a critical player in changing this region’s fashion consumption habits.

The man behind the movement

British expat Dominic Nowell-Barnes launched The Giving Movement (TGM) in April 2020. The 31-year-old moved to Dubai six years ago and was immediately attracted to its “sky’s the limit” approach to commerce. The fashion label founder started trading on eBay at just 13 years old and first came to Dubai seven years later when he was “stopped by when flying to Mumbai to source some material for my business at the time”. A serial entrepreneur, he understands that in order to be purposeful, you have to make profit. “To survive and thrive in any business, you need to offer a good value proposition and, most importantly, have massive points of difference in your industry. TGM was formed by looking at what was missing in the region and then taking each point — whether donating, making locally or sourcing sustainably and sitting with the challenge — until we could find a way to achieve it.”

Today, he employs a team of 60 in his head office and their website delivers to over 160 countries. Not a sustainable brand that believes in small capsule edits, there are over 100 styles for men, women and kids (including a modest collection). “I think it is important to note that it is not the width of the range of products you offer but on the sell-through percentage of those products (how many you have sold at the end of a season versus what is left) that ensure you are conscious in your decisions about what to produce in a collection.” The fashion brand is size-inclusive and is going from a UK 6 (XS) to UK 20 (3XL). A believer in zero waste, Nowell- Barnes makes no apologies for his competitive approach to the business. “Our vision for TGM is to take market share from non-sustainable brands and giving back in order to transform the industry. Having clothes to wear is a necessity and our goal is to make sure those clothes are both good for the planet and the people on it.” As with every company, being sustainable is a work in progress. “As we expand globally, we are aware of the carbon footprint of deliveries and have made a commitment to be carbon-neutral by the end of this year, which will be detailed in our transparency report.” This conscious approach, mixed with a strong sense of commerce, is a formula that seems too good to be true.

A New Age Approach

As a product category, active and lounge wear sound basic, and their pricing is on the high side (a basic women’s sweatshirt is priced at Dh499). More than a handful of homegrown athleisure have launched in the past year, but none have tasted the success that The Giving Movement has enjoyed. And while mission statements matter (theirs is “small acts multiplied by many people can transform the world’’), without the right product mix a fashion label cannot succeed. By going wide, the colour assortment of The Giving Movement is extensive, as are their shapes. In a sweatshirt, for example, you can find a crop, oversized, zip, hoodie, and drawstring options in various fits. But this entrepreneur believes lounge wear is a concept that is here to stay. “I think we will see loungewear continuing to develop over the coming seasons and form a permanent place in our wardrobe in the future.” There is no question that The Giving Movement defines what new age fashion is about. It hits on all current catchwords of fashion — from being conscious, responsible to being inclusive, sustainable, homegrown and ethical. This is a no-guilt buy, a logo you can flash with pride.

While many sustainable fashion brands end up being small-to-medium scale businesses, for this fashion founder, sky’s the limit. “In a post-Covid life, awareness around sustainability is growing. With increased awareness, brands, suppliers and manufacturers put more focus on it.”

The brand is also on its way to achieving the target of donating $1million to its chosen charities — Dubai Cares and Harmony House— both tackling issues that focus on food, healthcare, shelter and education. No wonder then Nowell-Barnes describes it as “a movement towards producing sustainably and locally and a movement to disrupt the typical e-commerce business model by donating a portion of the sale of each item to those who need it most in the world”.

A community-driven brand, you do not just buy a garment when you make a purchase from TGM. These are clothes that tell a story, it defines what it means by social responsibility, and while its narrative is set in stone, its product mix is open to change — be it new colours or introducing a modest collection. This is what young brands need — a strong foundation with just the right amount of flexibility. With the focus now being on global expansion (within the UAE besides their own website The Giving Movement is present at leading stores such as — That concept store, American Rag, Galeries Lafayette, Harvey Nichols and e-tailer Ounass), that will be the true acid test for the brand. As Louise Nichols, former editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and a fitness professional, puts it, “I can fully appreciate it’s a phenomenon. I would love to see if it can go beyond the geography, though.”

More news from