10 Jun 2019
Beirut, Lebanon
Sustainable Textiles and Clothing

Aya Hoteit established CIVVIES, an eco-friendly Lebanese clothing label, to join the growing struggle against wasteful shopping habits in the Middle East. “There is a lot of ignorance in the region about sustainable fashion,” said Hoteit.

CIVVIES offers an experimental range of hand-printed designs made from organic and recycled materials, with an eco-conscious production strategy to match. Ever-ambitious, Hoteit is bringing sustainable fashion to a broader market by reducing the industry’s typically high costs for consumers. “I want to make CIVVIES an affordable clothing alternative,” she said.

Hoteit gravitated towards her vocation during her engineering studies, as her background in sustainable product design morphed into tackling the environmental damage wrought by “fast fashion” trends. From 2016, she developed a business model aimed at minimizing the carbon impact of transporting supplies, reducing waste from the label’s manufacturing, and paying her staff fair wages.

The result is CIVVIES, which generated no shortage of buzz in Beirut’s fashion circles with its October 2018 launch. Already, CIVVIES’ innovative designs have entered the wardrobes of social media influencers and other Beiruti trendsetters.

According to Hoteit, customers have responded enthusiastically to the uniqueness of CIVVIES garments, because each hand-printed design is a one-off. “We could not make the same design again,” she said, “even if we tried.”

For CIVVIES, the key challenge will be limiting production costs while also maintaining Hoteit’s firm commitment running the business with sustainable principles. “I do not want to ‘green wash’ in any way,” said Hoteit, referring to the practice of disingenuously marketing products as “sustainable.”

This mission of holistic sustainability impacts CIVVIES’ entire business model. Hoteit imports organic materials from nearby Turkey rather than China, reducing the carbon footprint of freight. Hoteit’s staff diligently sweeps the floor after CIVVIES’ tailors have finished for the day, salvaging scraps of fabric for future use. “I already have three bags of leftover material at my grandmother’s house,” Hoteit laughed.

CIVVIES has attracted funding from a local angel investor, with the remainder of its capital coming from Hoteit’s hip pocket. The label is moving towards financial self-sufficiency, but could use more investment to reach new markets through improved marketing.

Despite that, Hoteit believes that CIVVIES is on track to striking an enviable balance — appealing to high-end fashion types, while remaining affordable for the average consumer. Hoteit has shrugged off advice that she should focus on one demographic or the other.

“We want to attract those who want sustainable fashion, and also lure in those looking for something unique.”


Learn more about CIVVIES through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Photos courtesy of CIVVIES

CIVVIES Sustainable Textiles & Clothing