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Petit Pli is September's Featured Business of the Month

Thu, 04 October 2018

Ryan Yasin won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in September 2017 for his business Petit Pli.
Petit Pli creates children’s clothing that expand as the child grows, focussing on extending the usage life of clothes to reduce waste in fashion. After spending time with his nephews and nieces and realising how much clothing the young children grew out of, Ryan started the concept behind Petit Pli as part of his Global Innovation Design Masters and knew almost immediately it was an idea he wanted to take forwards into a business. With children growing an average of seven sizes in their first two years, Petit Pli’s innovative product is in a great position to push the fashion industry towards a more sustainable model. Waste Rescources Action Programme (WRAP) has identified that extending the life of clothes is one of the most significant opportunities to reach carbon, water, and waste targets.  
The Petit Pli team have been extremely busy this last year with multiple exhibitions all over the world, including Dubai and Mexico, invites to give key note speeches for events and an impressive list of award nominations and wins such as the James Dyson Award; Global Grad Show, Dubai 2017 and Fast Company’s 100 World Changing Ideas 2018. Petit Pli currently has seven employees all working towards the same slow-fashion goals. At the end of August, they soft-launched their first product and sold out over a weekend.  
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Ryan to catch up and to see what's next for his award-winning business, Petit Pli. 
What was the inspiration behind Petit Pli? 
I wanted to enter the world of fashion, but soon became disheartened by the unsustainable means by which it operates. I mapped out and researched the entire industry from farming cotton crops, to distribution channels and even the operation of trend analysis (and influencing) companies. Around the same time, my sister was having another child. The engineer in me realised that if I simplified the huge problem I was trying to tackle, I’d have a chance at actually making a difference to fashion consumption. That’s when I focussed on a niche user group, children, and the concept of one size fits all began to surface. 
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself? 
My entry into entrepreneurship has been a result of my interest in combining my two passions, art and engineering for the creation of a product and self-sustaining business.  
What challenges did you face when setting up your business? 
My lack of experience within the fashion industry presented as a huge challenge when I set up the business. However, with the skills I gained during my undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering at Imperial College London, which were further developed during my Masters in Global Innovation Design I was able to identify and solve problems in a timely fashion. 
What is your biggest (or proudest) achievement with the business? 
My proudest achievement is creating innovative products and a revolutionary business model which stand to benefit communities and society members on a global scale. I believe that consumer awareness about the fate of clothing and clothing life cycles is the best hope for the fashion industry becoming more sustainable. Petit Pli products not only reduce our impact on the environment but work on a psychological level to shape less destructive consumer behaviours. By Petit Pli products being able to fit seven different sizes, slow-fashion values are being instilled in children wearing our clothing and the consumers buying our clothing. Petit Pli’s products have the potential to permanently change the behaviour of current childrenswear consumers, encourage childrenswear retailers to replace linear models for circular models, increase public awareness of garment life cycles and reduce the demand for cheaper, low-quality, high-carbon products. 
In addition to benefitting society members, Petit Pli’s products and model will benefit vulnerable groups working in manufacturing factories globally. The fashion industry, with its fast-fashion model, is under increasing pressure by a rising population in the world’s middle class (which is set to grow further over the next ten years) to make manufacturers deliver on shorter lead times and lower prices. This pressure has adverse effects on all parts of clothing supply chains. The result of this is clothing industry workers being subjected to poor conditions, receiving low pay, working long hours and in some cases, this pressure has exacerbated the incidents of modern slavery and child labour  (Ellen MacArthur Foundation).  Petit Pli’s model and slow-fashion ethos seek to re-shape More Economically Developed Country (MEDCs) consumers’ understanding of clothing value and the quality of life stakeholders (which principally reside in Less Economically Developed Country (LEDCs)) within a supply chain experience. 
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award in 2017; how have things changed for you since then? 
Since winning the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award, our innovative designs have been exhibited internationally and continue to receive positive media coverage, both within the design community and mainstream press. We have exhibited at Dutch Design Week 2017, WIRED Live 2017 and Dubai Design Week. Petit Pli has also been featured in The Times magazine, The Observer, Audi Magazine and American Express magazine. Also, Petit Pli's total email audience who have selected "Buy Now" at point of membership signup has grown from 3,102 people to 5,600 people. 
The critical and public acceptance of my innovation has allowed Petit Pli to grow considerably over the past year. Petit Pli has grown from a team of one to a team of seven graduates and working professionals. And thanks to the money we have received from the Shell LiveWIRE Award we have completed R&D and established good relationships with fabric suppliers and factories inside and outside the UK in preparation for scaling the production of our garments. 
What’s next for Petit Pli?  
The next stage for Petit Pli is improving the designs of our current childrenswear suits based off customer feedback and expanding our line to include adult wear. 
What role do you think entrepreneurs will play in the transition to a low carbon society? 
Entrepreneurs are essential to the transition to a low-carbon society. Entrepreneurs have the freedom to explore unmet market needs that large companies have yet to identify. With this, entrepreneurs have the capacity and freedom to develop disruptive technologies that can deliver step change improvements in performance without worrying about the effect this may have on an established business.  
What’s the most important personality trait to have as an entrepreneur and why? 
I believe that resilience and persistence are traits necessary for launching a start-up. Understanding why you do what you do, will enable you to push through, no matter what challenges arise. Without these I would have been unable to create and sustain Petit Pli.
Got a Smart Idea for a Business? 
Do you have a smart business idea that will provide a solution to the world’s future transport, food, energy, or natural resource challenges, or make our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable places to work and live in? If so you can apply online now for funding!  

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