As part of our ongoing commitment to sharing positive brand stories and actions from our community, Making a Difference highlights the often unsung individuals across the luxury industry making a positive impact. It is our hope that this series will be an inspiration to people working in sustainability and show professionals – particularly at the start of their career journey – the many routes there are to making a difference.
This month the spotlight is on Nakul Malhotra, Founder of Thread & Tonic.
What qualifications do you have? Did they play a role in getting you where you are today?
I was awarded a Scholarship at the University of Nottingham, with a degree in Finance, Accounting & Management. As head of a luxury accessories manufacturing business, I gained first-hand experience working with artisans, designers, retailers, tanneries, and suppliers. This practical understanding of each department within the business was invaluable as a foundation. Also, I had the privilege to learn from my grandfather and father, who have taught me a lot about the intricacy of quality craftsmanship. I feel whilst my degree equipped me with the management skills to execute our plans, my first-hand experience being part of the industry was crucial to make sure I was able to come up with practical solutions.
Have you always worked in sustainability? If not, what did you do before?
I feel fortunate to be third generation in the business and throughout my working career, I am proud to have been manufacturing luxury leather goods for the biggest fashion labels globally. I have always been passionate about sustainability and driven to use my knowledge to change the manufacturing processes within our industry.
How did you end up in your current role?
My sister and I wanted to create something new and unique that encapsulated the importance of sustainability, functionality, beautiful materials, modern design and luxury craftsmanship. I interned at top investment banks during university, but it did not take me long to realise where my heart was. Launching our brand was a childhood dream.
What made you fall in love with sustainability?
Leveraging material science and technology to reuse something going to waste, and to create something beautiful was fascinating. This ability to recreate which would otherwise have been discarded was what excited me the most. Also, understanding the possibilities in which we can make an impact in so many different avenues – environmental, social and economic (informally known as planet, people and profit).
What does your day-to-day look like?
I work closely with factories and technicians developing innovative materials, helping the team with strategies, working closely with our product, marketing teams and partner organisations. No two days are the same and I thoroughly enjoy multi-tasking across all aspects of the business. Apart from work I love sport, travel and getting lost in the midst of nature.
What challenges have you faced?
Sustainability is a buzzword that is overused. There is a lot of greenwashing in our industry which in turn confuses the consumer who does not understand the depth of this subject. We set out to be the most sustainable brand considering every aspect and never cut corners. Some of our materials have taken years to develop and this in turn increases our costs. In the initial months, it was difficult for us to quantify the real impact and verify that for our community. Having Positive Luxury as our partner has been instrumental for us to not only measure and monitor but also improve our performance in several areas, by benchmarking the highest standards within our industry.
What are you most proud of?
The process of developing the brand took nearly five years of work, where each hurdle has been influential and essential. Following what we love and executing this dream into reality, has been special. It is only the beginning of the journey but we are most proud of our incredible team, backed by the most flexible global supply chain, a network of the most trusted technicians, talented designers – all of who are so passionate about our mission.
What advice would you have for anyone looking to contribute to their company’s sustainability goals?
Understanding that small changes and steps added up make the world of difference. To understand the impact of every action. Collaboration with partners and individuals sharing the same values would amplify the growth and keep you motivated across this journey. Finally, to keep on learning and evaluating, always keep looking for ways to do better.
What’s next for you?
We are pleased to have partnered with Positive Luxury and the next step is to continue inspiring our global supply network to understand their impact; where sustainable and ethical practices become a fundamental element of the luxury bags and accessories industry. We also want to help advise other businesses across sustainability, making it a shared responsibility and a shared global mission. In turn helping people live a better life, and brands to build a better world.
Learn more about Thread & Tonic and their Butterfly Mark certification here