DUBAI: For many, sustainable fashion is an interest or trend. For the founders of global sustainable e-commerce platform Plain Tiger, it’s a necessity.
In the middle of the night, Oliver Baillie woke up in his new home in South Africa to find strange men in his house. He began thrashing, worried it was a robbery until his wife, Alexandra Baillie, explained it was the paramedics. He had had a seizure and needed to be taken to hospital immediately.
The prognosis wasn’t good; a brain tumor — with no prior symptoms – was the cause. Following surgery and treatment, it led to a year of healing practices for the entrepreneur, who had recently moved to Cape Town after a long career heading international operations at a leading British bank based in Dubai.
“What I learned is that what’s good for the body is also good for the planet,” said Baillie, the co-founder and CEO, during the regional soft launch at the Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah in Dubai.
“A plain tiger is an orange butterfly found in the region and ‘they’ say seeing one signifies positive change. They kept landing on our conference room window as we were building the business. And so, we named the brand Plain Tiger: A global platform for conscious luxury lifestyle products.”
The first of its kind, the platform curates leading ethical and sustainable fashion, beauty and home decor brands from across the world. Many of the 185 brands are exclusively available through Plain Tiger in the Middle East and North Africa and represent the most carefully crafted products from over 20 countries across six continents. These are brands on the rise in cities like Paris, London, Milan, Sydney and New York.
“At a time when sustainability has such a strong focus in the region, it’s the perfect time to be launching in MENA,” said Baillie, who now moved back to Dubai with his wife. “Governments like those of the UAE and Saudi Arabia are driving positive change, and businesses are looking to improve their environmental impact.”
Last month, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince launched a Middle East Green Initiative, aimed at raising $10.4 billion for an investment fund and clean energy projects to reduce carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the UAE will play host to global climate summit COP 28 in 2023. The steps are in place and brands like Plain Tiger have a true opportunity to make a difference.
The brand is also launching a sustainability accelerator in the region, inviting local startups to assess their ethical practices at early stages of building their businesses.
“Sustainability is a buzzword that can be thrown around, but we have really stringent requirements for brands hosted on our e-commerce platform,” said Baillie.
At a time when many businesses are still setting strategies to become net zero, Plain Tiger has already secured a “climate positive” status. Each order made has a positive impact on the environment thanks to Plain Tiger’s three-part strategy: Conscious product curation, minimizing company carbon emissions, and offsetting double the remaining carbon emissions by investing in reforestation projects in Uganda and Brazil through their partnership with leading offset provider Pachama.
Plain Tiger also has a 70 percent female team. The featured designers and manufacturers are all selected for their expertise in their craft and commitment to ethical and sustainable practices, often leveraging processes steeped in tradition and indigenous ingredients or materials. Transparency and traceability is key to Plain Tiger’s ethos.
“We believe you should know the hands that made your products,” said co-founder and director, Alexandra Baillie. Her background in luxury retail includes Estee Lauder, La Mer and The Four Seasons spas.
From the packaging to the material, any product purchased on the site holds a promise of ethical luxury. Add to that the passion of the founders and you’ve got powerhouse potential with a lot of heart, too.