Roamers Corner! ... with Yen Goo, sustainable fashion entrepreneur

Welcome to the Roamers Corner! An interview series that spotlights how travelers, experts, and eco travel advocates we admire incorporate travel into their lives, to live more fulfilling and mindful lives.

In this edition of Roamers Corner we’d like to introduce you to Yen Goo, the founder of Paguro, a fantastic brand we partner with. Based in Nottingham, UK, Paguro isn’t your typical fashion and accessories brand. In today’s interview, we discover the story behind the launch of Paguro and what makes its products so irresistible.

RW: Hi Yen, what do you do and where do you call home?

YG: I’m originally from Malaysia and have been living in the UK for the last 19 years. The time I spent in the UK is now nearly longer than in my birth country, so the UK feels more like home to me now.

RW: What’s the story behind the launch of your company, Paguro Upcycle?

YG: Originally, I was an accountant and tax advisor but after many years working in accounting, I had the desire to set up a retail business of my own. I had become fed up with what I saw on the high street, with copious chain stores and a fast fashion throwaway culture to match. The fashion industry is the world’s second most polluting industry, with the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes being burned or dumped in landfills every single second. I longed for a high street which shared my passion for individuality, quality, and sustainability.

I knew I wanted to create a retail business that was ethical and kind to the planet.

I went traveling as I love associating with people from different cultures and appreciate the beauty in life. During my travels in South East Asia I met designers and craftsmen, each with their own mission and creative story. They make sustainable products out of recycled materials like inner tubes, skateboards etc., to prevent extra waste from being disposed of. I’m now collaborating with such designers to show the world just what can be achieved with reclaimed and repurposed materials, and that it does not have to look ‘cheap’. In fact, upcycled fashion accessories can be stunning, intricate and breathtaking.

What does your company sell?

YG: We sell upcycled bags, accessories, and jewelry made of inner tubes, tyres, bike chain, army tent, skateboard, etc..

In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, how has this crisis affected you and your business?

YG: Our presence at fairs and festivals has inevitably suffered, as has the wholesale side of the business with so many of our stockists using physical shops. The time saved has allowed me to reflect on my business while also rebalancing my work and life. Since I started the business 6 years ago, I have been pushing all out to grow the business organically. The thrill of showing off the products in person led me to do show after show. The downside was that I never really had the chance to sit down and think about how I could make use of the interest that was building for the brand. This time has almost forced me to think about the direction of the business, tie up some loose ends, and really concentrate on future sustainability. It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to concentrate on our online presence and to learn how much can be achieved through technology.

How can our readers support you in this time?

YG: As a company which is based on the values of ethical, sustainable trading, it's more important than ever that we help our suppliers and communities from across the world, those that play a crucial role in our business. Therefore, we have decided to support our key providers and designers in South East Asia, who have been struggling due to a lack of government aid. As a result, we are paying deposits in advance, ordering samples, and supporting their product development.

With customers continuing to support independent businesses like ours it’ll help keep us going and allow us to continue funding our artisans.

We understand that we're all missing out on human contact and missing the small things in life. That's why we've launched a new service to give personalized messages for any of our online orders - completely free and with free delivery. If any of the readers want to send their loved one a gift, they can include a message which reminds them of a happy memory.

What impact do you think the current crisis will have on the future of travel and sustainable travel?

YG: I think people will become more cautious and still keep social distancing once the crisis is under control. But in the longer-term, I don’t think it will have much impact on leisure travel. Whereas on business travel, I think people will be inclined to use more online meetings to avoid unnecessary travel.

If you could travel now, what would be your number one destination?

YG: Italy or Japan, two of my favorite countries. I was due to travel to Italy in April, but due to the pandemic, we had to postpone the holiday.

RW: Thank you, Yen!

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