The founders of Ninety Percent share their inspirations
My mother and my father
My mother Sudha Mookerjee was a painter, played the violin, sang and was a deeply spiritual soul. She was from the Tagore family of Bengal in India, and her great-uncle was Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who named her after him and taught her to sing his songs. Besides culture and etiquette, one of the most important lessons my mother taught me was that kindness should be the keystone of life. My father Ajit Mookerjee was an author, educator, archaeologist, anthropologist and director of the National Crafts Museum of India in Delhi. He was a pioneer in writing about tantric science and philosophy which inspired international generations in the fields of art and media. My parents’ influence on art and design since I was a child has been profound and this led me to study exhibition design, then to work with architects in London, before venturing into the clothing and fashion, strongly promoted by Tom Singh, founder of New Watch Retailers.
Wildlife in India and Kenya
Visiting wildlife sanctuaries in India and Kenya since the 1980s has had an indelible impact on my outlook on life. Experiencing and seeing the incredible endangered wildlife and tribal legacies of these two countries helped me find my goal: Planet Comes First.
Meet My Para, My Muse!
I met Para in 1987, who was electric, when we both worked for the same company in London that supplied department stores. Para enlightened me about wildlife, organic food, world music and art. She was the first person to tell me directly that “Planet Comes First”. As we shared our thoughts, between aesthetic, social and environmental topics, it became clear that whatever we did together would be something we truly believed in. In 1996 Para and I started our own clothing sourcing company called Echo Sourcing. in London.
Children of Dhaka
In the early 1990s, during my sourcing trips to Bangladesh, I had an experience that I will never forget. I used to travel daily to Narayanganj, a city south of the capital Dhaka, to visit garment manufacturing units and textile factories. Every day, I had to pass a municipal dump and see children living off it. The stench 500 meters inside the car was so sickening that I wondered how they had done it. Para and I decided to do something. In April 2000, we established Children’s Hope in Bangladesh, which provides comprehensive assistance to underprivileged slum children and their families in the areas of education, nutrition and health care. Most of Ninety Percent’s garments are produced in our factory and textile factory, Echotex, in Bangladesh. Echotex was built on three pillars: Planet People Product.
Within six months of our operation, we were awarded the National Environmental Award of Bangladesh for 2010. Currently, Echotex is considered one of the largest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified manufacturing plants in the world. It is the first textile factory in Bangladesh to be a Road Map to Zero contributor, certified Platinum on the Higg Index and a certified Fair Trade manufacturing unit. This year, we are potentially becoming the first textile factory in Bangladesh to have zero liquid discharge, with 96% of our water to be recycled and 4% to evaporate.
Shafiq and Para
Live 8 and Make Poverty History
In 2005 Live 8 arrived, Make Poverty History was in full swing and people were marching to reduce third world debt. It was a momentous year for us and we started to wonder how big business was run and how governments were intertwined – lobbying and sleaze. We believed that traditional business models were about taking, not giving back, either to the planet or its people. As we only knew clothing and fashion, we created a fashion brand that had to challenge the status quo; based on contemporary products made to last, donating 90% of its distributed profits to the people who make the clothes and five causes focused on social and environmental justice: Big Life Foundation, Brac, Children’s Hope, War Child & Wild Aid.
Meeting with Nick Brandt and the Big Life Foundation
Nick Brandt is a huge inspiration to us, someone who stopped making music videos to give his life to document ecocide. Meeting him several times and discovering his amazing and impressive photography which gave us goosebumps. We heard about his charity, Big Life Foundation, and visited their project in Kenya to see the phenomenal work their organization does. Without much funding Big Life is dramatically reducing wildlife poaching, we want to do what we can to support him and this amazing cause.
Founder of Brac, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
Brac works worldwide with over 150 million people and is currently the largest NGO. Talking to the great founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed on several occasions has been an invaluable privilege. He educated us on the vision of challenging inherent systems by creating opportunities for women, men and children to take charge of their destiny to overcome poverty, against all odds. He once said, “Small is beautiful but without scale there isn’t much impact”. We have been touched by Sir Fazle’s inspiration in our lives and it cannot be overstated and has had an incredible impact on us.