RESEARCH by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shown that between 1993 and 2016, Antarctica lost at least 127 billion tons of ice per year. During that time, Greenland reportedly lost 286 billion tons of ice per year.
Elsewhere, glaciers have retreated in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, and Alaska. Closer to home, warmer ocean temperatures have been linked to the formation of more intense hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin.
With this, the Caribbean can expect to see hurricanes like 2017’s Irma, 2018’s Michael and 2019’s Dorian form more frequently. These extreme changes and weather events are just some of the effects of climate change.
With the ongoing climate and environmental crises, young entrepreneur Ricardo Richards, 22, has been inspired to use his online fashion brand, Exotic Apparel, to raise awareness about the issues.
“Exotic Apparel’s latest collection named Earth Collection was a long process in the making. It was inspired by my interest in nature and concerns about the drastic change in climate that have been occurring around the world.
“I was motivated day by day to design this Earth Collection,” said Richards who is a full-time entrepreneur, dedicating his time to building the Exotic Apparel brand.
Richards studied visual arts, with clothing and textiles, as a student of the Arima Central Secondary School which he attended from 2009-14. In 2019 created Exotic Apparel. Offering branded unisex tees and hoodies, the designs are inspired by elements of nature. Its creation was always Richards' dream.
“My first tee design would have been the brand’s logo design. A graphic designer was hired to create it and though I had no idea of what it would look like, I left it on him to create a logo that defined the word exotic.
“Starting a clothing company was always a thought, since I was a young boy. I have always been attracted to fashion and felt happy expressing myself with clothing.
“I just wanted to give others the same feeling I got as a kid with clothing. I wanted them to know they can use clothing to express themselves.”
But the process of making his dream a reality did not come without its twists and turns. Richards recalled the back and forth he endured while attempting to legally register Exotic Apparel as a business.
One major roadblock he faced was previous versions of the brand’s name being rejected. He admitted feeling discouraged by process and contemplated giving up the business idea.
He thanks the people who provided him with support during the process and kept him motivated. They include his friend Nigel Walcott who mentored him and his cousins Adrian, Alex and Karishma Ramsook.
The brand’s new Earth Collection is not just a testament to how far the brand has grown but represents Richards' new-found confidence to face hurdles head-on to reach his desired goal.
He tested his graphic design limits by creating the Earth Collection designs with less than one month’s experience using Adobe Illustrator.
“This Earth Collection is a start to bringing more awareness to the fact that we need to work harder toward fixing climate change and pollution, around the world.
“This collection is also the foundation into starting a clean-up programme, in the near future, where a percentage of profits go into beach clean-ups and other environmentally-friendly activities.”
Exclusively an online business, Richards hopes in a few years’ time to open a physical store. Though being an online business makes the brand accessible, Richards' downsides include, most notably, the inability of customers to try the fit and feel of items, as they would do in physical stores.
With no formal training in business management, Richards said it has not been a challenge to his abilities as an entrepreneur, thus far, but he recognises the need to further develop his skills.
There are plans in his future to study courses in business management, but he is unsure of where that will happen just yet.
“I am looking into doing other merchandise such as vests, hats, slides and probably shoes, in the future.
“I’ve always said to myself that I would like my business to be like Nike, Adidas and ASOS.
“But when I reviewed that, I think I just want my business to be successful while having a great impact on everyone’s life and the environment.”
He acknowledges there are still challenges. Proper advertising can be hard and it sometimes difficult to rake in sales, in a saturated online clothing market.
To overcome these challenges, Richards pushes himself every day to make his brand distinguishable. He also focuses on building a strong relationship with customers to ensure they know they are valued.
Being a young entrepreneur, Richards said there is the benefit of having time to notice where mistakes are made and grow from them.
Also keeping him motivated, is the guidance he gets from fellow entrepreneurs like Arshad Ali.
Ali is the owner of local clothing brand GTEES and Richards first met him while Ali sold T-shirts in the back of a car on Independence Square in Port of Spain.
“He (Ali) pushed himself and now he has his own store in Trincity Mall, slow progress but consistent work while trusting his process.
“He also gave back to those in need while remaining positive throughout it all.”
Social media beauty influencer Tamika Young is another motivation to Richards.
Richards said Young continuously sends motivational messages and power-points which he credits as being a help to him unlocking further self-confidence and self-drive.
“These are two people that I have watched and been motivated by, from the first encounter and up to today.
“They still play a huge role in terms of being a big brother and big sister from a distance.”
To aspiring young entrepreneurs or those thinking to become entrepreneurs, Richards has one message, “Grow with your goals.”
One of the designs in the Earth Collection uses the phrase “grow regardless,” which Richards said is a reminder to continue growing despite whatever maybe one’s circumstances in life.
“You are your best friend when it comes to business. Confide in yourself and work on your stuff, go through the process alone.
“People you may think are supporting you, can also be your downfall when it comes to business.
“Most importantly, give back to those in need with a good heart and you shall reap rewards. Never announce all your moves, stick with your craft and remain focused.”
Beyond being a successful young entrepreneur, he wants to motivate and help others achieve their goals no matter what it may be. For Exotic Apparel, he is currently brainstorming designs for a new collection.