The Giving Movement: UAE athleisure brand launches during pandemic

The company blends sustainability with social conscience: 'small acts multiplied by millions of people can change the world'

The clothes are designed and manufactured in the UAE. Courtesy The Giving Movement
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If your social media feed has been filled with pictures of The Giving Movement for the past few weeks, you are not alone.

Offering "slick-looking" althleisure wear, this new clothing brand – which launched only four weeks ago in the middle of a pandemic – is the brainchild of British UAE resident Dominic Nowell-Barnes.

When I did the research, I could not believe that it really is not that difficult to find sustainable materials

The entrepreneur believes that clothes can be functional, fashionable and have a social conscience, and so he donates $4 (Dh15) to charity for every item sold.

“We want to achieve over $100,000 in donations this year and based on just the last three weeks since launch, we are already on track to do that. That is a great first start, especially in this environment.”

An unconventional brand in many ways – not least for debuting during a global crisis – The Giving Movement was born out of a desire to offer something different.

“I wanted to do something that would excite me and that would also have a positive impact.”

Dh15 of every purchase from The Giving Movement goes to charity. Courtesy The Giving Movement.

Nowell-Barnes started his first company at 13, selling things on eBay. By the time he was finishing off his A-levels at school, he needed two staff to help him run it. Successful, wealthy and working seven days a week, at the age of 25 he had something of an epiphany.

“I had this lightning moment. I had reached a certain [financial] level and I realised that money does not make you happy. So, I sold the company and moved to Dubai. I had already been coming here and it felt like a happy space for me."

That's when Nowell-Barnes spotted a gap in the market for sustainable active wear, and started looking into options, despite having no previous experience in this field. 

The Giving Movement uses only sustainable cotton, bamboo and fabric from recycled plastic bottles. Courtesy The Giving Movement

“I did really want to do something disruptive – and I mean that in a positive way – to break the mould of the way fashion is currently manufactured and the way it is consumed. But when I did the research, I could not believe that it really is not that difficult to find sustainable materials when you are manufacturing.”

The brand offers leggings and hoodies, cropped T-shirts and even sneakers. The items are priced from Dh99 for a beanie up to Dh550 for a hoodie, and the collection is mainly unisex.

And forget dull black and navy, the brand's palette features lemony yellow, pistachio green, pale khaki and sorbet orange.

Only available online, and made to be worn as separates or head-to-toe, the fabrics are soft, quick to dry and breathable, with four-way stretch for comfort.

Best of all, everything is made from sustainable certified organic cotton and bamboo, and from nylon created entirely out of plastic water bottles. Even the packaging is made from vegetable starch that will decompose in 90 days.

The Giving Movement founder Dominic Nowell-Barnes. Courtesy The Giving Movement

“It took a long time to get the materials right. I spent a year understanding and developing them. I wanted it to be a step above everything else in the market. We have 20 different styles in nine colours and everything can be mixed and matched," Nowell-Barnes says.

The factory is based in the UAE

He has designed every garment himself. "The quick way to launch a brand is to go knock on the door of a manufacturer somewhere in China,” he says. “They will have set patterns and fabrics that you put your logo on. For me that was never an option.

“Our factory is based in the UAE and I decided to work with them because the staff work standard hours. Whatever job within the company, everyone works the same hours, five days a week. Paying a little bit more to produce locally was a no-brainer."

Having ticked so many boxes, some would be content to stop there. Not Nowell-Barnes. “Of course, the most important part is the charity aspect. We donate $4 from every garment, and partner with Dubai Cares, as well as with Harmony House, a smaller charity that has a very direct impact with children living on the streets [in India].

"The reason we choose the sum of $4 is that it [is enough] to give a child on the street [in India] education, shelter and food for one week. The idea is with every garment you buy, you can change someone’s life". For one week, at least. 

Of launching during a pandemic, Nowles-Barnes is sanguine. “We have been planning for a year and just as we were launching, we went into 24-hour lockdown.

“But when we are forced to go back to basics, we begin to appreciate things maybe we did not before. People can now look at the world and see what is actually important.”