Sustainable and Stylish: Volo Apparel

Leaving his job as an ESL teacher in South Korea, Pakistani-American Qasim Anwar had little more than inspiration and motivation when he started Volo Apparel. But once inspiration struck, there was no stopping Anwar on his mission to provide a sustainable and practical product, head and shoulders above the competition.

“The idea revolves around the pockets and then slowly developed into a full-fledged athleisure brand focused on connection, especially with our manufacturers and our outdoor community, while creating a revolutionary product that was focused on pockets for both men and women,” Anwar said in an interview with Hummingbird Mag.

In popular fashion, environmental sustainability tends to be a lower priority than looks and clout. But Anwar hopes to change that. The vision of sustainability is difficult to keep up in an industry dominated by huge companies that offer remarkably low prices, but Volo offers genuine sustainability.

Volo Apparel’s goal is to be fully solar-powered in two to four years, and they already don’t use plastic in their shipping process — clothing will be shipped in cardboard with biodegradable packaging.

As the startup’s founder, Anwar has a direct hand in every step of the process, showing a dedication crucial to sustainability.

“Our degree of separation from the manufacturing process is very small,” Anwar said. “I personally overlooked the manufacturing of the products this summer, designing the products in California, and then executing the plans in Pakistan.”

Part of Anwar’s direct involvement has come through sourcing Volo’s materials. 

“Eventually, the plan is to create our own fabrics by weaving them using ethically sourced threads or cotton, depending on the product,” Anwar said. “For now, we source our fabrics in small batches from the local Pakistani market.”

He spent the summer of 2019 in the Pakistani towns of Faisalabad and Sialkot, personally sourcing fabrics in local factories. Currently, shirts are made from bamboo husk, sugar cane husk, and spandex, and shorts are made from “an extremely durable blend of nylon and spandex, but they’re designed so it lasts a long time.”

His note about durability is key. Creating a product that will last is just as important as sustainably manufacturing a product. What’s the point in creating a sustainable product that just gets thrown into the back of a closet or a trash can after only a month?

Another aspect of Volo’s environmentally-oriented brand is its relationship with the community it seeks to serve.

“One of the big things we wanted to focus on was community as a brand,” Anwar said. “We want to support our communities, whether it’s the rock climbers in San Diego, or craftsmen and workers in Lahore, Pakistan.”

Further in the future, Volo is looking to create a community around their product. Anwar said he’d like to have a community space and store in the San Diego area, hoping the store could double as a bouldering gym where customers could work out in their new clothes and build new friendships.

He went on to describe the importance of properly rewarding his employees.

“We want to instill a rule of sorts into our brand that makes sure workers are compensated in Pakistan based on sales in America,” Anwar said. “I also want to build educational spaces in our factory in Pakistan that could help with continuing education and help our workers gain new skills and abilities.”

Anwar’s goals are strong and impressive in the modern fashion landscape. A product that will sacrifice for sustainability hasn’t been a popular option, but Anwar’s drive and his logistical framework should provide him the opportunity to make a real difference. Support a small business today!

And if you want to make that extra effort to help make this dream happen, check out their Kickstarter.

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