Hats off to graduation supplier with UK’s first carbon neutral gowns


The business behind the UK’s first sustainable graduation gown is expanding its footprint to meet surging demand, with support from Lloyds Bank.

Bedford-based Evess, which designs and supplies sustainable and technology-enhanced graduation gowns, has expanded into a new premises as it prepares to supply 40,000 students this summer – more than ever before.

Each gown created by Evess uses approximately 30 plastic bottles through its use of sustainable production techniques, making the garments almost 100 per cent sustainable. The gowns are also certified carbon neutral by international supply chain monitoring company Shiftery, which tracks materials to their source, ensuring that all elements of the gown are post-consumer plastic waste.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are implanted within each of the gowns. Sensors on the graduation stage then recognise these chips, so that any photos and videos taken as the graduate crosses the stage are automatically uploaded to the cloud within ten seconds, so that graduates and their families have instant access to mementos from the special day.

The business is using the funding from Lloyds Bank to expand to a larger warehouse and office space in Wixams, outside Bedford. Continuing the firm’s commitment to sustainability, the new facility has solar panels on the roof and electric vehicle charging points.

Evess has already doubled its headcount from seven to 14 people and is looking to grow the team further is it plans to more than treble the students it clothes over the next three to five years.

Martin Lewis, managing director of Evess, said: “The idea for Evess came about on my own graduation day, when it cost more to rent the gown than a car. I realised that it’s an industry of only a handful of companies and it hasn’t evolved for over 150 years. It was then that I saw an opportunity to bring graduation clothing into the future.

“While still rooted in tradition, the tech and sustainable elements of our gowns reflect the modern student, who’s much more conscious about the impact they’re making on the environment. We can confidently say where all our recycled plastic has come from to ensure that the gowns are carbon neutral, and by introducing the tech right at the very beginning of the creation of the robe, we’re able to do this at a much lower cost compared to other businesses looking to retrofit their gowns.

“The support we’ve received from Lloyds Bank has been instrumental to our growth and they have been completely by our side during our expansion. Graduations have been delayed due to the pandemic, so we’re really excited for this summer to not only supply students with our gowns, but also see them celebrate their successes with their classmates in-person.”

Russell Dermont, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, said: “Graduation days are extremely special and resonate with many of us. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to work with Martin and the team at Evess, who are working to make the experience as personable as possible.

“Evess is paving the way for a more sustainable future in fashion. In creating the one of the UK’s first fully sustainable items of clothing, other manufacturers can take note and find new ways to make a positive impact on the environment. This is especially important in an industry that contributes to 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. We’re proud to support the business to expand and drive sustainability.”