Provided by Skunkfunk
We have come a long way since we started back in the late nineties. We started small, with just a line of t-shirts and when we had a complete collection fully designed by us, we were still manufacturing it all in the Basque Country - where there is not much textile industry. We were doing it all by ourselves and this is how we learned the business, as none of the three people on board back then had any design or textiles background.
“We did it because we didn’t know it was impossible”
Mikel Feijoo, Skunkfunk’s founder and president.
SKUNKFUNK was born in nature and has grown on a non-stop journey through international urban landscapes. The brand is absolutely inspired by the all-green Basque nature but, at the same time, it integrates details from really far away. A global and local vision combined. A perfect balance between international citizenship and strong local identity.
We manufactured the prototypes with our friends’ help, searched for materials in European fabric and trim fairs, and transported all of the products from one place to another along the value chain: from the cutting factory to embroidery, printing, sewing, and finishing – all small factories, most of them cooperatives. There we were, back and forth with long production lead times and lots of headaches. As quantities grew, we moved to Southern Spain, Morocco, and eventually to Turkey. It was not so much about better manufacturing prices but more about larger capacity and timing.
By 2004 we had already set foot in Hong Kong and, from there we moved on to China. There we found a completely different approach to manufacturing: big factories in massive production areas in the endless towns of southern China. We also realized the impact our consumerism and their manufacturing practices had on both people and the planet. It was shocking, yet exciting, to see the factory of the world.
After a few initial bad experiences with buying houses, we learned the benefit of working in direct contact with the factories. We regularly visited them and had our own control of our supply base.
That was also how we started sourcing materials that we considered more sustainable, and we also met people developing new techniques such as dry dying, saving tons of clean water… Step by step, we were approaching a new way of understanding and making fashion.
As early as 2004, we started using fibers such as BAMBOO, SOYA, HEMP, FLAX, MODAL, ORGANIC COTTON, and later on, RECYCLED FIBERS. But that was our first contact with this kind of sourcing and, as we kept on learning, we realized sustainability in textiles is a highly complex matter… For example, we learned that BAMBOO is not such a sustainable fabric since the fiber is extracted and developed chemically, that SOYA has been linked to deforestation in some areas and its production processes have such a lack of transparency, we could not be sure of its sustainability.
This journey is a constant learning process; that’s also how we understand sustainability: an active journey that leads to excellence with a lot of passion and some hard efforts in between.
As we went deeper in this sustainability issue we realized it had to be mainstreamed along the company for it to be successful. We searched for help within organizations that had been working on sustainability and textiles for a while, such as Textile Exchange, people who, just like us, think that sustainability needs to become part of our core business.
And so we went back to the meeting rooms to get everyone in the company involved making the different departments hands on in order for us to make significant progress.
Green is our color and our approach to fashion. ACT IN GREEN! is our motto and it expresses both our sustainability vision and our participatory action philosophy.
We have grown even closer to our clients, and our aim is to be part of their lifestyle. We share our vision with them and share what we know, empowering the final consumer to make change happen. We want to provide people with tools to make informed choices, fostering in this way a more sustainable textile industry.
Apart from having a priority of integrating environmentally preferred raw materials in our collection, the company also put emphasis on bringing changes to the way we consume, creating concepts of durable and multiFUNKtional items in an effort to increase their lifecycle. Skunkfunk style is authentic and doesn’t follow ephemeral trends that perish in few months; we would rather create a personal look and break the rules imposed by fast-consuming fashion.
Skunkfunk is always looking for new green actions and change catalysts. The struggle goes on.
By Liesl Truscott
One of the best ways for the world to manage textile waste is to work on society’s ‘attitude’ to clothes and clothes consumption. Imagine if textile companies could not only manage waste more effectively but radically change the way we value and treat our clothes.
Imagine if we, particularly in the West, could go from:
- FAST fashion ... to ... SLOW fashion
- A search for the cheapest price (often badly made and not capable of withstanding more than a couple of washes)... to ... a considered purchase (that might cost a little more but is admired for its craftsmanship and cared for so it lasts longer ... maybe even mended to make it last longer still....?)
- ‘Made by Unknown’ ... to ... a meaningful and ethical choice (such as a garment made from organic cotton grown by a farmer cooperative, where the community is benefiting from responsible trade and safe and healthy agriculture).
- 'Wear it once' ... to ... 'Improving with age' (value the character it acquires and memories it holds)
- 'Throw it away when [for example] the kid has grown out of it' (which they tend to do in a few short months) ... to... 'Extend its life. Pass it down to a friend’s toddler to dribble and wipe goodness-knows-what on!'
The challenge with more-is-less is ‘where’s the business case?’
Well, along with increasingly prohibitive environmental legislation (download our Waste: Fast Facts if you haven’t already) and other drivers to do more with waste and conserve resources, there is a growing ‘culture’ interested in making things to last and making things last. We all need to adapt to life in the 21st century – and find ways to build a viable business where 'less is more'!
What started as a growing interest in ‘retro clothes’ and ‘vintage’, driven by young low income consumers (such as students) in the 90’s has grown into an even more colourful and lucrative affair a decade or so later. Oxfam in the UK simply revolutionised charity shop fashion with their 'loved longer' slogan and by taking 'op shopping' online.
But it's businesses brave enough to use the first 'R' word: Reduce, that are taking us to the next level. Patagonia actually tells their customers “not to buy what they don’t need” and Howies mantra is “Let’s make things that stick around for a long old time”, Katvig bought back the ‘Swap Party’ (a little different from the 1970s version ☺). Last year, the iconic and increasingly green Vivienne Westwood told us all to “give up shopping for at least six months —to keep our landfills from filling up.”
(Image: Snapshot from Anvil's Track My T)
Further examples of innovative business strategies are aimed at changing the way consumers connect to their purchases such as Anvil, Icebreaker, and Mammut-Remei’s tracking tools that take you back to the cotton or sheep your very t-shirt was grown from. These companies have committed relationships with their fiber producers and are making profound improvements on the way supply chains operate – doing business as if people mattered.
There is also a fabulous spin-off industry based on the revival of knitting circles, such as the uber-cool sewing cafe Sweat Shop in Paris. ‘Swishing’ is the new ‘girls night out’ and is probably right up there with E-bay, Facebook, and Twitter in terms of innovation sliding quickly into the everyday. Plus, it plays to the addiction for something new and different, but without the costly ecological price tag. Surely there’s a business opportunity here for fashion companies to lease their clothes, in the same way Ray Anderson of Interface did a few years back with carpet? The business driver here is to make sure it is built to last! And Ray was truly loved for his vision. And quite frankly, how many business leaders – or carpet sellers - are described on the company website as ‘the adored chairman and founder of...’?
Once again it comes down to innovation, leading the pack, and finding ways to turn a challenge into an opportunity. Isn’t that the first rule of smart business? Yet I wonder if business leaders have ever been more challenged by this ‘opportunity’. Finding a way to prosper by using less of the world’s resources and creating a culture of inter and intra-generational care is every businesses responsibility, and everybody’s business now; empowering us all to act as change-agents.
The Slow Movement
Professor Guttorm Fløistad of The World Institute of Slowness explains the philosophy of the slow movement as:
“The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on, you’d better speed up. That is the message of today. It could, however, be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to rediscover slowness, reflection, and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.”
And if you can find the time... take a read of ‘The Paradox of our Time’ by the 14th Dalai Lama:
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall men but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
How can the outdoor industry do its part?
Written by guest blogger Benjamin Marias
The European Outdoor Group (EOG) http://www.europeanoutdoorgroup.com/ is an association set up to represent the common interests of the European outdoor industry. Part of the EOG’s mission is to provide a common position on sustainability topics for the outdoor industry, which it does via the Sustainability Working Group (SWG) and initiative started in 2008. Thus, the EOG and the SWG work to ensure that the industry is up-to-date on relevant environmental and health and safety issues. Product End-of-Life (EoL) is one of the hot topics. A specific task group (open to all brands, retailers, recyclers, etc. we encourage everyone to actively participate) was created three years ago in order to:
- Understand better the process of what happens next
- Provide and promote cooperative EoL-solutions for the European outdoor industry
- Educate industry and consumers
Thus, four projects have been defined:
1. Better understand the bottlenecks: To identify where the bottlenecks are within the garment recycling industry, as well as the core questions to ask the key players: Retail, Charities, Clothing Recyclers/Collection and Sorting, Yarn Recyclers/Spinning Mills, Brands, and Consumers.
2. Educate and provide information to the consumer: A single page document that can be used by brands/retailers in their consumer communications: The objective is to summarize textile recycling options that are available to the consumer in order to divert as much postconsumer textile waste from landfill as possible (a beginner’s guide to…what might typically happen etc.).
3. Provide information to the industry (brands): A single page document for the industry to use describing the status of EoL, giving statistics, recycling routes and how to contribute. The objective here is to give a clear overview of what options are out there, in Europe and within each European country.
4. Develop EoL indicators though the Index http://www.apparelcoalition.org/. In collaboration with the Outdoor Industry Association and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition our goal is to help companies to establish an EoL program with measurable targets as well as specific communication to the consumer.
All the results of this work will be presented at the next OutDoor Show in Friedrichshafen (July 12-15, Germany). Everybody is welcome to join the discussion and to contribute!
Just a quick reminder, EOG’s role is limited to providing guidance, collective negotiation and the promotion of key issues, as decisions regarding sensitive matters such as manufacturing, positioning or competitiveness, can only be made by companies themselves.
Chair of the SWG EoL Task Group
Coordinator of the Outdoor Sports Valley Sustainability Committee
Co-managing director of AZIMUT INNOVATION
Picture: Benjamin Marias
Written by Charline Ducas, Textile Exchange Sustainable Materials Specialist
According to the Eco-Index, waste encompasses excess non-reusable, non-recyclable raw materials; by-products in processing; excessive, non-reusable, non-recyclable packaging; harmful and hazardous substances used in a variety of processes from extraction and farming. Waste is prevalent throughout the lifecycle of a product.
Sources of Textile Waste
Textile Waste is generated at both pre-consumer as well as post consumers stages.
Pre-consumer waste comes from any excess material created during the steps of material and product manufacturing, e.g. selvage from weaving, fabric from factory cutting rooms, or excess production and unsold items that might normally be disposed of as waste.
Post-consumer waste comes from household resources, for example used apparel or home textile products.
Why is it a concern?
Each year, millions of tonnes of textile waste are discarded, recycled in very low quality products, sent to landfill or incinerated. There are concerning environmental impacts associated with these practices which include:
Discarding of valuable textiles raw materials with potential for reuse at a time of increasing scarcity of virgin resources
Limited landfill space, in a world with increasing population and consumption patterns
Release of greenhouse gases and toxics, in landfills or incineration
Increased governments focus on commercial waste and producer responsibility to meet the increased recycling/reuse/prevention targets
These issues are of vital concern to companies in the textile sector, since as the creators of this waste, they are expected to also become creators of the solution. Not only chances of bans on recyclable textiles being disposed ofare becoming increasingly likely, but the costs of virgin resources and securing long term business are also rising, rapidly bringing waste strategies high on many companies agendas.
It is therefore important that brands, retailers, and manufacturers develop sound strategies for reducing waste creation but as well for developing solutions for closing the loop.xtiles being disposed of are becoming increasingly likely, but the costs of virgin resources and securing long term business are also rising, rapidly bringing waste strategies high on many companies agendas.
Opportunities resulting from waste minimisation strategies
Better resource management
Improved corporate responsibility
New business opportunities
Practices to promote: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The waste hierarchy refers to the 3 (or 5) Rs of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, (Recover and Reject) which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability. The Rs are meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance. This hierarchy has taken many forms over the past decade, but the basic concept has remained the cornerstone of most waste minimisation strategies.
The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste, and can be considered in the same way by any actor, from individuals to companies and public sector institutions.
Want to know more?
Look out for our FastFacts on Textile and Product Waste which will be released next week.
Want to share what your company is already doing in this area? We welcome your comments on this blog!