The Spanish fashion brand ECOALF creates sustainable fashion with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled ones. Ricardas Montvila, VP Global Strategy at Mapp, interviewed Carolina Alvarez-Ossorio Speith, Head of Marketing & Communications at ECOALF, to find out more about how the brand is able to create such outstanding, sustainable customer experiences. If you’d like to discover how ECOALF tackled the challenge of creating a more sustainable Black Friday campaign, check out our last blog here.
[Q] You could do what other brands do and focus on products first and then highlight that you are sustainable. Why is it so important for you to lead with values first and almost leave the products secondary – although your products are exceptional?
[A] Thank you! I am very happy to hear that you see that we put values first. We always have this debate internally. When you come to the website for the first time, and you don’t know our brand, you wouldn’t know it’s a sustainable fashion brand. We want to be able to explain that what you do is not enough. How you do is what matters.
ECOALF is based on three core values:
The brand was established in 2009. Our founder Javier Goyeneche set out to create a truly sustainable fashion brand. He wanted the fashion industry to stop using natural resources in a careless way. Instead, his goal was to create a fashion brand that uses recycled materials. Our mission has always been to create a new generation of recycled products that are of the same quality as the best non-recycled products. He also wanted to show the world that there is a way to decrease waste and truly do things differently. Twelve years later, the mission and vision are still standing strong. The philosophy is the same. The commitment is the same.
Whilst on one hand it is important that innovation, research, and development continuously accelerate sustainability, it is just as important that both team and talent are aligned on the same vision. Everyone at ECOALF is convinced that the earth is facing its biggest crisis in climate change. Each day, we set out to find solutions and alternatives to minimize the impact.
Yes, we are a fashion brand, but we need to think beyond fashion. We have responsibilities that are bigger than our business goals. We need to do what is right and feel good about it. I think we carry this responsibility as a brand.
Now to answer your question: it is very important to us to explain why we do things differently, how we are doing this and what it means to purchase a recycled product. The level of awareness is increasing, but progress is still too slow.
I’d like to put the waste we (as a society) are creating into context: There are almost 1 billion garments being produced every year, oh of which 75% ends up in landfills. 95% could have been reused or recycled. There is a huge opportunity there, but this needs to be communicated and consumers need to be educated.
In our marketing and on our website, we showcase the entire supply chain. It starts with the design team creating the eco-design. The team always has the garment’s end-of-life in mind to make sure it can be recycled and can follow a circular design model. The same approach applies to all steps in the supply chain until it reaches the online store. It is important to us to work with the suppliers directly to ensure they have all the right certifications and meet all social, environmental, and ethical requirements that ECOALF stands for.
Once the garment reaches our stores, we are able to fully measure the environmental impact of each clothing item. We can inform customers about the exact amount of water and CO2 emissions saved, compared to the regular/conventional ways of manufacturing. We love this tool, as it allows us to monitor, calculate and improve everything we do. We are a B-Corp certified company, therefore we need to continue measuring our impact and want to improve with every season. It is impossible to do everything perfectly, but it is important to keep the long-term goal ahead of you.
[Q] How would a consumer know how to recycle the product?
[A] This depends on the country and the consumer. In some regions, we are introducing a circular economy programme that allows us to collect unwanted products in containers placed in physical stores. These containers are not only for ECOALF products, but also any product you no longer need. At the moment, this programme is still in its infancy. We are working on identifying the right partners to help us to manage the collections, delivery, sorting and classifying items that can be recycled.
[Q] How hard is it to pick wholesalers that align with your values?
It is an ongoing debate in the company. However, we were extremely fortunate to have aligned ourselves with some great partners since the beginning. When selling via the retail channel, it is extremely important to convey the message in a way that is not diluted. We started putting QR codes directly into our garments, so no matter where the product is, the consumer can be reached with exactly the same messaging.
[Q] I love your slogan. Can you tell me more about it?
[A] “BECAUSE THERE IS NO PLANET B” trademarked brand and has reached millions around the world… sharing the message and images in our social platforms! Every purchase with this slogan results in a 10% donation to the upcycling the oceans project by the ECOALF foundation.
ECOALF designs and markets high-quality textile products and accessories made from recycled materials such as PET bottles, discarded fishing nets, old tires, post-consumer coffee and post-industrial cotton. ECOALF operates an omni-channel model leveraging wholesale (1500 stores across EU, UK…), direct retail (5 Flagship stores) and eCommerce.