“I felt like I had to do something… I used the network and experience I had to make a sustainable way for doing things.”
You may be shocked to hear that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry. In order to produce one pair of jeans it uses around 7000 litres of water. Now, entrepreneurs, businesses and fashion designers are looking to alternate ways to produce the latest fashion without harming the environment.
Producing one pair of jeans takes 7,000 litres of water and what is worst it that it takes even more energy to transport these items in landfill sites. However, over 90% of textile waste in landfills are recyclable. Alongside his own personal business ventures, this is what has driven Bert van Son, ( @BertvanSon ) CEO of Mud Jeans ( @mudjeansNL ) to pursue a vision which will take jeans into the sustainable market. With over 30 years in the industry, Bert alongside his team of five has learnt a lot along the way and he has ambitious plans for the next few years. In his very busy schedule, Bert finds the time to speak to Bio-Based World News’ reporter Emily O’Dowd to discuss his role and the challenges that he has faced along the way.
Emily O’Dowd (EOD): What has led you to this role?
Bert van Son (BvS): I have been in the textile industry for 30 years. When I was 23 I moved to China where I was able to see everything that was going wrong in the textile industry. From this experience I then started up my own company and formed a licencing textile company in France ten years ago when I saw a gap in the market. There was a lot of pressure in the business but I learnt a lot about brand image and how customers will be willing to pay more for things. I then sold my shares in the company in 2008. Later on in 2008 I decided to take a few years off to travel the world and think. By 2012 I felt like I had to do something to do. I brought my own experiences and networking together to create a fashion brand that could be produced in a sustainable way. I wanted to use the right raw materials and be different. Mud Jeans is registered under the ‘B Corporation’ alongside the likes of Ben & Jerry’s which will help me use business as a force for good getting the right balance between making profit and being sustainable.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about your role?
BvS: A combination of things. Because the textile industry is the second most polluted industry in the world I wanted to make a difference. I like the principles of the circular economy and wanted to contribute towards a sustainable society by using original bio-based materials.
EOD: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the industry?
BvS: Finance. I’ve found that financing a sustainable business is nearly impossible, with other competitors like Primark being able to produce the jeans so cheaply. Also it is difficult to make people choose the sustainable option. It’s a difficult story. We didn’t make any profit in the first two years and so far I have had to finance the business independently but I’m now looking for partners to help support me. This year we have managed to double our turnover even though I’ve had to manage the business myself but I’m looking to double it again next year.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the sustainable/bio-based industry?
BvS: Don’t do it… Ha ha. I would suggest that it would be best to make a very solid business plan, talk to financial people and make sure you choose your budgets. By doing this you can decide your turnover, divide this by two, increase costs by two and then see if this is viable.
EOD: What single change would help develop bio-based/sustainable industry further?
BvS: Well from my own experience it would have to be financial support. It is important to have investors and money to get the turnover going, as well as generating a good volume of products. So far we have had a lot of help and interest from universities in particular so the demand is there we just need that financial push.
EOD: Where would you like to see your company in 5 years’ time?
BvS: I would like to be able to sell one million jeans as well as recycling them to be able to really make an impact.
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product aside from your own product range?
BvS: There are some great examples from Holland of course! I think Waka Waka ( @WakaWakeLight ) is great. I also like Dopper a lot too which is a sustainably produced plastic bottle. Tony’s Chocalonely (@TonyChocalonely) is another because the company produces slave-free chocolate.
EOD: Thank you for your time today Bert and good luck with the success for Mud Jeans.
*This story first appeared on Bio Based World News
How do you challenge entrenched patterns of consumption and disposal while growing a fashion business at the same time?
Join thinkPARALLAX for a conversation with the founder of MUD Jeans, the upstart Dutch “circular denim” brand that is tearing down the idea that sustainability or the circular economy can’t be fashionable.
thinkPARALLAX Chief Strategy and Creative Guusje Bendeler sits down with Bert Van Son, CEO and founder of MUD Jeans, in the streets of Amsterdam to talk about MUD’s disruptive “lease a jeans” business model, the challenges of taking an eco-conscious lifestyle brand mainstream, what he’s learned in MUD’s first four years, and what he hopes the future holds for the fashion industry.
Each episode of thinkPARALLAX’s Think & Drink features an informal conversation with a brand that is using sustainability to transform their industry and the world around them. Join us as we discuss successes, failures, and the lessons they’ve learned while pushing boundaries with sustainability.
Geoff Ledford is a Creative Strategist at thinkPARALLAX – a strategic creative communications agency with a passion for building brands with purpose. We work at the intersection of business strategy, sustainability, and communication. Our values stem from the belief that profit and sustainability are not mutually exclusive – good business means doing the right thing. We cultivate knowledge, spread awareness, and create purposeful connections with audiences.
*This story first appeared on Triple Pundit
As leading fashion brands continue their creative battles against textile waste — check out recent innovations by Levi Strauss, H&M and adidas — a new breed of circular clothing disruptor is starting to emerge. These purposeful startups are looking to stop fast fashion in its tracks by building longevity and emotional durability into their apparel.
UK designer Tom Cridland is creating waves, not least among celebrities, with his self-branded 30 Year Sweatshirt. Guaranteeing not just sweatshirts, but t-shirts and jackets, for three decades is an unusual approach in an industry that prides itself on rapid response to ever-changing styles and trends.
Cridland says the answer to this is to design apparel with a classic and timeless feel.
“A white t-shirt, after all, will always be a white t-shirt,” he said in a recent interview. “I just want to invoke a bygone era when clothing was more often made with exquisite care and offer it at a reasonable price point.”
The philosophy behind the Tom Cridland brand is reminiscent of Patagonia’s ethos of buy less, but buy better. And Cridland feels he can influence those consumer groups who buy most into fast fashion.
“It’s interesting that we’re offering a 30-year guarantee so people get drawn in to find out more,” he asserts. “When they read more, they will engage with sustainability issues and hopefully be influenced to change their shopping habits.”
Building in the level of functionality required to ensure that each item lasts has taken the company to Portugal and Italy, where it is working with various seamstresses to handcraft luxury clothing. The fabrics themselves are sourced from Biella in Northern Italy.
“Technological advances allowed us to develop a special treatment to protect the garments against shrinking. Should anything happen to your garment in the next 30 years, we will repair or replace it free of charge,” Cridland says.
Since the brand launched in 2014 it has sold more than 7,000 sweatshirts, worn by customers across six continents. The brand is rapidly gaining a celebrity following — the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry,Daniel Craig, Rod Stewart and Robbie Williams have all worn Tom Cridland garments. “We’ve taken our modest £6,000 start-up loan and turned it into a business with roughly £600,000 in annual revenue,” Cridland says.
The brand has now come Stateside, expanding to LA last month. Plans are now in the pipeline to launch items that might carry more of an ‘on-trend’ look, but Cridland doesn’t feel this will comprise longevity in any way.
“If it’s well-made, it can actually be recycled, unlike the clothing being made by many fast fashion retailers. People can see this is a labor of love for us and they want to try out different designs or colors. That’s the main point – there’s no planned obsolescence in everyday, non-catwalk clothing.”
Other fresh-faced fashion brands such as Mud Jeans and Hiut Denim are making jeans to last through offering similar circular solutions such as leasing models and free repairs for life. Both companies look to promote the concept of emotional durability — Hiut, for example, encourages customers to join the “No Wash Club” and not wash their jeans for at least six months; and every pair of Hiut jeans comes with its own unique History Tag, encouraging wearers to engage in storytelling through social media.
“If we’re going to build a pair of jeans to last, make sure the stories go with them, too,” says Hiut Denim co-founder David Hieatt.
It’s a view echoed by Mud Jeans CEO Bert van Son: “People like the fact that jeans have character … and they like personal stories. They want to hear from like-minded people what they have been doing, what places they visited.
“We call our customers the ‘conscious explorers,’” he continues. “They are a group of people that are willing to try out new things. They want to discover the world and do good for the world. They realize that are recourses aren’t infinite.”
Mud Jeans recently embarked on a Recycle Tour across Spain, to promote the concept of circular fashion to a wider audience. The occasion also marked the company’s first delivery of 3,000 returned leased jeans to a Spanish reprocessor to be recycled back into raw denim for new jeans.
According to van Son, around 1,888 people are currently leasing Mud Jeans — of those, 80 percent choose to switch the jeans, 10 percent keep them and 10 percent send them back. “This means we’re building long-term relationships with customers,” he says.
“It means that as a brand you create ongoing relations with your customers — the relationship doesn’t stop when the purchase is made. The customer benefits as they only pay for the service they require and receive a better service, since we have a greater interest in providing a product that lasts.”
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands