"I was slowly getting more fed up that no one was really talking about how fast fashion is really impacting the environment."
Better World Fashion is a Danish based producer of sustainable leather jackets. The company formally started up in 2015 and now has five full-time employees. In this week’s interview we spoke to Reimer Ivang, CEO and co-founder of the firm with sustainability at the heart of all business decisions. The leather jackets are produced from second generation vintage inputs with recyclable packaging. This makes the products unique for every customer whilst creating minimal environmental impact. What’s more is that the leather, zips and lining are all recyclable. Reimer explains to our reporter Emily O’Dowd some of the challenges he has faced since starting up the company and why he is confident about the future of the bio-based economy.
Emily O’Dowd (EOD): What inspired you to enter the bio-based industry?
Reimer Ivang (RI): For many years I was an associate professor researching international marketing. It gave me an opportunity to watch how the fashion industry is fully driven by profit as opposed to anything else. I was slowly getting more fed up that no one was really talking about how fast fashion is really impacting the environment. It made me question – is it all about profit? In 2014 my concerns for the environment and the world we were going to be leaving behind inspired me to do something. Now I am a co-founder of Better World Fashion, my partner has 20-25 years of experience in the textile industry working in South East Asia. The new start-up has enabled me to combine academia with fashion. At Better World Fashion we decided to create a company where there are only winners.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about your role?
RI: What makes me most proud is the success that we have had in combining our product and business model to make our clothing range affordable whilst having a positive impact on the environment. We are making it easy and affordable for the customers to consider making these changes. I want us to emphasise that it is extremely easy to be environmentally friendly.
EOD: What is the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in the industry?
RI: When you want to produce a product like our leather jackets which are high quality and highly technical, it is harder to produce. Especially when you source the materials as locally as possible. This means that producing our jackets are more costly compared to sourcing in the far east. We could do what other companies do but we don’t want to - this is the whole aim of our business model.
The increased production price means that some traditional retailers don’t want to stock our sustainable jackets as the markup is not as high as the traditional fast fashion garments. This means that the consumer rarely gets a choice between traditional and sustainable clothing! Maybe more people would choose the sustainable option if they got the opportunity to do so, but unfortunately it’s all about money. We need to convince retailers to stock sustainable garments even though the markup is lower if we are to change attitudes.
EOD: How has the textile industry in Denmark responding to sustainability?
RI: There are definitely more Danish textile companies popping up, but Better World Fashion has been a sustainable pioneer. I would say over the last three years there has been more competition but it just inspires us to sell more jackets! For each jacket we sell, we make a positive difference as they are made from 98 percent reused materials.
EOD: What advice would you give to new start-ups entering the sustainable industry?
RI: The main advice I would give to anyone looking to start business in this field is to follow your passion. Whilst at times this isn’t always easy, you will have very rewarding experiences too which will make your efforts worthwhile. I love meeting customers that are proud of what we have achieved and thank us! The positive feedback that we receive makes it so worth it.
EOD: What change would help develop the industry further?
RI: It is very important for us to get the tipping point. The sustainable industry needs to generate more demand and retailers must give consumers the opportunity to buy sustainable products.
EOD: Where would you like to see Better World Fashion in three years’ time?
RI: Our aim is to have as big an impact as possible and of course – sell lots more jackets! The more jackets we sell – the bigger an positive impact we will have
EOD: What are your favourite bio-based products?
RI: I have taken a lot of inspiration from Mud Jeans. They have developed a model where fashion trends can still be sustainable.
Bio-Based World News will bring this 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brand and provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: email@example.com
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