The environmental impact of the fashion industry is huge. This can be attributed to the carbon emissions created in the manufacture and transportation of clothing, as well as the waste produced by consumers when products have reached the end of their life. The rise of so-called ‘fast fashion’ has created a wasteful culture: some shoppers will wear an item of clothing only a handful of times before throwing it away and replacing it with something more on-trend.
However, some environmentally conscious fashion companies are trying to make the industry as a whole clean up its act. Pure Sportswear, a Dutch start-up that sells sportswear made from recycled plastic, has been one of the movement’s leading proponents. World Finance spoke to Duvan Couvée, the company’s co-founder and CEO, about the brand’s sustainable ethos and why it appeals to consumers.
Could you talk us through the clothing production process at Pure Sportswear?
Our sportswear is made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, bottles. These are taken from the ocean, self-waste disposal sites and other collection points before being transported to a processing location. The collected plastic is first washed and then ground into small pieces we call ‘flakes’. The flakes are sorted by colour, washed once more and melted into granules, which are used as the basis for creating our products. For our sportswear, the granules are spun into threads that are used to create fabric. The fabric is then dyed to the required colour.
As a company, we believe in plastic-free oceans and cleaner environments. using recycled plastic to create our clothing allows us to bring these two beliefs together
Sustainability is very important throughout this entire process – all the paints and inks we use are free from toxic and carcinogenic substances, ensuring they are safe for contact with humans and the natural world. It is also important that there are no hormone-disrupting substances in the ink we use. The fabric is cut according to the clothing pattern, and the loose pieces (a front, a back and two sleeves) are sewn together using our yarn, which, as well as being sourced entirely from recycled material, is of the highest quality.
Why is this approach so sustainable?
As a company, we believe in plastic-free oceans and cleaner environments. Using recycled plastic to create our clothing allows us to bring these two beliefs together. Creating clothes from polyester requires a lot of energy and water, so by using sustainable production methods, we can keep our carbon footprint and environmental impact to a minimum. In addition, we only store small amounts of stock and typically only produce our products to order, so we can avoid unnecessarily stockpiling material.
Consumers today are more aware of environmental issues. Why is sustainable clothing so important?
Not only is sustainable clothing better for the environment, it is also beneficial for people. There are still many issues found in the clothing industry today, including the use of child labour in developing countries and unsafe working conditions throughout the sector. We were inspired to combat these issues by creating a brand that makes people aware of where their clothing comes from and how it’s made.
Pure Sportswear originated from an ideology: change comes from people who take action. The world demands change and it happens gradually, step by step. Unfortunately, we have not seen a great deal of change in the sportswear industry, so by combining our passions for sport and the environment, we were inspired to launch a sustainable sports brand to try and make a change.
Pure Sportswear is still a young company. How have you managed to grow so quickly in just three years?
At the launch of every start-up, the question of its likelihood for survival is front and centre. Our perseverance, individual insights and lifelong friendships within the management team have helped us along the way, in addition to the uniqueness of our product. However, we should not forget the support of our friends, family and everyone who helped us during our first three years.
What does the next year hold for you?
We hope to see every piece of clothing in the sportswear industry sustainably and ethically produced, with a shift away from profits being the sole determining value of companies. We also hope to see manufacturers receive a fair share of the proceeds.
Our priority over the next year will be to expand our product range: we are currently working on the development of women’s sports leggings made from recycled fishing nets, men’s shorts made from recycled plastic and a women’s top made of wood fibres. In addition, we want to look for other sustainable textiles to work with so that we can have an even greater impact in the fight against climate change.