Ecoalf was founded in 2010 in Madrid, Spain by Javier Goyeneche, whose frustration towards the amount of waste produced by developed countries and the disproportionate use of our world’s natural resources lead him to find an effective technique to stop using them in a careless way. So he found that “recycling could be a solution” and created a fashion brand truly sustainable under the name of Ecoalf.
Traveling the world, incorporating revolutionary technology and investing in R+D provided him with new approaches concerning the creation of clothes and accessories totally produced from recycled materials without essentially looking like it. “Discarded fishing nets, post-consumer plastic bottles, worn-out tires, post-industrial cotton, and even used coffee grinds become outerwear, swimsuits, sneakers and accessories”.
In order to remain market leaders, their main objective is to create the first generation of recycled products within the same design, quality and technical properties as the best non-recycled products to prove that there is no need to waste our resources in a neglected way. Ecoalf’s team manages the full process from waste collection, to recycling technologies, manufacture, design and retail to provide the best quality ensuring 100% transparency.
Ecoalf offers a wide variety of recycled products such as coats and jackets priced between €145 and €400, shoes for €80 and lastly their accessories as bags or dressing cases between €25 and €100. The price mainly depends on the material that is being used. Ecoalf fabrics are developed in partnerships with manufacture specialists and currently operate in 14 joint ventures worldwide focusing on collecting, processing and recycling the following materials:
Fishing nets are left on the bottoms of the ocean and are made of synthetic materials that decay slowly destroying complete ecosystems. Removing them is a costly and time-consuming labour. Through recycling discarded fishing nets Ecoalf is contributing to 27% less consumption of natural resources and 28% less of greenhouse emissions while preventing marine pollution.
PET bottles are collected and pass through a series of processes converting them into rough polyester spun fiber used to develop fabrics, straps, labels and laces. Over 200,000 million PET plastic bottles are not collected every year in the ocean. By reusing and recycling them, Ecoalf optimizes the lifespan of plastics which constitute a huge problem nowadays, as we use 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. Recycling PET bottles saves 20% less consumption of water, 40% less consumption of energy and 50% less of greenhouse gas emission.
Tyres contain metals, fabric pieces and antioxidants that difficult the process of separating them and creating a clean powder. Then, it is used for the rubber of their flip-flops line and the outsoles of their sneakers.
Post-consumed coffee is collected every day from several diners and it’s taken to recycling plants were is grinded to a nano-powder size and mixed with polyester in order to create yarn.
Ecoalf has its unique multidisciplinary area in Madrid where they centralize their main shop, showroom and office so as to interact with customers, press and partners. They also sell all around the world through their online website.
“WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE WAY WE INTERACT WITH OCEANS”
Ecoalf has undertaken its most ambitious project to date: UPCYCLING THE OCEANS, an unprecedented global adventure to help clean the oceans of debris through fishermen. It’s a unique, complex and groundbreaking project whose ultimate goal is to transform the plastic debris found in the Mediterranean into thread to make fabric.
Through its Ecoalf Foundation, funded by HAP foundation, Ecoalf has begun to remove trash from the seabed via fishermen off the coast of Levante. This is a massive project organized into several phases, the aim of which is not only to show that cleaning the oceans is possible, but that a portion of the collected materials can be recycled into pellets, thread, fabric and products.
ABOUT THE FOUNDER, JAVIER GOYENECHE
In order to gain insights about the motivations behind becoming a Social Entrepreneur, An in-depth interview with the founder will help us gain insights about the motivations behind becoming a Social Entrepreneur and the challenges raising a Social Business Hybrid suppose.
1) Tell us a bit about your career background and the path that led you to set up Ecoalf.
I was born in Madrid and studied in Spain, London and Paris, while also taking part in top international equestrian competitions. I received my degree in Business Administration from the European Business School and continued with post-graduate work in International Marketing Strategies at North-western University in Chicago.
In 1995, I founded Fun & Basics, specializing in contemporary fashion handbags and accessories. Within 10 years, I grew the business to 350 points of sale and 70 branded retail stores. In 2009 I sold Fun&Basics brand and started to think of creating a new concept.
2) When you founded Ecoalf, what was the idea of the social impact you wanted to create?
The concept of ECOALF was born in 2010 after the birth of my son, Alfredo (the company is named after him) when I was reflecting upon the world we leave to the next generation and my frustration with the excessive use of the World’s natural resources. I decided to create a fashion brand that is truly sustainable. I thought the most sustainable thing was to stop using our natural resources in a careless way.
3) What is Ecoalf ´s main competitive advantage?
I think our main competitive advantage businesswise is that we are not a normal fashion brand, we have a true story behind it and not only a story, but a reality. We really believe that there is a new generation of consumers that want to support and follow brands that represent certain values they feel comfortable with. Fast Fashion will slowly fade in time, while sustainable fashion becomes essential.
4) How is the Company creating money and differentiating?
We have a clear goal and we work in order to accomplish it. This goal is to create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products, to show that we do not have to use our world’s natural resources in a careless way.
Our objective is to continue to invest heavily in sophisticated processes of recycling that allow us to remain market leaders. We create money like all fashion companies: selling our products. From 2017 we will have another line of profit as we are going to start selling a filament 100% recycled to other fabric companies.
5) According to the social values and commercial goals vision, is there any existent tension balance between them?
When ECOALF first emerged, our first challenge was to change people´s conceptual approach of recycling, as recycling and quality did not seem to connect. People imagine us taking their grandmothers quilt and making a simple rough backpack.
Our efforts during the past years have clearly proven that recycling connects with quality and design, resulting in a boosting change of mentality where people now believe trash equals natural resources with the same quality. Hopefully, in a near future, our vision and efforts will encourage others to move in the same path, as more sustainable fashion labels will emerge resulting in a global compromise towards recycling and sustainability.
I believe that this change will be not be driven by governments but by small companies who will step by step guide the small customer towards this world compromised with sustainability and demonstrate that things can be done in a different way. A new generation of brands searching for new ways to improve the impact on the environment whilst creating a great product. Transparency and the future proof of products and brands are the luxury re-definition of our generation.
Young labels with fresh energy who want to stand for something they really believe in. Fashion cannot just be about looking good.I truly believe that 2017 will be the year for many young companies trying to do things in a different way to arise.
6) How does Ecoalf manage to balance social values with business profit?
First of all, Ecoalf needs to be profitable to exist in the long period. And it is very important that companies like Ecoalf make money because through that way we can demonstrate that you can do things in a more responsible way and be profitable at the same time. I always say that we do not have to loose time trying to change and fight the actual system but putting our energy in creating a new model that will make the old obsolete.
7) Has the social cause “To create the 1rst generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products to show that we do not have to use our world’s natural resources in careless way” changed in any way since the foundation of the Company?
The mission of our company has remained the same since I founded Ecoalf, encouraging a sustainable future towards the fashion industry and believing every day in our idea and the change we are generating. Being loyal to our mission enables us to diversify into different product categories and different collaborations.
9) Was it a challenge for Ecoalf to diversify without drifting the mission of the company?
The company`s mission has been clear since the beginning: Create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality and design as the best non recycled. Being loyal to that mission allow us to diversify in different product categories and different collaborations.
We are just trying to design great products meanwhile we try to harm as less as possible our planet and demonstrate natural resources are not endless.
10) When you founded Ecoalf, were you trying to target any specific community of people? By this I mean any group of people who have concern for the same things, such as recycling, or pollution or environmental friendly.
Ecoalf is a fashion brand and we first of all target fashion consumers. As our product is timeless we can target people from different ages, professions and social status. Ecoalf is a life style brand who transmits certain values with whom certain people seemed more attracted. Obviously the people who are more concerned about sustainability are more sensible to Ecoalf and what we represent.
11) Do you organize any type of events to create awareness about recycling, or participate with any NGO?
We do participate in a large amount of events not only to create awareness of the situation, but also to demonstrate that things can be done in a different way. For example, I was invited by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, to participate in the Our Ocean Conference 2016 in order to talk about the Ocean`s problematic situation and our Upcycling The Oceans project. We have also been invited to talk in Sustainable Brands Istanbul, SB Bangkok, SB Barcelona, Planet Textiles (Copenhagen), at the OECD, …etc.
We also co-organize Planeta Responsable in Barcelona and the Photography Context Upcycling.