Knowing the supply chain from yarn to fabric is possible through a software that provides end-to-end product transparency. In conversation with Alexandre Sundberg, CEO and co-founder of True Tribe
From spending time backpacking in Australia, Alexandre Sundberg realized that «you don’t need to have that much; I ended up using the same clothing. It was always the basics that lasted and had the quality I was looking for». In order to overcome the waste of fast fashion, an industry that founder Alexandre Sundberg has experience in, True Tribe’s ethos focuses on the ‘bare minimum’. In an effort to reduce the amount of clothing that a customer needs, Sundberg created swimwear that could also be used as sports shorts. «The concept of ‘bare minimum’ is self-explanatory as it indicates that we don’t need much in our lives; only items that are of a high quality. There’s a freedom in not having a lot of things, and instead investing in items that are going to last a lifetime». They are working to create an alternative to fast fashion; «in fast fashion, the low price points are able to convince the masses to choose them. In order to keep up with trends it can feel like the only option is to buy from a fast fashion store. Yet this mentality is gradually changing. Despite the higher cost, it pays off as the product itself lasts a much longer time, and contributes to minimizing an individual’s negative impact on the environment». With this minimal concept in mind, True Tribe attempts to reduce the amount of packaging that they use; «the only packaging that is involved is a pouch made from our ECONYL fabric». With customers being aware of plastic packaging no longer being a necessity; a functional form of protection can then be used in the future.
True Tribe, a Paris based men’s swimwear company have provided innovation in their field to produce garments that aim to remove plastics from the ocean; a concept that «originates from a strong need to reconnect with nature». Using the fabric ECONYL by Aquafil, they have been able to create an item that is durable and functional, which puts the craftsman at the center.
Within the fashion industry, customers have little opportunity to know where their materials were sourced from, if the factory working conditions are ethical or whether the production process itself is sustainable. To overcome this, True Tribe has been working with SUKU, a company at the forefront of Blockchain technology, that uses a series of time-stamped data to track the life cycle of products. This technology enables customers to have the authenticity of products verified, and provides end-to-end product supply chain transparency. For Alexandre, traceability is key in ensuring that the brand is as sustainable as possible. «We aim to set a new standard for conscious fashion; without claiming to be truly ‘sustainable’ as this is a tough ask within this industry. That being said, we strive to be more conscious about our footprint and try to minimize is as much as possible». Using Blockchain, customers are able to scan a QR code on each individual product to show every aspect of the supply chain; from yarn to fabric, software to finished product. The opportunity for transparency with this Blockchain technology encourages consumers to be more demanding as to find out all they can about the products that they buy. Using the QR codes allows both customers and True Tribe to trace their CO2 emissions. This not only makes companies accountable to their customers, to encourage transparency, it also allows them to track their own impacts, and can hold their suppliers accountable. «We’re able to have a full understanding of our operation and performance to allow us to know where we need to improve, and how».
It is utopia for a fashion company to be truly sustainable; «you have to be realistic and analyze the areas where you have the most relevance». Yet True Tribe works to adapt their processes to make steps in the ‘right direction’. «Our next steps are to find a system to document how each operation is made by a specific artisan; to educate the customer as to how each piece is produced. This will allow the customer to become closer, and more invested in the product that they’re buying. They are creating hand-crafted pieces that put the craftsman at the center; «each of our pieces has the signature of the craftsman on it to bring the customer closer to the producer of their garment». True Tribe hopes to change the fashion industry using the concept of ‘bare minimum’ to encourage customers to buy less; and divert their money away from fast fashion companies. «We are shifting away from the exploitative ways of the fashion world and moving back to its roots to create more meaningful connections with the people and more sustainable products». In order to reduce the environmental impact of any fashion product, «we minimize our consumption as human beings which comes through educating our consumers and suggesting the best options out there».
Alexandre’s decision to use ECONYL came from a desire to reduce True Tribe’s environmental impact «sustainability is key to making a business viable and relevant in the 21st century». After extensive research he found that ECONYL provided the best quality of yarn; something that he believes is important if customers are going to invest in a handcrafted piece of clothing. «ECONYL is a great material for us because it enables our clothes to contribute to cleaning up the oceans, saving ecosystems and diverting plastic pollution from the ocean». For every 10,000 tons of ECONYL raw material produced, they can save up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoid 65,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Instead of conventional nylon, it has the opportunity to reduce the global warming impact by up to 90%. ECONYL regeneration begins with rescuing plastic waste found in the oceans, which makes up 40% of all plastic pollution, such as fishing nets. FAO and UNEP estimate that there are 640,000 tons of fishing nets currently in global oceans. This plastic waste is sorted and cleaned to recover as much of the nylon as possible. The separated nylon then goes through a regeneration and purification process where the nylon is recycled to its original material to give it the same quality as virgin nylon. From its fibers, the nylon is processed into a yarn that is suitable for the fashion industry. What Alexandre believes is unique about ECONYL is how «the yarn can be regenerated an infinite amount of times without impacting on its quality; allowing for there to be no end to the life of their products». Aquafil’s president and CEO Giulio Bonazzi discusses how their finished material «can be recycled over and over again, thanks to its unusual ability to return back to the original monomer; the building block that has created the fibre». This gives the opportunity to reduce the quantities of virgin nylon used in clothing, instead swapping for a fibre that is recycled.
Instead of only focusing on the environmental impacts of their clothing, True Tribe looks to put their craftsmen at the center of each product. True Tribe’s production is based in Pakistan where they built a small factory in 2018 with 5 craftsmen. «The rational of this workshop was to purely focus on quality, regardless of the time that it might take to create a piece». Instead of a fast fashion garment that takes 20 minutes to produce one piece, «our philosophy was to say that we weren’t counting the time, rather focusing on each operation regardless of how long it takes». A pair of True Tribe shorts takes 3 to 4 hours to be made by hand, taking into account how their designs move with the body; «that’s an aspect of slow fashion and durability; to address the anatomy of the product and how it’s made». Whilst Alexandre is aware that producing in Pakistan incurs a greater potential for emissions in transport, «we produce there as we can ensure that our workers can spend more time on creating a product of a higher quality». This is a compromise that Alexandre believes encourages customers to make a more conscious decision; allowing their product to be affordable as well as maintaining the quality would not have been practical if producing in France. So as to ensure as low a CO2 footprint as possible, they ship their products by boat. True Tribe has plans to start their first France-based production in September «we’ll be starting small but it’s important to start this local production so that we can begin creating a closely integrated supply chain in Europe. The idea of producing in France is to cater to the needs for potential clients who want to see a more localized production. Everyone needs to be treated with respect and dignity». And, whilst creating a sustainable production process, «Our clients are focused on the human aspect of the brand; what we’re able to provide to our workers».
True Tribe goes one step further than ensuring the use of a ‘sustainable’ material; as they attempt to close the loop in post-production «if you’re wanting to work towards a circular economy, it doesn’t make sense to only offer a product that’s recycled. We believe that you should incentivize clients to send back the items that they no longer want to wear». To account for this, True Tribe have «maximized the workshop in Pakistan to enable damaged clothing to be repaired to make it usable again; we’re extending the life of our product to allow our customers to maintain our ‘bare minimum’ approach». This is a process that Alexandre is hoping can extend to other garments that are not necessarily manufactured by True Tribe; «as we expand and grow the company, this would be in line with the vision that we have». In doing this, they have been able to create a customer base that trusts their work, and in the long-term, is more likely to purchase from them again.IMAGE GALLERY
Blockchain is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain.