Founded in 2009, the Spanish company Ecoalf established an innovative concept that combines fashion design with last generation recycled materials. President and founder, Javier Goyeneche, is a young entrepreneur from Madrid who studied Business Administration at the European School of Business in London. He also earned a Master in International Marketing Strategies at Chicago’s Northwestern University in the United States. In 1995, Goyeneche founded Fun & Basics, a fashion label specialized in handbags and accessories, which after only ten years, already owned 70 stores and 350 retail outlets. In 2005, his business success earned him a coveted award as the Best Young Entrepreneur in Madrid.
Dismayed at the amount of waste produced every day in the world of fashion, Javier Goyeneche laid the foundation for a different kind of company, one that was sustainable and environmentally friendly. To this end, he created Ecoalf, a new fashion concept that uses discarded materials, avoiding further contamination to our planet.
Before long, his firm became a global force in the production of recycled fashions and accessories. Their products cover most of the needs of a contemporary lifestyle: outerwear, swimwear, t-shirts, hoodies, shoes, and accessories. In addition, Goyeneche has strategically expanded the distribution of his products, gaining a brand presence in many of the major department stores and retail outlets worldwide.
Ecoalf's designs and concepts have attracted the interest of firms and companies around the world such as Apple, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy, Harrods's and Coca-Cola, among others.
In an exclusive conversation with azureazure.com, Javier Goyeneche demonstrates that thinking outside the box and doing things differently are not only possible, but necessary.
When and how did Javier Goyeneche feel for the first time the urge to preserve the environment by creating fashion from recycled materials?
Ecoalf came to be after the birth of my first son, Alfredo. Seeing the indiscriminate use of natural resources, I conceived the idea of a sustainable fashion brand. I thought the best way to help the environment was to stop using the planet's natural resources. Today, we consume five or six times more than the Earth can generate. Recycling could be a solution if wecould create a new generation of recycled products with the same quality and properties of the best non-recycled products.
How did your project start, and what was the most difficult part?
The greatest difficulty was the market for recycled fabrics. The ones that already existed had a very low percentage of recycling, and very poor quality. So I began to create alliances to develop a new generation of fabrics made with one hundred percent recycled materials, with the same look and texture of the sophisticated fashion textiles.
That required a significant investment...
Yes, but thanks to that we have developed over 60 fabrics from different residues. From the beginning, Ecoalf had to invest considerable resources and time in research, development and innovation. Today we have over fourteen alliances around the world-- Taiwan, Korea, Portugal, Mexico, Japan, Spain, among other countries--with whom we work closely to recycle and create high-quality fabrics from waste. And thanks to our continued investment in sophisticated and innovative recycling processes, we have not only reduced the consumption of natural resources but also give a second life to waste, turning it back into raw material. Ecoalf seeks to satisfy our current needs without compromising those of future generations.
Ecoalf started out with a bottle made of PET plastic (polyethylene terephthalate or polyethylene terephthalate) which was turned into a piece of fabric and then into a bag. What materials are being currently used?
We still recycle plastic bottles, but we also use abandoned fishing nets, old tires, coffee residues as ,well as postindustrial cotton and wool. These materials go through complex recycling processes to obtain fabrics that will be subsequently used to produce garments.
During the early days of the Ecoalf project, did you imagine the success you have achieved today?
A couple of years ago I could not have imagined the level of sophistication and quality of the textures we are getting through recycling. We have spent many years refusing to take "no" for an answer. Therefore, we feel very proud of being such a young and small company doing business with brands like Apple, Barneys, Nordstrom, Goop, and Coolhunting, among others. With Apple USA we created a line of covers for their Macbooks; subsequently, along with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, we designed an exclusive line for her website GOOP. We also made a limited edition for Barneys and one for the popular website Coolhunting. We also collaborate with EKOCYCLE, the brand under which the singer will.i.am and the Coca-Cola Company promote sustainability. These collaborations have helped us to communicate what we do and how we do it because we—I insist—are still a small company.
Why do you think the United States is the most receptive country for your products?
The American society is one step ahead; it moves at a different pace and people are more aware. We launched our brand in the US in 2012 and afterwards we began our expansion to other markets such as Japan and the rest of Europe. The overseas sales account for 90 percent of our total turnover.
The cost of recycling and creating fabrics with disposable materials increases the price of the final product. Is it your goal that anyone concerned about the environment will be able to acquire Ecoalf products at affordable prices in the near future?
Our goal is to make people aware that natural resources are limited and not look away. We cannot continue to live on this planet as if we had another available. There are three product lines within Ecoalf: Timeless, which is the basic; Xtrem, which is the most technical and sporty; and Uptown, which is the fashion line. We want Timeless to become an accessible line, so the price will not be an impediment for anyone to purchase one of our products. Interestingly, in many foreign markets we found that the stores most interested in our philosophy and products didn’t want our more affordable items for their retail outlets.
Apart from what is already being done to preserve the environment, what more can we do?
At Ecoalf we feel a responsibility to expose the fact that resources are not unlimited, they are being exhausted, and we cannot continue to devastate the planet. We want to show that it is possible to do things differently without compromising design and quality. Real luxury is taking care of what is truly valuable: our planet. In Ecoalf, environmental awareness and fashion are complementary to each other. What is the point in creating a next-generation car or a building with sleek architecture, if they don’t bring improvements to the environment and therefore to society? I think there is a lot that needs to be done.
What legacy would Javier Goyeneche like to leave?
I just want to show people that they can be responsible consumers without compromising design and quality. ■
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