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Over the previous a number of years, the condemnatory buzz that surrounds PFAS has grown louder. Recognized formally as perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl compounds and informally as “eternally chemical compounds,” the roughly 5,000 human-made compounds that fall beneath the PFAS umbrella are extremely persistent, linked to quite a lot of adverse health effects and alarmingly current in consuming water, meals and even blood and breast milk throughout the nation.
And it’s no marvel they’re seemingly all over the place. Because of their distinctive repellent properties, PFAS are used extensively in quite a lot of items — every part from beauty products to apparel to food packaging and past. Simply final week, a new study by Toxic-Free Future revealed practically 75 % of merchandise labeled as water- or stain-resistant comprise eternally chemical compounds, a discovering that tarnished retailers from Walmart to REI.
Elevated scrutiny has led to some promising developments: The EPA has just lately established a strategic roadmap to check and handle PFAS and a patchwork of state laws are tackling eternally chemical compounds in issues comparable to drinking water and packaging. In the meantime, within the personal sector, a wide variety of corporations have committed to phasing out PFAS use within the coming years. However some organizations are forward of the curve.
That’s why I sat down with Jesper Danielsson, head of design and product at Houdini Sportswear, a small outside attire firm based mostly in Stockholm, Sweden. Leveraging Atmos — a hydrophilic membrane made with recyclable polyester — and a biomimicry-inspired, water repellency remedy by Organotex, Houdini’s water-repellent outside merchandise have been PFAS-free since 2018.
However that’s not the place their round credentials cease. From materials choice — 100% of their materials are recycled, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable or Bluesign licensed — to the implementation of rental, subscription, resale and restore enterprise fashions to the round design rules that information their ethos — Houdini goes full steam forward in direction of a totally round system. The truth is, their goal is to have all services be round by design this 12 months, and for the whole Houdini ecosystem — throughout its worth chain and person phases — to be designed for circularity by 2030.
If we take a step again and take a look at nature because the blueprint, the purpose is a system the place one piece feeds one other, feeds one other into a much bigger circle: a systemic strategy.
Right here’s my interview with Danielsson, exploring the quite a few aspects of Houdini’s round aspirations. It has been edited for size and readability.
Suz Okie: PFAS are clearly prime of thoughts, however Houdini has been PFAS-free since 2018. Inform me a bit concerning the motivations that led to this technique, and what it took to realize it.
Jesper Danielsson: Phasing out PFAS was one step in our journey in direction of making a round system. It is actually a query of holding our merchandise and assets clear to allow them to go from one use to the following.
We began the method again in 2012 and it’s been a protracted, lengthy journey. From the chemistry to how totally different supplies bind collectively — there was lots of trial and error. As a small firm, we wanted to set a transparent course of what the win-wins had been. We wished to guide by instance and work with our suppliers to push ahead in that course.
Okie: What had been the largest obstacles when it got here to this transition?
Danielsson: Efficiency and schooling. The primary large hurdle was to uphold the efficiency side of what we do. In terms of water repellency we really feel that we are able to ship an identical if not higher efficiency, however whenever you begin oil repellency — it isn’t fairly in the identical ballpark.
In order that’s the academic half. We have to assist our finish customers perceive find out how to keep and care for his or her clothes. And by doing that, we are able to then ship an expertise that’s on the identical stage or increased to what they had been getting earlier than. I feel it is vital for us to essentially ship on each features. To not turn out to be a model that’s clinging on to previous requirements, however one which showcases that expertise in nature can work in symbiosis with our merchandise and the system they’re inside — if we are able to accomplish that, we are able to get extra individuals to leap onto this journey with us.
Okie: Zooming out only a bit, I’d love to speak about your design course of. What does that appear to be in observe?
Danielsson: Nicely, earlier than we even put pen to paper, we undergo our designer guidelines. It’s about eight questions, beginning with, “Does this product deserve existence?” Has another person already created the right recipe, and if that’s the case ought to we simply level our clients to that different model so we are able to put our assets elsewhere?
We additionally ask, will it final lengthy sufficient? Is it versatile sufficient? Will it age with magnificence? Will or not it’s simple sufficient to restore? All the best way right down to is it sturdy sufficient for our rental program? And does it have a subsequent life answer?
When a brand new designer on the staff faces that final query, it actually shifts their give attention to why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Okie: Are you able to share a bit about how this design guidelines was created and the thought course of that went into establishing it?
Danielsson: We see our guidelines as a practical instrument that was born from our 4 guiding rules.
First, much less is extra. Discount, at its most interesting, creates versatility. And if we handle to create really versatile merchandise, we have to personal much less merchandise. We will have smaller wardrobes and so much much less impression generally. However much less is extra can also be relevant to what goes into the product. Merchandise which might be much less complicated — don’t comprise PFAS, for instance — are extra pure and simpler to recycle.
“Much less is extra” additionally permits us to make clothes that final for an extended time period, which leads us to our second precept: Constructed to final. That applies to each high quality and to creating clothes that work repeatedly and once more. The sturdiness of our merchandise is one thing that we’re very pleased with: Not too way back we carried out a survey the place we discovered finish customers wore our clothes 1,287 occasions within the product’s lifespan, in comparison with an business commonplace of seven to 10 occasions. At first we went again to that quantity repeatedly and once more, as a result of we thought it didn’t make sense. However we additionally know that some outside guides have been utilizing these merchandise for 10-plus years, and so they’re nonetheless tremendous excited with them. That sturdiness is essential to our philosophy.
The opposite a part of “constructed to final” actually comes right down to fashion. If you wish to have one thing which lasts for such a protracted time period, it needs to be designed to age nicely, to look modern now but in addition in 10 years time. It is by no means been about creating the most recent “new,” however about creating one thing that by no means will get previous.
The third precept is about holistic consolation. As an outside model, that begins with the creation of microclimate merchandise that work rather well, however expands to embrace individuality in thoughts, physique and soul. We try for merchandise that evoke confidence, which you can be ok with having and sporting — which incorporates ensuring that the individuals who produced it have a excessive way of life and high quality of life.
The final precept is, after all, making it round — beginning on the product stage going all the best way as much as the enterprise fashions.
Okie: Talking of your small business fashions — from restore to resale to rental and subscription, you’re pursuing lots of methods without delay. Are you able to share a bit about your motivation for pursuing all these fashions concurrently, somewhat than selecting a lane?
Danielsson: If we take a step again and take a look at nature because the blueprint, the purpose is a system the place one piece feeds one other, feeds one other into a much bigger circle: a systemic strategy.
So we begin with creating actually distinctive, sturdy merchandise. That sturdiness lends itself to a rental service the place our finish customers turn out to be caretakers in our system. However at a sure level these rental merchandise don’t really feel as crisp, so that they’re prepared for resale. These two providers naturally match collectively in that manner. Financially, it’s additionally vital to us to ship accessible, uncompromised merchandise at totally different worth factors. So resale turns into an vital a part of that ethos as nicely.
Our restore service additionally naturally matches into this technique, prolonging the product’s lifespan so it may be rented longer or nonetheless be resold. We provide a lifetime guarantee — a assure that every product and all its elements ought to maintain up through the lifetime of the product. If it doesn’t, we restore it for you. In order that’s lots of strain right down to the design staff to create clothes which might be in steadiness and symbiosis — to ensure this matches along with that.
The subsequent stage faucets into the recyclability — as we undergo all of those cycles, we wish to have saved them pure sufficient to be recycled. Very often we are able to restore one thing and produce it again to life a primary, second or third time. However then in the long run, we’ve got a sorting system within the warehouse to separate out the artificial and pure supplies that return worth to the system.
Earlier than we even put pen to paper, we undergo our designer guidelines. It’s about 8 questions, beginning with, ‘Does this product deserve existence?’
Okie: How do your linked items match into this multi-pronged technique?
Danielsson: We have at all times tried to construct communities. Communities the place individuals can reconnect to nature, but in addition perceive what we as a company are doing. We see this as a necessity to make the round financial system work at scale. At any time limit, an finish person can throw one among our clothes away. We have now no management over that, so we have to construct engagement for finish customers. We have to transfer from a transactional financial system, the place our merchandise are bought and the connection ends to 1 the place the dialogue continues.
A linked good is a gateway. A door that enables for two-way communication. We will use that door to coach individuals on find out how to take care of the clothes and find out how to get probably the most out of them. However it will probably additionally allow different components of our system. It may well allow our clients to lift their hand once they’re able to resell their garment, or when one thing has gone astray and desires a restore.
It’s actually useful in linking our system collectively, but in addition in creating that emotional sturdiness. By way of dialogue, we are able to create a connection between you and your clothes.
Okie: Lastly, how do you concentrate on your impression as a model?
Danielsson: To attempt to make it pragmatic, we quantify our impression by a method, which reads out P x V + L = I.
P is our manufacturing, or our product — making our product and our manufacturing as lean as doable and bringing down the power utilization. That is the place lots of corporations begin. However for us, this meant making every part 100% recycled, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable or bluesign licensed with out compromising sturdiness or efficiency.
V is quantity, which suggests creating fewer, smarter merchandise. In the event you can go out of your bouldering health club to fulfill up along with your in-laws after which end off having a beer with your folks with the identical jacket, we have introduced down the quantity of merchandise you want. Our clothes turn out to be wearable multitools.
By way of that, these multitools can allow and encourage one other way of life, which leads us to L: way of life. If we as a model can allow adventures, that reconnection to nature that creates reminiscences you wish to cling on to — that is what results in the largest impression.