Sustainable activewear is a growing market in Korea. Sublime interviews founders of Ekopado, Lisa Yun and Benedikt Birner about their goals to inspire responsible consumerism and encourage an active lifestyle.
Sublime: What inspired you to start up Ekopado?
Lisa Yun: In Asia, consumers are increasingly striving towards a high quality of life which includes good health and a responsible lifestyle. Through this strive, the environmental issues on our planet have become more and more present and the demand for sustainable products is on the rise. Our research has shown that about 90% of millennials would rather refuse to buy from a brand that is harming the environment. Also, more than two-thirds of consumers want to support brands that are doing good to the environment by paying higher prices for their products. This strong indication and our mission to start a project to develop a purpose-driven brand with the target of bringing the needed change was the starting point to launch Ekopado on a cold winter afternoon in Seoul.
S: What does Ekopado bring to the sustainable activewear industry?
Benedikt Birner: Consumers are striving for a healthier lifestyle, the demand for activewear has rapidly increased over the last two years in Korea. At the same time, access to innovative fabrics from the circular economy has become easier with some key manufacturers leading in quality and variety. Based on the feedback and requirements from sports enthusiasts and yoga practitioners, we have worked with a manufacturer on designing a collection that feels like a second skin while giving the support you need during exercise.
All with the principle of sustainability at its core: from the product to the packaging and shipping.
S: Could you tell us about the materials you use from the circular economy?
LY: For our activewear collection, we use the market-leading fabrics from ECONYL®. ECONYL® regenerated nylon is made out of the waste that’s been rescued from landfills and oceans (abandoned fishing nets or so-called “ghost nets”) around the world. It performs exactly the same as brand new nylon and it can be recycled, recreated, and remoulded again and again. As well as being a solution to waste, ECONYL® regenerated nylon is also better when it comes to climate change. It reduces the global warming impact of nylon by up to 90% compared with the material from oil. For the packaging, we decided to use recycled cartons and compostable mailer bags to further reduce the waste.
S: How do you plan to inspire customers towards responsible consumerism?
BB: Many brands are not very transparent about how and where their products are being made. Also, customers need to understand the problems behind the short lifecycle of fast fashion products which are often thrown away once the trend changes. We will include educational information about these issues and also stories about other brands that share a common vision with our brand messages on social media.
The goal of sustainable brands must be to work together to enlarge the circular economy- all to benefit the requirements of the consumer.
S: How has Korean style influenced the design of the garments?
LY: Korean fashion (K-fashion) which is strongly influenced by the K-pop culture has become a hot trend for its unique style. Korean consumers are very particular about their fashion choices but very open to new things. We embedded the core spirit of K-fashion into the Ekopado brand and our activewear collection- simple yet chic and elegant. Ekopado launched in Korea with shipping options worldwide. Over the next years, we will expand our presence to other Asian countries and also Europe.
S: What is the reasoning behind the brand’s name and what are your brand values?
BB: Ekopado stands for “green wave” in Korean and reflects the attention to environmental issues that is very present nowadays in Korea. We chose this name with regards to the change which is happening to how products are made, shipped, and distributed. Therefore, the brand values for Ekopado represent quality for long-lasting while comfortable products, the usage of sustainable materials from the circular economy, and transparency within our supply chain to only work with certified partners.
S: How do you ensure Ekopado is as sustainable as possible?
LY: Ekopado is conscious of the impact on the environment from the start till the end. We target to use 100% regenerated materials to manufacture our products with a certified partner who fairly compensates their workforce. Also, we have introduced a sustainable approach in packaging, as a start, we have minimized the packaging material at a minimum level to avoid waste within the shipping process.
The packaging materials we use to protect the products during shipping are all biodegradable (outer packages) and recycled (wrapping papers).
In this way, Ekopado targets to keep waste at a minimum for the product sourcing and distribution process.
S: Could you tell us about your plans for supporting local projects and charities?
BB: When we started the Ekopado project, the goal from the beginning was to give back to local organizations in Korea. There are so many great initiatives ongoing, for example, the Dolphin conservation project in Jeju Island or local clean-up events that need sponsorship. As our support, we will donate part of our revenues and get personally involved as far as we can. This is part of our company DNA as a purpose-driven brand.
S: How does Ekopado benefit the body, mind, and planet?
LY: Our activewear collection is designed to be stretchable, soft, and breathable to give the body the support it needs during physical activity. It is perfectly suitable for Yoga routines that also focus on mindfulness. An aware mind is a core for a healthy lifestyle besides exercise itself. Through our collaboration with local organizations and charities, each product sold will have a positive impact on the environment. Together with our brand values, this forms the purpose Ekopado wants to drive.
S: What can people expect to see from Ekopado in the future?
BB: We have started to sample more styles within the activewear line which will be available this summer. Also, due to the popularity of comfortable loungewear, we started to develop an organic cotton collection that is perfectly suitable for cosy days at the home office or casual days out. Stay tuned and make sure to follow us on social media for the latest updates.
About the Writer
Emily Bowles is a young fashion journalist with a passion for social and environmental issues. She likes to explore the culture surrounding sustainable lifestyle, especially ethical fashion. She is currently studying final year at Southampton Solent University.