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Interview With: EKOCYCLE™
Launching exclusively at Harrods, EKOCYCLE™ is the sustainable brainchild of musician, will.i.am, and The Coca Cola Company™. Together, they have established a pioneering brand that collaborates with well-known labels to create stylish fashion, accessories and luggage out of recycled materials. We talked to will.i.am, Bea Perez, The Coca Cola Company’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Annalise Fard, Harrods’ Director of Home, Furniture, Sound and Vision about the launch of EKOCYCLE and the importance of sustainable fashion.
Can you talk us through the evolution of this project - how did it come about, what was the story behind it?
Will: I came up with the idea for EKOCYCLE around late 2008 and had the pleasure of pitching it to The Coca Cola Company in 2009. We scheduled a meeting, and it was on my birthday so I was like “oh man, I don’t want to miss this opportunity – I’m gonna fly out on my birthday.”
Bea: He didn’t even tell us it was his birthday!
Will: From there, it took about two years to get everything solidified. The whole vision was to see how we could turn Coke into a verb in society. Companies like Google, they’re a verb, Twitter is a verb, and so by saying, “is that an EKOCYCLE jacket?” – that makes it a verb. That means, for this jacket to be on my back - and I’m wearing 30 bottles - someone had to take those bottles, and turn those bottles into flakes and turn those flakes into thread and thread into fabric. So it’s a process, through technology, that allows us not just to be responsible, but beyond productive with the things that we consume and not just chuck it. It’s like new gold, a new diamond in the rough.
Bea: Will came in and presented a hand-carved book and inside were photographs of the story of real things that he has seen of the waste after a concert where you saw bottles everywhere, yet empty recycling bins. So why didn’t people pick it up and recycle it? And so he did his own homework with all the research and data, and finding out how things can turn into other things and brought that story to Coke and said, “I’d like to do this.”
Will: So to be sitting here at Harrods now, six years later, for the first launch – a week before my birthday – means that six years ago to this day I was finishing the deck, preparing for my Coca Cola meeting. And here were are, in Harrods, the best store in the world, and I’m not just saying that because we’re in it, it is literally the best store in the world; there is no other store like this store and to have an EKOCYCLE shop within Harrods just goes to show that you don’t give up, you don’t let up and you see it through.
Why EKOCYCLE? Where did the name come from?
Will: So, I like words. A friend of mine was making fun of me, he was like “Will, you’re the only person I know who’s taken their name, William, and not only turned it into a URL, but you have i.am.plus and you have ill.i glasses – I’ve never seen someone be so resourceful with one name.” So with EKOCYCLE, I thought, you could turn the word ‘Coke’ backwards, and it becomes ‘e-k-o-c’. I know it’s not the real way you spell ‘eco’ but this could be a new way of spelling ‘eco’ and we could make it ‘e-k-o-c-y-c-l-e’ and replace the ‘c’ with community, concept, conscience, consumption, consciousness and collaboration.
Can you explain some of the processes that go towards creating the EKOCYCLE products from recycled goods?
Will: We’ll approach brands such as MCM, we don’t tell them what to make, but we show them the fabrics that we would like to collaborate with, and we leave it up to the brand that we’re partnering with to dream things with the materials that we provide for them. And then there’s a whole different process where there are standards that these companies have to meet.
Bea: We have supplier principles that they have to adhere to, to remain in the programme. So that when you know EKOCYCLE is on the brand, you know the purpose and the meaning behind it.
How do you feel fashion in general could work towards being more sustainable?
Will: Good fashion is sustainable because you don’t want to throw it away, there’s nothing more sustainable than not throwing it away.
What do you see for the future of fashion - do you see brands like EKOCYCLE becoming part of everyone's wardrobes?
Annalise: We think EKOCYCLE will be the future, that’s certainly our goal. Launching it in Harrods, we really believe in it. It was a fabulous idea in the beginning, one that we were very excited with, an idea that’s come to fruition today which we're even more excited with, because when I touched and really saw the products on the shop floor, even I was like, “oh my god” - I knew it was going to be good but I didn’t know it was going to be that good. Today, we think it’s going to be an even bigger vision than we’d originally hoped – everything will be EKOCYCLE.
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