There come moments in life where we find ourselves so shocked by something that we are forced into action. For will.i.am this moment came at a Black Eyed Peas concert in South America after he missed his "quick out" (when the audience thinks there is one more song and the band slips out the back). While waiting for 80,000 people to leave the stadium, Will found himself back on stage, confronted by a sea of waste produced by his fans.
Will.i.am's moment of realisation came with the understanding that he could make a difference. All he had to do was tell the crowd to pick up their waste on the way out. Not one to settle for the easy option (we've all seen him pull off space age suits on the red carpet), this larger than life star instead founded EKOCYCLE, a high fashion sustainability initiative that has partnered with one of the biggest brands in the world.
Through a partnership with Coca Cola, EKOCYCLE is using waste creatively, turning consumer bi-products into luxury items. Working with fashion and lifestyle brands such as MCM and Globetrotter, the initiative effectively turns your empty coca cola bottles into your next suitcase or jacket, and even the world's first sustainable 3D printer...
Adam Derry is the Creative Director of EKOCYCLE and has spearheaded brand development. Adam spoke of the need for sustainability to be at the forefront of the fashion industry: "The reality is we should be making what we consume, and consume what we make."
SUITCASE sat down with Adam to discuss EKOCYCLE, will.i.am and the future of sustainable fashion:
EA: EKOCYCLE encourages brands to use recycled materials to create products. Was it challenging for you using limited resources?
We're not only changing the materials that designers use, we're changing companies that are making those materials available in the first place. We made a conscious effort to lead by design. We wanted to create amazing silhouettes, cuts and products and then infuse recycled materials into that vision. It initially seems like a challenge but when you get to the design aspect of it, it's actually just a poly-yarn that can be blended with any fabric. It's very simple. Instead of making polyester from virgin materials, let's use recycled materials.
EA: Why haven't more large scale brands taken on a sustainable means of production?
Well it's funny once you get into it you immediately ask that question, like what? It was that easy? When you look at these large companies they have the ability to use a tremendous amount of fabric. Those companies getting into using recycled materials are going to be the ones that could really create this massive explosion in the sustainability movement. There's tremendous parody in cost. Once you start actually making it there's very little difference. We wanted to create a new base cloth with Ekocycle, so people understood that this is a readily available material.
EA: What is your favourite product you have made?
AD: Well I'm probably biased because I'm wearing it but this is an Ecoalf jacket made using 40 bottles. It's a $350 jacket sold exclusively at Harrods. They have been really exciting because they are very passionate about materials themselves. I also really enjoyed working with MCM luxury bags. It's exciting to take something so on-trend and make it sustainable.
EA: You launched the world's first sustainable 3D printer with EKOCYCLE. Was this an exciting project for you?
There's a little bit of novelty aspect to 3D printing at the moment but it is going to become extremely functional so that's exciting. That one's a little bit of fireworks you know - it's fun and it's interesting and exciting. For me I get really excited about the things that don't look recycled. I get excited that we could have had this whole interview and you'd have never asked me once about my jacket.
I'm not going to ask you right now what the fabric of your dress is, that's just not something you ask but I want to get to the point where the assumption is that it's using recycled materials because, why wouldn't you. Because we're humans and we feed ourselves and we make what we use and use what we make and that's a pretty cool role we play.
And I think that's what EKOCYCLE has the opportunity to do. To change the perception of what materials are and to make assumptions that they're right. And we should be able to look up to big companies and make assumptions that they're using it right and, when they're not, challenge them to do so. That's what EKOCYCLE does.