Within each of us resides a maverick spirit. This series delves deeper into those people who's maverickness paves a way forward in business, creativity and sustainability – awakening our own inner maverick.
Langbrett founders, Alex Nolte and Oli Spies, have created far more than a sustainable streetwear brand. Langbrett is a community. Their stores are a base for proactive change, for doing things differently. They’re known for their in-house events, from outdoor film-screenings to hosting Patagonia on their Worn Wear tour, but it is their most recent project, The Guppy Friend, that has been the most poignant, inspiring the outdoor industry to start questioning their impact on our planet.
Words by Alexander Nolte (Langbrett Co-Founder) | Photography by Langbrett
Firstly, what is the Guppyfriend and why should we use it?
With each wash, an alarming number of tiny fibres from synthetic fabrics are making their way from the washing machine into rivers and oceans. Once in the environment, these fibres break into even smaller pieces and accumulate pervasive bacteria and pollutants. The tiny fibres are consumed by aquatic organisms, which can result in gastrointestinal infections and blockages, reproductive problems, and starvation—problems that ultimately work their way up the food chain.
The Guppyfriend washing bag is the first solution to prevent microfibers from entering into rivers and oceans. Its soft surface results in 75-86% fewer fibre losses compared to washing without the bag and thus extends a garments lifetime. The microfibers that break during washing are captured inside the bag and can easily be removed.
How did you come up with the idea?
We heard about the microfiber pollution first from one of our club members and again during an interview with a marine activist. We tried to understand everything about the problem and came up with a couple of ideas in our favourite beer garden. We wanted to realise the Guppyfriend bag first, because it is pragmatic, affordable and supports us in communicating the microplastic problem.
What’s the journey been like going from problem to solution to the product we have today?
We had multiple challenges, e.g. the open/closed surface ratio: water and detergent need to be able to get through the textiles but at the same time the broken fibres need to remain in the bag.
Overall it took us 2.5 years: we tested countless materials. It took many washing tests with scientific institutes, universities and industry partners until we had the perfect mesh and construction.
Producing a project like this challenges entire industries to be more responsible for their actions, how has the product been received?
The companies we are collaborating with are all working on the microplastic problem – above and beyond offering the Guppyfriend washing bag. They do research and actively inform their customers about the microfiber pollution. Some also support our STOP! Plastic Academy.
Why do you think no one is doing more about this?
Many companies have moved from the denial stage to acceptance. More and more brands acknowledge their contribution to pollution. Microplastics is on the corporate agenda.
What we do to our oceans and our health is irreversible. We need to have a more hands-on solution. Now. Not in a couple of years.
In 10 years time do you expect everyone to be using the Guppyfriend, or do you hope the industry will have solved the micro-fibre problem? What’s your vision for this product and project for the future?
We hopefully have an eclectic array of solutions: from re-engineered textiles to efficient filter technologies.
However, this and similar environmental challenges won’t be solved by companies or governments alone. Without us reflecting our purchasing patterns (and washing habits), we will not solve any of these problems.
What is Maverickness to you?