BERLIN — Spanish eco-fashion brand Ecoalf opened its first flagship outside of Spain as part of a long-term global expansion strategy.
The 2,842-square-foot space on Alte Schönhauser Straße in Berlin’s urbanwear and denim epicenter around Hackescher Markt was inaugurated by the company’s founder and president Javier Goyeneche on Nov. 8. The store features the women’s and men’s wear collections, accessories and shoes, as well as books and design objects made from 80 recycled fabrics. A “Kyoto” men’s wear jacket trading at $450, for example, is made from 52 recycled plastic bottles.
Founded by Goyeneche in 2009 with the mission to reduce resources in the fashion industry, Ecoalf unveiled the first collection of outerwear made of recycled waste materials in 2012 after a three-year research-and-development phase.
“I didn’t want to waste resources to try to change the system, but wanted to try to create a new one to demonstrate that the existing one could be obsolete. We can’t keep on doing things the way we do because right now we’re consuming five times more natural resources than the planet is organically able to produce,” Goyeneche explained. “But when I started, there weren’t any good recycled fabrics — and that was the biggest challenge. We first had to create joint ventures with partners all around the world to develop proper fabrics that are as qualitative and fashionable as the best available new materials.”
The brand has developed more than 180 fabrics made of waste materials like discarded PET bottles, fishing nets, coffee grounds and tires, with 40 new fabrics presented every season. The first full-look fashion collection will hit stores in the spring.
While the Spanish home market still accounts for 60 percent of its sales, Ecoalf’s international profile is expanding through collaborations with the likes of Apple, Swatch and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. The brand is available in 18 countries through 300 retailers, amongst them Barneys New York, Isetan and Harrods.
The Berlin store is the second store after Madrid, where the company is based. “It’s important for us to start target Northern Europe. The German market is growing, and we thought Berlin was a cool city that fits our concept very well because it’s international and innovative,” Goyeneche told WWD, adding that Ecoalf will also present a capsule collection with German designer twins Felder Felder during Berlin Fashion Week next January. The brand plans to open one to two stores per year and launch two markets per season, with Portugal and Scandinavia up next.
But Ecoalf expands beyond geography. The newest project, Goyeneche announced, is a venture with an Asian company that previously threw away 8,800 tons of cotton left from cutting processes — waste that is now recycled for Ecoalf products.
“Cotton is dramatic in terms of wasting water, and it’s the issue we’re most invested in besides Upcycling the Ocean because recycling cotton wastes no water at all,” he explained.
Upcycling the Ocean, Ecoalf’s most prominent project, collaborates with 3,000 fishermen along the Spanish coast to retrieve 250 tons of marine debris from the seabed annually. The project has recently expanded to Thailand.
“So far, most of our work happened where nobody sees it, in the supply chain, in research and development, with fishermen, with ports. Now, we feel we’re in the right moment to come out and start creating a fashion brand around everything we did,” Goyeneche said. “And the thing about Ecoalf is, we’re not a storytelling company, we’re a story-doing company. We’re going around convincing fishermen to get waste out of the ocean.”