Founded in 2015 by Matteo Ward, Victor Santiago and Silvia Giovanardi, Wråd was initially launched as an Instagram account and non-profit educational movement raising awareness around the real impact fashion has on people and the environment.
According to Ward, the key moment that launched this venture was the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, which occurred in 2013. “Back then I was co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Council at Abercrombie & Fitch and I already knew Victor [Santiago], who was an art director and photographer. After the tragedy we started to question the costs of the fashion industry globally,” said Ward.
Both Ward and Santiago quit their jobs to travel across Europe and sensitize an increasing number of people on the matter, documenting their journey on Instagram. Word reached Giovanardi, who left her position as senior designer at Etro to join the company, as well as a range of Italian entrepreneurs already operating with a sustainable approach across different industries, who wanted to join the cause. Among these, Susanna Martucci, chief executive officer of the Alisea company and inventor of the Perpetua pencil made of recycled graphite, inspired the first product Wråd introduced.
The Graphi-Tee endorsed by Perpetua is a T-shirt dyed with recycled graphite powder. “We discovered that Ancient Romans already used graphite to dye garments and that there was a mine in the small Italian town of Monterosso Calabro where this old tradition has passed down for generations,” said Ward, revealing the three co-founders went on-site to learn the dyeing technique directly from 95-year-old ladies.
“So we managed to build a circular business in the dyeing industry, which is one of the most-polluting ones both for the environment and people’s health, and to introduce a new system solving three main problems: the removal of chemical pigments, the recycle of waste coming from different companies and social functionality, retrieving a long-forgotten textile tradition,” said Ward. “We decided to use this technique and tell this story through the simplest piece of clothing, the T-shirt, on purpose as we wanted this to become our manifesto.”
In summer 2017, Graphi-Tee scooped a Red Dot Design Award, while later that year the Yoox Net-a-porter group tapped Wråd to create a holiday capsule collection of T-shirts inspired by astrology.
This year, the label was among the five finalists of the second edition of the CNMI Green Carpet Talent Competition. In addition, Starbucks tapped both Wråd and Perpetua to create a capsule collection to be sold in its new Reserve Roastery Store in Milan, as well as at its similar units in New York, Seattle and Tokyo.
Wråd’s dyeing technique was gradually used to develop a range of everyday, urban pieces for men and women, including jackets, hoodies, cargo and corduroy pants in organic cotton and coats, among others. The garments are available on the label’s online store, with prices ranging from 58 euros for a T-shirt to 500 euros for pea coats.
“The only way we can save this industry is to constantly bring innovation to the market, to contribute in making the fundamental shift from linear business models to circular ones,” said Ward.
Key sustainability achievement of 2018: “Our partners Alisea and Susanna Martucci, who financed the research and development of our dyeing technique, have registered the G_pwdr technology, taking the recycled graphite dyeing technique into the denim industry. We are the exclusive licensee of this patented technology, which eliminates five steps in the denim dyeing, reducing the water consumption of 98 percent and the CO2 emission of 48 percent, as well as removing any chemical material from the process.”
Sustainability target for 2019 and why: “First of all, we are teaming with an Italian start-up to develop a digital traceability of the supply chain for our products. This will enable customers to know every sort of information on a product in the future, building a dynamic conversation between the market and products. In addition, we are continuing our research to reach the black hue through graphite dyeing, because black is the most toxic and polluting color in textile. But I think we would be able to do that in 2020.”
Biggest challenge to overcome: “To manage the finance flux. We are a start-up with great costs in R&D and the only way we have to support our research is to develop strong campaigns and partnerships that could spread our message to as many people as possible. Once we inform people, they are usually very interested in the topic.”
If you could wave a magic wand: “I would start from a change on the political and institutional front and its laws. In changing the mindset we can start the real revolution and involve people.”