For those who really just can’t get enough coffee, Rens has a hoodie for you.
The Finnish brand that first introduced sneakers made from coffee waste and recycled plastics has now branched out into apparel. The vegan “Elemental” hoodie consists of coffee grounds, recycled plastic and bamboo viscose and includes a complimentary NFT for the first 2,022 pre-order shoppers. What’s the special recipe? Apparently, the hoodie requires 43 cups of coffee grounds, 12.5 post-consumption plastic bottles and 40 percent bamboo viscose.
Rens, a Helsinki-based company founded by Jesse Tran and Son Chu, launched its first product in the summer of 2019. In an interview Tuesday, Tran said the hoodie is produced in his homeland of Vietnam.
So where do all those coffee grounds come from? Rens has aligned with major coffee chains in Vietnam, Taiwan and China. “They give it away almost for free to our material suppliers. Then our material suppliers use a proprietary process of mixing coffee waste with the recycled plastic pellets to create a coffee polyester. It’s a very versatile textile,” Tran said.
The company has developed into a pledge-driving sustainable brand. Using coffee waste gives Rens products anti-odor and anti-bacteria functions, according to Tran, who noted the bamboo viscose provides a softness. He and his cofounder were “both sneakerheads” who loved fashion, he said. Interested in sustainable products, they looked around but hadn’t seen anything they thought was inspiring for young consumers.
Online shoppers on the brand’s site will learn that 6 million tons of coffee waste wind up in landfills annually. The methane emitted from coffee waste adds up to the equivalent emissions of 10 million cars. Each pair of Rens is produced with six recycled plastic bottles and 150 grams of coffee waste.
“All of the sustainable brands kind of have the same selling points. They’re kind of boring. You buy it to save the environment,” Tran said. “We wanted to create a sustainable brand that is different — but is a sexy brand. That’s way more appealing to young consumers. We sell our product to consumers not for sustainability alone. Our customers love our products because it’s really well designed with a lot of amazing functions.”
Last summer Rens released its performance-oriented sneakers, called “Nomad.” The brand has had more than 30,000 customers, with the average shopper buying more than one item, Tran said. The U.S. is the company’s largest market, followed by Europe. Striving to become “an innovative sportswear brand rather than just a shoe brand,” the founders believe that all of these sustainable materials can be used for different apparel categories, Tran said.
Rens also relies on its “big following of customers” for input, asking them what they want next, Tran said. “Of course, there are a lot of opinions. We got a lot of requests for hoodies. Frankly, hoodies are really common items in the Western Hemisphere besides shoes. That’s why we decided to make very comfortable hoodies that are made from coffee waste and bamboo,” he said.
For its foray into apparel, 4,500 hoodies are being sold in total. Always developing new generations of shoes and apparel, the company isn’t saying yet publicly what’s next in the pipeline. “We would like to make it a surprise for our customers,” Tran said.
The items will be certified carbon neutral through ClimatePartner and Aerial to offset climate emissions used for the creation of the NFTs and the apparel.
Rens hopes the hoodie debut will help to educate normal fashion consumers about NFTs to curb the market’s “bad rap” about environmental concerns. The production of NFTs is highly energy intensive. The minting of one NFT using the proof-of-work method is estimated to require the same amount of electricity that the average American household uses for nearly nine days.
While there has been “a lot of interest” from some of the dominant coffee chains in the world about a potential alliance, Rens hasn’t finalized anything, preferring to focus on its own branding for the time being, Tran said. “We would always love to partner with bigger brands so that we can have a greater reach and spread sustainable fashion to mass consumers.”
Retailers in the U.S. and Europe have shown interest in partnering but Tran declined to specify which ones. “We have not attached to anyone yet,” he said.