wawwa - before the water gets too high

Cutting through the greenwashing to get to real sustainability

Wawwa is a brand that have focused on making super nice, super wearable clothes that are sustainable sourced. They also cut through the murky waters of what really is sustainable and what is not. This season they've shot the lookbook on the coast, it kinda looks like it rained a bit, but that just makes it more real.

By using processes such as water based inks and organic fabric the product is manufactured either in a wind and solar powered factory in India, a family run factory in Portugal or in the U.K. The collection is also 44% made from recycled plastic, which seems like a decent percentage.

Then they have a 1+1 program where they donate one of each item purchased to someone with the misfortune to be homeless. To top it all off they're Peta certified vegan, a living wage employer and also a social enterprise. Can't get fairer than that.

We caught up with Sean from the brand to get a bit more detail on Wawwa's sustainable nous and what they're about. Also, big up Sean's brother for doing all the graphics. They're great.

502: What are water based inks and how is it different to normal printing processes?

WAWWA: Traditionally things were printed using platisol and a load of nasty chemicals, which fuck up the water, are polluting and all this stuff. There's a real art form in inks now and our screen printer takes it incredibly seriously. The one he uses has maximum durability whilst having minimum negative impact on the environment.

502: What form do the recycled plastics take in the collection?

WAWWA: So, the recycled plastic exists in the salvaged from the sea t-shirts and sweats (the ones with the not so subtle bottle design on the front) in those, the plastic is churned up into fibres, then spun into a yarn alongside organic cotton off cuts, which are the excess bits of leftover fabric from garment patterns. This makes these a polyester/organic cotton hybrid, making it more breathable, softer and more comfortable than a 100% recycled polyester garment. The same material is in the tote bags. Then there's the bum bags/cross body/fanny pack thing, which we made in collaboration with Spanish brand Lefrik, who make all of their bags from recycled plastic. Those are made just from 100% recycled plastic, so a much stiffer material. Oh and then there's the pocket tees, which haven't been delivered yet, which again are 40% recycled plastic. Oh and all the neck labels are made from 100% recycled plastic too. So a considerable amount!

502: What is something that you’d love to be able to change to be more sustainable but is impossible at the moment?

WAWWA: Ermmmmmmm. Our fisherperson hats are made from acrylic and so are our scarves. We've had such a palava trying to find a sustainable alternative that's viable. We've spoken to so many people with different opinions about it and we're getting there but it's hard, as wool is really the most sustainable material going, but then you have animal welfare concerns and other ethical quandaries to navigate. Equally, depending on who you talk to, everyone has a different idea about how to proceed and be as sustainable possible. Then every week we find a different material to test, issues with other materials. It's nuts. But transport is probably the main one. We offset all our carbon, but as primarily being online based, we deliver the vast majority of our stuff, so finding more sustainable ways to do that is next on our list. But that's probably partly down to courier companies as they move towards electric fleets and stuff like this.

502: For consumer’s in general, what’s one thing that is easy to mistake as a sustainable practice? (but isn’t actually that great)

WAWWA: There's a lot. Greenwashing is such a mental thing. Bamboo is a big one. Yes the crop is amazing as it grows back so quickly, but then the amount of energy it requires to turn into yarn is supposed to be insane, so we've always avoided working with that. Natural dying is another one that sounds amazing, as who wouldn't want to dye something with beetroot or charcoal? But from speaking to dyers, it actually ends up being worse for the environment. Typical greenwashing! Also stuff that's labelled as biodegradeable. Basically it can mean rather than being around for a thousand years, it'll be around for a hundred or half. Another good one is when people describe stuff as being 100% recyclable. It's like great, but why isn't it made from 100% recycled materials? There needs to be more of a standard, which there is for some things, but a rating index like https://compareethics.com/ is what we all need!

5. What’s next for WAWWA?

We're expanding internationally, so more and more of our orders are coming from abroad. Working with retailers, but the right ones, so that people can go in to their favourite local store and feel the quality before they buy. We are also trying to sort our own warehouse, ideally off the grid and renewably powered. We also are developing more products using more sustainable materials, improving our patterns so there is less offcuts and working to make more in house. We've already moved all design and sampling in house, saving an unbelievable amount of back and forth with manufacturers (time and shipping emissions) and enabling us to spend more time crafting a better quality garment. We've started working more with local manufacturers where possible as well. A big thing we're keen to do is to make our 1+1 collection about more than donating clothing, as we want to hire people who are getting themselves back on their feet so they can do so in a pleasant environment and hopefully gain more skills. Also being more transparent, full openness of supply chains and all that. But as an independent brand, this takes longer than we'd like due to not having 6 figures sat around to fund everything.