European Business: Have style, be green – that is your motto. To what extent is it beneficial to the life cycle assessment when we produce our clothing from wood instead of cotton or polyester?
Timo Beelow: Worldwide about 60% of our clothing is made from polyester. Yet, polyester is petroleum-based and ultimately no different from plastic. The environmental problems caused by that should be well known from extensive media coverage. It is clear that we absolutely must reduce our plastic consumption and certainly not promote it.
Many people also wrongly think clothing made from cotton is sustainable because it is a renewable resource. But the production of conventional cotton requires enormous amounts of water and toxic chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers. Therefore, wood is clearly the better alternative: Compared with conventional cotton, we save 1,000 l of water, about 150 ml of chemical substances and about 600 to 700 g of CO2 with just one t-shirt.
European Business: How is clothing made from wood fibers different in wearing comfort from clothing made from cotton or polyester?
Timo Beelow: Wood fibers absorb a lot of moisture and can also release it again very quickly. That makes our wood shirt significantly more breathable than conventional products. This condition also creates an anti-bacterial effect: Bacteria always need a moist environment to be able to reproduce, and the more bacteria reproduce, the more odors develop. With the clothes from Wijld, this moisture is absorbed by the wood fibers, transported to the outside and released there, and the wearer feels fresh much longer.
European Business: How does the manufacturing process differ from clothing production with ‘traditional’ materials?
Timo Beelow: The production differs only in the process of extracting the fibers. For us, at the beginning, of course, is the tree, which always comes from certified sustainable forestry. The wood is chopped up, and the cellulose is removed from the resulting chips. It is then mixed with an organic and non-toxic solvent. In the process, a honey-like mass is created that is pressed through spinnerets. That results in little endless fibers, which we use to manufacture the yarn. The rest of the production process is analogous to the manufacturing of other fibers.
European Business: Your company is backed by a huge ecological commitment. Where does your particularly strong motivation come from to support environmental protection also at a company level?
Timo Beelow: In the first 15 years of the new millennium, consumption in the textile industry nearly doubled. This doubling means, among other things, that a huge amount is thrown out. We don’t want to identify with this fast fashion, and we believe that there are many people who would like an alternative to it. Accordingly, we thought about we can do in this respect. We think that we as a society cannot go into the future with the heavy consumption we’ve seen thus far. Our approach at Wijld has been from the beginning: We produce fairly, we produce eco-friendly, and we produce locally – 100% in the European Union.
Our approach at Wijld has been from the beginning: We produce fairly, we produce eco-friendly, and we produce locally - 100% in the European Union. Timo Beelow
European Business: Why is it so important to you to manufacture your products exclusively in the European Union ?
Timo Beelow: By manufacturing in the EU, we have the chance to keep the transport routes short. What is more important, though, is that we can produce with a clear conscience under socially acceptable conditions, and can track and control them. If we produced in Asia, whether ‘fairly’ or in horrible conventional sweatshops, it would be impossible for us to guarantee that our high standards are being lived out on-site not only because of the great physical distance. That’s why we wanted to manufacture our products locally – where the clothing is also being consumed. If we produce FOR Europe, we want to produce IN Europe.
Read more: Don’t smash our planet right into a wall