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Sustainable swag supports Seacology

February 18, 2021

Last month, we were surprised and excited to learn Parlez (“par-LAY”), an English clothing company, had directed a portion of its 2020 profits to Seacology through 1% for the Planet. Parlez, which specializes in menswear inspired by sailing traditions, has made a commitment not only to its own sustainability but also to leveraging its success to support conservation around the world.

We recently spoke with one of Parlez’s directors, Cavan Bunkhall.

 

There are a lot of environmental NGOs – how did you pick Seacology?

Well right now, we were supposed to be in Grenada … [laughs]

We were doing some research planning for that trip and noticed your project on Carriacou Island, where the local women are making bags from old sail cloth, and started looking into what else you’re doing in the area. We really love snorkeling in the Caribbean and seeing the coral and sea life, and wanted to try to have some impact in protecting that.

 

We actually just launched a new project in Grenada, near Woburn.

Yeah, that’s actually exactly where we were going to be right now. [laughs] It would have been the first time in Grenada, but we’ve spent quite some time in the Caribbean — Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, Belize, parts of Mexico as well.

 

How has travel affected your vision for Parlez?

In the Caribbean, you see places where the coral’s bleaching, you see a lot of plastic washed up on the beaches, caught up in the mangroves and you can see the impact tourism has on small island environments. Even comparing just three or four years ago to now, you can notice the health of the sea life and reefs going down. You don’t have to be a scientist, it’s quite obvious. So we started looking at the impact that the fashion industry has on all that, and it felt like a good point to reach out and see what we can do on our end.

Snorkeling in Belize helped inspire Parlez' commitment to sustainability © Cavan Bunkhall

Parlez has pledged to exclusively use sustainable organic cotton for their t-shirts by autumn 2021.

Parlez has some pretty ambitious sustainability goals for its own products and practices. Can you tell us a little about that commitment and the progress you’re making?

Our packaging is all recyclable or biodegradable, and we offer a carbon-neutral delivery service with one of our couriers over here. We’re working to bring a lot of production closer to home to further reduce our footprint further by cutting down on the impact of shipping and the emissions related to that.

In terms of the products themselves, starting this autumn, all of our t-shirts will be organic. We have a lot of recycled materials going into our products — recycled fleece, recycled nylon. We’re still quite a small company, and we’re still finding our feet, but trying to do our best. We’ve set a hard target for ourselves to be fully sustainable by 2023. It’s ambitious, but I think if you don’t set a hard target, you’re less likely to reach it.

 

How do traditional fashion industry practices hurt the environment?

International shipping is a big part of it, but production itself has been a pretty big polluter as well. There are a lot of dodgy dye houses where spills pollute rivers. And conventional cotton production requires a lot of resources. Organic cotton can be made with less water and energy.

 

Do you see your company’s commitment to sustainability as part of a larger trend?

People are definitely becoming more conscious, and it’s spreading down from higher-end brands. There’s a long way to go, but it’s definitely moving in a positive direction, at least in the UK.

 

You live in an island nation, of course – what are the big environmental challenges facing the UK? 

There has been a lot of trawling that has affected the marine ecosystem. At least here in Bristol, air pollution is a big concern, and a lot of people are pushing to clean it up. And litter is a problem everywhere, in the rivers, washing out to sea. You can go to the harbor and pick up a can from 40 years ago. Parlez has mostly been trying to reach further afield, but we should probably look more at what we can do here within the UK too.

 

Thanks so much for your time and your support!

Cheers!