ECOALF: The Cutting Edge of Upcycling
There’s recycling (turning old paper into new paper, for example), and then there’s upcycling—taking one person’s garbage and transforming it into a new, improved and entirely different product.
Leading the way on the latter is Madrid-based ECOALF—a key part of Pop-In@Nordstrom: TMRW TGTHR. Founded by Javier Goyeneche as a way to improve the world for future generations (‘ALF’ is short for ‘Alfredo,’ his son), the brand has developed groundbreaking ways to turn humankind’s garbage into clothing, shoes and accessories that not only look amazing, but feel extremely high-end to the touch.
Keep reading for a closer look at the exclusive prints we developed in collaboration with ECOALF, videos about their innovative upycling methods, and a Q&A with the brand’s founder.
[Made using 70 recycled plastic bottles, this jacket is fully reversible, so you can show a lot of print or a little. The abstract floral pattern—also available as a vest—was developed exclusively for Pop-In@Nordstrom. Shop: ECOALF ‘Corvara’ Reversible Quilted Jacket for Women.]
THE THREAD: What is the mission of ECOALF?
ECOALF FOUNDER JAVIER GOYENECHE: “Our goal is to create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products, to show that we do not have to use our world’s natural resources in a careless way. Our objective is to continue to invest heavily in sophisticated processes of recycling that allow us to remain market leaders. Each season, we increase not only the percentage of recycled fabrics—we also develop fabrics, lining, straps, labels and cords using recycled materials.”
[ECOALF turns trash into shoes, too—like these unisex, hiking-inspired sneakers. Shop: ECOALF ‘Bonaigua Xtrem’ Sneaker.]
What inspired you to start the brand?
“I was inspired by my son Alfredo and the planet we will leave to the next generations. The concept arose from my frustration with the excessive use of the world’s natural resources and the amount of waste produced by industrialized countries. It appeared to me that the way to make a change was to stop using our planet’s natural resources in a careless way (studies show that we are presently using five times more natural resources than the planet is able to auto-generate). Recycling could be a solution!”
[Guys, we’ve got you covered. The exclusive ‘static’ print on this men’s reversible vest—also available in jacket form—represents a fusion of nature and technology. Shop: ECOALF ‘Solden’ Reversible Quilted Vest for Men.]
How did the two exclusive prints created for Pop-In@Nordstrom come about?
“The prints are inspired by organic, natural lines and forms. All ECOALF designs are inspired by real people—urbanites who love culture and nature; people concerned about environmental sustainability and with social consciousness.”
[Our exclusive digi-floral print also comes on an eco-chic backpack. Note the quilted lining and leather straps. Shop: ECOALF ‘Oslo’ Print Backpack.]
What else can each of us do to help improve the earth in our everyday lives?
“I think that every gesture counts. We need to be responsible for our actions and try to make a better world for everyone, starting in our day-to-day routines and with the people close to us.”
[Not into our custom prints? We’ve also got this men’s jacket in woodland camo and a women’s version in classic red. Besides its eco-friendly composition, this coat’s most crucial feature is the versatile double zip. Shop: ECOALF ‘Aspen’ Camouflage Print Quilted Jacket for Men.]
Do you see beauty in the discarded, raw materials themselves? Or are they just a means to a more beautiful end?
“Human beings are the only living things that are able to generate waste that the planet is not able to absorb. ECOALF sees discarded materials as a new source of raw materials. Through integrating breakthrough technology, we create clothing and accessories made entirely from recycled materials—without actually looking like it.”
[Just the facts. These detailed breakdowns of ECOALF’s methods appear on their hang tags.]
Do you think that ‘eco-friendly’ clothing has a certain stigma attached to it, of not being stylish? How do you hope to change that?
“Perhaps, but that’s our goal: to present a new generation of products in every collection, with the same design quality and technical properties as non- ‘eco-friendly’ clothing. That way, we can show the consumer that you can follow trends and be stylish, yet be sustainable at the same time. Each season, we increase not only the percentage of recycled fabrics, but also the sophistication level of our trendy collections.”
[You may be familiar with the concept of turning recycled plastic bottles into fabric—but would you believe ECOALF does the same with fishing nets, used tires and even coffee grounds? Watch the videos above for more information.]
What is the meaning of the phrase tras(h)umanity?
“Our concept of tras(h)umanity was created by copywriter Iñaki Martikorena. When we first started the project, he told me that what impressed him most wasn’t that I recycled nets or bottles, but that I turned trash into lovely products. Our concept is like a manifesto, which states that we accept that human beings will continue producing trash because it’s in their nature—but we can either burn that trash and hide it away, or we can turn it into something positive. Our manifesto boils down to, ‘This time, trash is good news.'”
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Learn more at ecoalf.com.
Words and photos by Justin Abbott.
Videos courtesy of ECOALF.