World-wide vegan developments are no longer limited to the food sector. The fashion industry is also becoming more vegan-friendly, and news about vegan fashion labels, alternative materials and an increasing demand for eco-friendly clothing is everywhere. The ‘bleed clothing‘ team has been following this path for 10 years and aims to change the world of fashion with its animal-free approach. We learned more about bleed and vegan fashion developments in an interview with founder Michael Spitzbarth.
What is the current situation at your company?
The current situation at bleed is great! We are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year and, after the tough early years, are very happy that we have been able to establish ourselves as pioneers of eco streetwear in the fashion industry.
What sales channels do you currently use for marketing?
You can get bleed from our own online store or from other retailers. We are very well-positioned in the eco-friendly and vegan scene, of course, but are currently in the process of positioning ourselves better in the outdoor and sportswear sector and have also been able to win strong online partners such as Bergfreunde.de.
Our factory outlet in Helmbrechts/Oberfranken is also worth mentioning. Initially started as an experiment, we have seen an enormous growth of 40 percent per year, even though online growth is also so strong! We are delighted that we have gained momentum in the rural region, and we are also gaining ideas for our future collections through a great deal of feedback.
How do you assess the market for vegan clothing?
There is still a lot of work to be done in the field of vegan or animal-free clothing. Most consumers think it is enough to simply buy clothes made of synthetic or plant-derived fibers. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy when you see how conventional cotton, for example, is treated with highly toxic pesticides and herbicides that not only end up in the fields but also in groundwater. The impact of dye works on animals, nature and humans is also immense. A lot of communication is still necessary from all parties involved (manufacturers, press, shops, etc.) in order to inform the consumer.
What is so special about bleed?
In addition to our ecological and animal-friendly philosophy, our innovative use of alternative materials has always been something special. In the organic sector in particular, the use of organic cotton is ubiquitous, but with less than one percent of the land under cultivation, one has to think about other materials from a biodynamic point of view. On the one hand, the “old” natural fibres such as linen and hemp are extremely important to us, as they grow back quickly and are also practical. On the other hand, the textile industry urgently needs recycling systems to combat the waste and plastic problem. With SYMPATEX and Climate Partner we have developed an outdoor jacket made entirely of recycled materials, which is also completely climate-neutral!
What new vegan materials are in the pipeline right now?
In fact – as mentioned above – it’s especially the old natural fibres that are experiencing a revival. The fibres are very expensive, but in terms of durability and functionality they are hard to beat! What’s more important for us is the market for accessories. This is mainly about alternatives to leather. For many years we have relied on Portuguese cork oak, which supplies us with the best renewable raw materials. Brand new to our range is a line made of Jacroki® – these are wallets and belts that are mostly made of waste paper and offer an extremely durable alternative.
More and more vegan fashion labels with special materials are coming onto the market. How do you hold your own against your competitors?
Our aim is to score again and again with new innovations and to create new trends in design. We are also committed to educating customers about the fashion industry and giving them the opportunity to gain deep insights into our supply chain and our entire business. In recent years, we have already been able to build up a solid fan base, which will continue to enable us to do business on our own and without outside capital.
What was the biggest surprise/challenge for you after the foundation of bleed clothing?
The biggest challenge 10 years ago was the realisation that nobody is really interested in environmental and animal-free clothing. Again and again I found myself confronted in sales talks with the fact that there were no problems at all in the conventional textile industry and that there was no need for environmentally friendly concepts. So right from the start, we had to learn the hard way that pioneering really hurts, but after many years of setbacks it paid off. However, as hard as they were, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss those experiences, because I think the early days made us very flexible and strong!
What are your plans for bleed in the next 3 years?
The next year will be a very exciting year for us, as we will finally move into larger premises and expand our factory outlet to more than 100 square meters! Here, customers and bleed fans should get their money’s worth. In the area of product development, we also want to take a closer look at the high-performance sector and offer even more sustainable alternatives for sports enthusiasts. So it will be interesting…