From waste stream to revenue stream: Hallenstein Brothers raids the recycling bin for new eco-friendly suits

Hallenstein Brothers has collaborated with Coca-Cola and Will.i.am to produce a range of eco-friendly suits targeted at millennials that are manufactured from up to 25 recycled PET plastic bottles. 

The suits come in five different styles that are currently being worn by the likes of Will.i.am, Stan Walker and US indie band The Kin. And Glen Hunter, the general manager of Hallenstein Brothers, explains that it was important for them to move away from “traditional eco-friendly garments that are usually considered green and rough”. Historically, sustainable items have only been popular in fringe subcultures, making broader commercial appeal difficult.

Hunter admits that the innovation of the Ekocycle suit didn’t come overnight when he says, “We’ve tried different things over the years; we’ve tried organic cottons and recycled goods as well, and we’ve found that it always comes at a premium and never sells.”

Hunter explains that while people might care about the environment this isn’t necessarily going to encourage them to fork out extra money if they don’t have to. He likens it to online flight bookings, saying, “no one I’ve spoken to has paid the extra money to offset their [carbon]footprint on a flight.”

“A product with recycled content should not have a premium. It should be priced as it would be for a non-recycled garment. It should be able to stack up against it. You shouldn’t be paying a premium for something that’s good,” he says.  

At the outset of this project, Hunter thus set three standards that the product had to meet: it had to be reasonably priced; it had to be fashionable; and it had to feel great.   

Paul Ellis, the publicist for the project, says, “When the conversation first came up, I don’ think that Coca-Cola thought a company from New Zealand could do it. But then it was turned around within four months.”

Using technology that had been developed by US company Unify, Hunter says that they were able to produce a garment that had a 60 percent plastic composition, that was stronger, and, somewhat surprisingly, softer than the non-recycled alternative. Nike has also used similar technology to produce a range of football jerseys for the Football World Cup.

Hunter says that they created something unique in the sense that these suits “tick all the boxes plus price”. The suits are sold at the same price ($199) as their non-recycled offerings, meaning that customers can now choose to make an ethical choice without the usual bite of an ethical premium.

Hip-hop star Will.i.am launched the range on 28 September 2013, as part of his collaborative efforts with Beats (by Dr Dre), Levi Strauss and Coca-Cola to promote ethical alternatives to the production of merchandise.

The involvement of mainstream consumer brands and pop stars in ethical projects marks a shift in the consciousness relating to environment. Millennials have identified ethical means of production as the point of difference that separates them from previous generations, and marketers are starting to notice.  

The creative minds behind the recent Hallenstein Brothers TVC attempted to create an ad that speaks directly to those aged 17 to 24. It changes the recycling conversation from a standard chastisement to something more relatable to young minds. Recycling is not presented as a chore or an obligation, but rather as something cool that everyone can be part of. The slick TVC, with a dubstep-inspired backtrack, owes its existence to a collaboration between Ellis Grant and Lachlan McPherson and Friends, the agency that was formed by Lachlan McPherson and Mikhail Gherman in the aftermath of last year’s Publicis Mojo debacle.   

The New Zealand Herald reported in September on a tough winter period for Hallenstein Brothers, which saw the Auckland-based clothing store’s net profits drop by over two million dollars from the previous year. The success of the summer season will largely depend on how effectively Hallenstein Brothers manages to reach the ethically-conscious milennials.        

As the October article on the efforts of Karma Cola to produce sustainable and organic fizzy drinks showed, there’s a growing, but still fairly niche movement in business around ethics. And now Hallenstein Brothers has continued this trend by accentuating that Kiwi companies can strive to be both profitable and ethical. 

Credits for Hallenstein Brothers TVC:

Creative team: Lachlan McPherson, Mikhail Gherman and Tobias Grant

Producer: Jessica Hogan

Director: Jon Baxter

Editing: Jon Baxter, Mike Robinson, Hannah Walker

PR: Tobias Grant, Paul Ellis

Music: Beatworms – Cam Ballantyne 

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