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Checking rainwear’s carbon footprint – the Maium case

The planet-conscious know that rainwear often consists of harmful fluoro-chemicals. In conversation with Anita Palacios, founder of brand Maium, who is changing that notion

Rain-wear has proven costly to the environment 

There is an on-going race to design rain wear that won’t bear a heavy cost on the environment. Most outerwear brands offering protective clothing from this weather claim to be sustainably conscious. However, their USP includes a necessary evil. The membrane or coating used to render fabric impervious to rain has harmful chemicals. These commonly used water repellents are categorized as PFAS (per and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances).

In the vocabulary of planet conscious, PFAs appear as bold red signals. Simply put, these are toxic ‘forever’ chemicals that are not degradable. Instead, they bio-accumulate in living bodies and the environment.

Abundant research exists on their scarring effects to the human immune system, including the brain and liver. These chemicals leach into soil, water systems and even pollute the air, making them omnipresent and ever-ready for attack. 

Sustainability credentials used by rain-wear brands 

To circumvent this vicious cycle, Gore-tex and Tencel have commercialized sustainable alternatives through innovative research. This, through usage of waxed organic cotton and recycling plastic to textile. There are talks amongst organisations to deliver a ban on all classes of PFA chemicals.

Gore-tex maintains its claim of having captured maximum value from fluoro-materials, while reducing impact. «An essential element of our product promise is to use chemicals responsibly and safely to protect workers in our supply chain, consumers and the environment». Says Ross Maclaine, Gore Fabrics Division Sustainability Leader.

Furthermore, the brand specifies it’ exact usage of polyfluorinated alkyl substances. «At the heart of GORE-TEX fabrics is an extremely thin membrane called PTFE. It is durably waterproof, windproof and breathable. PTFE is a fluoropolymer, but it is inert, highly stable, too large to be bioavailable, and insoluble in water. It does not degrade to become a source of PFCs of Environmental Concern».

Despite these clarifications, experts vouch for products that are completely free of PFAs, PFC or PTFE. Standards and third party verifications lend credibility to brands who claim to be sustainable. Labels with a Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) membership or verified by Global Recycled Standard (GRS), rank high on the list.

OEKO-TEX identifies and tests textiles for harmful substances as well as attests to their ethical manufacturing practices. They use categorised labels such as ‘Made in Green’, ‘STeP’, ‘Standard 100’ among others. 

Introducing Maium

Ticking all the check boxes is Amsterdam-based brand, Maium. Founders Anita Palacios and Hendrik van Benthem picked their battles, choosing to «protect themselves against the elements» and vice versa. They wanted to take back some control from the unpredictable weather in their city. There, it rains about 130 days a year.

They are also dedicated to remove polluting plastics from the planet. They design smart, technically sound, sustainable rainwear from recycled PET bottles. Each year, they use one million bottles in the making of their products, without any deadstock.

By 2025, the duo aims to recycle five million PET bottles into rain coats, parkas, gloves and other accessories. Palacios shares: «For us, recycling plastic bottles has never been the USP. In fact, we didnt even market it in the beginning – it was just something we did consciously. The important thing was to get people on the bike, make them think that with Maium they dont need a bike or a car and realize this option was good for them and better for the environment».

Shorter jackets without the poncho-biking functionality feature

Classic silhouettes define the brand’s selective collection of trenches, raincoats and puffers. Most styles have side zippers that easily convert the jackets into ponchos to cycle in the rain. Talking about the early days and conception of the brand, Palacios says: «Maium is Amsterdam slang for rain – thats what started this journey six years back. It was a side project to find a solution about getting wet on our bikes».

Though, she admits it does limit their story. Cycling as a lifestyle is not popular world-wide or even Europe-wide, but more centric in the Netherlands. To that effect, the founders have a collection of shorter jackets without the poncho-biking functionality feature in their Spring-Summer ’23 collection.

«We have grown a lot. We started with two colours and only one model. Currently there are over twenty five models and the launch of a kidswear collection coming winter. But it is important that we always try to make season-less clothing that can be worn anytime. Example: the original jacket that was launched six years ago is almost still the same with minor tweaking to the prototype». In 2021, Maium also expanded their offering to introduce accessories like gloves and backpacks, among other items. 

Opting for a green material index 

Palacios confirms that the brand takes transparency seriously. Through a dedicated section on the e-commerce website, a list of materials, certifications and production locations are publicly available. The brand claims that all materials are OKEO-TEX100-certified, free from PFCs and any other harmful substances.

«Its in our DNA to always think of the best solution. For example, the first coats we made were with PFCs. Now, we only make coats with bionic finishing so that there are no chemicals leaching out to harm the environment,» reveals Palacios.

They take waste PET bottles, recycle them into fabric and then use that to make rain-coats and other products. They use between sixty-six to111 bottles to make a single item, depending on the style. Other materials used in the construction of their garments include organic cotton, as seen in the Mac Coat and biodegradable PU coating.

The brand also works with pongee, a recyclable nylon-synthetic fabric that is similar to neoprene. The final touch is PFC-free bionic finishing agent. This acts as a high performance water-repellent made of non-fluorinated and renewable raw materials. 

Offsetting supply chain carbon emissions

Currently, Maium embraces the Made in China label, outsourcing their manufacturing to the Hebei province of Beijing, China. It is recognized as the «epicentre of outerwear» and known for BSCI-certified (Business Social Compliance Initiative) factories (i.e having achieved ninety per cent across the audit’s ethical working-conditions qualifications).

Pre-pandemic, the team made regular personal visits to these factories to determine room for improvement. «Every decision we make, we try to go with the most sustainable option. While making everything here in Amsterdam and recycling here too would be best, it is not sustainable for our current business model», shares Palacios.

To offset their footprint, Maium collaborates with organisations like Eden Reforestation Projects, planting over 10,000 trees annually. They also work with Dopper to raise awareness about the lawless pollution of oceans. Further, believing that small actions add up to make a difference, they optimise other aspects of the supply chain.

«Our factories measure everything to eliminate waste. We are conscious about the fabrics we use, we send everything by boat instead of flights». To make packaging more sustainable, the team repurposes discarded fabrics from waste created in other production processes.

They make each shipping bag from twenty-two recycled bottles, with a handle that can act as a tote. The consumers can keep the bag, instead of discarding it as waste, or return the bag to Maium. There, a team checks, cleans and re-uses it. Currently, the brand sells direct-to-consumer with over sixty doors internationally. 

Upgrading sustainability and transparency quotient

Palacios shares: «There are a lot of things we cannot do at the moment, like produce nearby home. But the thing we can do is create a positive impact». In a recent survey by their consumers, Maium discovered that there was an equal division between functionality, style and sustainability as reasons for purchase. In that regard, Palacios says: «I think we are not transparent enough. People prefer to hear the truth even if it is not perfect». 

Presently, the brand is collaborating with external analysts and communication agencies. The goal is to calculate the exact footprint and offset it within the year. Numbers indicate that over eight kilograms of carbon dioxide can offset one Maium coat. Partnership with the reforestation NGO is one of the means to combat this.

However, the brand is also in the testing phases of launching a tool where consumers can directly contribute to the neutralization process. In another conscious move, Maium has partnered with an independent communication consultancy.

They offer tips on being transparent and accurate in their communication to consumers and stakeholders. They also assist in improving factory relationships and obtaining certifications. Palacios hopes to have these results reflected on the new website by 2023.

«In the future, my dream for the end point of Maium is to have our own factory somewhere in Europe – going local. Everyday theres a new solution, a better solution and a more sustainable solution to what were doing. Its a process for every brand to be updated».

Maium 

Founded in 2016, Maium creates sustainable rainwear by recycling plastic bottles. The brand was founded by Anita Palacios and Hendrik van Benthem as a solution to commuting via bike in Dutch rains. The brand offsets their production emissions in partnership with climate focused NGOs and constantly upgrades their transparency quotient. 

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
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Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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