Menswear Style Podcast

Chris Margetts, Co-Founder of Humans Are Vain

June 27, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 68
Menswear Style Podcast
Chris Margetts, Co-Founder of Humans Are Vain
Chapters
Menswear Style Podcast
Chris Margetts, Co-Founder of Humans Are Vain
Jun 27, 2020 Episode 68
Menswear Style

Humans Are Vain (HAV) is a contemporary eco-sustainable slow fashion footwear, accessories and apparel brand that believes in sustainability now not tomorrow. All their products are designed and engineered in Sweden, putting sustainable materials at the forefront of the design process and bringing together all the latest advances in sustainable and recycled materials into one place. All production is carried out in ethical factories in Portugal and they use recycled materials throughout, with a key focus on using materials made from plastic trash salvaged from the ocean in collaboration with The SEAQUAL Initiative, as well as making sure that all products are 100% vegan. They also operate a circular economy, so any unwanted items returned are recycled into new HAV products.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Humans Are Vain Co-Founder Chris Margetts and discuss his new life in Sweden, a country which takes sustainability and recycling seriously. Our host Peter Brooker and Chris also chat about the motivations for starting a vegan brand, inspirations for the sneaker design aesthetics, what it takes to become Peta Vegan Approved, and the journey of the business to date. 

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Show Notes Transcript

Humans Are Vain (HAV) is a contemporary eco-sustainable slow fashion footwear, accessories and apparel brand that believes in sustainability now not tomorrow. All their products are designed and engineered in Sweden, putting sustainable materials at the forefront of the design process and bringing together all the latest advances in sustainable and recycled materials into one place. All production is carried out in ethical factories in Portugal and they use recycled materials throughout, with a key focus on using materials made from plastic trash salvaged from the ocean in collaboration with The SEAQUAL Initiative, as well as making sure that all products are 100% vegan. They also operate a circular economy, so any unwanted items returned are recycled into new HAV products.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Humans Are Vain Co-Founder Chris Margetts and discuss his new life in Sweden, a country which takes sustainability and recycling seriously. Our host Peter Brooker and Chris also chat about the motivations for starting a vegan brand, inspirations for the sneaker design aesthetics, what it takes to become Peta Vegan Approved, and the journey of the business to date. 

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Unknown:

Hello, welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete broca. And on this episode I'm going to be speaking to Chris Margaret's he's the director of humans are vain, a very innovative sneaker brand. Humans are vain is a premium Swedish vegan brand that fuses the latest sustainable materials and innovation methods with timeless contemporary design. Their sustainable and recycle materials are what defines them and products made from such materials as pineapple leaves and recycled plastic ocean trash can be found throughout their collection. So this is a really fascinating interview, Chris, Chris was a lot of fun to talk to. I really recommend that you check out the website humans are vane calm and take a look at these sneakers. They're fantastic. Also, take a look at menswear startup co.uk. That's where we'll put all the Show Notes for this episode, as well as other articles that you'll find timely articles one posted today on how to wear face masks in public. It's all free and you can check it out at menswear style dot code at UK and also, if you want to get in touch with the show. Maybe you want to tell us about your story and your brand. It's info at menswear. style.co.uk Okay. Okay. Here is that interview of Chris Margaret's director of humans are vain. Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce Chris maggots, founder and manager of humans of vein. Chris, how are we doing today? Very well. Thank you. Yeah, really good. The sun shining in Sweden. So I'm happy. Right. So you, you were just saying of Mike about an hour away from Gothenburg. So whereabouts is that? Exactly. It's a small town called lead shopping, which is based on the edge of Lake Vernon, which is the biggest lake in Scandinavian the third biggest lake in Europe. So it's a really Yeah, really beautiful setting. And yeah, that an era of Gotham Berg and two and a half hours from Stockholm. So it's it's quite well positioned. and nice to get to, to both those cities for inspiration and things like that. So yeah, I'm wanting to know what it's like in Sweden currently, because we've COVID-19 and the pandemic, Sweden really stood out as the country that said, yeah, we don't need to do any lockdowns, we're fine. Yeah. What is what is the case scenario now? Ah, well, yeah, like you say, there was no lock downs. And for a long time, it was kind of business as usual here. And people at the government pushed it back onto people a bit really, and let people make up their own minds and let them kind of social distance and, you know, be sensible, and don't go into crowded bars and restaurants and things like that. So it was very much like business as usual. And then slowly, they introduced a few more measures, like you can't have more than 50 people in a certain place and trying to kind of introduce the two metre rule in a cafes and bars and restaurants, but it's, you know, not really noticed any difference, which has been great. So you know, we've been able to carry on as normal and still go to your favourite cafe and your favourite pub and things like that. So that's been, that's been really good. I think we have the advantage of so much more space is 10 million people in a country four times bigger than England or something crazy, you know, so there's, that we don't, don't need to worry too much about, you know, bumping into each other and and now the situation, it's, it's seems fairly steady. The major outbreak was was in Stockholm. And that seems under control. So I think I think everyone's fairly chilled out about it seems under control. touchwood And so yeah, I mean, it was a massive relief, you know, when when if we saw how it affected other countries, which has been awful, and it was nice that we could carry on really as much as possible. So yeah, Sweden really had a spotlight on it. Well, yeah, every other country in Europe was basically going under these measures of lockdown. But then Sweden just kind of stood out as almost like the litmus test of does Yeah, lockdown actually work. And so all the eyeballs were over there and going well, if it's working for them, and they're not putting any of these, you know, quote unquote, draconian measures in to try and put a little less thing. Yeah, then surely. Let's all go out. You know, surely work. Yeah. No reason for us to be staying in at all. Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think that there's an element of, you know, they wanted the herd mentality, the herd strategy, and, you know, you kind of need people to become immune to it to stop the spread. And I think, I think, you know, they did look at the, the geographic of Sweden, and they had various scientists looking at how it could spread. And I think, I think from my opinion, they did the right thing here. And I think looking back in in England, and from speaking to everybody there, you know, it's what I suppose seems a bit crazy is a small village, out in the middle of nowhere, you know, is under the same lockdown rules is somewhere in London? And, you know, it's a bit low, it didn't need to be so extreme everywhere, or could it have been a bit more looked at by county by city? You know, I don't know, really, it's, it's one of those things, isn't it? It's going to be picked up and debated for a long time. Yeah. But you know, who World Health Organisation, you know, have come out and said, the Swedish model is something that needs to be studied. And it could be, you know, a bit of a benchmark for future pandemics. And I think, I think I mean, you want your economies to keep striving, you want things to keep taking over. And I think you need to put in certain regulations, to kind of quell things as much as possible. But, you know, you do want people to carry on as normal. And if the economy is not strong, you're not got the same money going into your health care. And, you know, we were about all the people that need all the all the health care in the future in all the cancer patients and people still, everything still needs to take on doesn't it as much as possible, just seems now that we're kind of disabling 60% of the world's economy, to cater for a condition that's affecting 1%, or less than 1% of the world populace. But anyway, that's a that's another podcast. We'll get you on the other podcast next week to talk about this, the Sweden Excalibur case of, of how its handling the pandemic, taught me a little bit about you please how you got started with humans are vain, how you launched it, but also kind of the stepping stones that brought brought you towards this project. Yeah. So I started my career in the footwear industry over 20 years ago, studied footwear designer, and kind of had various roles in various positions in the UK from footwear, buy ins, footwear developments, and ended up like a lot of people down in London, working for a large fashion brand fashion retailer in London. And I think now more and more the kind of the fast fashion, just took over the industry. And you felt you kind of been pushed more and more out to sourcing everything in the Far East and using materials that I didn't particularly want to be using. And you just felt the pressure was on sourcing everything as cheap as possible and, and almost pushing up the prices to the customer more and more. And I kind of eventually just felt that I couldn't change anything from from within. And I needed to start something myself and that was doing things the way that I believe that should be done, which is using more sustainable materials, recycled materials, using ethical factories, sourcing everything in Europe. And you are we talking about here? So we're about 30 now. Yeah, so this was around towards the end of 2017. When I first kind of started to think about starting my own brand and leaving my current position and eventually left that and started working on sourcing materials and looking at what could be done in footwear really what was available. And it took a long time to source everything and to work with material suppliers into source and find everything that I needed to be able to put a brand together that was like I say it's vegan, sustainable, big focus on recycled materials. And a lot of things kind of came together at the right time as well that me and my family decided to move out to Sweden and this is a kind of forward thinking country in terms of sustainability. It's just a part of everyone's life here and became the perfect platform. To sit down and start designing the collection properly and be inspired by nature that's around us here. And so that's really what what happened. And then I launched the brand towards the end of 2019. And kind of just wanted to launch on a fairly small scale. And very quickly, it was clear, there's a big demand in for just contemporary premium, well designed vegan, sustainable products, and they were kind of focuses or is on footwear, particularly sneakers, we do a bit of clothing as well, but your footwear is our main thing. So right, that's the that's the journey. That's how it all started. And it was, you know, me myself as well, you know, wanting to buy vegan products and sustainable products out there. There was always something kind of missing in the market, if you found it the quality wasn't there, or, or the styling just wasn't quite right, really. And, you know, I wanted to develop things that I felt I could wear, and I could move away from some of the kind of contemporary brands that I was wearing before and start wearing my own stuff. And that's what what I wanted to do really so. Right. Chris, you mentioned, as you're looking towards Sweden, that these are the guys that are a bit more forward thinking in like recycling using more sustainable products. I'm gonna put you on the spot here. But what Yeah, why is Sweden more tuned into this and say any other country that we that we know? I think it's various reasons here. I mean, did you know the kind of bottle recycling, that you're now starting to see more countries adopt? I think they've been doing for 20 years here or something like that, you know, it's everyone collects all their plastic bottles and cans, and you take them to the supermarket and recycle them there and get a little voucher back. And it's it's been around for years and years here, it feels just very ingrained in the culture here. You know, that everyone's got some four bins outside the houses. And it's when you go to the tip here, you know, there's a million different places to go and recycle different things. And I don't know if it's because there's a lot more kind of nature here. And, you know, people, people are more in tuned with that. But it It kind of feels like it's just been around. And it's like I said, it's just very ingrained in the culture here. And, and there's a lot of innovation hubs in Sweden, as well as a lot of businesses looking to make improvements all the time, you know, how can they invest and develop new things to be more sustainable to be more eco friendly? And, you know, that's, that's one thing that I've been working with, as well since I came to Sweden is is, is working with various innovation hubs and the they're all very interested in how can we develop things better? How can we make things better? How can we be more green? And so it's just felt very easy here to kind of do that. I've got more overhead in this, I suppose. Yeah, pushback, I guess, what, what models? Would you say that we could use, say, as Britain that Sweden are doing now that we could just go Oh, actually, they're doing it much better? Why don't we use that model? And then we can all start using more sustainable materials or we can all start cleaning up the mess around. Because London is a landfill site. London is an absolute armpit right now. You can put your bins outside you mentioned you got four bins outside you have you in London as well. You put your bins out on the street for recycling you just get one windstorm like we had last night and guess what all the craps now flowing down the street and it gets kicked down the road. And that ends up in Alex. Just an end is cyclical. I mean, we've got Yeah, we've got like half ahead of what it is we need to do by recycling, putting it into the right boxes separating it. Yeah. But we don't have then the further aptitude to go right. It's just outside our door now. Rather than going well. Let's do what the Swiss do they put it all underground, they have nice little contraptions where you can put all the rubbish away so it's not in plain sight. So it's Nick from the Swedes. It's a tricky one. I mean, that it's not it's not perfectly I think there's there's there's still a lot of things that they need to get better at here as well. But I think I think it's, you know, everyone's so into it. You know, he's so kind of serious and you put something in the wrong recycling bin that the big guys are going to leave a note on your bin and feel like you're getting told off and I think it's it's kind of, yeah, it's well controlled, and there's even in our small town, yet. There's You always see people, the council workers out empty in the bins, picking up litter and something I hate to see it when you used to see it a lot in England sadly, you know, when you see there is a bin and it's just completely full, and everything's spilling out, isn't it and then people just just throw their rubbish on the floor next to it. And then you've just ended up with another pile of crap. Just next to the bed blows a blown around blown down the street. And I think it if the Council on on setting a good standard by saying we're gonna clear up and we're gonna maintain the pins, then does I guess that filters down to two people a little bit? You know, they kind of where's the inspiration? And if the council aren't even leading the way there, so as his list gets litter, as a as my granddad would always say, it's a wise man. I'm not having a go at the bin men in or any kind of people like that in our country? I know we're getting a little bit off topic from Yeah, we want to talk about but it just it seems so prescient, that we have Well, there are other countries that are seemingly doing it well and have, like you say that ingrained in their culture. And yet, it seems to be like a mentality issue elsewhere. And you somehow need to get more education for people to focus on this and realise that it is a problem. You know what, as well, just just as we're talking, he's talking about how it's great. I think it really starts with the kids as well. Now I've got two children, and my eldest is is seven now. So she was six when we moved to Sweden, and she went to the nursery here because they don't start school until seven in Sweden. So she went to the to the local nursery, and I think it was the first week they were all out picking up litter in the forest. And you know, I don't think that ever happened in England. The kids just went out in big groups. And no, it was just conquer football. That's all we did. That's still brilliant. Yeah. Push the needle for anything other than conquer football, but cut up a bit of both, maybe but, you know, she kind of I actually didn't know she'd done this. But you this was I say first few weeks when we moved to Sweden, and we were walking through the forest going somewhere or just exploring messing about. And she started picking up litter and, and collecting it. And she started saying, Daddy, you need to pick this one up here. And there's one over there. And he started saying, Oh, this is what they're doing at nursery, and that only they can having fun in the forest. But they're picking up litter as well. And that kind of starting them off that age, I suppose with that kind of conscious thinking. And that that way of doing things, I think it's really important and so easy as well, you know, that's something that you know, if you get them that early, though, they'll carry that, that mentality through that life. And yeah, that isn't some good habits early on. Yeah, exactly. That. Exactly. So it's 2019 is that when we've launched humans again? Yes. And what's the reception been like? And what was it? You know, what's it like building up to that day? Almost, and I guess, is it online? Or is it bricks and mortar as well? Yeah, a little bit of everything, actually. Obviously, massively nerve racking kind of building up to launching something like this and, you know, investing your own money and time into it and trying to do things for the right reason, you know, you you want to put provide people with a better alternative. And you just hope that people like it, and people want to buy into it. And it's it's, it's, it's a growing market, you know, the vegan market and, you know, we're trying to take a lot of boxes, well, it's kind of vegan, it's sustainable. It's contemporary and timeless. And you know, are you going to appeal to enough people really to be interested but it very quickly, like I said, it was picked up on and we ended up going into what we launched online, and the online sale started well, and then a store in Gothenburg called thrive, which is probably one of the best kind of conscious fashion stores in Scandinavia, wanted to take some styles in as well. So they they launched the brand in their store. And then various other websites started to contact me as well and wanted it on their website. So Ron, immaculate vegan and shop like you give a damn, you know, kind of vegan sustainable fashion websites. And so, yeah, we're now selling through through quite a few different platforms and selling really well and we've done A second drop of stock since we launched and about to order, a kind of third drop of stock as well. And we brought in new styles as well this year. So that's kind of where we're onto in our is just thinking, how can we expand the collection, and we want to keep developing new materials and new ways of doing things and become even more sustainable. So, you know, as far as I'm concerned, you've got to keep looking forward, and you can't stand still. And it's, and that's something that we want to do really, you know, that even when we kind of get a best seller, you know, and we've got a few key pieces in the collection now that we know are going to keep selling well. But how can you keep improving that and with everything that's going on now that you're you're finding that the material makers, and component makers are becoming more sustainable and developing new things all the time. And I think it's important to yet not stand still, and to keep kind of evolving and improving everything. And so fantastic. By the way, congratulations, you have a really good product on your hand. It has a very fitness on the podcast a few times before I really dig in sneakers is a very minimalist look. Yeah, thing that's not overly logo heavy? Yes, is that a conscious choice on your part in the design process? Definitely. For two reasons, to be honest. The first obviously, it's a lot more clean looking when you kind of don't, yeah, go overly branded on everything. And, you know, want to keep everything timeless and contemporary and, and also, you know, we the logos that we do have you'll see are mostly embroidered, all kinds, all lasered into the material, and just a very kind of sustainable way of of branding issues, if we're using too many prints and things like that, that just creates more waste. So by using lasering, and using kind of that self coloured embroidery, it's a nice, subtle and sustainable way of branding the footwear. And so, you know, it's a whole timeless aspect, it just comes from the fact that 10 years time, you still want people to pull these out the wardrobe and, and be able to wear them. And, you know, you before, I would have been wearing brands like common projects or axillary Gato. And, you know, I want those kind of those kinds of people wearing those brands to look at my brand. And to think that there's no reason why I couldn't buy into human suffering, you know, that? Actually, the price points are really good, as well. Exactly that as well. Yeah, I mean, you think leading new brands coming to the market? Yeah, I have to go through the process of, you know, startups and buying the initial stock, except that sometimes filters down to the price point. And I think these are really well, evenly, surprisingly, well priced. Yeah. And that's, that's it, I mean, we've, you wanted to keep the pricing as fair as possible. And even though everything is made in Portugal, and the materials are fantastic. Like I say, there's no reason why you, you people couldn't swap from common projects into something like this, and have not wanted to have an aggressive wholesale model either within the business. So, you know, from, from my kind of point of view that sometimes when brands launch and they're kind of really looking at wholesale in it, and you know, grown as big as they can as fast as they can. And to do that they need to put out big wholesale margins, and they got to attract other stores and distributors, and so forth, and so forth. And there's all these different profit margins going into the shoe that just ends up pushing the actual end price up and up and up. So that's really, it really, you know, just keeping the prices as competitive and as fair as possible, even though the product is premium, and it's made in Portugal, and this is the prices that we're at now kind of where I want to keep them and my kind of philosophy as well as when it comes to wholesale and when it comes to other trading partners, you know that they've got to want to work with us and they've got to want to understand that logic of keeping the price is fair. And if you stuck in a brand, my brand that you know you might not make as much profit as you will do other brands but it's not about that it's about giving people a really good alternative and something a bit better and the price is still good and because the price is good and hopefully the products good. We actually sell sell more anyway so it's very accessible. So I mean, I don't know about you, but if you have like a brand like especially guys that are very low You're typically very loyal to a brand. But I think in trainers, it does somehow become a bit more scattergun, because people like to have a different range and different brands. Like, if you really like trainers, then you're not about them. And you get held up a collection in no time at all. But you also want to try different brands and have a more diversified collection. So if you are in your common into common projects, what have you. Yeah, could easily, you know, switch over to something like this, because it's not such a huge, you know, it's not a huge chasm between the designs and the look and the feel of a product, but you can still have something that's very evenly priced and looks and looks pretty smart. Yeah. Yeah, totally. I think that's, that's what it's all about, you know, and when it kind of talks about contemporary fashion, versus maybe kind of more of a street fashion, I think, guys can shop around a bit more. And you know, because it's not emblazoned with big logos. Like we've said before, it's a lot easier for people to move into. And, you know, what I don't want to take on the Nikes of this world, and the Adidas is of this world, because, you know, those guys are operating at lower price points, and they will get more sustainable, and they will get better, which is great news, and, and kind of, you know, let that market, do what it wants to do. And let that guy kind of buy keep buying into that if they want. But you know, when it comes to contemporary fashion, this is a really good alternative. So, so Chris, I was gonna ask you, you're the brand is Peter vegan approved? Yeah, I was gonna ask, what are the motivations for that, and the process was a process to get that accreditation from Peter. Yeah. So with that certification, you basically need to complete a lot of criteria with those guys, and declare all your materials to them, all the components to them as well. And you need to be making sure you're not using any adhesives that contain any kind of animal traces in it as well. So it's kind of water based glues that you're using in production. And they will also check your products as well. And they will also without you knowing it will get hold of your some of your products, and they'll test it and check it and they'll keep doing that as well. And obviously, if you get caught out you you'll lose your certification, but it's Yeah, it's declaring everything and making sure that all the small things that you wouldn't even know about in a product followed quite strictly. And that's a big problem, to be honest, in the industry, that a lot of vegan brands out there, although the materials might be vegan, the glues that they're using deep learning, so there's quite a lot of grey areas, I think, but yeah, it is it and also when when you're using water based glues, like we do is completely different manufacturing process as well, it takes twice as long to make a shoe compared to if you just use conventional blues. You know, they don't need longer to to set longer to dry have to apply it slightly differently. So yeah, it takes twice as long to make a shoe with water basically loose. So right you can you can I understand why not understand. But you know, you can imagine why a lot of brands or factories might not want to use InDesign. So it's just extra hoops they have to go through. Yeah, more regulations, more red tape when they just think let's just get this trainer out there. We've done our best. Yeah, yeah, we we've got some vegan stuff in there, right? It's not 100%. But you know, yeah, no. And that's about knowing also imitations of not not just the glue, maybe, but also all the materials that, that you use them. And so that's when that's the important thing when it comes to designing and developing sustainable products is that the materials won't perform as conventional materials and you need to know the limitations to be able to design the product, really. And I think that's one thing I did from the start was instead of designing something, developing something then go, or how do I make it sustainable and 100% vegan? It's, it's doing that first? How, how am I going to be 100% vegan However, this is is this going to be sustainable? How can these materials perform within the shoes where's the right place to use them within the shoes and and that's something I think needs to happen right at the start. Because like I said, it takes twice as long to when you use what's basically to meet them in You know, I use things like pineapple leaves, in sneakers, you know, have panels made from pineapple leaf fibre, and that that doesn't perform particularly well, kind of stress points. So you could just suddenly say, I want to do a whole sneaker in pineapple leaves all that people have done. Yeah, for me, it was a bit like I've kind of I know, it's not durable enough to use at certain points. So I use it at the, the hill where it's going to be soft, and it's padded, and it's comfortable. And so, yeah, I mean, I've got a bit of your question there. But it's same kind of thing, really just just thinking about everything. And, and also, you'd like to say, you can't just swap it. You can't just swap glues and swap materials you can do but it might not be 100% sustainable or 100%. vegan. So yeah, this is a huge area. And again, congratulations, mate for well, going through all the necessary litigation to get that approval, and at the same time not compromising on the effects of the training. Yeah, it looks fantastic. So humans are vain.com to go where people can check out these trainers and ship internationally. Everything's. Yeah, I guess it will come correct. Yep. Yeah. Okay. That's right. Yes. nationally. And we're at the moment, we're all we're recording this on the first day, a team, a team. And what's it like? We've turned around at the moment if we, if I was to order a pair here in the UK? Yeah. So we ship within one to three business days. And we ship with FedEx. So if you order from the UK, you probably get them within four to five working days, I should think. Okay, pretty good. Yeah, not just pretty good. Pretty amazing. Well, listen, Chris, thanks so much for your time. Welcome. All the best out there and not that you need it. But good luck with the product. No, thank you very much and been a pleasure talking to you. And hopefully we'll talk again soon. Chris Marget, sir, from humans are vain. Remember, check out the website humans are vain.com and check out our website minzu estado coda UK, you'll find all the articles and plus the show notes, as I previously mentioned on all the social channels they should be following as well. All the free content, it's all going on. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed that one. Thanks for sticking with us. Thanks for leaving all the reviews on iTunes. I do get to read them all. And I looked at the ratings the other day the numbers are up. So that's all thanks to you. In the meantime, remember, it's only fashion people and you're never fully dressed without a smile.