Menswear Style Podcast

Curra Rotondo, Co-Founder of LEFRIK

October 15, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 87
Menswear Style Podcast
Curra Rotondo, Co-Founder of LEFRIK
Chapters
Menswear Style Podcast
Curra Rotondo, Co-Founder of LEFRIK
Oct 15, 2020 Episode 87
Menswear Style

Established in 2012, LEFRIK started designing urban bags, backpacks and travel essentials using the highest quality eco-friendly fabrics made out of recycled plastic PET bottles. the brand was born to solve travel and city commuting problems by providing the most fashionable and functional bags for the modern digital nomad. They offer conscious consumers access to innovative products that while still being cool and savvy, are made avoiding the use of more natural resources. LEFRIK contributes to the environment by reducing the use of virgin polyester and rather extending the life of discarded plastic bottles, while saving energy in the production process. The brand is also proudly approved as vegan by the animal welfare organisation PETA.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview LEFRIK Co-Founder Curra Rotondo about her background in the fashion industry, the story of how the backpack and travel accessories brand first started and how it's currently trading during Covid-19. Our host Peter Brooker and Curra also chat about how they came up with the brand name, recycled plastic bottles, having a social and environmental impact, and giving back to the planet.

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

Established in 2012, LEFRIK started designing urban bags, backpacks and travel essentials using the highest quality eco-friendly fabrics made out of recycled plastic PET bottles. the brand was born to solve travel and city commuting problems by providing the most fashionable and functional bags for the modern digital nomad. They offer conscious consumers access to innovative products that while still being cool and savvy, are made avoiding the use of more natural resources. LEFRIK contributes to the environment by reducing the use of virgin polyester and rather extending the life of discarded plastic bottles, while saving energy in the production process. The brand is also proudly approved as vegan by the animal welfare organisation PETA.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview LEFRIK Co-Founder Curra Rotondo about her background in the fashion industry, the story of how the backpack and travel accessories brand first started and how it's currently trading during Covid-19. Our host Peter Brooker and Curra also chat about how they came up with the brand name, recycled plastic bottles, having a social and environmental impact, and giving back to the planet.

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 and welcome to another episode of The menswear star podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. On this episode I'm going to talk to kara rotundo. She is the CEO and co founder of the frick, and I'm going to pull up some info here from the nephric website which you can find By the way, www.nephric.com and maybe I should spell that l EFRIK. Established in 2012. The Frick started designing urban bags, backpacks and travel essentials using the highest quality eco friendly fabrics made out of recycled plastic PET bottles. The Frick was born to solve travel and city commuting problems by providing the most fashionable and functional bags for the modern digital nomad. They offer conscious consumers access to innovative products that while still being cool and savvy are made avoiding the use of more natural resources. The Frick contributes the environment by reducing the use of virgin polyester and Robert extending the life of discarded plastic bottles while saving energy in the production process. Their products are designed in Spain and ethically manufactured in Asia. They are members of the ethical fashion forum and their factory follows the fair wear foundation code of conduct. quite a mouthful, but you get the idea. That interview with Kurt come and I really enjoyed it. It's one of the most nourishing chats I've had in a while he makes you realise that we can all do a little bit more. I should also know that I expected the prices on these bags to be designer level and it's really far from it. These bags are very excessively priced. And Kurt mentioned to me of Mike that that was deliberate that these bags should be for everyone, so be sure to check them out. Before we get to Carrillo Don't forget to check out the show notes at menswear style.co uk and on the social at men's wear style. All the latest fashion news over there. Ivan yassky has just written an article luxury face shields are expanding the designer peepee market. He writes it was bound to happen just as Burberry and offwhite introduced luxury face masks. Back in spring, Louie Vuitton debuted its luxury face shield in September dubbed the Lv shield. And I'm looking at a picture here. I mean, we'll all be looking like astronauts in the year 2021 with me. Anyway, check that article out and many more over at menswear. style.co.uk and if you want to tell us about your brand and your journey, you can email the show at info at menswear. style.co.uk Okay. Let's get to it. This is a good one. Hope you enjoy it. Here is that interview with kara rotundo CEO and co founder of the frick. Well it's my great pleasure to introduce Kira rotundo, CEO of Le Frick, co founder I should say also, how are we doing tonight? Kara? Fine, fine. feels kind of warm here in Spain. So doing good. So what is life like for you at the minute in Madrid? Give me a give me an idea of what it's like in these crazy times. Well, crazy times of course because now we are having a peak of infections. So with cockpit around is not I think it's not easy for anybody who is has has been on a really tough year for Madrid. So we are now trying to recover but again fiction so so it's not easy we are we are in semi lockdown. But Spanish people are happy Spanish people are people that that try to live that the life have the happiest life they can. So everything is cool. Okay, I guess? Well, I mean, it's it just occurred to me that I guess in Britain, we're kind of used to being indoors during the winter, at least because it's cold as heck over here in the UK and it's wet so it'd be locked out. It's like, Okay, well, we'll just stay indoors like we normally do. But in Spain, it's a completely different kettle of fish because you guys love the sun, you're out in the sun all the time. So it must be a lot harder for you guys. It's super hard. It's super hard and we are used to to go with with this families and make massive groups of 20 people and have meals and everything and now it's just six persons in it. Just people in it so far encounters. So it's really tough to get only six. Yes. It's not the Spanish way. Yeah. Especially the Spanish way. Well, look, we'll get on to perhaps touch upon it later. You know, finding out how COVID has affected your industry as well. But maybe For the uninitiated, you can just give us a little introduction to who you are, what it and what the frick is please yeah Of course I am the CEO and co founder of the freak and Cliff freak is a brand of open packs and backpacks made with the highest quality recycled materials made from discarded PE t plastic bottles. What is p? p t is a kind of plastic I won't be able to say it exactly because it's a very difficult name like prayer flat tops are soft right okay but is what is used to make all the clear plastic waters water plastic water bottles and also they saw that and also in some countries they use it for oil and for a alko so it's like very widely used. And bt it's also say it's what is made from the polyester the built in polyester. So all the breaking polyester in the fashion industry is made out of P et you can use the ag polyester which is made of crude oil, or you can use recycled polyester, as we do in this week, which is made out of plastic bottles. I started plastic models what I found interesting being on your website which people can find By the way, the frick.com is that you guys have been around since 2012. This was you know, this is not just something that's come across in the last couple of years I do feel like eco fashion brands have really been in the uptick for the last three to four years. But you you've been around for a lot longer so perhaps you can tell us about how it all began for you and why why you started it as an eco friendly brand. Yes, we are two partners in the frick David and I and David is a businessman who has started up other companies in the past see he's he's the the owner and founder of our successful renewable renewable energy company in Spain called green energy which is now publicly listed. And so when we when we met he was at the same he was started up his own venture capital and I was working in the fashion industry during my time am a working for other fashion companies I had the opportunity to see things could be made in a better way because in fashion everything was made with with seasons or might produce a became waste after a very short time. And again we were pushed to create a new collection and new items. It was very fast and and and crazy. And the other side David that he has always be kind of climate activists and he says strong passionate about environment a so we both partner and we we both strongly believe he believed he was there was a possibility of making profitable business with a with environment, environmental and social impact. We both understand sustainability not only as a matter of being good to the planet, but also to the people on it. Okay, so it was in 2011 when we started with the idea of creating an accessories brand to solve community problems because we we both supported the idea there was a gap in the market when finding a good travel partner that was functional but good looking at the same time and doable and so we we travelled to Taiwan looking for this sustainable fabrics we knew that they would the existence of this sustainable fabrics and it was in 2012 when nearly nearly one year later a when we launched the first delivery collection very excited and you're also Peter approved right now i i know how difficult that is to get that stamp of approval because I interviewed a previous guest who made a sneaker out of upcycled material and he said everything was Peter approved apart from like the little flugel binders The thing that I don't think it's called flugel binders for little things that fasten the shoelace at the end. Okay, right those those were the last things they had like a tiny tiny residue of plastic on it and he couldn't get it approved so he had to run through the process all over again to get it just right. Did you find it also quite hard to get it through and many levels and the many hurdles that you have to get that special pizza stamp? Well, the pizza stamp, which is more about being like vegan and not using animals and caring about the animal. The animals was a kind of easy because what not DC but we could like demonstrate from the very beginning we weren't using anything involving animals in anything. We wanted to be vegan because we think vegan lifestyle is the most sustainable way of living? No, it's something that was ghosting or sustainable. Being no been began, that's why we asked for the PETA approved. It was, it was it was worse, maybe to to find all the certificates to demonstrate that all fabrics are hundred percent recycling because it's not easy to have like 100% recycled materials to use in your backpacks. You it's, it's easy to find, when you use a super nice fabric. It's it has makes it has maybe one part recycled and one part building or it's mixed between hundred percent and organic cotton. But we wanted like to be very pure when like using hundred percent recycled materials. And I think that was more tough, maybe, and on, and you need to use very good suppliers that are certified and that can prove that all the processes made correctly. So I maybe it was difficult, it was difficult. Well, listen, I think you're doing the Lord's work. I mean, how many other brands out there are doing what you're doing? Do you find there's more people trying to do what you're doing now? Well, I think like I used to say that we we are sustainable before gretta? No, it was when we started the company, no, it was not. We built this hundred percent sustainable company in 2012. You said you talk about it. And when sustainability and and social commitment was only a mindset, it was not a requirement. Now. Nowadays, you cannot build a business knowing social and environmental impact. which is which is great on the other side. No, because it's it's today everybody cares about it. But maybe is what more distinguishes the frick know that, from the rest of the companies that we were built hundred percent sustainable. And every step we take, we always put the planet and people first. That's awesome. But you think about branching off? I mean, I saw you do many different varieties of bags on the website. Do you have any goals in the future to do kind of lines of clothing like special suits or anything else? Have you thought that far ahead? Well, we we thought about it like like last year, but we have to stop you to to Corona to covet effects, because we we had to stick to what we had. In the warehouse on the on the stock we had we had to, to we we try not to cancel orders to our suppliers but we had to to push them forward. So an n and m projects we have on mind we had to stop this breaks. One of the projects was a starting with the apparel collection. But it's something we have on mind for 2021. Okay, another thing we have in mind for 2021 is to make like to achieve to have like the hundred percent recycled and recyclable backpack is means every piece thread creaming in the backpack must be made of recycled material. And at the same time, all the materials need to be easily recycled again. Okay, so. So with this in mind a way when design the R stands for 2021 we try we strive to use the minimum number of elements. So So these elements can be easily separated and recycled again. Wow. And also because we love simple, durable and practical products, and we think that the minimum like less is more No. Yeah, yeah. But you're also I mean, on the website, I encourage people to go through your goals section like where you want to go for the fair wear foundation for 2021. And you're also part of the 1% for the planet. I've not heard of that before. Can you tell us what that is? 1% for the planet 1% for the planet was a lounge for this Patagonia CEO. And it's an it's a organisation that you give the 1% of your income to, to to nonprofit associations that care about the planet. You can choose your own associations, but these these one person for the planet organisation deals with you and the rest of the companies where you want to place your money in. They make an audit at the end of the year they see how many income you made and this 1% of your income has to be placed in any organisation that you feel comfortable with. And a and and this is the way to give back to the planet. No because I think that only with with making a business and having it running. You are making an impact. Yeah, it's it's unavoidable. So They are is to give back to the planet more than you are getting from him. That's nice. Well, you're already doing that anyway, with the kind of ethos of your brand. I mean, you'd think it'd be like the likes of Coca Cola or Facebook that needs to do the 1%. Right? Yeah, we could, we could cure a few problems right there. And then if we add, yeah, these guys chipping, you know, people say like, 1% of your income, but that's a lot, because it's not up to your profit, it's up your income, you really don't have profit one year, but this 1% goes there, but they think, I think it's, it's the best way, like to show that you're really committed no is is something that you can or spend the money in marketing or in other kinds of actions or making maybe more product and then putting the products on sales, and have meant less margin, or you can give this money to 1% for the planet and, and make that impact. Yeah. Sounds like something everybody should do. But only people with a pure heart will do. So sure how many people are involved now with le freak? How big is the company? A we are seven working full time electric. But we have like many partners around the free community. Right? We work with agents and in UK, distributors. In Germany, we have two suppliers in Asia, the fabric supplier and the manufacturing supply a factory. We also have a distributor in Russia, we have a distributor. So this is like what I call like plethoric community. So it's not only like the seven people that we are working every day A is that all the communities working for effect, not for me, like I see, as a CEO, I think it's really important to, to work to have this community happy and people are comfortable and happy to work with the free. And what is so what do you do like on a day to day are you kind of knee deep in the business maybe won't be for a day of the life of currer and CEO of luvfree? Well, maybe I am the CEO but I guess being not only the CEO, but the co founder makes me feel my year in a different way. So I'm not only responsible of their all of their own business growth and development, but also meeting the needs of this whole community I was talking about No. And in anyone, like all the committee, or delivery community, or anybody involved with the freak is something very important for us. And, and, and relevant and when and when we seek to work with a with them we look for for we are people, people who believe in the brand and and are willing to grow with us, and also share our commitment and philosophy, it doesn't make sense to work with somebody that doesn't feel like us, that we need to make like an impact in the environment. So it has to be something important. So for me as a CEO, it's a great responsibility. And and it's one of my main main contributions to the company, trying to improve processes and in all the areas so everybody is happy working for, for, for free. And I feel like my my final goal as CEO is to build a brand, a brand known worldwide for its impact on the environment, and equally growing it into a company known for being and a Saudi place an outstanding place to work in. I'm so what's it like to work now? I mean, we touched upon it earlier with how it's kind of stymied some of your potential collections that are coming out, but how is COVID really impacted your industry COVID has been like a global crisis. And and I think that has in in in some way helps help us realise that we are on the right path when talking about slow fashion. A we had the chance to to reorganise everything without affecting any of our suppliers directly. And we have been we have been forced to delay shipments, as I told you before and due to some to some cancellations. But I think that step by step we would recover from the downturn, I think, or at or at least for my experience cobit has helped us to join forces and known know how that we can count on each other. When when from passing through difficulty times. No. And I think pretty much the same has been with the rest of my parents. I think everybody has like a tie to help everybody to try to to the past these difficult times together No. And I know obviously we have been lucky this time not because being in this low fashion, I think being a slow fashion brand has printed out a plaything in our favour. No. Right? Because you don't have to fire out a different season or you don't have access. Yeah, that seed we do. We don't like produce massive quantities, we don't have like, super fast and we need to change styles and we don't we don't have this kind of, of working methods. So so it was something that we had have had to slow down to say hello, don't spit. Like maybe what they said you will a before maybe our collection has to wait. Yeah, that's it. I'll be excited to see the apple the collection of clothing that you have in mind so maybe you could tease us by putting a few designs up on the website. Baby Baby I'm curious also what is the freak mean? Is it a Spanish word or something completely different? No, and Africa doesn't mean anything. Oh, and that's why was something that we love about the name it that's it sounded friendly. And we were looking for a short name easy to remember in in many different languages. And because we always had in mind to be a global brand. We later realised there is a meaning in French Ah, is being a little bit tough when when selling the brand there. But I think it's also funny it's also an easy name and it's friendly and people likes it overall. What does it mean in French? It's it's money but in slang Okay, it's it's as long way to see money like cash or but yeah, yeah, that's well, that's lucky. I mean, you could launch the brand had the website, the trademark and then found out it meant something really horrible in French chic fixer shake. Well, that's what they did with Kodak. When Kodak was released. The founders was asked all the time, what's it mean? He goes, it means absolutely nothing, but you'll never forget it. It's easy. Couple of letters. It's almost like a palindrome that it starts exactly like a palindrome but it doesn't read backwards, what it does forwards, but it is very snappy and pun intended, very catchy. And we were and we as we started in 2012. It was like super important that had the.com free. Yes, we had the.com free. So we have it. Look, I've launched many startups and many blogs have websites. And because I haven't gotten there first with the domain, I've had to go for these obscure dot x y Zed orgs. And they always fall flat. anyone listening out there? Try and get the.com no matter what. Yeah, it's something that is they. It was one of our requirements when choosing the name. Listen, Kara. I want to be respectful of your time. Thanks so much for coming on and talking about the brand, the frick.com place to go. Best of luck and good luck in your new home. Or the old Thank you very much. Okay. How about that car, just a nice, wholesome human being. It sounds terribly patronising. But we should all want to leave the world in a better place and once we found it, so make sure you're supporting the good guys and head over to the frick, calm and treat yourself or your loved one. In the meantime, thanks for tuning in. If you like what you're hearing, leave a review. It does help our egos and until next time