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YnFx Sustainable Conversations

Emil Pettersen – Owner and Founder of Reparell AB

Our recent interaction with Emil Pettersen, Owner, Founder, and Development Manager at Reparell AB, talks about the story behind the brand Reparell and how it is working to achieve its mission to bring sustainability into the textile industry.

[Interview] Reparell creating cotton-free sustainable workwear from ocean waste

2021-08-04 15:56:00 – Sweden

Reparell AB is a sustainable outdoor and workwear manufacturer based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Founded by Emil Pettersen, the company manufactures ecologically sustainable and responsible-made clothes and textiles.

Reparell is a European producer replacing cotton with Lenzing Tencel in their knit program; instead of using virgin polyester, basing the production on NewLife for the uniforms; and using ocean waste, as in, Seaqual™ yarn for its outdoor collection.

Our recent interaction with Emil Pettersen, Owner, Founder, and Development Manager at Reparell AB, talks about the story behind the brand Reparell and how it is working to achieve its mission to bring sustainability into the textile industry.

YnFx: What is the story behind Reparell?

Pettersen: My background is everything but textile. For 20 years, I was working in engineering companies responsible for GUI – problem-solving and customer satisfaction of complex global IT systems designed to assist or control parts of or entire smart cities.

However, I was offered a CEO role in a confection-producing company in 2016. After having been there for approximately 2 weeks, I asked my colleagues to come up with alternative and sustainable fabrics to replace the virgin polyester/wool/EA mix in our big seller models. In spring 2017, we found a ‘NewLife’ (recycled PET) fabric made by the Italian mill Miroglio and the model ‘Repeat’ was born. The sustainable suit/dress ‘Corpwear’ line won the ‘Sustainable Product’ of the year at The PSI Trade Fair in Colon in 2017.

Since then, I was working with product development for some of Scandinavian biggest producers of apparel out of China and Dhaka.

I started Reparell in September 2019 as a reaction to my employers not letting me experiment and try out more modern yarns as increased cost for materials or salaries (living wage) did not support their business model (30 Euro FOB Chittagong equals 300 Euro customer price in Scandinavia.)

YnFx: What’s the manufacturing process of the company and what are the sustainable materials you use during the process?

Pettersen: We are proud to call ourselves a true European producer. In addition to being sustainable, we like to talk about the advantages of producing locally to reduce the transport time and emissions. This gives us lead-time advantages and helps reduce carbon emissions. Having a flexible production system, being able to make as little as 20 pcs while having no trouble producing 148 or 14000, as long as all fabrics and trims are European as well the logistics works in our favor. 

As for fabrics we work with current sustainable textile producers in the market. Our own Tencel/Seaqual knit fabric is knitted and colored right here in the west of Sweden. As for woven material, we are happy to work with splendid brands such as Seaqual, NewLife, and Yarnaway. This autumn we are happy to present a new collaboration as Reparell will take on the role as the Scandinavian representative of our very good friends, the sustainable Portuguese weaver Lemar. Our first presentation together will be at the fair “Preview Fabrics & Accessories” in Stockholm between 1-2 September.

YnFx: What are the different sustainable products offered by Reparell?

Pettersen: We are fabric-focused and produce upon order. As long as we can find sustainable fabric/trims that have the qualities satisfying the needs of the customer, we can produce anything. 

Since it all started with suits/uniforms, we would like to mention that we have this chic and durable 4 way stretch model (M/F) made in 53% New Life Recycled Polyester, 43% Wool, 4% Elastane, together with buttons made of ocean waste, dissolvable hang-tags, and compostable hanger.

As for other products we produce based on orders and on the fabrics we qualify but we are obviously very proud of our knitted “functional wear”.

And again, the “summer edition” we made for the incredibly cool destination of Pater Noster with bathing shorts, Polo shirt, sun hat, apron, and tote bag. 

 YnFx: How did the Covid-19 pandemic push Reparell to redefine its strategies and goal?

Pettersen: Reparell was up and running just in time to be almost totally destroyed by Covid restrictions. Based on my experience from my previous work we were set up to target the hospitality industry such as  hotels, restaurants, airlines, and bus and train companies.  

We delivered the uniforms to the two first hotels the same day as Scandinavia closed down for COVID-19. As we know, this industry immediately pulled the emergency brake and shut down.  During spring/summer/autumn, we did not sell anything. As a newly registered company, we were not eligible for any governmental support, and thus, the last 18 months have been funded by my private savings.

To have something to do while NOT selling any uniforms, we started experimenting with what we could produce locally. We have always known that there are some very fine knitters in the area.  

We gambled that the market for sports/outdoor clothes would grow as we knew that the amusement park Liseberg had a very high standard in terms of sustainability in all aspects. We managed to get them to place a trial order of 100 pcs zip-jackets of this locally knitted and colored new quality we had been experimenting on (73% Tencel and 27% Seaqual). Based on this order, we produced different fabrics qualities with the same composition.

To create a cash stream to keep the company floating and be able to keep my employees (working 50%) while exploring and developing new and more sustainable yarn/fabrics, I spent nearly three months working long days 7 days a week this winter, rinsing fish in a Salt-Cod factory in the north of Norway. It was hard physical work but totally worth it. I am very grateful for the opportunity given to me by the owners of the company Brödrene Karlsen AS as this saved the company from bankruptcy. 

This spring, we are proud to be delivering 100% Swedish-produced clothing/merchandise to the most prestigious hotel project in northern Europe, the award-winning Island and lighthouse Pater Noster.

YnFx: What’s next for Reparell?

Pettersen: Besides our “conventional” production of apparel, we invest in ways of making more sustainable (biologically degradable and compostable) yarn. We recently failed at melt-spinning pellets made from sugar beats but are now about to start a test with an additive that increases the quality of “low quality” polyester and makes it spinnable to yarn. Our hypothesis is that if you increase the quality of the polyester used in yarn, the leakage of microplastics will be lower.

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