BLOG | An interview with Pangaea Clothing – from Science to Fashion

Who is Pangaea?
Pangaea is a young energetic start-up who embarked on a mission of sustainability. They chose to start with the most fundamental and challenging issue- fashion and its production process, from the maker to the consumer.

Photo: Pangaea Clothing

But who are they really?
Pangaea is founded by 4 enthusiastic students of future planet studies, physics, and spacial planning.
Jesse Schoenmakers
Jesse is studying earth sciences and future planet studies in Amsterdam. He’s from Haarlem.
Daan Disco
Daan is also studying future planet studies, with a background in and passion about spacial planning, sustainable architecture, designing cities and how people move in them.
Daan Stroeken
Daan Stroeken is studying interdisciplinary social sciences, technical studies with a focus on physics. He is from Utrecht.
Mees Eringa
Mees is also into future planet studies and city planning. He is also the one responsible for the visual image of Panagea, designing and web-designing for them.

Photo: Alexandra Dragne (in the photo: Daan Stroeken, Daan Disco, Mees Eringa, Jesse is missing)

How did you meet?
We met during the studies and we became friends. We were driven by the idea to do something good for the planet, something sustainable. On top of that we also had the ambition to become young entrepreneurs.

How did you start Pangaea?
We have a scientific background and through research we wanted to target a fundamental problem and make a change from there. We wanted to focus on communication because not everybody knows how big the challenge we’re facing nowadays when it comes to the environment.
That’s how we came to clothing, because it’s a really fundamental issue at the moment. It is also an industry where you can easily see the stages of production and make a change where it is needed, from the resource, to the process to the end product and ultimately to the consumer behaviour. We wanted to communicate a message through clothing in this case, although our background is not in the fashion industry.

How did you come to work with bamboo lyocell?
We started with investigating organic cotton, but soon enough we were already sceptical about it. We were not convinced that organic cotton is sustainable enough, so we were thinking there must be a better option right now.
Therefore we went looking at other resources and then we came to bamboo, which is an amazing one. But it also seemed too good to be true because normally in order to break down the bamboo structure, some harmful chemicals are used. We further learnt there are also methods which don’t involve bad chemicals, thus we discovered bamboo lyocell. We decided this must be the best material at the moment, so we went for this option.
The process of making bamboo lyocell is environmentally friendly because it involves an organic solvent that makes the bamboo soft. Water is also needed in the production process but in a considerably less quantity than other materials require.

Where do you produce the bamboo lyocell?
We found the textile we wanted to work with, now we only needed to find a producer. The fibre is innovated in China. From what we know, there is only one factory in China making bamboo lyocell in the whole world, so that’s our producer.  There are actually 3 factories: a factory that makes the bamboo lyocell fibres, a factory that produces textiles from these fibres; here the hemp, recycled polyester and lycra are also added. And the third factory is where our Pangaea Mark 1 is produced.
We work together with a partner who has been there so we found out about the infrastructure of this garment in China. He spoke with them and saw the working conditions in the factories and they were good. The Chinese government made strict rules about production and it’s not too bad for the environment. The factories are situated in the progressive Shanghai district as well.
We have also visited the factory where they make our long sleeve.
You can see the video about it here.

Where does the bamboo used in the process come from?
All the bamboo is grown there. It’s from the bamboo forest in the south China, a natural forest, owned by someone. We are not sure who owns this forest but for sure there are no Pandas involved!
In the future we would like to work with bamboo by planting it to restore the soil, use the bamboo for clothing and then use the restored soil for crops. Bamboo is an amazing plant because it can restore the whole ecosystem and it stimulates other species. This is the recycled resource we will be using in the future most probably.

Can you say something about the designs and the sizes of the Pangaea shirt?
It’s designed for men, very basic, but it could also be unisex. It’s basic and casual and it doesn’t go out of fashion.
We started  developing a short sleeve and a long sleeve. But we decided to go along with the long sleeve. Our long sleeve is called Mark I.
We’re investigating if it’s possible to dye the material with natural dyes, in an industrial way. But for now we’re using chemical dyes. The cost of this product is 5 times more than a regular long sleeve and we don’t want the price to get too high because we don’t want only the elite to be able to buy it, it should be available for everyone. At the moment, the natural dyes would make it a bit too expensive, so we asked the factory for a more sustainable way of dying.
They use fibre dye, which is the process of dying each fibre before making a textile out of it. In this way the colour stays in longer and it’s more beautiful.

What about the cost-quality ratio?
When we were looking for sustainable alternatives for clothing ourselves we found that everything was too expensive in the sustainable shops, so that’s also why we started this initiative, to make something sustainable affordable for everyone.
The quality of the product is very important and it makes it last way longer than a normal shirt. We don’t want it to be thrown away. We feel really positive about the durability of the Mark 1.

The composition of each shirt?
We have the shirt available in earthy colours, but also non-dyed colour, which is bleached for 30 minutes.
70% bamboo lyocell
15% recycled polyester
15% hemp
2% lycra
We want to get rid of the polyester as soon as possible. We’re trying to be as sustainable as possible, but also as transparent as possible, so for now we still have the recycled polyester in the composition. The 2% lycra added in the composition is also something that we discovered after visiting the factory.

Did you get a lot of feedback on your product so far?
Mostly designers were interested in our material and they want to start working with it. A lot of people were inspired by the initiative and the material itself. While doing our research, we got to talk to many people and shops, also because we don’t have a background in fashion.

How did you come up with the name of your company?
Pangaea signifies all the continents together- a world that is linked and where everything you do affects the other. Also during the time Pangaea existed as one super continent, everything was natural.

What do you think could start changing the behaviour of people when it comes to sustainability and environment friendliness?
People might think that change can happen only if everyone does it, but actually it starts from yourself, you influence people around you. Your small actions will inspire the ones around you to do the same. The government should also get actively involved.
We have to focus on what’s going to happen in a long term. Where were the discussions on climate change in the Dutch elections debate?
Of course we get worried when we think too much about it. A lot of people just don’t know what we’re facing and a lot of people do, but they don’t know where to start.
We can say that the younger generation in our network is more aware of climate change than let’s say 4 years ago.
We also think it’s a communication problem, because the facts are there, but not everyone knows.
The big issue of sustainability is that it looks like such a huge problem and it seems scary for the people who are not into sustainability because they think they have to change their lifestyle completely, they get defensive and then they do nothing. I think we need to be understanding and to accept that it’s normal to find it difficult to start changing, especially when we don’t understand everything. But then it’s good to inform ourselves as much as possible and realise how big the impact we could make if we start with changing at least one habit, like buying less from the fast fashion stores for example.

What do you think of the big fast fashion stores?
The fast fashion industry is still, sadly, the second most polluting industry. Patagonia on the other hand is one big company that is pretty transparent and open to changing. And maybe other big companies can take that example.
Sustainable stores have organic cotton but they don’t know what’s behind it. They think it’s organic and good for the environment, but that’s really not enough.
As for deliveries of clothes for big companies, emission per product is higher for garments that get delivered by truck from Spain for example than by boat from across the ocean.
The retro/second hand initiatives are becoming more and more cool, clothing exchanges are becoming more popular so it’s not good for the big firms. They would genuinely need to reinvent themselves with sustainability in mind.

What are your next steps?
Our goal was to visit the factory in China to further investigate and share our knowledge about the working conditions there, and this summer Jesse has been to China and returned with positive feedback.
The next step is the kick-starter launching of the Mark I, which is expected on the 20th September 2017.
Our mission is to become as sustainable as possible, to communicate in an easy, clear way and to be transparent. We’re learning everyday something new!

(click on the picture to view the video!)

How can people follow Pangaea/ buy the product?
Instagram: pangaea_clothing


by Alexandra Dragne

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