Tell us about you and your brand
Stephen: We are childhood friends from Dublin, and in the midst of the pandemic, we started our journey with Awave Apparel. We were on very different paths but we joined together with a shared passion, to build a brand that makes a difference. I was starting a new job in the US when I was thrown a curve ball and had to drop everything and come home due to the growing concerns around Covid.
Eric: I was working full time and studying but then decided to drop out of my masters to focus on building Awave, a project I was really passionate about. From our individual kitchen tables, we spent two years obsessing over every detail of the brand – all over Zoom as it was in the middle of the pandemic. We knew plastic was a massive problem and we wanted to be part of the solution.
Starting a sustainable brand in the current climate isn’t enough though, we need to reverse the damage that has already been previously done. The starting point for us and one of our biggest challenges to date, was finding ethical suppliers that sourced innovative fabrics that are made from recycled plastic bottles. Once we found a factory that ticked all of our boxes, we started having conversations with them about the fabrics they could use, the processes they used to manufacture clothing and the innovative ways they operate which made them the perfect partner for Awave Apparel. We were so impressed with the fabrics they had available, how they were made and the difference they were making in the fashion industry. We knew using this regenerative fabric was a great start to making a real difference. We then worked on perfecting the fit of the range, sourcing plastic-free packaging and getting to work on our website.
We also wanted to fully highlight to our customers what the impact of choosing to shop sustainably could have. We spent a lot of time working on the brand concept, the communications and the marketing strategy to really get our message across. From there, came the idea for our ReMove range. Each garment has an icon with little dots on it. Every dot represents a plastic bottle that was taken out of the environment to make that item.
For example here are the savings from our bestselling leggings:19 plastic bottles recycled, 668 litres of water saved, six months of phone charging saved. How amazing is that?! We know we’re not going to change the world overnight but it’s a start, and it will build like a wave, Awave of change.
What inspired you to set up your brand?
Eric: Covid was a dark time with lots of bad news for everyone and we just wanted to do something good. At the time, Stephen and I couldn’t meet up indoors due to restrictions so we would regularly meet and go for a walk on the beach outdoors. We were shocked by the amount of rubbish and waste thrown on the ground – which became worse during the pandemic because people were spending more time outdoors.
We also both live in activewear and couldn’t find anything sustainable to wear. Our love of activewear paired with the frustration we felt from seeing the damage being done to our environment and we set about to make, what we hoped, would be a wave of change. We believe sustainability is no longer enough, there are lots of brands that inch towards sustainability but we wanted to start way beyond that, to be regenerative.
What is your mission?
Our goal has always been to build a brand that stands to make a real difference. Building a brand with a community of like-minded people who feel good in what they wear and why they’re wearing it. We will go beyond sustainability every time and we’ll do it without compromising on comfort and style.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
We both worked in several fashion stores during college and from that experience, we knew we wanted to work in the industry. To have a vision for a range and be able to bring it to life has been a dream. It’s been such a cool process to do together from our shared perspective and style influences.
We both take inspiration from?
We take inspiration from the many brand owners who started with an idea and grew it into something big that has a positive impact on so many people. We love the idea of building a community and being able to join people together with common interests and goals. We both love the ocean and during the pandemic, we had countless beach walks. We’ve been following lots of ocean clean-up charities that highlight the crazy amount of plastic pollution that finds its way into the sea. Our biggest inspiration is growing the brand while having a positive impact on people’s lives and the planet.
What kind of items do you stock?
We stock both a men’s and a women’s range. The women’s range consists of high-waisted ? leggings, two variations of sports bras, biker shorts and long sleeve crop tops in four colour ways. Our men’s range is made up of joggers, t-shirts, shorts and joggers.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
We are continuously looking to improve our range based on feedback from our customers which is so important to us. We’re working on adding an athleisure range for the colder months. We are also looking at making sizing amendments based on the feedback we have received. Nobody gets it right from the start but we’re putting a lot of work in behind the scenes to grow and listen to our community.
Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
When we started we definitely went through our savings pretty fast. This was particularly the case because of what we wanted to create. Ordering sustainable fabrics was a lot more costly than manufacturing with unsustainable ones. We also did not want to compromise on any part of the business, so every step of the way we chose the eco-friendly route which happened to be more expensive, but it’s worth every penny for what we have launched with. We’re proud of what we’ve created and we love that our community appreciate all the details we’ve added, because it was not the cheap route to go down.
Best business advice you’ve gotten
Go with your gut; have a vision and chase it.
Favourite sustainable style accounts to follow online
The Good On You app, The Useless Project, Ecoage and The Sustainable Fashion Forum to name but a few!
Best fashion purchase
Eric: A jacket I recently got from Depop!
Stephen: A duffel bag I bring everywhere with me.
Other sustainable Irish brands you love
Allreal nutrition! We love everything that this Kerry-based brand stands for and love watching the two owners’ journey.
Most useful learning since setting up a business
Learning to have patience. Everything takes longer than you think. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Tell us about your decision to donate profits to ocean clean-up charities
We wanted to make real change. We take plastic out of our environment to make our products and we wanted to also give our profits to charities that actively help to solve the ocean plastic pollution problem. We want to make a real difference.
Proudest moment so far
Our launch day was such a surreal experience, seeing a project you’ve been working on for two years come to life was amazing.
I want my brand to be remembered for…
Having a positive impact on people’s lives and also the planet.
If I could dress anyone it would be…
Erci: Steven Bartlett. He is somebody we really look up to in business. He started from nothing and has grown huge businesses through his hard work and passion. I also saw him when he was in Dublin and loved his fashion sense!
Stephen: The dream would be to have Katie Taylor wearing Awave Apparel. She has reached the pinnacle of her career representing Ireland on the world stage whilst also being an incredible role model.