The founder and president of Ecoalf has created a sustainable fashion brand using other people’s rubbish.
Ecoalf, launched by Javier Goyeneche in 2013, was born of frustration about the lack of environmental engagement in the fashion industry. He had spent the previous two years scouring coastlines and chatting to fisherman and scientists, and decided to use re-formed plastic to create his first collection of clothes, accessories and footwear. It received glowing endorsements and landed him a collaboration with Apple, quickly propelling the brand – and its message – to prominence. Ecoalf has since developed more than 250 plastic-derived fabrics and, most recently, upped its style credentials with the smart new Shao shoe, the sole of which is made from some especially pernicious algae.
“I’ve always preferred people who are up for a challenge,” says Goyeneche, 48. “Far too many people have a propensity for ‘no’ because they’re comfortable with the status quo. I try not to waste too much energy convincing them to change their ways. There are always plenty of people willing to work towards a solution.”
Following a successful recycling roll-out in more than 50 Spanish ports, where Goyeneche’s team collected 250 tonnes of rubbish from 3,000 enthusiastic fishermen (fittingly, the waste is being recycled into swimwear), the initiative has been extended to include 14 Thai provinces. “The Thai government has embraced the project,” says Goyeneche, who isn’t finished yet. “We are working to enlist 30,000 fishermen to make it a Mediterranean-wide programme involving 14 additional countries.”
Goyeneche is an evangelist for his cause: in 2017 Ecoalf participated in 74 conferences around the world and its new Berlin shop includes a space for hosting talks. Yet Spaniards pride themselves on a healthy work-life balance and Goyeneche is no different – swearing by the need for a proper break with family every Christmas. A reminder that sometimes the best inspiration is found closer to home.
Shops: Madrid, Barcelona and Berlin
“My sense of non-conformism was drilled into me by my mother. She taught me to explore my own ideas, see them through and take the leap, even though it might be a scary one.”
“I take my family to Colombia every Christmas and have a keepsake from almost every trip. It’s one of the few moments I allow myself to completely disconnect, slow down and rest.”
“I’m constantly writing, especially when I travel. Last year I spent 162 days away from home. Writing while in transit is my way of staying organised with such a hectic life.”
“Madrid is a social city. I dine with both friends and colleagues at least twice a week. Sometimes a more relaxed setting lends itself to more open discussion and better ideas.”
“Running represents dedication and commitment, but also relaxes me. I let my mind wander or focus on an important idea.”
“I’m always adding to a collage, whether it’s about architecture, art, gardening, nature or just articles of interest. My piles of scrapbooks and their contents are a reminder of what inspires me. I’m not sure when, but these scrapbooks will come in handy one day.”
“I want people to ask questions, be curious and approach me. Keeping my door open reminds my team that I’m accessible to them.”
“I’ve ridden horses ever since I was young. They remind me of a life choice: I gave up show-jumping at 18 to focus on my studies.”
“Reconnecting with nature is important to me; being surrounded by greenery clears my mind. I had reservations about isolating myself in suburbia but with a house that backs onto Madrid’s biggest park, I can be in an urban forest within minutes.”
“I have a romantic preference for losing myself in a book, reading from cover to cover in one hit. But who has time?”