This article originally appeared on Cause Artist.
Meet 8hz: An Ethical Brand Doing Fashion Right
Meet 8hz, a new ethical brand dedicated to making products with fabric created from plastic bottles. The whole idea started when Mateo Neri, CEO of 8hz, was doing a large project on climate change with scientist and health experts around the world. After exiting his other startup URB-E, and being exposed to what’s been happening in the climate world he decided to focus on recycling, up-cycling and saving the oceans.
The core mission was to make beautiful products from waste and not virgin plastic derived from petroleum, which is the easy way to manufacture products but is also extremely detrimental to the environment. Making products here in the U.S. was also an important factor for Mateo and his team.
Below is a fantastic Q&A with the CEO of 8hz, Mateo Neri:
What made you want to start a social impact brand?
I have always been into the environment back from when I went to school for solar energy in Santa Cruz, but it was in 2012/13 when my previous company was hired by a fortune 100 consumer brand to do a large scale climate project looking 10-15 years out. We focused on a global scale in four main cities including LA. We seeked out and partnered with 40+ top scientist, health experts and Universities around the world and it was this project that gave me very deep insights and after URB-E, this stuck with me.
I had to call myself out as a design entrepreneur to do better and do something that had more impact. If I am educating my kids on this, then why not make it a reality. Having grown up in the beach area, I have always loved the ocean and we use to have sea life from kelp to jellyfish and now it’s gone, so seeing what’s happening with just the over consumption of plastics and the effects in our oceans and food, I wanted to impact this area and give back, this is why with every purchase we are donating to our non profit partners such as 5 Gyres.
The big goal is to create a closed loop in LA where waste is made into beautiful products and manufactured locally, while helping prevent plastics into the oceans.
Who is the design team behind these beautiful bags and how did the team come together?
We have an awesome team of partners and collaborators and an underlying passion or drive for what we do on different levels and life experiences. On this journey, I met my partner Frankie who is another Art Center College of Design alumni and he had designed a beautiful bag and snowboard that was unique and so after many meetings and building a relationship we decided why not team up and create this together. What’s cool is that Frankie is a Millennial and Jason and I am are baby boomer/GenX, so there is a good combination especially since that is our target. Frankie is an awesome designer and can quickly prototype products when we brainstorm, mainly from his farm up north. He has designed a number of styles and accessories in development that are going to be pretty nice.
Part of the idea of building a brand was that I have always been attracted to art and graffiti and wanted to use this in the products, so I met Saber, a legendary graffiti artist in LA and we hit it off and started discussing different types of collaborations. He is very passionate, hard core, talented and stands behind a movement he believes in and I knew it was right especially when Frankie said he went to school after being inspired by Saber, so when I told him we would be partnering with him, he was floored. Saber is really more than just an artist, he is pretty savvy in the digital world and strategically connected, so this is more than just using his artwork, this is a long-term partnership.
After a year of building prototypes, finding a great local manufacturer in Ventura, and creating relationships we needed a marketing expert and another entrepreneur with experience, so I hooked up with Jason, who started a pioneering SEO and online marketing company back in the early 90’s. Jason is a deep thinker, very strategic and I totally trust him since we had worked together at URB-E and a few other ventures so it was pretty seamless, knowing what he brings to the table, then the three of us officially launched 8hz end of 2017. The other cool thing is he was born in Hawaii and is a big ocean lover too and has been to Midway island, which is one of the areas that was affected by all the plastics in a dramatic way. The bottom line for everyone is there passion and drive for the environment and wanting to make an impact and we all have a story, but we all know we can do better and this venture allows us to put it all together.
We have some other creatives that are helping such as TC, an awesome animator.
With so many products you could have made, why choose the travel bag as the first product to be released?
Good question, like we need another bag right? There is probably no right answer, but like most people we use all types of bags and we all personally needed this type of bag that we didn’t find on the market where it was a travel bag we can take for the weekend or longer but also use it for work. When you compare our fabric to virgin polyester, there is a 75% lower carbon footprint, so this was one of the deciding factors to make a product using this fabric that was beautiful, yet sustainable as possible. Bags was better than apparel especially when using the recycled polyester since we are not wasting bags or much fewer than apparel which would wash off micro plastics into the system.
We are currently testing 3D printing of parts and products made from 90-100% recycled material. This will enable us to custom for consumers and build anything. We are also testing with other plastics and molding to make consumer products, but trying to make products that you don’t need to wash is a factor.
Our fabric we use is made from 23 recycled plastic bottles, but let’s clarify that, not all of these come from the ocean, they are mainly collected from from the streets and recycling centers and we partner with an amazing fabric manufacturer called Waste2Wear that is owned by a dutch woman entrepreneur. Once we start to use the 3D printed parts, the recycled material % will go up.
You are donating 8% of net profits to ocean related causes? Do you know who those nonprofit partners will be yet?
Yes, our first official partner is 5gyres a local org in LA. They are an awesome organization deeply rooted in the oceans and research. There are a few others globally as well that we are talking to but quality over quantity for impact. Work local, impact global right now.
What does the name 8-hz represent and why that name?
8hz comes from the Schumann resonance, the “beat” of the planet, an electromagnetic field surrounding the earth that connects all humans. I love numbers and 8 is a magic number, it also represents numbers from the Fibonacci sequence, which I studied in design school and how it is derived from nature. It is also related to brain waves, meditation and a lot more, but I think that might be deep enough! Why not do something with deeper meaning that is related to the earth, animals and people, and I love the look of it in a simple iconic way.