Sustainability is integral to the mission of Tropicfeel, a travel-wear brand founded in 2017 and located in Barcelona. A young company with limited resources, Tropicfeel strives to manufacture its products as sustainably as possible. It addresses and quantifies sustainability unlike any other apparel brand that we met during the Summer Startup Tour.
First, Tropicfeel attempted to address sustainability by trying to manufacture a new product’s optimal quantity to meet consumer demand. To solve this issue, Tropicfeel turned to crowdfunding. Overproduction is costly for the company, harmful to the environment and wasteful of resources. Furthermore, over-produced items that eventually become unsellable are very difficult to recycle and/or dispose of. Apparel manufacturing is one of the world’s most resource intensive industries and a 2017 Ellen MacArthur Foundation report estimates that the fashion industry produces more carbon dioxide than international flights and shipping combined. Underproduction is costly as well because the company loses potential sales.
Crowdfunding allows consumers to pre-purchase a product (usually at a discount) during a limited period of time. The limited purchasing windows – campaigns – last for approx. 30 to 40 days. Production begins only after the campaign is closed. Crowdfunding campaigns allow companies to know a product’s exact demand which is very valuable information. With a precise production order, resources are not wasted and the company is left with no extra stock. Additionally, less working capital is needed. Crowdfunding also allows companies to interact with their customers during the campaign to slightly modify the product (design change, color, etc.) and incorporate those modifications into the product before production.
During 2018, Tropicfeel put its first product on crowdfunding platforms and was hugely successful. Monsoon 2.0, a Tropicfeel shoe, raised just below $2.5mm and is still the highest funded footwear product in Kickstarter history (16th highest funded design product).
In addition to crowdfunding, Tropicfeel uses other tools to better forecast and estimate demand for specific products. The company has an extremely active and engaged online customer community that it frequently utilizes via mass mailings and social media (its mass-email open rate is approx. 65% vs. industry average of only 15%). The company continuously asks for feedback on existing products (design/feature/color modifications) and surveys interest in new products.
To address sustainability in the design process, Tropicfeel elected to use recycled “earth-killing” materials (e.g. plastic bottles) whenever possible. The company designs highly-durable products that are intended to be worn as long as possible. Additionally, the company employs an external agency to measure the environmental impact of all its products. Tropicfeel’s goal is to eventually produce carbon neutral products. The company has not yet achieved this goal, but is transparent with its customers regarding the issue. The company strives to get closer to this goal with each new design and product.
Tropicfeel creatively uses its available resources to manufacture sustainable products. Meeting a young brand that defines sustainability in a tangible way and that is extremely passionate about it was very refreshing. Sustainability is baked into the company’s brand identity and is not just a marketing gimmick to be a part of a “hot” trend.
– Team FTS