Sealand Gear was founded in 2020 by Jasper Eales and Mike Schlebach. Schalk Kearney, CEO and co-founder of +earth interviewed Jasper Eales for episode 2 of our founder feature interview series, Be Different.
Irresponsible consumption of almost any commodity is taking its toll on the planet, more so now than ever before. We can see the devastating effects of single-use plastic, deforestation, and industrial livestock production everywhere we look – from the deepest regions in our oceans, to the very air we breathe. But did you know that the clothes on your back are creating an impact that is equally devastating? Because of the increasing demand for textile production – also known as fast fashion – the focus on speed and low costs means that synthetic fibres like nylon, acrylic and polyester are often utilised, most of which almost always end up in landfills or the ocean, taking decades to decompose.
As the pressure to reduce cost and time increases, huge environmental corners are being cut resulting in water pollution, toxic chemicals being used in fabrics and dyes, and increasing levels of textile waste that just keep growing. Are detailed prints, intricate fabric finishes and vibrant colours the new ‘it’ thing this season? Take a moment to consider that textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally after agriculture. A sombre thought. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of responsible consumers, as well as eco-conscious manufacturers who are driving a fashion revolution and elevating the industry to new, sustainable, heights.
Inspired by nature, made from waste
Co-founded by avid outdoorsmen and nature lovers Mike Schlebach and Jasper Eales, Sealand Gear has taken upcycling, recycling, and ecocycling to new heights. The lifestyle brand focuses on responsibly made gear and apparel that puts the earth at the front and centre of its endeavours, with all products either made from waste, or ethically sourced materials.
Combining innovative design, expert craftsmanship and high-quality hardware, Sealand takes structural waste or sourced material (thing yacht sails, billboards and canvas) and transforms it into bags, apparel, and other adventure gear that is guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Hailing from an entrepreneurial family, with a degree in industrial design and a passion for surfing, the mountains, and the planet, Jasper Eales naturally veered towards creating something unique that reflected and preserved the environment and lifestyle he embodied.
His personal connection to the brand however, goes beyond this. “I see Sealand as an extension of who I am,” he says. Just before the business was established in 2015, Jasper underwent a major operation where he was, quite literally, offered a second chance at life through a liver transplant.
“I am actually a living upcycled item because I’ve got someone else’s organ inside my body. And that has been brought forward in the way we run Sealand and, again, motivates even more to the value of upcycling. It was the most incredible gift,” he explains.
The business of sustainability
Paying it forward was the only logical way ahead in business after such a life-changing event. The inception of Sealand was born with a blueprint that put people and the planet in the driving seat of the business, together with a promise to remain authentic in all its endeavours. With this in mind, the goal was not to build a business that didn’t make profit, but instead, to build a sustainable business for profit, for good. “This is the future,” explains Jasper.
As more and more sustainable businesses evolve to adopt this model, and with customers becoming increasingly more educated and curious about their consumer choices, being open and honest about a products origins, journey and impact is crucial for success. “The most important thing in my mind is authenticity,” says Jasper. “And that’s the reason Sealand is transparent and authentic in everything that we do. No matter how we grow or where we get seen, we have to stay beautiful and stay aspirational and to grow in this way, authenticity cannot be lost. That’s the challenge.”
Pressure for public accountability is on, and Sealand is taking this very seriously. “What we’ve done as a commitment to our business, and also just as a reflection of where we’re going and how seriously we’re taking this, is that we’re putting out our first ever responsibility report which will showcase a whole set of metrics around how much material we’ve diverted from landfills,” explains Jasper.
Considering the fact that around 17 million tons of textile waste makes its way to landfills each year, these live indicators of Sealand’s impact are extremely important. And their commitment to public accountability doesn’t stop there. As a business that operates for profit, Sealand also wants to show the public that purpose and profit can be balanced by achieving their global b corporation certification. this certification forces companies to do audits and put measures in place that show the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. It is the most powerful way for a business to build credibility and trust, and trust is integral.
“For us, it’s very important that impact is measured,” says Jasper. “As is financial return, because they’re both important. We’ve got to have people on board that believe in that. There’s no point in me taking money from an investment group who only want to see a mandatory return on the investment. That’s where the world has gone wrong over the last few decades.”
“People just wanted profitability, and that drove through the bottom line. We’ve seen the detrimental effects it has had on the environment. The world just isn’t going to survive if we continue that way. We’ve got to make a dramatic change in a short space of time.”
The butterfly effect/many inches make a mile
Small steps towards progress, collectively, have been proven to have a hugely positive impact. Think progression, not perfection. “You can’t wait until the business is perfect to launch something. But you need to know what perfect looks like,” explains Jasper. “And look every day at how you can make changes that have a positive impact on the environment. That’s what’s important. That’s what’s going to make a change. And if everybody did that, that change will be significant.”
This same philosophy applies to consumers, who are looking to become more conscious in the products they buy, and companies they support. Every penny spent has power, and every time you purchase a product, you are supporting the business you’re buying from, as well as its values. “The big question I would ask is for people to look at how conscious they are,” says Jasper. “Whether it’s what you’re buying, what you’re eating, how you’re running your business, how you treat the people around you that you employ. Just make little changes, and try regularly to make those little inches add up to a mile. Ultimately, if over a year, all the people in the world add up their little inches which have reached a mile, that’s a lot of miles.”
The desire for instant gratification, customs, and convenience still remain obstacles that see consumers regularly falling back into old patterns or purchasing without considering the impact of their products on the planet. However, sustainable startups like Sealand, that are passionately endeavouring to make it easier to overcome these obstacles, are steadily changing consumer behaviour. And we all know what they say about slow and steady.
Let’s win this race, together.