ISM alumna Alexandra Tymann won the Red Dot Product Award for her collection of seamless and ladder-resistant tights. Now she is launching biodegradable tights that are also ladder-resistant with her brand Hedoine. In this interview, she explains how she wants to counteract the throwaway culture in the fashion industry and how sustainability and fashion will be reconcilable in the future.
Alex, you previously worked in consulting. How did you come to start your own fashion brand for tights?
I've always been fascinated by starting a business. One night, my then very good friend and now co-founder Anna and I were talking about how silly we found most advertising campaigns and how we couldn't think of a brand that reflected the modern woman as we knew her. Once it was clear that we had the same brand vision, we envisioned the products we wanted to improve - hypothetically at that time. We asked ourselves which products hadn't seen innovation in ages and which ones we found, simply put, extremely annoying. Tights came first, and that's how it started - after a long research, analysis of the business case and the first sampling, we were convinced, quit our jobs and plunged into the 'founding adventure'. Shortly after, we were able to win well-known investors for the business, such as the former CEO of Jimmy Choo, quickly expand our product range and scale the business.
What is innovative about your tights?
Tights are notorious for tearing, slipping, cutting into the skin at the waistband, and having a seam at the crotch (looks like you're wearing grandma's underpants) and just being annoying. We changed all that and created 20 denier tights that are very comfortable to wear, last longer, and look good too. For example, we've removed the seam and added an elegant pattern to both the soles and the compression band, which is available in two different heights. The material is very soft and the right balance of shiny and matte finish makes them look very natural on the leg. Most importantly, they last longer (although they're not indestructible) and are ladder resistant.
In September, you will launch biodegradable tights. How did you come up with that?
We've been working on this since day one, because nothing in our closet represents throwaway culture more than tights. With the right yarn and a special manufacturing method, we were now able to combine ladder resistance with biodegradable yarn.
What do your biodegradable tights look like?
Tights are made of nylon and elastane, neither of which are sustainable materials. In the case of biodegradable tights, however, the nylon content (85%) can be completely decomposed by bacteria in an anaerobic state, i.e. in a landfill site, within 3-5 years. What remains is the elastane (15%).
In addition to your ladder resistant and biodegradable tights, you've also launched a new recycling project. What is it about?
It will take some time before biodegradable tights become standard across all brands. That is why we have launched our recycling project: After tights and leggings have had a long fulfilling life, they can be recycled as useful items, such as tires or insulation material. For this purpose, our Hedoines can send in their tights and leggings, no matter what brand, and thus make the life cycle of our clothing, which is responsible for water pollution, greenhouse gases and waste generation, more sustainable.
The topic of sustainability is very important to Hedoine. Yet you say that there is no such thing as truly sustainable consumption. How can that be reconcilable?
Unfortunately, there is no completely sustainable consumption (so far), that's true. In our society, consumption will not suddenly stop either, so we are trying to do our part to at least get as close as possible to the sustainable ideal.
What do you think needs to happen so that consumption and sustainability are no longer mutually exclusive in the future?
One could fill entire books with this topic, which is also being done in many places. In short, I would say that as many points in the consumption cycle as possible need to be addressed. In addition to changing the behavior and attitudes of consumers, what is needed above all is innovation and a willingness to change in the industry. Only when sustainable choices are tangible for consumers and represent fully-fledged alternatives we as a society can take significant steps towards sustainability.
What can I do for more sustainability in fashion as a consumer?
In essence, buy less and buy smarter, i.e. what is bought should be durable and leave an environmental footprint as small as possible. Deal with key issues around production and materials and make your own judgement - some brands disclose a lot about their manufacturing processes and sustainability, which is also very important to us at Hedoine.
What is your vision for your brand and the fashion industry in terms of sustainability?
With Hedoine, we want to set new standards in the legwear sector and help drive innovation to move as far away as possible from senseless throwaway culture through sustainable products. We do so not only in the area of tights, but also in terms of packaging and production. For example, we use recyclable materials and drastically reduce our water consumption in production. We hope that the fashion industry will soon measure itself against even higher standards of sustainability, which should then be applied across the board.
Alexandra completed her bachelor's degree in International Management at ISM in 2010 and initially worked in restructuring consulting at PwC. With her brand Hedoine, she wants to advance the topic of sustainability in the fashion industry. Therefore, the label is launching biodegradable ladder-resistant tights and also launched a recycling program. Read more about Hedoine's recycling project here.