Founded in 1993, Swedish outdoor and sportswear brand Houdini Sportswear wants to pursue a new sustainable outdoor culture.
Houdini The Storyeller campaign
The label, born within a community of outdoor life and mountain sport fans, sets its roots in Stockholm and the Swedish culture and lifestyle. “In Sweden we all love to spend much time in nature, something we have always been part of,” explained Eva Karlsson, CEO, Houdini. “Stockholm is very close to nature, it has a very urban vibe and is home for much innovation, culture and business. It is an epicenter where it is normal moving from nature to restaurants and culture without wearing tons of wardrobes. This why Houdini is offering a wardrobe based upon simplicity and freedom in not being anxious to wear the right brand for the right sport and the right color for a specific season.”
Eva Karlsson, CEO, Houdini
As Houdini’s mantra is “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do,” its purpose is to inspire and enable mankind to reconnect to nature, and lead a healthier and happier lifestyle in partnership with it. Offering environmentally conscious apparel is part of its goal.
Since 2016, it has set the goals that have been leading it through a roadmap to 2066 as, among other targets, it wants to move beyond zero carbon emissions and stop to follow the habit to produce, consume and discard clothes at an increased pace and find alternatives to linear consumption. As part of its aims, 60% of its s/s 2021 collection was completely circular, and its goal is that by end of 2022, 100% of its products are made from recycled and recyclable, or renewable and naturally biodegradable fibers.
“We design for longevity, which is not only about quality, but it’s about style, as we are focused on designing a product that is as beautiful when you buy it and ten years later,” continues Karlsson explaining how Power Houdi, a bestselling fleece top launched in 2003, continues to be successful and is still part its offer.
Houdini Sportswear Power Houdi
According to company’s studies, one hundred billion garments are produced every year and 60% of them end up as wasted within the first year. While the Power Houdi is worn an average of over 1200 times, an average piece of clothing in the Western world is worn for about 150-160 times.
Among the company’s aims, there is not the intention to always launch new products. When the company considers creating a new piece, it considers its relevance and designers follow a specific checklist, asking themselves questions like: “Is anything similar already offered? Is it versatile enough? Will it age with beauty? Does this product have a next life solution?”
“We design our clothes circular from the start,” points out Karlsson. “We use either synthetic fibers that are recycled and recyclable or natural fibers that are inherently biodegradable. We never blend naturals and synthetics, because then they can be neither recycled nor decomposed. It’s our responsibility to make sure resources can be given back to nature. The basic idea of circular design is that nothing should go to waste, and millions of years of evolution has already designed an entire system of materials that can break down and become building blocks for something else to grow.”
Houdini uses two natural fibers exclusively–Merino wool and Tencel lyocell–which offer significant benefits both in terms of performance and sustainability, and also synthetic ones. Both natural and synthetic fibers are good for different reasons and fit different purposes.
In terms of sustainability, there are also pros and cons. Natural fibers are biodegradable, but synthetics usually last longer and can be recycled without losing quality. For these reasons, Houdini always considers the different aspects and chooses the right material for the right garment.
Despite this, production, transportation, usage and disposal have an environmental impact. For these reasons Houdini designs products made with the aim to last as long as possible and also offers alternative services including clothing rentals, secondhand sales and repair services.
The company also believes that a collaborative attitude can be winning for protecting the environment. In fact, it has recently launched its Mono Air Houdi, a jacket using a material created in collaboration with Polartec made with a 3D fabric that traps air into small pockets rather than in-between across the fibers. This way it avoids the spreading of microplastics when washed.
As this new product was launched as open source, Karlsson comments: “Sometimes it is completely understandable that someone has invested in innovation is asking for exclusivity or keeping exclusive rights, but it’s also a fact that, if a brand keeps a technology that can reduce microplastic spreading for itself only, that is not very sincere about sustainability. For us, it has always been a given that we share. For all the technologies that we have developed throughout the years, we have never asked for exclusivity, as we did when we launched Mono Air. There is a lot to learn from a world that moves from a competitive mode as a foundation to a more open-source mode or collaborative way of working.”