Water-sports apparel brand, Rash’R, is standing out with its bright, bold designs and products made from 100% recycled ocean waste.
Growing up around the water, friends Tom Cotter, Alex Musgrave — of digital media company, Dog Day Media — and John Downey, founder of Asian street food chain, Ramen, had an idea for a colourful sportswear brand. They researched the business and discovered that the fashion industry is the third-worst contributor to carbon emissions, so they were determined to put environmental values at the core of their brand.
They had two choices about how to operate. The first was to buy a container-load of products from manufacturers in Asia and have a warehouse full of stock. The downside is the amount of waste generated.
“You get left with about 20% in random sizing, leftovers, and returns, and the majority of that ends up in a landfill,” said Mr Cotter. "They didn’t have the capital “to bring in €100,000 to €200,000 worth of gear.”
So, instead, they found a manufacturer that could do low volumes, allowing them to order 50 to 100 units at a time. While costs are higher, customers are willing to pay more for an ethically-produced product, he said.
The company sources materials from companies that collect post-consumer plastics, such as fishing nets, plastic bottles, and carpets and turns it into polyester.
Having spent two years developing the product, they launched in October 2017. The stock sold out quickly, but then Rash’R fell foul of a common start-up dilemma:
They kept going part-time, while Mr Cotter went looking for a job. His search led him to a serendipitous encounter. He had applied for a position with a start-up, and one of the interviewers — who took Mr Cotter on — asked about his experience with Rash’R and eventually invested.
“Within three months, he’d invested in us. It gave us the ammunition to get going again. We were very lucky,” said Mr Cotter. So what makes Rash’R stand out in the water sports market? Mr Cotter says while the “crazy” designs are appealing, when they call retailers “it’s the recycled ocean-waste element that gets us in the door.”
Another selling point is the level of sun protection — SPF 50 — offered by the vests. He says parents have thanked them for giving their teenagers “a cool way to cover up”.
The B2B side of the business includes private eco-resorts that want staff uniforms made from recycled material, and water sports competition events.