Menswear Style Podcast

Lutz Schwenke, Founder of TWOTHIRDS / Sustainable Eco-Friendly Clothing

January 03, 2023 Menswear Style Episode 190
Lutz Schwenke, Founder of TWOTHIRDS / Sustainable Eco-Friendly Clothing
Menswear Style Podcast
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Menswear Style Podcast
Lutz Schwenke, Founder of TWOTHIRDS / Sustainable Eco-Friendly Clothing
Jan 03, 2023 Episode 190
Menswear Style

Welcome to the MenswearStyle Podcast, where we bring you another captivating interview. In this episode, our host, Peter Brooker, sits down with Lutz Schwenke, the founder of TWOTHIRDS, a sustainable and eco-friendly clothing brand that has gained recognition for its commitment to protecting the planet and its oceans.

Lutz's journey towards founding TWOTHIRDS began during his teenage years when he spent a transformative year in Hawaii. It was there that he developed a deep love and appreciation for the ocean, which would later inform his vision of creating a brand that had zero impact on the planet and its precious marine ecosystems. Drawing from his experience working for the UN, Lutz's understanding of sustainability and his passion for the ocean converged to lay the foundation for TWOTHIRDS, which officially launched in 2010.

TWOTHIRDS has since grown into a community of like-minded individuals who share a common vision of preserving our planet. The brand is committed to creating clothing that is not only fashionable but also sustainable. They achieve this by utilizing fabrics that save water, transforming plastic waste into high-quality garments, and adopting paper packaging for their orders. Furthermore, TWOTHIRDS operates as a Climate Neutral brand, ensuring that their operations have minimal impact on the environment.

Lutz shares the story of TWOTHIRDS' evolution, beginning in the Basque country and reaching new heights when the brand relocated to Barcelona. It was there that they pioneered the concept of pre-ordering, allowing them to produce garments based on customer demand and avoid overproduction. Lutz also discusses the challenges of working within the fashion industry without prior experience, the design process behind their collections, and the inspiration that fuels their brand's ethos.

Throughout the conversation, Lutz emphasizes the importance of being a sustainable brand and their dedication to making positive change within the industry. He shares how setbacks have led them to adapt and find innovative solutions, driving them forward on their mission. Additionally, he provides insights into their growth plans for 2023, highlighting their focus on maintaining a personal touch, prioritizing craftsmanship, and continuing to create a ripple effect of positive change throughout the fashion industry.

Tune in to this inspiring episode as Lutz Schwenke discusses the founding story of TWOTHIRDS, a brand that blends style, sustainability, and a deep love for the ocean. Discover their unique approach to fashion, their commitment to minimizing environmental impact, and their unwavering dedication to creating a more sustainable future. Get ready to be inspired by their journey, their values, and their vision for the gentleman surfer and beyond.

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to the MenswearStyle Podcast, where we bring you another captivating interview. In this episode, our host, Peter Brooker, sits down with Lutz Schwenke, the founder of TWOTHIRDS, a sustainable and eco-friendly clothing brand that has gained recognition for its commitment to protecting the planet and its oceans.

Lutz's journey towards founding TWOTHIRDS began during his teenage years when he spent a transformative year in Hawaii. It was there that he developed a deep love and appreciation for the ocean, which would later inform his vision of creating a brand that had zero impact on the planet and its precious marine ecosystems. Drawing from his experience working for the UN, Lutz's understanding of sustainability and his passion for the ocean converged to lay the foundation for TWOTHIRDS, which officially launched in 2010.

TWOTHIRDS has since grown into a community of like-minded individuals who share a common vision of preserving our planet. The brand is committed to creating clothing that is not only fashionable but also sustainable. They achieve this by utilizing fabrics that save water, transforming plastic waste into high-quality garments, and adopting paper packaging for their orders. Furthermore, TWOTHIRDS operates as a Climate Neutral brand, ensuring that their operations have minimal impact on the environment.

Lutz shares the story of TWOTHIRDS' evolution, beginning in the Basque country and reaching new heights when the brand relocated to Barcelona. It was there that they pioneered the concept of pre-ordering, allowing them to produce garments based on customer demand and avoid overproduction. Lutz also discusses the challenges of working within the fashion industry without prior experience, the design process behind their collections, and the inspiration that fuels their brand's ethos.

Throughout the conversation, Lutz emphasizes the importance of being a sustainable brand and their dedication to making positive change within the industry. He shares how setbacks have led them to adapt and find innovative solutions, driving them forward on their mission. Additionally, he provides insights into their growth plans for 2023, highlighting their focus on maintaining a personal touch, prioritizing craftsmanship, and continuing to create a ripple effect of positive change throughout the fashion industry.

Tune in to this inspiring episode as Lutz Schwenke discusses the founding story of TWOTHIRDS, a brand that blends style, sustainability, and a deep love for the ocean. Discover their unique approach to fashion, their commitment to minimizing environmental impact, and their unwavering dedication to creating a more sustainable future. Get ready to be inspired by their journey, their values, and their vision for the gentleman surfer and beyond.

Unknown:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast.

PB:

I'm your host Pete Brooker and today on the show I am talking to the CEO of two thirds. Lutz Shuang K and two thirds, is a company that was founded in 2010. Out of a deep love for the ocean, their brand has evolved into a community of like minded people. And together they want to create clothing with zero impact on the planet and its oceans. They use fabrics that save water turn plastic waste into quality garments and wrap orders in paper packaging. Their operations are all climate neutral and fascinating, sharp, fascinating fellow.

Unknown:

Think you'll enjoy this one. Thanks for tuning in this year. That's been it for 2022. But

PB:

here now to describe two thirds, in his own words is let's shrinky.

Unknown:

Well, basically, I think we're here talking about menswear, we actually have a menswear and a women's were aligned. But if I would talk about menswear only, I would probably say it's a brand for the gentleman surfer. So it was born out of the idea that I was growing older. And all the surf brands that I was wearing, they were getting younger, younger and younger. And I kind of felt I was, you know, equally passionate about surfing and the entire ocean culture. But somehow the brands were not reflecting that in the style that I was living it anymore. And yeah, that's that's how two thirds was born actually.

PB:

Interesting. So the brand Now correct me if I'm wrong was conceived in 2010?

Unknown:

I want to say yes, yes, correct in 2010.

PB:

So now, how old are you if you don't mind me asking lots.

Unknown:

More bored. I'm 42. I'm 42. Okay, I was I was 30. I was 30 years old. I actually studied macroeconomics and politics, actually most of it in the UK, and then end up doing a PhD. And I worked at the United Nations. And it all sounded really idealistic and interesting, and lots of travelling and good salaries, etc. But halfway, and I just got super bored. I had, I had this thing of like, I have to write a PhD thesis of about 300 pages. And I can't even read a 300 page book about the topic. So how am I ever in life going to write a 300 pages? And and then also, I was, I mean, I think the United Nations is a good organisation, but but I was a bit disappointed in terms of getting just getting my hands dirty and doing stuff, but it was very, very theoretical cetera. And yeah, that's how I ended up to, to think about doing my own thing. And that's how somehow two thirds then ended up coming to life. Yeah.

PB:

And so you're, I'm just trying to get the moment that you twigged that there was something that you needed to do in the fashion world versus what you were doing, and you trained and it must have been, was it quite a gamble at the time to make the leap.

Unknown:

I think it was quite a gamble, because I was in a very good position at various levels where I was. So starting up, whatever you do is obviously a big risk, or it feels like a big risk at the moment. But apart from that, I really had no fashion experience whatsoever. The only thing that I knew was that I like clothing. I like buying clothing, I would never consider myself a fashionista per se, but I always liked clothing. And I always had appreciation for clothing. And apparently, my my brother, when I found that the brand told me that at the age of 1415, I would tell him that it would be so cool if there was a surf brand, which would be different, etc. So, so actually, I didn't remember that anymore at the time that I found it two thirds, but he told me and so it was not like the typical fashion startup where you would say I worked at a fashion company before I got all the experience of a designer or whatever. And then I stopped my own. It was really very different. And I think mine actually came from the sustainability angle from the marketing angle, and from the appreciation for fashion. So it was a bit different in the way of how it was created. Also, I'm not the designer, I just have sort of the vision of what I wanted to look like but but I then hired designers etc. So

PB:

yeah, interesting. So do you give designers a guide or a brief or a mood board from what's in your head and how and if so, how do you kind of project what you You want into something that they can execute?

Unknown:

I mean, it's very, it was very different than than it is now. Back then it was kind of my vision in my head, and then the designer or the designers would come in would say, Are you sure? You really want this. And, and then now obviously, we have a design team, our head of design has been with us for seven years. So. So it's a very, very sort of how you say that in English? Like, it's like an oiled engine, you know what I mean? It's very in tune, we all know the brand really well, we all know what we want. So it was mood boards before now it's basically for me, rather saying, Hey, I would like to do this, this or that. And the main sort of collection is created by them presented to me and then I usually give my mic, go ahead. So they're already like very much in tune with with the brand because we were most of our employees have been with us for quite

PB:

some time. Right? And so what are you putting on those mood boards in the very early days, you say you're not a fashionista yourself. So you perhaps don't go out shopping and have a, I'm guessing you don't have like a wardrobe yourself that you go like people need to look like how I look. But you you do have something in your mind of what the brand should look like.

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, basically, for me, it was always this feeling of clothing. And that's why I think the gentleman surfers a nice description, because it kind of felt like I would like to have clothing that has this beach relaxed vibe to it. But you could still wear it on a casual Friday in any office, you know, and, and that was the key idea. And then obviously, we're a sustainable brand. So think sustainable at the comes together with quality, because nothing that doesn't last long and sustainable. So that immediately takes you to classics, because you know, if if you have a product that you could maybe wear 1520 years, then obviously you have to create something that is not to fashion and only lasts a season you have to create something more timeless. So I think it's it's this combination of being inspired to certain extent by surfing brands and their beach relaxed mybe. And on the other hand being inspired rather by Yeah, work wear brands from the UK, you know, good good sort of quality brands from Japan, sort of more more sort of classic men's work wear, which which for me, it has a bit this relaxed feel to it, you know, because you, you know, typical work wear jacket that could also you could also wear as a just sort of as an over shirt on a casual Friday, etc, that that type of that type of product. And, and then when we worked a lot with linen, which for me is a very sort of gentleman, but also beachy type of material. So yeah, but that's kind of the vision that I had. In my head, I just kind of wanted to transport the traditional surf brands into more gentle men style setting and more classy, less logo, less colours, etc.

PB:

Interesting. Yeah, anyone that is a listener to the show, a regular listener, I should say knows that. I kind of get my steer with clothes by watching films and picking up notes. And you know, like you mentioned the beach classic. I think I was just showing a picture here you can perhaps see on the YouTube of the errands where it's kind of has the echoes of Steve McQueen and Thomas Crown Affair and things like that. Were you looking at any particular films or actors at all? When you when you Well,

Unknown:

the funny thing is that that that that sweater is actually from a mood board they sent with a picture of Steve McQueen. So that's that's quite

PB:

right there.

Unknown:

I mean, I don't have any particular mood moving, etc. But I think everything that was a bit the 50s 60s 70s beach culture from California, but also I mean, we're a European brand, but we're surf inspired brands. So surf inspiration takes you to Australia and to California and those places where people dress up quite differently. And then being of European heritage that takes you more To, you know, be a red centre pay those type of places plus we our creative directors from Denmark. So it's kind of like, what really is like strolling all in is those surf influences. The European classic heritage beach culture mixed in with this sort of it sounds like a crazy mix but mixed in with. Yeah, sort of a very subtle Scandinavian lesson small type of attitude. I think that's that's how that's sort of our pool of inspiration. Sounds a bit crazy.

PB:

No, it makes sense. Yeah, definitely. If anyone goes on the website, I think they'll get that feel for it as well. It's, it's less, less Point Break. Yeah, like you say more gentleman on a surfboard. Which is, is, I hope the reach you're going for. You mentioned sustainability as well. So I'm curious why sustainability is a word that everyone knows now. And it's, it's obviously something that people really strive for. And brands really do pledges before they put all launches together. But what was the landscape like for you? At 2010? What was the word like? And what was the mood music around sustainability when you launch this?

Unknown:

I mean, it was interesting, because back in the days, I mean, today, we're entirely DTC brands, entirely ecommerce driven. And back in the day, we were, we had distributors, we had wholesale, we even had to own stores. So it was, it was a different infrastructure that we had in terms of points of sale. So I'm mentioning this because back in 2010, all the buyers were like, okay, okay, it's Istanbul, okay, whatever, you know, nobody really cared about it. And then at some, some did, and then at the same time, in terms of production, it was quite a nightmare, because you would go somewhere, and there would be like, organic cotton. Yeah, yeah, I think I have a role in white and black vectors somewhere. But if if you really want this, so yeah, it was an organic cotton in our days is absolute basic. And it's probably the lowest level of us doing sustainable materials. And we have many more that are way more sustainable than that. But anyways, it's it's interesting how that how that shifted. And at the beginning, is it was a bit of a nightmare already, in terms of prices, production, and just getting a collection together.

PB:

But it was something very important for you, though.

Unknown:

I mean, it was important for me, because, I mean, I think that's also why I mentioned the United Nations, I think it's a bit like what drives me and I think, studying what I studied and working, where I work before I started two thirds, is kind of I could never just do something for the sake of it, making money or just pure creativity. But I'm sorry, my daughter's just running in here. So it's okay,

PB:

we go off to something very important.

Unknown:

fairly early. So, ya know. So, so the, the feeling was okay, if, if I do something I feel I mean, I don't I don't see myself as saving the world or anything like that. I think I'm a realist, being an idealist, but being a realist at the same time. So yeah, I just felt I needed to do something that would make sense to me and at least do it the right way. Yes, that's, that's what was driving me.

PB:

It sounds like you can sleep well at night. Knowing that you're doing your bit at least and anyone that wears your clothing is also it's a step towards the light, at least. So how, in terms of numbers over the course of I guess, 12 years, I think 13 years now you had this brand. And I guess the trajectory has been pretty good is that? I mean, we've had like COVID and things like that. Were there any blips are obstacles along the way where you've fought? Maybe it's time Yeah.

Unknown:

Well, yeah, there were probably the first five years were really tough. We, we launched the classical the classic way went to the bread and butter show in Berlin, and all the capsules shows in New York and cetera, et cetera. And at the beginning, were quite successful. But then it was also at the same time that that online was more and more present. So we had customers like Zalando and we got into this typical Adi savings vicious circle of trying to please everybody. Our Japanese distributors alando also doing everything thing doing own online store own store. And and basically by 2015, I was pretty exhausted as a as a as an entrepreneur because I was travelling all the time. My I have four kids, the first two basically barely saw them the beginning. And my wife wasn't too happy either. So anyway, so it was a complicated situation for me. And, and as well I had the feeling that there were too many influences on the brand. We did like some crazy shirts for Japanese distributor, then we did other things for someone like Bloomingdale's, etc. And and in between collapse for Vance, and I don't know, it was a very chaotic thing. And in 2015, I just basically came to the, to the point where I said, Okay, I have to change something here, I'm otherwise I'm going to have a full heart attack at the age of 40. And, and that's where we basically size down a little bit in 2015. went totally online, hired people that were experts in online sales, moved the entire production to Europe, even jackets, knitwear everything was moved to Europe, to have a sort of a smaller, more flexible infrastructure, we introduced pre order, which basically was that we would put three products online, would see for seven or 10 days, how much what sells sold, and then we would kind of start production based on a productivity Okay, so yeah, right. And yes, sir. Yes, sir.

PB:

No, no, no, I trampled over. Sorry, about I'm interested in this. Because on the website, it says that you're the you pioneered the preorder concept really, and, and I'm curious as to so you put the designs on the website, but do you kind of have a stockpile of these designs? Ready to go ahead of anything else? Or do you just do like prototypes of these designs, sees what see what there is? Demand for and then go, right? We're gonna hammer these out.

Unknown:

Yeah, it's basically we do prototypes to the shootings. And then we see what the demand is, the system has changed a little bit over the course of time, at the beginning, where we're testing a lot of things, we did a lot of prototypes, and then cancelled, a lot of them told the customer, the two customers that bought the one that didn't make it, hey, here's your money back, we're sorry, we're not going to produce this one. And then over the course of time, our collections got bigger. There's products like winter jackets, where you can apply the system because the lead times are too long, and the customers are going to wanting to wait for three months. So we did a lot more on summer. And then obviously, what that did is we online from 2015. to Now we've been actually growing a lot and been quite successful. And that simply created more data in terms of we knew what our customers like what our customers want. So basically, at the beginning, maybe 50% of our collection was a pre order test, and then maybe 20, or 30%, would be cancelled. Whereas now we're at 10 to 15%. Because we already know how to design what to design and what's going to be bought and what's not going to be bought so so it's it's less now. But yeah, it's been a very good system, because in terms of sustainability, first of all, it helped us to grow as a company. And at the same time, I think it's probably the most sustainable thing about any brand because we sell 100% of a stock. We don't we don't we never have stopped left ever.

PB:

Wow. So how do you aggregate the data though? Is it like email surveys? Or do you know what how do you get the the opinions of people as to what designs you should be pushing forward

Unknown:

as basically just sales, so we put them online, we say, let's say we will put a T shirt online. I don't know, middle of February will tell you ETD is middle of April or beginning of March, then we would see how much it sells. And basically we would hit the production button 10 days after we launched the product, so maybe we would have sold 100 white ones, 150 blue ones and 10 red ones. So we'll probably cancel the red one. And then say okay, we're going to produce 1500 white ones and 1000 blue ones or something like this. So basically you kind of make a projection of sales. And it's really been interesting that that the people were really willing to go with it and and understood it and it's actually interesting now because we're a couple of people obviously, complaining about us online, etc. And now after five or six years, the way someone complains about pre order, which happens rarely because we have a big customer Your service team and they explain you everything and you get 1000s of emails telling you about the process, etc. But it's sometimes that someone complains. And then you have seven or eight customers under the Instagram post saying, no, no, no, you didn't understand it's pre ordered super cold,

PB:

they come to your defence, they defend your I love that. Yeah, that's, that's the best way it's having having your community do that. So, I mean, so it's interesting though, that concept of the preorder, because I was just talking to another guest on the show from a company called Blake mill, and they would have like a shirt design, and then they would put it out and field test it with like email data and stuff like that. Which ones would you go for? And out of all of their, their customers? They'll go right what like that one, and then they'll put that into production. And then when it goes into production, sometimes they said they wouldn't even sell one, you know? So it's kind of like, people might say something, yes, on an email, but it's really money that talks isn't it? So if you're literally buying something and then going by, I'll invest, I'll put that into that design, you go ahead and make it that's kind of that's the real proof of the pudding.

Unknown:

I totally I totally agree with that. I mean, we did testing like this before we we tried to do with winter jackets, were at the end, we ended up having a preorder. But we already, I mean, it would go live and preorder and would be delivered, let's say in October, but it would be pre audible in September. But But we already pressed the production button in June. So it was you know, we couldn't change anything anymore. We already had to make the decision. So we tried to optimise that. And we asked on Instagram, we did like contests. And we asked Do you want the white jacket or the blue? And I can only agree with the company you're just mentioning because it was totally off. Because people people would say, you know, super funky colour, and the people would say yeah, yeah, that one. Yeah, that one. But I think it is. It's kind of like what they do in physical stores. Now you go in and they put like a like really pop colour at the beginning to hang the same style, the Navy just behind it. And they you end up buying the Navy one. And I think it's kind of it's the same dynamic.

PB:

Yeah. Yeah, I'm actually guilty of this as well. When people say, Well, you sponsor me if I do a plane jump, you know, like a skydive. I'm like, Yeah, sure. I've been like thinking they'll never do it. And when they come back to me with all the photos on the blog, and from everything can move home. I digress. Let's we have? Do we have plans for 2020? Free I mean, in terms of what's next. So I know you say you're a lot online only, but perhaps any pop ups or anything like that can come to London, maybe?

Unknown:

No, we would love to obviously, but we just decided that we're going to stay purely digital, there was a lot of talk about us doing pop up events, even thought about Airbnb apartments showing the collection in various cities. There's we've been talking in the company for ages to open a flagship store in Barcelona. But we always coming back to kind of two thirds for me as a as an intrapreneur. There was this time, to 10 to 15, where I suffered, and I felt that, you know, the product wasn't perfect. Just I wasn't really 100% happy. And then there's, for me, it's this time 2015 to 2022. That went really well. I'm super happy with the product with our suppliers, everything feels just right. And that's the moment where we focus where we focused, but we focused on production in terms of production facility, we focused on product groups, we said, Okay, we could also do this product, but let's stay focused and, and I've really kind of learned that that I think we can offer the coolest and best product if we are focused. So that's where we just decided to stay fully digital, and actually put everything in creating the best digital experience you can have. And so basically said, Okay, let's try to be the physical store online, which is a high benchmark, you know, you go into a store, there's a nice person in the best case, and you can look, look, look at the product, you can try the product you can put it on, and you can give them your credit card and walk out of the store. I mean, that's a pretty high benchmark. So for us, it's really the plan to to Yeah, to get to that point where the where the online experience feels almost as in store experience. I know it sounds very not romantic, but I feel that's where, where we're good at and what is sort of coming in 2023 for us. We're going to move a bit more into like quality basics made in Europe as we do everything but we're going to expand the whole basic range which has really worked well for us. And we are expanding into the United States, which we already started, which is actually working quite well. So yeah, I guess our focus is going to be more quality basics, territory expansion in the United States. And then what I'm really happy about is, and maybe that's interesting, because I think we're talking about menswear here, right. The menswear collection is really close to my heart, because it kind of we founded the brand like this, and, and it started and now as we have the problem, like every other brand, women are like 85% of our sales. It's gotten really, really big. And, and then a year ago, we hired a really, really good menswear designer, and kind of like, both of us, as a sort of passionate internal project are really taking care of the of the menswear collection. Like I have to be honest with you some styles in the woman, I don't know what they're called, or haven't even seen them, sometimes, there's a lot of launching. Whereas in menswear really like every piece crosses my table, I wear them I try them. And that's also something that that we really want to expand a little bit further and 2023 to, you know, because we're we're a company that is very consumer driven, and also sounds not very romantic, but very data driven. So we see what customers are like, and we, we produce accordingly. But we said we need sort of this playground for us of that vision, where we just don't say, Okay, this is working, they liked this colour, they like this. But we we want to create sort of this, this internal innovation lab of our design department together with me where we just do whatever we like, you know, and we just feel the world needs to see this. So this is for 2023 that we're really looking forward to

PB:

exciting times. Well, listen, let's it's been great talking to you. Thanks for walking me through the brand. To furred.com is a place people can go and check out the garments, two thirds underscore B C. N as in Barcelona, I guess that's kind of Yes. Correct. That's where you can hang out on Instagram and see more of the collections there at a glance. But I will put all the links over on the show notes over at Menswear. style.co.uk But in the meantime, lots. Thanks for jumping on and hope to see you at some point in London in the new year.

Unknown:

Yeah, thank you so much for having me and, well. Merry Christmas.

PB:

Merry Christmas. Hasta la Waco. Police Navidad great. You've been listening to the menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style dot code at uk for more menswear content and email info at menswear style.co.uk If you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time

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