Lots of brands aim for sustainability in their approach to cycling apparel. At ashmei it is part of who we are.
We’re not motivated by following trends or competing with other brands. Instead, the needs of athletes and the variables of climate and weather provide our designers with plenty of inspiration. The demands of a sunny summer evening or a grizzly winter morning will be largely the same in a decade as they are today. It’s why every piece of clothing ashmei makes is designed to remain useful long into the future.
Yet if the changing of the seasons remains near-constant, our understanding of the responsibility we owe the environment is shifting more rapidly. While nature provides the setting for our adventures, even human-powered endeavours are not without their impact. It’s why for us sustainability is every bit as important as performance.
Sustainability and Performance
Springing from an obsession with material technology, ashmei puts equal effort into understanding the environmental impact of our choices as we do tailoring them to benefit our athletes. From our first jersey onwards, we’ve taken steps to minimise our footprint while maintaining the best possible results for our wearers.
Whether working with suppliers to ensure the ethics and sustainability of our supply chains or developing bespoke recycled fabrics, behind each garment lies significant research and investment. A horror of unnecessary obsolescence also informs the way we style and sell our clothing. Unbeholden to market trends, we’re free to update items only when there are real improvements to be made. At the same time, retaining control of our manufacturing processes allows us to further reduce wastage. Even our muted colour palette and minimalist aesthetic are designed to place our products aside from the fashion-driven churn that animates so many sports brands.
Of course, none of these efforts would pay off for the planet if our clothing wasn’t good enough to excite athletes. It’s why for ashmei sustainability and performance are two sides of the same challenge. Here’s how we do it.
ashmei extensively researches our partners to ensure they subscribe to the highest environmental and welfare standards. A recent example of this is our collaboration with Lithuanian fabric manufacturer Utenos. The first in the world to be certified by Greenpeace as complying with its strict environmental procurement standards, it produces the Merino + Carbon fabric used in everything from our baselayers to ride jerseys. Helping us eliminate toxic chemicals involved in creating our clothing, it’s equally dedicated to reducing wastage throughout the production cycle.
However, ashmei’s responsibility for our products doesn’t end once they’re handed over to our athletes. Ensuring each piece enjoys the maximum possible lifespan, we now also offer a free repair service to save our garments from premature retirement.
An understanding of material science lies at the heart of the ashmei project. We employ this expertise not only to benefit our athletes but also the environment they inhabit. A key example is our use of Merino wool. A sustainable natural alternative to petrochemical-based fabrics, it has incredible performance properties while also being better for the planet. Not only is Merino biodegradable, but it won’t release microplastics as its synthetic counterparts do. Thanks to its inherent ability to reduce odour and so remain fresh, it also requires less frequent washing, lowering the energy burden required to launder it.
For occasions when wool isn’t appropriate, we’ve also recently developed a material created entirely from post-consumer PET bottles. Meaning each of our new Landmark jerseys diverts 12 discarded bottles from landfill, it’s a step that allows us to produce performance products while extracting a minimum of new resources from the ground.
If you purchase online your ashmei delivery will arrive in recycled paper packaging. Neatly wrapped in coloured tissue, this presentation is pretty enough to make items dispatched from us perfect for sending as a gift, or just that bit nicer to receive as a treat for yourself. Once they’ve served their purpose, these low impact materials are also readily recyclable.
Further up the production chain, we’ve also endeavoured to cut down the use of disposable plastic packaging. Due to the procedures of our suppliers, some of our garments formerly travelled between manufacturing and distribution centres in polypropylene bags. However, from this year these are being replaced by biodegradable alternatives, allowing our clothing to reach you in immaculate condition, but without the unseen cost in terms of single-use plastics.
ashmei is a member of the 1% for the planet initiative. This means we send one per cent of our revenue to environmental charities. By choosing to donate from revenue rather than profits people buying ashmei products can be sure of the percentage going towards these causes.
It also means unexpected costs incurred by us won’t eat into the benefit. Independently audited, not only does our membership of the initiative help make the most of the money we donate, it also allows consumers to have confidence that we’re upholding our side of the bargain.
Despite being a small company we try to exert an outsized influence on our suppliers. For instance, when sourcing our Merino we only use wool from non-mulesed sheep that are subject to higher welfare standards. While helping reduce our reliance on plastics, our emphasis on wool as a material did previously leave fewer options for vegans athletes. Partly the impetus behind the development of our new 100% recycled Renew fabric, this now provides an alternative material from which we can make our jerseys.
Yet despite our best efforts, there are still things that fall outside of our control. A solution to creating water repellent garments without recourse to perfluorinated chemicals is one most conscientious clothing companies are currently struggling with. However, as of 2021, the vast majority of the ashmei range is now PFC free. A long term goal for us, we’re working towards eradicating PFCs as soon as possible.
Humans have already taken a lot from the planet. We’re trying to avoid taking more. Currently, ashmei is closing in on our goal of removing all virgin synthetics from our clothing. This means that by 2022 all our synthetic materials will come from recycled sources.
Alongside continuously examining the impact of our products, we’re also trying to build a sustainable future for the company too.
Corporate governance and accountability might not be the most exciting way to sell performance clothing, nevertheless, we’ve invested heavily in becoming a certified B-Corporation. Meaning we’ll be independently assessed for social and environmental performance, this also permanently commits us to higher standards of purpose, accountability, and transparency.
For us sustainability isn’t a trend, it’s a commitment. By thinking about the future now, we can all help ensure it’s a better place when we do eventually arrive.