THE WWW'S – a chat with Greet and Mark from the Komrads APL sneaker
Have you heard of The WWW’s? Through this section on our website, you’ll be able to get to know our clients a little better, as we’ll dive deep into the WHO, WHAT and WHY of their brands. Intrigued? Then read on to discover more!
Meet Greet and Mark, founders of Komrads. This Belgian label offers vegan sneakers entirely made out of re-used and recycled materials, without compromising on quality, comfort and design. Their APL sneaker is made from ecological apple leather, recycled rubber, re-used pet bottles and cotton. Komrads made sustainability part of their DNA, as they produce with care for both people and the planet. Find out more about Komrads and its founders by reading the interview below!
Hi Greet and Mark! Could you tell us what it's like to be both life partners and an entrepreneurial duo?
That’s actually going really well. We complement each other perfectly. Mark is an entrepreneur pur sang. He thinks big and has a strong vision of the future, while Greet is more down-to-earth and isn’t afraid to put the brakes on a project to make sure everything is carefully thought through. That way, we strike a healthy and constructive balance.
Given the circumstances with Covid, we spend even more time together, but that hasn’t led to any problems… yet? (laughs) Apart from our professional lives, we both have our own hobbies and interests, so the conversations around the dinner table are definitely not always work-related.
How, where and why did you come up with the idea to launch a sneaker brand? Where does the name Komrads APL come from?
Mark used to have his own marketing agency. For a photoshoot he was looking for a specific sneaker, but the producer said the shoe was nearly extinct… despite the strong story behind it. The sneaker offered an answer to the Western shoe revolution in the seventies. It was the Russian equivalent of the American All Star during the Cold War. We made the decision to bring the sneaker back to life. And so, with the help of Mark’s marketing agency and the two of us working late evenings and during the weekends, Komrads was born.
When Mark’s agency was sold and the new owners didn’t want to take over the sneaker brand, it became unclear what the future would hold for Komrads. We didn’t want to bury the brand, but we did realize something had to change. In the meantime, we had become more aware of the ecological impact of the fashion industry and the social unacceptable working conditions. This, combined with our puberal children making us aware of the damage our generation has done to the planet, made us want to live a more sustainable life. Not only as a family but also as a company, we decided we wanted to make a difference. And that’s how the search for ‘the most sustainable sneaker’ started. It became a process of a year and a half before we finally found the ideal mix of sustainable and eco-friendly materials that met our strict criteria.
The most remarkable and innovative part about the APL-sneaker is that the top is made from ecological apple leather. That’s why we named the collection Komrads ‘APL’, which is short for Apple Peel Leather and also sounds like ‘apple’.
Could you tell us more about how Komrads as a brand is taking the lead in sustainability? What mission do you want to achieve?
Our mission is entrepreneurship with respect for both people and the planet. We only work with reusable and recycled materials, so that there’s no harvest of natural recourses. As far as our production is concerned, everything takes place in Europe. In that way, we reduce the CO2 impact and are able to maintain control over the working conditions in the factories.
The sustainability of our company is not only reflected in our care for people and the planet, but goes even further. We are not merely engaged in maximizing profit. Instead we strive for ‘happy profit’. We work together with people and organisations who are also committed to bettering the planet. That is something we’re very proud of. At Komrads, we incorporate sustainability at all the levels of our company, we made it part of our DNA.
The 21st of October is International Apple Day, which gave you the opportunity to also turn it into APL-day. How will APL Day contribute to your sales model in the future?
We don’t want to participate in the classic way in the fashion industry of launching four to six collections a year. That’s why we work with an always-on collection. International Apple day is therefore the perfect moment for us to release something new and add it to our story.
If Komrads APL was a person, how would you describe its personality?
It would be a man or woman between 26 and 55 years old who’s very conscious about climate change and therefore wants to contribute in making a change. Nevertheless, he or she does not compromise on quality, comfort and design. This person is both stylish and creative. He or she is an extravert and very rock & roll.
How do you think the recent Corona crisis affected your brand? Could you make something positive out of it?
About a year ago, we both quit our job to focus entirely on Komrads. This year we really wanted to go full-force, but Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works. Our original business plan collapsed. But being an entrepreneur also means being able to solve problems. We seized this period as an opportunity to get the whole business right. Not only have we tackled the website, done A/B-testing and optimized the conversation rate, we’ve also built a network of agents all over Northern Europe and went looking for new collaborations.
What does the future of Komrads APL look like? Do you have any dreams?
When the pandemic is over and the stores are up and running again, we want to conquer the retail all over Europe. Our ultimate dream is to cross the sea and also breakthrough in the United Kingdom and the United States, whilst of course always guarding our ‘Happy Profit’.
What advice would you give to someone who’s considering starting their own business?
Start with extensive market research, because it will bring you to other paths and ideas. Second, make a financial plan and check its feasibility. As an entrepreneur it is also important to not just sell your product, but also to tell your story to the world. Our target group is very critical, so the story needs to be true and honest. Greenwashing is punished immediately. But most important, don’t let it scare you off. Chase your dream and enjoy the enormous fulfillment you get from building something yourself.
Thank you Greet and Mark, for the inspirational talk! We wish you the best of luck with your future plans!
Intrigued by the brand and want to know more? Check out Komrads and get inspired!
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