Sealand Gear is a local Cape Town based brand that is taking eco-conscious and sustainable gear to new heights with their incredible range of handmade, upcycled, eco outdoor bags, accessories, clothing and apparel. If there’s one brand that epitomizes sustainability perfectly, it’s Sealand Gear. So much so that they were honored with the Maker-to-Maker award at the Design Foundation Awards in 2019. As well as was crowned the winners of the Sustainable Accessory Award at the Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards (a South African fashion brand that is encouraging a modern eco-conscious and forward-thinking lifestyle) in 2019.
Thereby establishing themselves as real change-makers and movers-and-shakers in the industry. Although this globally recognized eco-centered brand has made some major waves all around the world. Sealand Gear has finally set up shop in their beloved Mother City with a permanent store in the cool De Waterkant District of Cape Town’s vibrant inner-city. And Cape Town locals couldn’t be more excited!
We dive a little deeper into what Sealand Gear is all about as well as catch-up with Sealand’s co-founders and change-makers in their own right, Mike Schlebach and Jasper Eales, to chat about all things Sealand Gear, the inspiration behind this influential brand, their motivation to make sustainability and being environmentally conscious a core principle of their brand and what exciting things we can expect to see from Sealand in the future.
THE SEALAND GEAR STORY
Rooted in Cape Town’s beautiful Southern Peninsula where mountains and oceans vividly connect, Sealand Gear was born with an unwavering conviction of always keeping the environment front and centre of everything they do. With inspired functional design, longevity, smart material selection, compelling functionality and product durability being at the forefront of every Sealand Gear product, initiative and creative pursuit.
“We have made a commitment to always place the environment first in any and all decision-making processes” – Jasper Eales (Co-founder Sealand Gear)
In addition to Sealand Gear’s eco-friendly vision, co-founders Mike Schlebach and Jasper Eales, two local surfers from Cape Town, together with their start-up team, are all about actively living and immersing themselves in the core principles of the Sealand brand. With a combined passion for business, the wonderous outdoors and the magic and beauty of life. At Sealand Gear it truly is about a collaborative team effort and building a community of like-minded individuals that share the same enthusiasm, vision, lust for life, love of the environment and passion for eco-conscious living.
Amongst the Sealand family sit big wave surfers, innovative oddballs, inspired creative thinkers, highly skilled craftsmen and women and some of the best talent the African continent has to offer. Together, all these brilliant and passionate individuals make up the creative minds and fabrication specialists behind Sealand Gear. Bringing inspired design in upcycled material texture combinations from the drawing board to the rack!
We asked Jasper and Mike a couple of questions to find out exactly what inspired them to start Sealand, the motivation behind their unwavering dedication to building a sustainable and eco-friendly brand, the challenges they’ve faced & what living the Sealand lifestyle is all about.
First off, you’ve truly built an incredible brand with an incredibly powerful message, congratulations on that! This might be a fairly simple question, but what inspired you guys to start Sealand Gear in the first place?
The desire to create a brand that was an honest extension of mine and co-founder, Mike Schlebach’s lifestyles, while looking at ways we could use business to do good in both social and environmental spaces was our main inspiration behind starting Sealand.
What motivated you to put the environment and sustainability at the forefront of everything you do and make it a core focus point of your business and essentially build your entire business on these key principles? Have you always been environmentally conscious?
When we started Sealand these were the core values we set out to achieve when building the business vision. This is built into our company WHY. ‘Protect the natural environment and uplift our community through innovative design and creativity.’
Starting a business from the ground up is never an easy feat. Especially one that is fully committed to making a difference, both to the environment and the people they serve in the process. In your opinion, what has been the biggest challenge & biggest reward of starting, running & growing Sealand Gear into what it is today?
Starting a design, manufacture and retail brand with the goal of being globally recognized is full of challenges. Growth suck cash, people are complex by nature and that requires patience and respect. Retail is a competitive space to play in. Creating high quality products from waste in a consistent manor is really tough and dealing with economic curveballs is like swimming upstream. RSA is at the bottom of the world, thereby adding an additional geographical disadvantage and the list goes on. However, we are still here and giving it our VERY best go! This is because of the incredibly rewarding feeling and sense of accomplishment you experience when making steps forward and achieving goals you set for yourself. Very importantly, our success and growth is also due to the incredible people we associate ourselves with on a daily basis, these are the people we proudly call our Sealand Family.
If you could sum up the Sealand Gear brand and what living the Sealand Gear lifestyle is all about in just a few sentences, what would it be?
Appreciate and respect the natural playgrounds we enjoy. Be transparent and authentic in everything you do. Tread lightly, as the planet is also alive and sensitive. Remember nothing is perfect, so celebrate the imperfections, yet always work to improve. Look at waste through a new lens, creating value from something previously seen as useless. It truly is a beautiful thing!
WHAT IS SEALAND GEAR ALL ABOUT
Sealand Gear is widely known for their sustainable and environmentally conscious smart bags, accessories and apparel. This popular eco-centred brand upcycles waste materials from the likes of yacht sails, tents and advertising billboards and banners in order to create and manufacture their varied and exciting product range. Thereby promoting sustainability and eco-conscious living above all. As well as minimising their waste production and reducing their carbon footprint.
Sealand Gear has built their brand on three important brand principles:
Upcycling is the process of adapting used or waste material to create a new product with a different value and context. Some of the upcycled materials used by Sealand Gear includes yacht sail, canvas and poly twill. Yacht sail has been designed to withstand the toughest weather conditions. This results in low water absorption and high durability. Making it perfect for sustainable and highly durable Sealand Gear products. In addition, Canvas is weather-resistant, stretchable, easily washable, and often contains anti-mould properties. Sealand Gear offers their clients four different colour options depending on their preference. As well as a ripstop base which significantly enhances the durability of the product.
Lastly, polly twill is a tactile and durable fabric that is commonly used in in-store advertising display. Polly twill is included as lining in Sealand products. This is a hidden internal detail that is unique to each Sealand Gear Upcycled product. Making it a step above the rest!
Recycling is the industrial process of breaking down used or waste products and transforming them into new material. Sealand Gear makes use of recover to produce their recycled products. Recover is a durable material made of 100% recycled plastic bottles and cotton waste. It is produced in a factory that runs on over 50% solar power and uses no water. Thereby minimising their impact on the environment and reducing their carbon footprint through the production of eco-conscious products. It is available in three colours and a ripstop base is added for enhanced longevity of each Sealand Gear product.
Ecocycling is the process of selecting materials for their natural, durable, practical and environmentally smart properties and using them to produce durable and creatively inspired products. At Sealand Gear they make use of Merino Wool, Hemp and Organic Cotton to produce their variety of products and apparel.
Merino wool is a sustainable, durable, and all-weather wool. It is temperature regulating and will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. The natural fibres are breathable, anti-bacterial, contain moisture-wicking properties, and offer UV protection. Merino sheep are typically shorn once or twice a year through a manual process that causes no harm to the animal.
Hemp, as a main component of fabric, is good for you and good for the environment. It is highly durable, keeps you warm in winter, cool in summer, and is a natural protector against UV rays. Farming hemp does not require herbicides, pesticides, is water smart, and returns 60 – 70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil. Further contributing to their mission to keep sustainability and the environment front and centre of everything they do and every product they produce.
Organic cotton provides the benefits of cotton without many of the negatives. It is not treated with the pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and Genetically Modified Organisms often administered during the growing of non-organic cotton. Thereby making it a far more eco-conscious choice for consumers.
All Sealand Gear’s upcycled, recycled and ecocycled materials used are therefore entirely centred around contributing to their core mission and vision of producing high-quality products in a sustainable and eco-conscious manner. Thereby making every effort to put sustainability and the environment at the forefront of everything they do and every product they produce. As well as significantly reducing their carbon footprint and impact on the environment along the way. For aesthetics however, great care is taken to utilise the correct waste product.
“We take great care to find the good, clean and visually pleasing sections of this material to craft into one-of-a-kind pieces.” – Mike Schlebach (Co-founder of Sealand Gear)
There is no denying the fact that in today’s crowded market-place clients have choice. In your opinion, what sets Sealand Gear apart from all the other brands out there within your field? Essentially, what makes Sealand Gear different and a step above the rest?
Our authenticity and transparency around how we manufacture as well as the people that are a massive part of that process. There are many brands around the world doing upcycling, however, they all focus on one or two materials, unless it is being done on a real craft level. We are doing our best to commercialize upcycling with the use of multiple waste materials. Profiling the people that make our products with the name stamp in the bag, to add an extra special and personalized touch, as well as sharing a dedicated profile on each member on our website is another signature of ours, and something we are REALLY proud of!
SEALAND GEAR’S RANGE OF EXCITING ECO-CONSCIOUS PRODUCTS
Offering customers an incredible variety of handmade, upcycled, sustainable and environmentally conscious outdoor bags, accessories, clothing and apparel. Sealand Gear truly has something for everyone! The fact that all materials used to produce their range of products were destined for the rubbish heaps. Means every single Sealand Gear item produced from upcycled, recycled and ecocycled waste is truly one-of-a-kind. And will have an authentic and unique aspect to it you won’t find anywhere else. Thereby giving each Sealand item a personality all its own.
“All of our products are guaranteed to be 100% unique, and have a lifetime warranty,” – Jasper Eales (Co-founder Sealand Gear)
As an outdoor and surf brand, as well as the fact that founders Mike and Jasper are both local Cape Town surfers themselves, optimal durability and function are considered integral components of all Sealand Gear products. However, their wide variety of products are also considered highly fashionable and practical. Thereby giving them a wide-reaching appeal for people from all walks of life. All Sealand Gear’s products (bags, apparel, clothing and accessories) are designed and available in a variety of colours and handmade in Cape Town using only sustainable materials. Every product is highly durable, eco-friendly and perfectly suited to outdoor lifestyles.
Sealand Gear’s extensive product range includes a variety of:
- Duffel Bags
- Apparel (T-shirts & Beanies)
- Tote Bags
- Accessories (Key chains, Laptop sleeves & Wallets)
- Sunglasses (An exclusive collaboration with Ballo Sunglasses. The sunglasses combine the manufacturing expertise of Ballo Eyewear with a unique material combination of Sealand’s Recover Material (made from a blend of recycled plastic bottles and upcycled cotton waste), cork and recycled paper pulp. The result is a unique, durable and light weight finished product).
- Water Bottles (In collaboration with Klean Kanteen – A globally established company playing their part in creating a non-toxic solution to the plastic crisis. By bringing you the highest quality and most practical re-usable bottles around).
Visit their website and online store at www.sealandgear.com to browse their product range or to make your Sealand Gear purchase. Or contact Sealand Gear on 021 065 0381 | [email protected] to find out more about their range of products as well as where you can find a store near you.
We chatted to Sealand’s co-founders Mike & Jasper to find out a bit more about their design and inspiration process, their plans to take Sealand to the next level and if we can expect any exciting new product launches or initiatives in the near future.
Sealand Gear’s products are truly one-of-a-kind. So, of course people want to know what the thought process is that goes into designing new Sealand Gear bags, accessories, clothing and apparel? Where do you find your inspiration from? Do you draw from your own personal experiences and surfing backgrounds in any way when brainstorming and designing new products?
The inspiration behind what we create at Sealand is evolving as the business evolves. As two passionate surfers, with a love for the outdoors and a need to be in the city for a portion of our week, the inspiration behind our products was twofold. Design products from ‘spent’ materials with the objective of longevity in mind, while placing a focus on functionality and usability. We apply this thinking to all products we develop, with a development criteria that started off as, ‘what do we need to make our daily lives easier’, however, this has evolved to a place where we ask ourselves, ‘what does a Sealander need in their life’.
Are there any new products or initiatives you guys are excited to launch in 2020 or the near future that people can look forward to?
We are always looking to improve, refine and create new products, so you will see some great product improvements this year! Especially as 2020 is a year we have chosen to focus on refining what we have. We have also been working on the formation of a Sealand Membership program, which we are super excited to see launch in the coming months. This will build on our customer retention rate and value the Sealanders that value us.
If there’s anything you could convey to customers who buy Sealand Gear products, what would it be?
Appreciate the saying ‘perfectly imperfect’, as through the Sealand lens these are the characters that make a handmade upcycled product so special.
In your opinion, who is Sealand Gear’s main target market? Is it only for the active outdoor adventure seekers or do you consider your range of products to be for anyone and everyone?
If we were to define our audience, it would look something like this. Both males and females between the ages of 25-45, who tend to be well educated, well-paid workers or young professionals. From a global audience and come from all walks of life. These individuals are interested in fashion, urban/outdoor adventure, and travel. They like to look good and care about their aesthetics. They tend to be up to date on the latest social media trends and are socially conscious. That Seek function, quality and style with no compromise on the environment.
These individuals are attracted to and enjoy both an urban and outdoor approach to life – spending their weeks in the fast-pace environment of the city, while heading out of town on the weekends to explore, discover and experience life. With a keen sense of environmental dynamics and an eco-conscious mindset. They all engage well with story-rich products and seek out authenticity that resonates with them. They are stylish and fashion-forward, and are looking for responsible fashion, while placing value on quality and longevity over price. As well as aspire to well-considered design.
SEALAND GEAR IS INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED
Besides taking Cape Town by storm with their wide range of handmade, sustainable and eco-conscious products. Sealand Gear is an influential globally recognised brand that is well known all around the world. They are stocked in countries like UK, France, New Zealand and Japan. As well as South African stores like The Deckle Edge and Gone Outdoor.
Sealand Gear has really made some massive moves in recent years & achieved some incredible successes! So much so that you are both locally and globally recognized. How do you see Sealand Gear growing and expanding in the future? What are the next big steps for Sealand Gear?
Thank you, we are trying our best to build the brand and be recognized on a global stage. This is no easy feet and certainly takes time and commitment. We plan to see the brand roll out into the US during 2020, which we have been working timelessly over the past years to lay solid foundations in order to see this happen. We are incredibly excited for the future and what’s to come for Sealand!
THE SEALAND GEAR STORE IN DE WATERKANT
In addition to their global recognition and having their products stocked in a variety of stores all around the world. Sealand Gear wants customers, cool change makers, eco-conscious trend setters and avid adventure seekers to experience their philosophy and brand in the most authentic way possible in their very own space. This motivated them to open their permanent store in the trendy city-centre of Cape Town.
They see their store in the cool De Waterkant District of Cape Town’s vibrant inner-city, not only as a hub of creativity, innovative thinking and a space for creating one-of-a-kind products that clients will love. But as an ‘experience store’ that offers clients so much more. Sealand Gear therefore not only want their new space to be a place where people can go to buy their products. But a space where you can learn more about the brand, its sustainability practices and dive deeper into what Sealand Gear is really all about. Thereby giving you the super cool opportunity to join the Sealand Gear family and be a part of the revolutionary eco-conscious movement!
Founders Mike Schlebach and Jasper Eales also view their new De Waterkant store as a natural progression into direct retail. Which has without a doubt been a long time coming for these eco-conscious and influential change-makers. But is a vision that has finally come to life!
“We have wanted a space to host events and express our educational voice for some time and we are excited that we have found the right bricks-and-mortar space to showcase Sealand’s full brand and lifestyle offering. We have a second retail store planned for Jozi, which will open during 2020. Over the next ten years, our vision is to see more Sealand stores strategically placed in different regions around the world” – Mike Schlebach (Co-founder of Sealand Gear)
You opened your first stand-alone store in the trendy De Waterkant district of Cape Town’s city centre not too long ago – Massive congratulations on that! What was the main motivation behind this?
We have almost been open and trading for a year now, which we are incredibly proud of. We have always wanted a retail space, where we could showcase who we truly are and present our full product offering in a way we felt proud of. The store is a detailed experience into the Sealand world, profiling our ambassadors, giving credit to current limited-edition projects, and educating people on how we do things the Sealand way.
You mentioned that you want your new store to be so much more than a place where people can go to merely purchase your Sealand Gear products. But an ‘experience store’ where people can truly immerse themselves in the Sealand Gear brand and way of life by hosting talks, events etc. What type of events are you hoping to host? And do you have any exciting events coming up in the near future?
Indeed, it needed to be seen as an Experience store, which the customer leaves with a positive experience. Having the ability to touch and feel the materials and be educated on how we produce the products from various waste materials. We will be launching an exciting series called ‘Sealand Sessions’ at the store in the near future, which will be educational and inspirational talks from industry leaders on Sealand relevant topics. More on this soon!
Sealand Gear is so much more than a brand or business. It’s a movement that aims to inspire, educate, inform and empower others to live a more sustainable eco-conscious life. All while building a passionate community of like-minded individuals and change makers that share the same convictions, visions and love of the environment. Both inside and outside of their business. They also make it a key focus to give back to their team and community of people that have helped them build Sealand Gear into what it is today.
“Sealand was founded on two core principles: First, to do good for the environment and, second, to do good for our community. As a business operating out of South Africa, we have acknowledged and accepted the responsibility we owe to our own community. To show our commitment, in all our bags, we proudly include the personal stamp of the individual person who made it. While this provides a desirable handmade touch to our products, there is more behind each stamp than personalisation.” – Mike Schlebach & Jasper Eales (Founders of Sealand Gear)
The threat of Global Warming is only increasing as time goes on & it’s more important than ever before that we all step up & play our part in preserving planet earth. In your opinion, what practical things can people do daily to be more eco-conscious, kinder to the environment and contribute to a sustainable future?
Make daily small changes, this way it’s easier to adopt and over a longer period of time you will realize the bigger difference that you have made. Question your habits of consumption, and if you really need it. Reduce your single plastic usage on a daily basis. Buy with longevity in mind.