Bringing back our series of Interview with The Founder, we have insights from founder of brand Copenhagen Cartel- Katrine Lee Larsen. Copenhagen Cartel, now available on our website, is an exceptional sustainable brand driven by an unwavering love and commitment to the ocean.

Q: What inspired you to pursue building your brand and bringing it to life?

A: The idea for Copenhagen Cartel came about after I spent a year living and working in Bali, and "surfing in my lunch break." But then the monsoon season arrived, when wind, rain, and strong sea currents conspired to bring mountains of plastic garbage onto Bali's beaches. Sometimes you could stand on the beach and see as far as the eye could, and there was almost a carpet of plastic. We participated in numerous beach cleanups, walking for eight hours, high-fiving each other, and thinking, "Wow, we made a difference today." However, the next day, we couldn't see that we had removed a single piece of plastic. That really scared me.

The trauma of witnessing firsthand the consequences that decades of plastic consumption have had on our planet affected me deeply. I am a true ocean lover, and my best hours are spent in and around the ocean. It broke my heart to see how we were slowly but steadily destroying the ocean. Living in Bali made this destruction much more visible than in Denmark, and I couldn't forget what I had witnessed. So I knew I had to contribute somehow, and that's when the idea of Copenhagen Cartel was born.

I know our bikinis can't save the ocean. But maybe the people wearing them can.

Q: What were the biggest challenges for you in launching it?

A: I had never worked in fashion before, nor did I have any experience in production, supply chain, or recycling. However, my passion for doing something different and better outweighed my fear of failure. When I started, one of the biggest challenges was, and still is, the higher costs associated with doing the right thing. Choosing recycled materials and sustainable practices almost always comes with a higher price tag compared to traditional materials and processes. Additionally, communicating about sustainability is complex and requires a much bigger effort in terms of obtaining certificates, ensuring traceability, and maintaining transparency. These steps add to the traditional manufacturing and marketing costs. This means it can be difficult to create a sustainable financial business model without compromising on our values. Fortunately, the demand for sustainable products and practices is gradually increasing, leading to lower prices.

Furthermore, the rules and regulations regarding sustainability are constantly changing, and there is not yet a fixed set of rules that covers all of Europe. This adds to the complexity of working with sustainability.

Q: Why do you think sustainability in the fashion industry is so important?

A: There are several reasons. The fashion industry is known for its significant environmental footprint, consuming vast amounts of natural resources, including water, energy, and raw materials. By embracing sustainable practices such as using recycled materials and creating circular processes, the industry can reduce its negative impact on the environment, conserve resources, and mitigate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The traditional linear model of "take-make-dispose" is no longer viable or sustainable; it's outdated. Embracing a circular economy approach in the fashion industry encourages the reuse, recycling, and repurposing of materials, extending their lifespan and reducing waste. This shift towards circularity promotes resource efficiency, reduces the need for virgin resources, and minimizes the industry's impact on landfills, oceans, and ecosystems.

Overall, sustainability in the fashion industry is essential for mitigating environmental impact, promoting social responsibility, meeting consumer expectations, driving innovation, and ensuring the industry's long-term viability. It is a holistic approach that considers the environmental, social, and economic aspects of fashion production and consumption.

Q: What makes your products stand out?

A: So, this is what we do. We alleviate some of the pressure our current way of living puts on our planet, especially the oceans, by challenging the traditional ways of producing and consuming fashion. We give new life to waste materials and used resources that are considered worthless and offer products that are high-quality, durable, responsible, and a perfect fit.

We live and breathe to rid the oceans of plastic waste. It's on the agenda in everything we do, both as a brand and as human beings fulfilling the mission of Copenhagen Cartel: to contribute to keeping the ocean healthy—for ourselves, for you, and for generations to come.

We work hard every day to lead the way to a cleaner ocean through our products, collaborations, clean-up events, activities, and donations.

Q: How can we change the fashion industry?

A: First of all, brands and politicians should stop putting the responsibility solely on the consumer. It's not the consumers who will be able to make that change; it starts with the top of the pyramid: politicians and businesses. Let's get that straight first. However, there are many things that you, as a consumer, can do. Your money is your vote. I see many consumers who have a nice set of values and want to see a change in the world, but then they put all their money into brands that don't care. And in that case, you cannot change anything.

Companies like Copenhagen Cartel show that methods exist to make products in a responsible, circular way. But other obstacles remain. We have taught consumers that things don't cost much! Switching to more sustainable practices comes with a higher cost. So if you want to maintain a price point similar to many companies today, it's very challenging. I think that is the biggest challenge.

I understand that most people have a lot on their plates trying to manage their everyday lives. But the reality is, if you don't engage in these issues, your everyday life will change a lot anyway because we won't be able to continue doing things the way we do them today.

Q: Why the name Copenhagen Cartel?

A: You might wonder why we are called Copenhagen Cartel. The journey began in Bali but was brought to life in Copenhagen, Denmark. Danish design is known for its innovation, quality, functionalism, and appreciation for life. So why not adopt the Copenhagen mentality and incorporate it into the first thing people see—the name of our brand?

Then there's Cartel. While the word Cartel may have a negative connotation for some, for us, it perfectly relates to what we do. If you look at the origin of the word Cartel, it means a coalition or cooperative arrangement between different parties, intended to promote a mutual interest. And that's exactly what we are! We surround ourselves with passionate, brave individuals and brands that aim to make a difference for a better future, both for the planet and its people.

In addition to our passion for saving the oceans, you'll discover that Copenhagen Cartel is all about positive change. We fearlessly challenge the status quo and unite with like-minded ocean lovers. We form a community where we explore, inspire, and empower individuals and brands to make choices with the future of our planet in mind.

Although we were born in Copenhagen, our Cartel extends to communities worldwide.

We are Copenhagen Cartel.

Discover the fun and eco-friendly swimwear from Copenhagen Cartel below: