If you’re a mountain biker, a climber, a snowboarder or a surfer, it’s hard to ignore how much you rely on nature to provide you with these incredible experiences. Pete Warwick is all of the above, but became disheartened by how little outdoor sports clothing and equipment is environmentally sustainable. Pete founded Husky Organic because he wanted to create a brand for riders and outdoors people that created ethical, high quality clothing, produced in a way that is consistent with protecting the natural environment which these activities depend on.
The first decision was simple: the clothing would be produced with organic cotton. But the more questions Pete asked about the production and supply chain, the more the answers failed to meet his ethical requirements. Eventually he realised that to guarantee the cotton was sustainably farmed, ethically manufactured and to avoid a huge carbon footprint for transit, everything would have to be done close to home. So close in fact, that the cotton is grown within cycling distance of the factory in which it is cut and sewn into t-shirts.
How and why did you start Husky?
I’m a mountain biker, climber, snowboarder and surfer, and wanted to create a clothing company that combined a love of outdoor sports with a passion for environmental issues. I was painting mountain bike artwork at the time and decided to apply some of the artwork onto organic cotton t-shirts. People liked what we were doing, and the company has grown from there.
Is it a good time to strike it alone?
Absolutely. If you believe in what you do, make a great product and have a good story to tell then go for it.
What were you doing beforehand?
In my previous life I was a design engineer, working in the Formula One and automotive industry.
What challenges have you faced?
Finding the right partner to make our clothing has been the single largest challenge we have faced. We were looking for a company that shared our environmental beliefs, our obsession for quality, and one who could offer complete transparency, which is essential if you want to describe yourself as ethical and authentic.
When we asked prospective partners where their cotton was grown we were told it was impossible to say since cotton can be sourced from anywhere in the world. This was unacceptable to us. There’s no point buying organic cotton if it has to travel thousands of miles to your factory and leave giant-sized carbon footprints in its wake.
If you don’t know where your cotton is sourced from, you can’t know the labour conditions under which it is produced. We do. Our organic cotton is grown a short ride from the factory in which it is spun into fabric, lowering the carbon footprint of our t-shirts to an absolute minimum. We’ve met the people who spin and dye our fabric, and the craftsmen and women who cut and sew our t-shirts. Every step of our production is known, certified and transparent. It means we can sleep at night.
Who or what do you take inspiration from?
I’m inspired by people who stay true to their beliefs and push the boundaries in their field. I feel inspired when I’m in the mountains or the ocean, paddling, surfing, riding or climbing. It’s where I feel at home and is the greatest source of inspiration to me.
What does independence mean to you?
Independence means being free from corporate interests to make our own decisions. It means choosing our own path and staying true to our beliefs. Our organic cotton is expensive to buy and takes longer to grow than conventionally grown cotton. We print with non-toxic inks and make our t-shirts in small numbers. As a result it takes longer to make our clothing, and our profit margin is reduced, but as an independent company we answer only to our customers and ensure that everything we do is authentic.
What’s the single greatest lesson you’ve learned from setting up your own business?
Work with great people. It takes a lot of time and effort, but if you want to make something great, you need to find the right people to work with.
What are your ambitions for the future of Husky?
We’d like to add technical clothing that is made from natural fibres and recycled material to our collection. As with our t-shirts we’ll take our time to choose the best materials and the right people to ensure that the story behind any future product is transparent, ethical and authentic.