Lili Dreyer is the founder of Wair, a textile upcycling startup working to give unwanted and discarded textiles a new life via upcycling. Their first products are the rather cool trainers you can see on their website. As an upcycling company they are keen to find better solutions for textiles that are currently being wasted.
Q. How did you know you wanted to work with sustainability?
I’m a very classic sustainability nerd. I got into sustainability when I was very young from seeing Al Gore’s documentary and just always knew from then that I wanted to work on making the world a better place. I actually started looking for jobs after I graduated, but as I didn’t get one, I decided to start Wair, which I had actually started developing during my studies. It’s just taken off from there and now it’s the only thing I can imagine doing.
Q. Why are sustainability and purpose so important to you?
I heard a podcast a while ago, that mentioned that purpose can actually make us live longer and how important it is for humans to have a purpose and something that drives us in our life. Personally, I think purpose is exactly that for me, it’s what drives me, it’s what gets me up in the morning, to know that I’m working towards something that aligns with my values. I hope I can make a positive difference in the world. I think the reason why it’s so important is that sometimes the world can seem quite hopeless, you know, there’s a lot of big, big problems out there. But purpose can connect us and bind us together and actually give us hope that there is something we can do, which I think is one of the most powerful things ever. So a purpose is so important, both personally, and also, collectively, as a society.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you have faced?
We are not alone in facing this in the upcycling business, but it is how to tame the very chaotic input material which textile waste actually is. To begin with, we are dealing with an invisible market, it’s not like you can go online and order it. You need to go out and find the different suppliers and then when we find them there is only some that we can get in big enough quantities and continuous quantities that we can actually use. Because this hasn’t been done before it makes it a challenge to make it scalable. It’s a constantly evolving process that we are always looking at how we can improve. We are always asking, how can we make the products that we make even more sustainable, whilst using textile waste?
Q. What tips do you have for someone starting a business?
It’s a bit of a cliché but just do it. It’s so easy to say, but so important. I was surprised by how big a difference it makes once you have mentally made that decision. Take those first steps and start telling people about it. It can change your life and also do some good for the planet.
Q. Your website uses storytelling well. How have you used this to help market upcycled trainers?
Every shoe has it’s own story from when you get it and then you’re going to give it a new story. Upcycling provides an amazing opportunity to provide unique products. But we also have to make products that are scalable, so it’s a fine balancing act. People are used to having products that are exactly the same, so it’s great to see that people really appreciate the uniqueness of our product and how the ombre effect on one shoe could be slightly lighter than the other. Customers really like that their pair is just a little bit different and unique than from what others have, which is really cool.
Q. What gives you hope for the future?
Seeing all the solutions that are out there now, all the amazing startups and all the technology gives me hope. But I think what gives me the most hope is the people behind them, the passion and the purpose that you can feel from people working within sustainability. I think that gives me so much hope, just meeting one person and seeing that person is so, so passionate about making a positive difference. It gives me a deep sense of, it’s gonna be okay. Even though the problems that we’re facing are so huge and enormous, it still gives me hope that there are so many people that want to do good.
Q. Do you have a good quote that motivates you?
There are so many good quotes about sustainability and running a business, I don’t have one in particular, but I do like ‘the best way to predict the future is by creating it’ because that is exactly what we are trying to do and tying that into living your purpose and taking that step to daring to create the future. Humans created all the problems the world is facing and we can also create solutions to those problems.
In the future, we’ll also be sharing a video interview we did with Lili, where we’ll be talking about some of these things in more detail.