Sustainable Founders: CAVALIER are bringing the fight against climate change to our underwear drawer

Published by Georgia Crump on

An interview with co-founder Adam Townsend.

The road to sustainability as a business is never an easy one. But the great news is it’s not one you have to travel alone. Our Meet the Sustainable Founders series shares stories and advice from founders that are committed to fighting climate change.

To kick things off, we caught up with Adam Townsend, co-founder of CAVALIER, the sustainable brand shaking up our underwear drawers. From MicroModal materials to #LondonIsOpen campaigns, Adam and CAVALIER are passionate about sustainability at every level.

CAVALIER is here to prove that fashion businesses can operate in a way that has a positive impact on the planet, without pushing their brand into some niche, ethical corner.

What was your green lightbulb moment for starting CAVALIER?

We were sitting uncomfortably. Men’s underwear is far from considered, and the more we looked into it, the more we realised that the market for both women and men has moved at a glacial pace over the last 50 years.

Men are incredibly underserved; the same old brands, flashy waistbands, cheap cotton, sweaty balls, models with rippling six-packs. Meanwhile, the women’s market is flooded with cheap fabrics, uncomfortable designs, an ever-present male gaze, and a history of unhealthy body obsessions.

This is before you’ve even crossed the sustainability border.

Only 2% of the world’s underwear is made with sustainable fabrics, which means landfills are filling up with garments that use hundreds of chemicals to create and thousands of years to degrade. Despite big brands beating the sustainability drum like it’s going out of fashion, it would appear that very few have followed through on their promises.

This is where the opportunity struck, right in the middle of this archaic pant-storm.

How does CAVALIER help fight climate change?

CAVALIER is here to prove that fashion businesses can operate in a way that has a positive impact on the planet, without pushing their brand into some niche, ethical corner. We don’t want our customers to buy CAVALIER just because we’re a ‘sustainable brand’. We want people to buy CAVALIER garments because they feel incredible to wear and look sexy as hell. We’re empowering our customers to feel great in their clothes without the need to feel guilty about the impact of their purchase.

If the rest of the fashion industry worked like this, then David Attenborough could retire early.

What makes you feel hopeful for a sustainable future?

Sorry to be a downer, but very little. 

Protecting the planet is still not a priority for the world’s largest economies or the most powerful corporations, and this is what our planet’s future rests upon. 

Consumers can affect change on a personal level, but when China is producing the same amount of carbon emissions as the rest of the developed world combined, meat-free Mondays are a drop in the ocean.

So as well as making changes in our daily lives to better sustain the planet, people need to keep the pressure on governments and businesses, using their vote and their money to send a clear message: if you don’t do better, you won’t stay in power.

Where do you source your materials?

All our garments are made from a super-soft fabric called MicroModal, which comes from the natural fibres of European beech trees. It is one of the most sustainably crafted fabrics in the world, and produced by the innovative and eco-driven Lenzing of Austria.

Lenzing takes their sustainable procurement just as seriously as we do.

In all countries where they source the beechwood to create MicroModal, reforestation exceeds the quantities harvested for sustainable usage by a third. Lenzing primarily makes use of timber generated by thinning, a practice applied in sustainable foresting. Thus, the beechwood that is unsuitable for high-grade products, such as sustainably-sourced furniture, finds a meaningful purpose in the Lenzing production of botanical fibres.

One of the reasons we have loved partnering with Treepoints is the fact our underwear is made from sustainably forested trees, and then by purchasing CAVALIER underwear, our customers are contributing to planting even more trees. It’s the perfect circle.

Who are you inspired by?

Richard Branson. No, I’m kidding. 

The #LondonIsOpen campaign is a movement close to my heart. When Britain voted to leave the EU I was devastated, Brexit was such a cruel message to communicate to Europeans and people from other countries living in Britain.

The Mayor of London launched the #LondonIsOpen campaign just weeks after the vote, telling the world that London is open to anyone and everyone who aligns with the city’s values of acceptance, diversity and love.

In a world so fuelled by division, a simple message of openness is a powerful one.

What green business practices are you most proud of as a company?

For us, it has to be our fabric choice. 

Our product is superior to every other underwear garment on the market, simply because we worked hard to find a fabric that is best for both people and planet.

What are the biggest challenges in running a sustainable business?

Helping people to understand the difference between fast-fashion prices and sustainable fashion prices.

Underwear bought from fast-fashion retailers such as H&M or BooHoo are seen as cheap – but the cost to the people making them and to the planet is proportional. Appalling labour conditions, poverty entrapment, chemical pollutants, landfill waste – I could compile a dictionary of costs.

Typically, sustainable fashion brands with ethical supply chains are comparably more expensive, and this is often seen as snobbery – that sustainable fashion is only for those who can afford it.

The truth is, products like our own CAVALIER underwear are designed better, crafted with care, and made to last – which returns greater value to the customer in the long-run. As Vivienne Westwood says – buy less, choose well, make it last.

Where can we read more about CAVALIER’S sustainability practices?

If you’ve read to the bottom of this interview then you don’t need to read much more, it’s now time to upgrade your underwear drawer with silky-soft sustainable underwear.