Sustainable Retail: Sportswear to Protect the Mediterranean

June 3, 2021 4:33 pm

Elena Ferrús (BBA ’13), founder of Mediterranea

After four years working in the banking industry in London, Elena returned to Barcelona to work as an investor relations officer. At the same time, she decided to become an entrepreneur by launching her own sportswear brand: Mediterranea. Her adventure began with lots of enthusiasm and hard work. In this interview, Elena shares with us the values of her sustainable brand and the motivations that prompted her to embark on this project, in which she seeks to do her part to ensure that we can all continue to enjoy the Mediterranean.

-How did you come up with the idea of creating Mediterranea?

I think Mediterranea has always been in my head, but it was only in March 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, that I found time to really consider it as a project. Mediterranea is the personal and professional project I have always dreamed of. It combines my two passions – sports and the Mediterranean – and does so in a sustainable way. In May of this year, we finally started selling products through our website.

-Why Mediterranea?

We are very lucky to have a paradise like the Mediterranean Sea in our country and to be able to enjoy it with our family and friends. But this good fortune also demands great responsibility on our part, since the Mediterranean is currently the world’s most polluted sea. What’s the good news? There is still time to make things right if we act now. And so, with great enthusiasm, we created Mediterranea, a sustainable sportswear brand designed specifically for women that is inspired by the Mediterranean and, at the same time, takes care of it.
Our mission is very clear: enjoy sports while protecting the Mediterranean. Therefore, all of our garments are made from fishing nets and plastics that have been dumped into the sea, our packaging is recycled and made by women at risk of social exclusion, and 1% of our sales go to an NGO that helps to protect the Mediterranean.
Our garments are designed to be versatile: from high-impact sports such as running or fitness to yoga and pilates. For all active women who love the sea!

-You define yourselves as a sustainable brand. What does it mean to be a sustainable brand?

I believe that sustainable brands understand sustainability not as a marketing tool, but rather as something that is present throughout the company’s value chain: from production and logistics to employee relations and, obviously, marketing, since it is just as important to do things as it is to talk about them.

-What production processes do you use to make your garments?

All of our garments are made with ECONYL®, a sustainable type of nylon that is made from fishing nets abandoned at sea and other plastics. These plastics are collected and transformed into a new thread that has the same characteristics as traditional nylon. By using this thread, we prevent the consumption of natural resources and contribute to the fight against fishing nets abandoned at sea – also known as “ghost nets” – which account for 46% of marine litter and take more than 600 years to decompose.
In addition to being a solution for our oceans, this nylon is also better in terms of climate change, since its impact on the climate is 90% lower than that of traditional nylon. Furthermore, this nylon can be infinitely recycled, which means that new products can be created from it without having to use new resources, thus promoting the circular economy.

-Are sustainable businesses profitable?

I think there is a false image of sustainable businesses. A sustainable business is not an NGO. It is a company that understands that, if we want to keep enjoying nature and the sea, we have to be responsible. Therefore, we make sustainability a priority in all of our decisions.
I also believe that, in order for a sustainable company to be profitable, it has to be open to the world. In Spain, unfortunately, the socially conscious market is still small, albeit growing, and socially conscious shoppers often compare prices, even though it is impossible to compare the cost of a sustainable company to that of a traditional company. In other countries, consumers understand this better and know how to value it.

-What role does the consumer play in the transformation of retail and how can we become more aware of responsible consumption?

Consumers play an essential role in getting any industry to switch towards a more sustainable model. In the food sector, for example, we are already seeing this. Consumers are increasingly concerned about where the fruit they buy comes from, how it has been treated, etc. It is only a matter of time before they start asking the same questions about the textile industry.

-Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur after your previous experience in the banking industry?

Early on, I combined the two by working at Mediterranea after work and on weekends. But there came a point when I realised that, if I really wanted Mediterranea to work, I had to be prepared to give 200% – and that meant quitting my day job. And honestly, I am very happy. I have learned to do everything: marketing, operations, logistics, taxes, legal affairs and countless other things.
It does involve a lot of work, perseverance and, of course, risk, but it is so exciting to realise that you are creating your own project. That makes up for everything.

-What tools have Esade and Esade Alumni provided to help you get this project off the ground?

They set up a meeting with a mentor, who played a key role in launching the project by giving me the final push I needed. More recently, they helped me find a marketing intern.

-Can you give any advice to other alumni who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?

I would say four things:
– If you aren’t familiar with the industry – as was my case – surround yourself with people who are, so that they can explain it to you and help you make contacts.
– Share your project with friends, family and acquaintances. For example, I would wear Mediterranea clothes whenever I went to my physical therapist or to the bank. Any opportunity is a good opportunity to collect market feedback.
– Don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegate.
– And finally: hard work, perseverance, order and, most importantly, enthusiasm.