Herschel Supply, the reputed Vancouver-based accessories brand, has undergone a revolutionary transformation. The company, over a two-year period, has redesigned its core product line, embracing sustainable materials and innovative fabrication methods. This commitment to sustainability has placed Herschel at the forefront of an eco-conscious revolution in the fashion industry.
“This is not merely about changing the fabric. We have reassessed every element, every silhouette, every feature, readying them for a future that prioritizes sustainability,” told WWD Jamie Cormack, co-founder of Herschel alongside his brother, Lyndon. This holistic evaluation resulted in various product upgrades, including the introduction of padded floating laptop sleeves, expandable water bottle pockets, EVA-padded shoulder straps, and organizers that were not part of the original designs.
The linchpin of this transformation, however, is EcoSystem 600D, an environmentally-friendly fabric derived from 100 percent recycled post-consumer water bottles. This novel fabric now graces the exteriors, liners, and even the labels of Herschel’s products, lending an eco-conscious aura to their bags. 60 styles of backpacks, duffels, and accessories now proudly wear this green emblem.
Dubbed as the “New Classics,” this redesigned line marks Herschel’s stride into a sustainable era while preserving its commitment to quality. The lifetime warranty remains, and price points have held steadfast, making the shift to sustainability a win for both the planet and consumers.
“Sustainability is truly about quality. Craft it once, craft it right, and craft it to last,” said Lyndon Cormack, emphasizing the brand’s ethos. The transformational journey from 6 percent recycled fabrics pre-pandemic to an impressive 95 percent after the refresh reflects the company’s commitment to a greener future.
The Cormack brothers acknowledged that the pandemic offered them a silver lining, allowing them to reassess their business philosophy and re-align their mission toward environmental conservation. With operations spread across 90 countries, the brand took a bold step towards sustainability, viewing the pandemic’s pause as an opportunity to focus on long-term global benefits.
The eco-conscious shift extends beyond bags to Herschel’s luggage collection, which now features 70 percent recycled polycarbonate for the hardshells. The brothers recognize that this evolution is an ongoing process, and remain committed to discovering new sustainable solutions.
Beyond product transformation, Herschel’s retail footprint has significantly expanded. Now operating 11 stores in Canada and the U.S., the company plans to establish a flagship store in New York’s SoHo and another in Santa Monica by the end of the year. Having direct contact with consumers in their stores provides Herschel with a unique opportunity to share their brand story and their commitment to sustainability.
Looking ahead, the company plans to concentrate on other product categories, particularly apparel. Organic or recycled materials are on the agenda, reinforcing the brand’s broader commitment to sustainability. The success of the “New Classics” collection, which saw a significant sales surge following its launch, is a promising sign for future initiatives.
Further expansion plans include the broadening of their travel assortment and a more diverse, “gender specific” apparel offering. Printables, fleece, and rain jackets are among the priorities. As Lyndon Cormack put it, “We want Herschel to be more than a backpack. We aim to establish ourselves as a comprehensive brand.”
Herschel’s remarkable journey from disruptor in the accessories market to a champion of sustainability showcases their unwavering dedication to the planet and humanity. It serves as a call to action for other brands, urging them to join the eco-conscious revolution. As Jamie Cormack summarized, “Sustainability isn’t an option anymore, it’s an imperative.”
In the past, rumors circulated about potential buyers and equity rounds, but the Cormack brothers, backed by a consortium of investors including Eurazeo, Alliance Consumer Growth, and HOOPP Capital Partners, have remained steadfast. “We’re pushing forward, honing what we do best,” stated Lyndon. The company’s focus now is not merely on survival, but on thriving in a manner that is beneficial for both the business and the planet.
Interestingly, Herschel’s new sustainability path did not lead to a departure from their roots. The company continues to maintain its connection with its Canadian origins. The recent opening of a retail store in Banff, set in the picturesque Canadian Rocky Mountains, is a nod to their past and a symbol of their future – a fusion of city life and nature, wrapped in a sustainable package.
Further, the transformation at Herschel was not limited to materials and design. It was a profound shift in mindset. By adopting a sustainability-first approach, Herschel has embarked on a journey to create fashion that respects the planet, challenges the status quo, and shapes the future of the industry.
Their story, however, does not end here. The company’s future plans involve continuous innovation, with sustainable alternatives in every category. Particularly, Herschel’s sights are set on their apparel line, where they plan to incorporate more organic or recycled materials. The goal is to let consumers look beyond Herschel’s popular backpacks and see it as a brand that offers a range of sustainable options.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic fading in the rearview mirror, it’s refreshing to see everyone stepping outside, being active again,” said Jamie Cormack, reflecting a newfound optimism. “At Herschel, we are excited about what the future holds. It’s a future where our products continue to inspire and empower the modern consumer to tread lightly on our planet, and to do so in style.”
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