Varusteleka’s goal is Total World Domination. Conquering the world is kinda tricky if there’s no habitable planet left. While we like to think we’re on the right side, we are in no way a responsible business just yet, and all our actions consume non-renewable resources and cause pollution.
As a guideline for reducing environmental destruction, we came up with the Unethicality Program for 2019-2021. If you don’t bother to read the whole thing, you should know at least the main points:
- Material efficiency, i.e. using less destructive materials the most efficiently in products and packaging
- Responsible purchasing, taking the environment into account also in production
- Making durable products suitable for circular economy
- Figuring out, following, and minimizing the emissions from logistics
We don’t do this just randomly. We report our environment-related progress to the Ekokompassi-certification body. They also perform an audit every three years, checking all relevant documents, interviewing our crew, and examining our premises to see that the environmental work progresses as promised.
Since everything else is pointless if the planet turns into a fiery inferno, the key measure for our progress is the carbon footprint. We have calculated our carbon footprint for the years 2019 and 2020 and analyzed the excuses for its changes . We have also offset our carbon emissions for both those years with Compensate.
Future targets locked
The theme of our first Unethicality Program was recon. We began to examine the environmental impact of our operations and prioritised the need for action. Next, we begin to eliminate those emissions during the years 2022 - 2024. We aim for the so-called net zero emissions in the year 2030: we should at least halve our the emissions from our own operations by 2025 and do the same trick with our value chain by 2030. In addition, the emissions that we cannot get rid of, will be offset just like before.
Our irresponsibility efforts are done the same way we do everything else: tackle tasks head-on, do stuff we can be proud of, share knowledge and experiences, and be on the side of the good guys.
Varusteleka got started by selling army surplus, which nowadays makes up 14% out of our revenue. Someone did emit crap while producing it, but we at least extended the lifetime for which the emissions are allocated.
Our own brands Särmä, Särmä TST, and Terävä were born in 2013. The Jämä product line that uses surplus fabrics came to be in 2015. Our own products generated 47% of our revenues in 2020. From the perspective of reducing our irresponsibility, we have the most power over own labels' products and what kind of basis our brands are built on.
Many things that have an impact on the environment are already determined during the design phase. We want to manufacture items that can endure both time and use.
We do not have weekly seasons nor do we follow changing trends. That’s why we don’t have to get rid of stuff after the made-up season is over. The items are designed to last, and they are only changed when they need improving, not because of fashion. The whole point is to be practical and useful for as many things as possible.
Size charts, adjustability, and sewing services
As the webstore is da shit, our size charts are carefully crafted. We want you to be able to find the right size even without trying anything on. This has resulted in a minimal return rate, only two percent compared to the national average, which is about a third of all purchases.
In addition, e.g. many pants have an adjustable waist, which makes it easier to find the right size and allows you to use the same pants even if the waistline changes. We also have tailoring services that can e.g. cut your pants into shorts and extend the lifetime a bit more. And with our Vaatelaastari Textile Repair Patches, you can repair torn stuff.
Durability and long lifetime
You can also extend the lifetime of items with proper care. We provide instructions on how to care for your purchases and have also compiled a few articles on the care of clothes and shoes.
To back up our durability claims, all our own products have a 12 month warranty. In addition, our Kierto program gives the products a kind of a lifetime warranty, since you can pass the gear that is in good condition to another user and be compensated.
The biggest environmental effect in all sorts of production is related to raw material production and water-intensive processes, such as dyeing. In many cases, these raw materials are produced in the other end of the world, and we have little control over what happens in the process. That is why we continuously try to increase the share of less environmentally awful materials in our product selection, without having to compromise functionality.
Materials are a complicated matter and even we do not have the Real Truth about the issue. Any material, when produced in massive quantities and then gotten rid of without recycling or re-using, is harmful. On the other hand, it is pretty dumb to create an item from materials that are in no way suitable for the desired use. When it comes to materials, there are many approaches. Regarding textiles, we have decided to concentrate on reducing the emissions from production and damage to the environment e.g. due to the use of water and chemicals in our decisions.
In our wisdom and with some guidance, we have determined organic cotton, lyocell and linen, as well as the recycled versions of polyester, polyamide, cotton, and wool to be less awful materials.
This means that the rest, conventional cotton, wool, viscose and all virgin poly-things, like polyesters, polyamides, polyurethane and polypropylene - the list goes on- have been deemed as less nice materials to use.
Mulesing-free merino wool
In our production, we only accept wool from merino sheep that are not put through the mulesing process. In addition, we use alpaca wool as well as recycled wool.
At its best, leather is an excellent, durable material that only gets better with time. Its production can be problematic, for example due to heavy chemical use, and that’s why we only accept European leather. In our Särmä shoes, we use vegetable tanned leather from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as chrome-tanned leather from Slovakia and Slovenia. The leather in Särmä TST shoes also originates from Europe, from Germany and Italy. The belts made for us by Helsingin Olkain Oy are manufactured from Dutch leather. The sheaths for our Terävä-knives are made in Finland out of residual leather from moose and cattle sourced locally.
When it comes to coatings and other chemicals, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. We’ve made fluorocarbonated DWR treatments our first target, and we have managed to replace PFC in clothing with Bionic Finish. We still use PFC in rainwear and backpacks, but this is the so-called shorter-chained C6 version. It’s byproducts break down faster and are therefore less toxic. In addition, our customers can also choose to add a water repellent coating to their clothes, such as the Windproof items, with our clothing wax.
Ideally, we want to manufacture our products as close to Finland as possible, in countries, where workers’ rights are better monitored and environmental regulations more stringent. We look for partners that are also good guys.
We believe in long partnerships instead of chasing the cheapest option. For example, out of the clothing factories, 40% have been with us for over 5 years, which is quite good for such a young product line.
Our manufacturing is focused in Europe. Below you can see the production of all our brands in different countries based on the relative purchasing volumes in the year 2020:
|Country||Relative purchases, %|
Out of these countries, China and Turkey are considered as risk countries. We have been able to visit our factory in China before the plague in 2019. We conducted a successful recon mission and wrote a report about it. Turkey represents less than a percent of our purchases and the cooperation began in 2019. We have not yet had the chance to visit the factory.
We do not own or operate any factories. We have introduced our partners during the Fashion Revolution Weeks:
- Who made your clothes, part 1, Agtuvi
- Who made your clothes, part 2, M.A.S.I Company
- Who made your clothes, part 3, Zhenpu
- Who made your clothes, part 4, Laurin Metalli
- Who made your clothes, part 5, Jämä
- Who made your clothes, part 6, Sukkamestarit
- Who made your clothes, part 7, Utenos
- Who made your clothes, part 8, Omniteksas
- Who made your clothes, part 9, Kolmituote
- Who made your clothes, part 10, MD-Textil
- Who made your clothes, part 11, Top-Knit
Shoes and boots
Särmä TST shoes and boots are manufactured by Lowa in Slovakia, Italy, and Germany and by Alpina in Slovenia. Särmä shoes and boots are manufactured in Estonia.
To learn more about the leather used in our shoes, check the Materials section.
Terävä knives are made in Finland.
The origin of the fabrics
The "Made in" country on the care label only communicates the final manufacturing phase of the product.
We know the origin of the fabrics for about 86% of our products, so there’s still a ton of work to do since we want to untangle our production chains as far as possible.
CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND ELIMINATING CRAP
We think it is dumb to throw away stuff that’s still perfectly fine to use. That’s why we went into the army surplus business in the first place. However, we have a few other fiendish schemes to keep products in circulation.
Tunkio means a dungheap in Finnish. Sometimes an item headed to the shelves or a return from our customers has a small defect. It isn’t utter crap but we don’t want to sell it for a full price either. In that case, it ends up in the Tunkio corner in the store with a discounted price. In case we get loads of stuff like this, we organise a Megatunkio event.
Jämä is our product line made from surplus materials. We take others’ leftovers and turn them into new products with local artisans in Finland.
Kierto is our way of stopping useful stuff from flooding peoples’ wardrobes or being incinerated. It also allows our customers to find the stuff they need second-hand. Or actually, multiple-hand, as some of the army surplus is also eligible for the circularity program.