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The Interview: Garry Wall - Global General Manager, Quiksilver

Tom Shearsmith
07 May 2021

In March 2021, outdoor clothing brand Quiksilver launched a new sustainable clothing collection called Made Better, manufactured using eco-friendly processes to reduce carbon emissions, use less water and energy and drive a positive change to the fashion industry.

The new range features products for all climates, with boardshorts made from recycled plastic bottles and polar fleeces made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled polyester - elevating the brands previous sustainability credentials. caught up with Global General Manager, Garry Wall, to discuss the history of Quiksilver, its continued drive for sustainability and what the future holds for the business.

Tell us about your history with Quicksilver Garry, I understand it's quite extensive?

I have been with Quiksilver for 28 years and I am currently the Global General Manager. Since joining the company I have worked across everything from general management, sales, marketing, product development and strategic brand management. I started my career as a sales representative in Torquay, Australia back in 1993 and prior to joining the company, I worked in advertising in my home town of Melbourne, Australia.

My connection to action sports began at a young age with a junior competitive amateur surfing career, and then later with a professional snowboarding career in which I competed on the international world cup circuit. I was actually one of the very first sponsored snow athletes for Quiksilver, so I have a real connection to the brand and it’s fantastic to have been with the business as it has continued to grow globally.

For those who don’t know, can you detail for me the sectors in retail that Quiksilver covers?

Quiksilver is at heart a surf brand that designs, creates products for the needs and lifestyle of surfing and snow activities, more recently we have become a full multi gender brand making surf inspired clothing for women. We strive to make innovative products to help push the action sports world forward, like the thinnest 1mm stitchless wetsuit, and then from a sustainability angle 100% of our boardshorts are made from plastic bottles and we extend this across various ranges.

In terms of the business, the last 10 years have been pretty hectic and hard, with a bankruptcy and buyout - How are things financially?

COVID-19 hit most retail businesses hard with the closure of stores across the globe, we have weathered that storm and are now looking forward to the future. We’re a brand that is always looking to the future and innovating over looking at the past. One positive is surfing participation rates are at an all time high along with most outdoor activities. People are finding or rediscovering the natural energy we all get from being outside connected to nature.

Sustainability – the key word on everyone’s lips: talk us through Quiksilver’s Made Better environmental commitments.

We recognise our role as leaders in the boardriding community and we are committed to setting the standard and expanding our sustainable progress on all levels. In order to achieve this, we developed a long-term strategy based on the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the United Nations. Our aim is to make better products using manufacturing methods that contribute to a better future.

Our new Made Better Collection is a representation of that - all the pieces have been produced with recycled and eco-friendly textiles and natural dyes, using sustainable manufacturing methods. Over the next decade we have a target to sustainably produce 100% of our goods and services, measure and share our community's number of actions and their positive impacts, with the ultimate goal to be climate positive.

So far Quiksilver has:

  • Saved over 245,000,000 plastic bottles from landfill turning it into clothing
    Avoided 8,000 tons of CO2 emissions using recycled polyester in the majority of Quiksilver's products
  • 100% of Quiksilver's boardshorts are made with recycled materials
  • 97% of Quiksilver's mountainwear is made with recycled materials

The technology behind creating some of your products – turning waste plastic bottles into fabric that can be woven into garments is outstanding. What is the journey from plastic bottle to a finished item from Quiksilver?

We have been working closely with our friends at Repreve to turn plastic bottles into Quiksilver products, the process is both simple and complex at the same time. It’s incredibly sad to see the amount of plastic that is dumped on beaches every year and through our commitment to environmentally conscious decision-making, we want to become part of the solution to this global problem.

Approximately 11 million plastic bottles are recycled each year to make our products. The simplicity stems from the fact that most plastic bottles are made from something called PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

PET also makes polyester, which is used in boardshorts and a variety of other goods. The complexity stems from the fact that it takes a little bit of work and a whole lot of ingenuity to get from bottle to boardshort. In short: the bottle gets broken down into chips. Then they become a fibre. Then it becomes a yarn. Then it gets sewn into your new favourite pair of boardshorts.

In the next decade the brand aims to be regenerative: sustainably producing 100% of its goods and services – how do you intend to achieve this?

10 years is what we have left to keep climate change under 2°C. It is in this context that we’ve built our strategy. We plan to continue investing in our sustainable manufacturing methods and fully commit ourselves to finding new ways to produce and market our products in the most eco-friendly way. Over time this will span into other elements of our business, we are passionate about shifting our community’s views on sustainability from participation to commitment.

Phase 1 reduce the impact:
- Continue to progress sustainability in our key products by finding even better ways to make our Boardshorts, Wetsuits, Outdoors, Snow and Womens collections.
- Launch a program that invites our community to get involved in our sustainability efforts.
- Use years’ worth of data to commit to and adopt science-based emissions targets.

Phase 2 neutralise our impact:
- Drive 50% of our business via sustainable goods and services
- Rally Quiksilver’s community to shift from participation to commitment
- Launch our Mountain & Wave Regeneration Program and reduce our CO2 emissions by 50% in line with the Paris Agreements 1.5 degree pathway.

Phase 3 make our impact regenerative:
- Sustainably produce 100% of Quiksilver’s goods and services by designing all products for circularity, sourcing natural materials from regenerative agriculture and employing the highest standards of production.
- Inspire lasting change by leveraging our community in our regeneration efforts.
- Be climate positive thanks to our Mountain & Wave Regeneration Program.

What can we expect from Quiksilver in the near future?

We will continue the focus on serving the lives of the male and female board riding community with products that perform and represent the lifestyle, while protecting the future of our playgrounds.

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