Wildness: A Sustainable Icelandic Surf Brand

Wildness

I was initially excited by Wildness because I consider myself to be a cold water surfer and adventure lover. Wildness is an Icelandic brand set to burst on the scene with a collection of stunning, high quality and functional apparel.

Very few surf brands can arrange their product shoot in front of an active volcano

An Icelandic Surf Brand?

Those of you reading this from the warmer parts of the world might be wondering why a company from Iceland is entering the surf market. Trust me when I say the country has world class waves and an enthusiastic, tight knit surf community. Iceland is at the top of my travel bucket list.

Wildness founder Filip Polach styling along a perfect Icelandic wall

Some of the most incredible surf photographs of the past decade have come out of Iceland. Renowned cold-water surf explorer Chris Burkhard is a fan of Icelandic waves.

Who are Wildness?

The team behind Wildness are surfers, skiers and snowboarders, constantly exposed to Arctic conditions. This garnered a healthy knowledge and understanding for the needs of those who love the outdoors, mountains, and ocean.

A good day starts in the mountains… and ends in the water…

Icelandic surf culture is a far cry from California or Australia, but I know where I’d rather be

How Can I Find Out More About Wildness?

You can check out the following:

Website

Instagram

Facebook

High Quality Sustainable Outdoor Clothing

Over the years I tended to lean towards brands like The North Face and Mountain Equipment for the kit I use to battle the elements in cold surf destinations like Scotland, Ireland and further afield.

I find limitations in most of the traditional surf brands when it comes to extremely cold, tough weather conditions. I am so excited to think that Wildness will be producing gear that is honed from personal experience, with a surfing theme. I cannot wait to wear their incredible kit during my next winter surf trip.

Riding the Wave of Sustainability

It would’ve been easy for Wildness to dine out on their exclusive status as an Icelandic surf brand. But they have gone a whole lot further than that.

Spending so much time in the frigid ocean, founders Filip Polach, Lucas Polach, and Víðir Björnsson witnessed all manner of plastic pollution encroaching on their beloved Icelandic coastline. It motivated them to take action.

This is indicative of the waste that washes up on our beaches every day of the year

We thought there must we a way to get rid of this plastic and use it for something good, and there is.

Wildness have set out from the very beginning to build the company from a sustainable and ethical foundation, ensuring that each and every process is set to exacting and regulated standards. Wildness create outdoor clothing from recycled fishing nets, plastic waste and organic materials. Their products are stylish, comfortable and suitable for all weather conditions. Too many items of clothing are “throw away fashion”. Wildness clothing is made to last for a long, long time.

Creating Sustainable Clothing From Ocean Waste

The first official Wildness clothing collection will be released in conjunction with Healthy Seas, using mostly ECONYL®, a fabric made from regenerated abandoned fishing nets and Repreve®, a fabric made from recycled Ocean-bound plastic. The fabrics will be combined with organic materials to further reduce the microfibres which damage our waters. All Wildness products will be OEKO-Tex® rated.

Being naked is the #1 sustainable option. We are #2.

In Iceland, and around the world, fishing gear constitutes a significant portion of ocean plastic debris. Approximately 10% of global marine plastic pollution comes from “ghost gear,” or discarded fishing equipment. These massive knots of woven fibre can remain adrift for substantial amounts of time and are often responsible for the accidental capture of many types of marine life including whales, seals, fish, birds and turtles. Plastics are indestructible and only break down into smaller and smaller particles, never truly disappearing.

Our philosophy is to use less, waste less and design responsible, ethical products that are built to last. By wearing Wildness we hope to inspire others to think responsibly, consciously, while carrying on our message through our clothing.

Wildness are determined that shipping is minimised during production, ensuring their family run, mountain based workshop is located close to the ECONYL® production facility. In fact the workshop is in the home town of two Wildness founders, twins Filip and Lucas Polach.

Wildness have teamed up with Kolviður to offset their import footprint. Kolviður are a Carbon Fund dedicated to planting trees across Iceland.


Interview with Wildness Founder Filip Polach

I was delighted to spend a bit of time chatting with Filip Polach, the founder of Wildness. Filip established the brand alongside his brother Lucas Polach, and Víðir Björnsson.

Hi Filip, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Hey Nathan, I’m originally from Czech Republic and I grew up in a small mountain town where I was raised in a deeply rooted skate and snowboard culture.  Every chance we got, we would go into the mountains to search for some good shred.

This background eventually guided me to surfing. About 9 years ago a few friends went for a road trip to France – Hossegor – to experience some real waves. Right there on that massive beach break where I was getting smashed by heavy barrels I realised that all I wanna do is to be close the ocean.

I decided to move to Iceland about 8 years ago because I fell in love with the island’s potential of combining surfing (ocean) and skiing (mountains), because I love both worlds.

Filip combining his two favourite pursuits

Climate change has also a big role in my life. In my local mountains, where I grew up, winters were getting shorter and shorter and we got less and less snow each season.

So me and my brother made a pretty bold move back then and decided to move as far North possible to never run out of snow and waves. Hahaha. Iceland it is, here I found good mates, who share the same values, opinions and love of nature and here we started our sustainable outdoor clothing brand called Wildness.

A lot of our readership would have no idea about surfing in Arctic conditions. What’s it like being an Icelandic surfer? 

It’s mostly about the dedication and endurance in the weather conditions up here. You have to fight with the weather constantly and be on the lookout for short windows where you can score some waves.

It took us years to find out how some surf spots work and in what conditions they´re at their best. We have no webcams or forecast sites that can accurately say if the waves work or not so you have to combine your local knowledge with 4 different forecast predictions to have a chance to score.

Sometimes you end up travelling for hours and hours, but then when you hit the jackpot it feels so much more rewarding. Surfers here love the fight with the weather and it becomes a massive part of the surfing culture here, the adventure of it all is remarkable. The cold does not bother you much here, everybody is used to it. 

Line-ups are usually empty but there is more and more surfers each year, especially in the spots close to the capital.

Wildness is an intriguing brand for so many reasons. What inspired you guys to start the company?

Thank you, super happy to hear that. 

We struggled to find a fully sustainable outdoor clothing for local conditions, which combined the proper technical features with good design and cuts which suit the environment we are exposed to everyday. I studied design and I have been passionate about outdoor clothing and the environment ever since I can remember.

But to make a real change in the clothing industry, which is one of the most polluting industries in the world, we have been using different materials, cuts and designs which are fully sustainable yet technical from the beginning.

We are using organic materials and fabrics made from regenerated old fishing nets, nylon and other ocean plastic, so basically by using the fabric for our clothing we are removing pollution from the ocean ecosystems which we care about so much while at the same time creating pieces that are built to last and fit for conditions in the mountains or by the coastlines.

I learned about climate change the hard way, in the mountains where I grew up where we lost our snow. That’s why I always wanted to do something that helps the environment and makes a positive impact on the outdoor clothing market. From the beginning we decided not to be part of the problem but part of the solution.

Here at Surfd.com we love the fact that Wildness is built on a foundation of sustainability. How important was it for you to build that foundation before launching your first official range?

We truly believe that there is a better way for everybody who cares about the environment and at the same time wants fully technical features and quality made clothing which lasts. That we can create environmentally minded and movement focused technical gear for both worlds – the ocean and the mountains.

The way we see it is that the only possible future is the sustainable one and building that foundation was extremely important for us. This isn’t about putting our logo on more products, it’s about bringing new cutting edge clothing which lasts, is ethically made out of ocean waste plastic and organic materials, so when you purchase one piece of clothing you are automatically helping the environment.

Wildness clothing doesn’t just protect you from arctic blasts, it looks great as well

We want to be an example to all other brands and show it’s possible to participate in the circular economy, work on preserving our environment and inspire people to do the same. We want people to wear Wildness clothing proudly and spread the message.

It is so impressive to see a start-up company focussed on implementing practices that the big, established players in the surf industry seem to be slow to uptake. Do you think we will see a time when surfing becomes sustainable? 

I’m sure that the surfing industry will be sustainable sooner or later, big names are already in the sustainable game and I mean, at the end of the day it’s the consumers who decide what those big companies will do.

Surfers are on the front line of why we need sustainability in companies, to preserve the oceans and nature. Honestly that is the power which drives us all and if you just look around it’s unquestionable that change needs to come and it will.

We need to take care of water in all its forms and support current sustainable companies to push the big ones to do the same, we are all in it together.

I know you guys are super busy preparing for the exciting launch of your first clothing range. What will be the next steps for Wildness following the launch? 

We would love to scale up, right now we are a start-up making small amounts of stuff, trying to make a difference but in order to make a bigger impact we need to be bigger.

Name a surf spot with a more stunning backdrop than this hollow little right-hander

Most likely we will be looking for investors or looking for bigger deals to get some more capital to operate and create more clothing out of ocean plastic waste.

Do you see a time when Wildness moves towards surfing hardware such as wetsuits and accessories? 

Yeah, for sure, wetsuits are still a kind of clothing apparel so if we find the right materials and production which aligns with our values we will for sure. 

We don’t want to make accessories which we don’t know much about , but we definitely want to sell some sustainable leashes, wax, fins and surfboards on our web just to support the sustainable companies who make them.

Filip, thank you so much for your time, we cannot wait to see the new range. Any final comments for our readers? 

Thank you very much Nathan, super stoked that you guys reached out. 

It’s up to us to make the change, then the rest will have to follow – so why not to be amongst the first.