“Copenhagen Cartel is about challenging the status quo and offering consumers a better and more sustainable alternative to what is ‘established’. I want to rethink the traditional way of designing and producing swimwear, while addressing a problem that concerns us all.” – Katrine, Founder of Copenhagen Cartel
Dive into the universe of Copenhagen Cartel, as founder Katrine Lee Larsen tells us about how seeing the devastating consequences of plastic pollution in the ocean on a trip to Bali motivated her to take action. She came up with the brilliant idea to create a sustainable swimwear company that would transform this plastic “waste” into beautiful swimsuits, a concept we love here at Aiayu. Her company’s products are made out of 100% recycled nylon that largely comes from abandoned commercial fishnets, which pose a deadly threat to marine life when left at sea.
Keep reading to learn about Katrine’s founder story and the important mission of Copenhagen Cartel.
It all started in 2016 when I boarded a plane to Bali. With a cafe latte to-go in one hand and a one-way ticket in the other, I was ready to go to paradise. Instead, what I got was an important lesson on the severe consequences of our society’s plastic overconsumption.
A lovely dip in the ocean often led to straws sticking between my toes, plastic bags around my legs, and other non-organic materials glued to my body. This beautiful paradise island – appropriately referred to as the ‘Island of the Gods’ – had become a landfill for the rest of the world’s plastic waste (at least it felt like that) and it touched me deeply.
When I came back to Copenhagen a year later, I could not get this image out of my head. I started thinking of the times I had thrown cigarette butts out of the car window, used disposable cutlery, and so forth. I could see how I had been a part of the problem, and I knew there was no turning back. I needed to act now.
Back in Bali, I found out that a large percentage of ocean plastic pollution comes from so-called “Ghost Nets”, lost or abandoned nets from commercial fishing boats. These nets take almost entire ecosystems with them as they float through the ocean: fish, seals, turtles, coral reefs, and sea plants.
When I contacted an NGO that collects these ghost nets, I was met by a friendly yet skeptical employee who did not quite believe that me, at 49 kilos and 158 centimeters tall, would be able to manually remove nets from the ocean that often weigh +200 kilos.
Sensing my eagerness to help, the employee thankfully told me about how they transform collected ghost nets into a recycled nylon material that companies can buy to make everything from carpet to jackets. I was immediately hooked – especially after I learned that upcycling nylon from old fishing nets uses 80% less CO2 than virgin nylon. The idea for Copenhagen Carter began to take shape.
A few beginner mistakes later, I had a developed concept and was ready for production in November, 2018. In January, 2019, I asked my friend Martin to join the business. Today he oversees operations and handles everything from inventory, parcel shipping, and customer inquiries.
In March 2019, we came full circle and had our first photoshoot in Bali. On May 1, 2019 we launched our webshop www.copenhagencartel.com and Copenhagen Cartel was finally born!
One year later, I hope our story can inspire others. I think we have managed to find the balance between green values, design, aesthetics, and a high-quality product without being too “preachy”. My dream is that one day we will reach the point where a brand does not have to advertise itself as sustainable because committing to sustainable and responsible business practices is the normal thing to do.
Thanks for sharing Katrine!