Yann Wunsch: founder of Ragnarøk

Published on 15 February 2024 at 09:37

Yann Wunsch is founder of Ragnarøk, a circular fashion pioneer. Ragnarøk produces t-shirts with a sustainability focus: a short, simple and local supply chain, fair labour and reversing own impact. At the National Hackathon Circular Economy (February 5-9 2024), Yann wil give an inspiring talk about how and why he started his circular fashion brand. 

Yann, when and why did you set up a circular fashion brand?

"We set up Ragnarøk in 2020. The set-up was the result of personal frustration with the current fashion industry, and a sense of responsibility and urgency. Like all of us, I often had and still have the feeling of having no power as a consumer, while all the responsibility is on my shoulders. By this, I mean that consumers are often told to 'let their wallets speak' and that their buying habits can force the market towards more sustainable solutions. That is partly true, but how is it possible to make good choices if:

  1. Information is hidden/not shared
  2. Lies are told
  3. Companies are not held accountable for what they claim

So this is what I myself ran into as a consumer (not just regarding clothes) in my early twenties, when I started to focus myself more on sustainability and my own contribution for a better future. On top of that, since childhood, I really can't live with lame excuses and easy answers like 'because that's the way it is', 'that's the way it was always done', and other excuses like that. 

Somewhere I then reached a point where I thought 'there must be a better way'. And that is exactly what we have been showing with Ragnarøk ever since: It can be done better!"

How did Ragnarøk come about? What did that process look like?

"The idea and first business plan are from 2019. The only fashion-background I had back then was wearing clothes myself. Later on in 2019 I started making initial contacts, sharpened the idea by sparring with others, and reached out to potential team members and partners. 

Everything has actually been a big open process, where collaboration and sharing idea and vision are more important than old-fashioned economic views. In late 2020 we set up at ZWINC in Zwolle, in one of their incubator cubes. We made this our workspace and made our first prototypes and MVP (Minimum Viable Product) shirts there. By mid-2021 we launched our first products.

At the start of the process, sessions at Windesheim Centre for Entrepreneurship were very important, as well as mentoring and coaching by ZWINC. We have stayed at ZWINC till January 2024 because of the great mentoring and coaching. Within the ZWINC-community, it was incredibly valuable to spar with other entrepreneurs/people with experience and thereby get new ideas and develop (together) with others."

Why is a sustainable fashion industry so important?

"About 6-10% (depending who you ask) of global CO2-emissions come from the fashion industry, as well as huge environmental damage and millions of people being exploited. It is so incredibly important that we find other ways to make and use our clothes as soon as possible. Doing so possible: Look at the dozens of companies and initiatives in the Netherlands that are working on creating sustainable alternatives, from rental programmes to increasing repair options or developments towards recycling.

But, as with many transitions, a real systemic change is actually needed, where environmental destruction and exploitation are no longer profitable, but punishable. Then there will also be an incentive for big companies to produce clothes that last, switch to more natural fabrics and pay workers what they deserve!"

What strength do students bring in the transition to a sustainable fashion industry and beyond?
"Students come up with new ideas and are incredibly motivated to initiate change. And often, students also take on the role of 'bridge builder' by actively listening to the input of others (often older) and bringing together old and new ways of thinking.

We should not forget that my generation (I'm 28) and all generations after mine are affected from birth by the consequences of man-made climate change. This often leads to a greater willingness to question things and initiate change."

What can students expect from your inspiration session during the Hackathon CE?

"I will try to give an overview of why I do what I do, why it is so important to change the way we do things and what I think is the right solution. I know there are so many great ideas out there, especially among young people. It would be great if the session gets the ball rolling with some students!"

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