Futurebuilders Q&A guest Tommi Lähde is the founder of the Finnish company named “the other danish guy” and they manufacture quality underwear using recycled plastics from the oceans.
When I first contacted Tommi and talked him about this interview, it was immediately clear that this guy is really passionate about what he is doing. Just like we are exited in the Futurebuilders, when we have the chance to talk with interesting people who really like what they are doing and put all their expertise on line to succeed.
But first, we need to find out why Finnish company named themselves “the other danish guy” and how it all got started! Watch the video below.
1. Futurebuilders: So Tommi, the name of your company is “The Other Danish Guy” – Please tell us how did you came up with that name? Just in case reader didn’t watch the video above.
Tommi: To put the long story short: on a business trip to New York, my ex-colleague was running with a pair of cotton underwear, which caused him a severe monkey butt – a twisted, back country, inbred cousin of diaper rash. A few days and a few litres of lotion later he thought it was a good idea to repeat his soothing remedy in a Wall Street bar’s ladies’ room, and ended up severely scaring some innocent women – whom the bartender then comforted by saying “the other danish guy is having some problems”. One year later we started to design underwear so comfortable that this Ass-pocalypse wouldn’t happen again we could only call the company what had sparked the idea.
2. Futurebuilders: Where did you get the idea of making men’s underwear from the recycled plastics?
Tommi: For me, using recycled polyamide made from discarded fishing nets was a two-fold decision. First it is time to pay attention in what men wear underneath. Cotton doesn’t really wick. It absorbs and once it gets damp from perspiration, it will hold the moisture and remain damp and cause problems. Also the water footprint of cotton is enormous: on average, it takes about 10,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of cotton fabric. That’s why it’s such a bad choice. I personally have very strong connection to the sea. I was basically born on seas, as my Father is a sea captain. I have learnt to love water and seas, oceans and the marine life since I was a toddler. From my childhood on I have been sailing with my own boat and have noticed how the nature has changed.. As I was starting to run this business I wanted to find a way to do my part in cleaning the oceans even if I was not sure if there are any excistings solutions.
3. Futurebuilders: About 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean annually. (Source)
– How much plastic does your company remove from the oceans each year and what plastic is suitable for manufacturing?
Tommi: To be honest, we don’t know the exact amount of plastics removed, but we know the impact is huge already and that it is a right thing to do. If we want to make a difference in any areas of ethical business, we need to go big. When I was looking for a substitute to cotton, I found out that the best and most comfortable material to use would be polyamide and eventually found a specific, recycled polyamide yarn, made from the discarded fishing nets. There are over 16 million tons of that shit in the oceans.
4. Futurebuilders: How does your production process differ from “ordinary” manufacturing?
Tommi: We have an operator in Europe who collects the fishing nets from the oceans with several NGO’s and refines it into yarn. Another european company weaves the fabric from which the underwear is made.
But I think the biggest difference is that we align all our actions with all our words. And act with integrity by doing the right thing in all circumstances, even if no one is watching us.
5. Futurebuilders: What are the other benefits in your operating environment, besides removing plastic from the seas?
Tommi: Disposable culture and fast fashion is damaging to the environment and the economy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste is generated yearly, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded. I hate throwawayism and we make our undies to last long, so that nobody needs to buy new underwear every two weeks to replace bad quality garments.
6. Futurebuilders: Any suggestions to Finnish technology companies how to be ecological?
Tommi: Act with integrity – be true to yourself and avoid any smoke and mirrors as well as the green washing certificates.
7. Futurebuileders: Can your product be used in sports?
Tommi: But of course! It’s truly an all-around underwear for 24/7 use. We know people who have used them in ultra running, football, golf and any other sports known to man. And had nothing but positive feedback from the users.
“I never lose. I either win or learn. It’s all about state of mind.”
Tommi Lähde in his Twitter profile.
8. Futurebuilders: Are there any limitations to using your underpants? For example, allergic persons?
Tommi: The product as such don’t contain any chemicals that would irritate the skin and the material itself is soft and smooth, but If someone already has bad experiences of synthetic fibres or suspect that it might worsen the irritation of skin, we don’t suggest to try, since none of us has any experience in dermatology. So far we’ve got only one feedback from customer suffering from eczema found that the material was not suitable for him.
9. Futurebuilders: How can you know what is the best style for yourself?
Tommi: Underwear should streamline your physique. Also after the first machine wash. Our undies will not shrink into doll size clothes. We don’t say you need to forget the inches, centimetres or so, but focus on the body type first. No, we are not miracle makers. But whatever you might be like, your underwear should make both you and your package look good.
10. Futurebuilders: Are there celebrities who have found your product?
Tommi: Yes there are, but since they have purchased their undies themselves and due to their privacy (and GDPR) no names will be given. 🙂
11. Futurebuilders: Are products delivered to the customers in an ecological way?
Tommi: The packaging has been recyclable since the beginning and because we don’t sell trough retailers but only online, the logistics is more ecological – 99.9% of the deliveries travel only one-way. Due to lightweight product, the environmental footprint is low for us, even if use fast couriers in global deliveries.
12. Futurebuilders: From the point of view of underwear production, where should people deliver their plastic waste?
Tommi: Unfortunately there is still not “One system to rule them all”, but as the circular economy is growing fast, in very near future there will be easy solutions for people to recycle their stuff.
13. Futurebuilders: What are your plans for the future, are you going to expand your business?
Tommi: We will be the best first layer brand globally by 2030. That sounds hairy and audacious, but it is doable and we are going to do it.
14. Futurebuilders: What are your near future goals?
Tommi: To breathe. And stick to the game plan we’ve created together with the awesome team, day in – day out.
15. Futurebuilders: About your brand. Tommi, you said that “Our culture separates us from all our direct and indirect competitors.”, please tell us more about that.
Tommi: Our culture is driven by real values and by few simple principles: each of us plays for the team, not just in it. When we as individuals and leaders chase only individual achievement, we leave vast sources of potential untapped. But once we put “others” back into the equation, and work to make others better, we ignite a Virtuous Cycle of cascading successes that amplify our own. Huge corporations, brands and companies can never create a culture like this, even if they tried.
It was great to have Tommi with us. Read more about the great business of “the other danish guy” at www.theotherdanishguy.com
(Remove the square brackets.)
Do an ecological act and get your underwear from theotherdanishguy.com, thanks!
We also recommend that you listen an interview with the CEO of Solar Foods, another brilliant Finnish company: “How is it possible to produce food out of thin air?“