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Carpasus - Shirts that change the world

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  • Filler Rob web
    Rob Filler

Everyone is talking about sustainability. But when it comes to clothing, people are surprisingly indifferent. René Grünenfelder wants to change that. With premium shirts from sustainable, fair and – above all – transparent production. Creative Hub helped him make some important decisions.

Had he always dreamed of entering the fashion industry? “Not at all!” René Grünenfelder exclaims. “There were no points of contact before, except that I always liked to buy good clothes. It never crossed my mind to launch my own shirt brand.”

The initial spark came during his studies. “You look at the world with open eyes, and suddenly you notice how all sorts of things are now produced in a demonstrably fair way – everything, just no men’s shirts.”

Grünenfelder saw this as a moral issue, and as an opportunity. He knew many people who, like him, wanted sustainably-produced clothing. And he wanted to close this gap. Together with his friend and fellow student Michael Zäch, he launched the CARPASUS label in 2014. The name derives from the Sanskrit word “karpasi” (cotton) as well as from the Latin terms “carbasina” (fine fabric) and “sustinere” (sustain). 

They found a weaving mill committed to using certified fair-trade cotton, and created their first collection. What is special about every CARPASUS product is that its origins can be traced back to the respective cotton grower.

Grünenfelder explains, “That was an enormous amount of work. You have to develop a coherent concept, take care of the suppliers, production, quality assurance, packaging, website, brand... For me, the first two years were like an apprenticeship in the textile industry.” In addition, the two young entrepreneurs had to overcome some resistance, as Grünenfelder recalls: “Take the weavers, for instance. Most of them have been working closely with their spinning mills for decades, which in turn have been sourcing the same raw materials for ages. And we had to persuade them to switch to organic cotton for our small quantities.”

They soon realised that this was anything but a side job. Grünenfelder: “If you want this type of project to fly, you have to put all your energy into it and focus on it.” But it was precisely this realisation that pushed the two founders apart. Michael Zäch withdrew. Grünenfelder, who is from an entrepreneurial family, took the risk. 

“It was a turning point, a break,” Grünenfelder admits, “but I wanted to use it positively to further professionalise the business. A friend’s idea came just in time: ‘Try Creative Hub!’” Grünenfelder applied and was successful – he was accepted into the support programme and began receiving coaching.

Grünenfelder about Creative Hub: “It really helped me make headway. It’s priceless to be able to exchange ideas with professionals in the industry. They also coached me individually, in the right direction: Where do I want to go with my brand? What designs and collections do I need to achieve that goal? How do I present this to the customer? In my sessions with Arinda Bouman and Lela Scherrer, I learned how to approach each of these questions systematically. 

Supported by Creative Hub, Grünenfelder set his course for the future. He decided to continue focusing on men’s shirts, but not exclusively business shirts. “We are developing CARPASUS into a lifestyle brand to which you can remain loyal in any situation, not just at work.” In this process, four to five more dealers will come on board, giving CARPASUS a larger market presence. To date, CARPASUS is represented in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Sweden. Grünenfelder adds: “We are currently simplifying our internal processes and outsourcing our warehousing in order to focus even more strongly on sales and business development.”

In the medium term, René Grünenfelder aims to produce 4000 shirts per year. This isn’t yet a volume that will change the world. “But we’re still just at the beginning. The journey continues,” laughs Grünenfelder. And it’s clear that he has a lot more up his sleeve.

All the best to you, CARPASUS!

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