Parietti - The Patagonia of Cycling: Apparel Made from 7.2 Recycled Bottles

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by Eva Nedelkova, Co-Founder at KnowESG, Co-Founder KnowESG
MAIN PHOTO Paul-Skevington18-02
Paul Skevington, founder of Parietti.

In the world of premium cycling apparel, one name shines as a beacon of innovation: Paul Skevington, the pioneering founder behind Parietti. This captivating brand draws its inspiration from the stunning landscapes of Mallorca, often hailed as the premier cycling haven in Europe, if not the world. Parietti's mission is a testament to sustainability, quality, and ethics, embarking on a quest to become the ‘Patagonia of Cycling’. 

So, what does that entail? Well, can you turn plastic bottles into fabric, you may ask? The answer is a resounding “yes”. Today, each Parietti jersey is made out of 7.2 recycled plastic bottles, and their impact does not stop there. Paul’s vision goes beyond the boundaries of cycling, creating a movement that is not only liberating but also more positive and inclusive for everyone. Join us as we delve deep into the captivating quest of Parietti, a brand determined to revolutionise the world of cycling.

From cobra encounters to military terrain: The unconventional path to sustainable living

"When I reflect upon it, my sustainability story was shaped from early childhood. I was born in the vast and rugged landscapes of Canada, a place where nature's grandeur and respect became ingrained in me from an early age. In the middle of the harsh yet beautiful environment, it felt as though respect for the natural world was something we are born with," says Paul.

"Later in life," he continues, "we moved to Malaysia and Singapore, where I was growing up alongside a lush jungle full of adventures and tales waiting to be told. I would wake up to the sight of a cobra in my bed or regularly get chased by the garden lizards. A family of monkeys on our balcony became my circle of friends during those early years. One vivid memory that remains in my mind is the day my father tried to introduce me to trifle, the typical English dessert filled with jelly, fruits, and cream. Eagerly, I awaited my chance to taste it after school. My dad left it for me in the kitchen, but when I came home, I only found the monkeys covered in jelly and cream – they had eaten it all!"

"Childhood in the natural world was just amazing. It was also around this time when I got my first bicycle too. And every morning, at about five, I would open the door and go off on my bike. While my parents thought I was cycling within the compound of our residence, my adventurous spirit led me to explore the sprawling city. One morning, I pedalled my way into the midst of a military parade, an annual event in Jakarta. To my great surprise, my little adventure made headlines the following morning, with a photograph of a young boy on a bicycle in the middle of a military procession gracing the front page of the Indonesian Observer, a national newspaper with millions of readers. It was then that my parents decided to keep the door locked, but my bike had already become my freedom machine".

Paul’s family journey later led him to Scotland. “My parents are keen mountaineers, and every holiday was an opportunity for skiing and hiking, during which my parents imparted to me the unspoken principles of mountaineering. One of these mantras was: 'Leave no trace.' If you are camping, you clear up as if you've never been there. This philosophy of love and respect for the environment became a part of my core beliefs from a very young age and has never waned.”

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Skiing in Mallorca? The remarkable start of Parietti

Paul’s journey later took diverse professional paths, from studying zoology to a decade in the UK's television industry, managing a Scottish farm, and eventually transitioning into headhunting. However, the desire to lead a life in harmony with nature, particularly in the mountains, remained a constant driving force.

With the arrival of his two sons, it became clear that city life wasn't the ideal choice for our family. “My wife's fluent Spanish opened new horizons, and we fell in love with Mallorca. As you can imagine, skiing in Mallorca didn't quite meet my expectations.”

As he found himself in the heart of Europe's two-wheeled mecca, he decided to give a try to his childhood passion—cycling. However, this became more than just a sport. As during his childhood, it continued to be an expression of freedom and mental well-being. Commuting to work on his bicycle liberated him from the confines of crowded trains and the city masses. It was freedom multiplied a hundredfold.

Riding the stunning climbs on the island, Paul soon noticed some unexpected surprises: “I was shocked by seeing the packages from sport gels along the road.” It also bothered him that there was no alternative to cycling apparel being made, ultimately, from oil. Moreover, he felt that the image often associated with the sport, as a pursuit of pain and suffering, didn’t quite resonate; he dreamt instead of spreading his own experience in the saddle, one of freedom, a gateway to nature, and the great outdoors, into the cycling community.

Then, a revelation struck: “Mallorca, the cycling mecca, does not have its own cycling brand! One day, I read about the remarkable road architect Antonio Parietti, who had designed some of the most iconic roads in Mallorca and around the world. For Antonio, roads were not just about getting from point A to B; they were about experiencing the island's soul and reaching its remotest corners.” This resonated deeply with Paul's own cycling philosophy and the concept for Parietti was born—a name chosen as a tribute to Antonio Parietti. But the brand isn’t just about creating cycling garments; it is about an experience, a change, and a difference. “In the industry, there are very few brands which take sustainability seriously and go beyond green marketing,” he adds.

Screenshot 2024-01-07 at 12.19.36
Are clothes made from recycled plastic comfortable? A happy rider on Mallorca's winding mountain roads answers the question, in comfort.

With the vision in place, Paul embarked on this journey with his friend Tom. Together, they knew they needed someone who truly understood the world of cycling apparel. Enter Emma, a former lead designer at Rapha – one of the biggest cycling brands in London – and now a freelance design expert. Her expertise was invaluable, and she joined the Parietti mission. Their journey began, but it was not without its challenges. The very first launch coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting unexpected hurdles. Nevertheless, they persevered, for Parietti was not just a brand; it was a vision, a commitment to change, and a pledge to protect the environment.

Paul’s vision of Parietti’s future is not about numbers, nor about becoming the number one cycling brand: “I envision creating a change and something that was not there before. Change in clothing in terms of sustainability, change in cycling in terms of inclusivity, and change in nature in terms of protecting it.”

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Sustainability must start at the top, or it won’t work

We asked Paul about sustainability transition on a large scale: “In my opinion, the most crucial aspect of the transition to sustainability lies at the top - in its foundational principles and the unwavering commitment of an organisation. It starts with the top management and with sustainability as a core value that permeates every level. Without sustainability as the number one priority, the transformation becomes more of green marketing. Also, a company must establish specific sustainability goals. When it comes to the discussions of whether to prioritise the planet over profit, a clear framework is a must”.

SUPPORTING IMAGE - Stats
Can you turn plastic bottles into fabric? We've had plastic-based fabrics for decades...so Parietti is closing the loop.

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Supporting small companies to become sustainability game changers

“From just a smaller company viewpoint, everything is geared towards larger companies. And I get that, they need to change as well, and that could be a big win. But on the other hand, there's a whole multitude of startups and small companies doing the right thing and who could become the game-changers within their industries. But smaller companies do not get the same support – whether it's talent, advice, or resources. Just as an example, for a small company  to pay for B Corp certification is massive. Maybe there are grants to help in terms of marketing. Maybe there are courses where sustainability managers can come and help advise. Maybe there are reduced rates for B Corp and similar certifications. Something to encourage them.

Also, the role of a sustainability manager is absolutely crucial, and it could be approached very differently. It should demand formal qualifications and rigorous education. In my view, diversity of perspectives within sustainability managers can be valuable. However, to establish a more standardised and robust viewpoint, we should introduce educational qualifications and structured programmes for this role.”

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Wishing for equality: A level playing field for sustainable brands

If Paul could have just one wish, it would be this: To establish a level playing field for all brands committed to our planet's well-being. The innovative smaller brands willingly bear the higher costs of recycled fabrics for the full range of products, not just for a select range. Extensive research led to home-compostable garment bags, in contrast to the less eco-friendly industrial options. Unfortunately, larger brands often bypass such efforts, resulting in an uneven competitive landscape. 

Just imagine the impact if companies invested more in sustainable research and development, sharing their findings openly to level the playing field. However, Paul’s ultimate hope lies in New York's proposed ‘Fashion Act’. This groundbreaking legislation aims to set legally binding environmental and social standards for all clothing companies operating within the state, creating a necessary ecosystem. Should this act pass, it will establish clear standards for all cycling brands and others seeking to sell in specific regions, fostering a fairer and more sustainable future for all.

As we look ahead, the fate of the Fashion Act remains uncertain for a while longer. Nevertheless, the Parietti story stands as a testament to a remarkable journey filled with passion, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to sustainability, freedom, and a genuine love for cycling—an enduring narrative that continues to inspire change within the fashion industry.

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