THE LOST EXPLORER IS A MULTI-CATEGORY MODERN ADVENTURE LIFESTYLE WEBSITE THAT WORKS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH NATURE TO OUTFIT ITS, SIMILARLY INTREPID, CONSUMERS FOR THE ADVENTURE OF EVERYDAY LIFE
Variously described as an extreme adventurer, ecologist, environmentalist, even an eternal optimist, the formidable David de Rothschild has spent most of his adult life working tirelessly to bring widespread attention and innovative solutions to urgent global environmental issues. Driven by his immeasurable curiosity for the natural world, the intrepid eco-entrepreneur has traversed Antarctica and the North and South Poles, sailed the Pacific on a boat made out of 12,500 plastic bottles and other flotsam, with a single-minded mission - to celebrate nature and give it a voice.
With numerous adventures to some of the most remote and fragile ecosystems on our planet, several books under his belt (including The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook: 77 Essential Skills to Stop Climate Change”), a TV series (Eco-Trip: The Real Cost of Living), alongside being recognized by UNEP as Climate hero and National Geographic as an Emerging Explorer, David is always debating, collaborating and innovating solutions for a more sustainable planet and driving individuals and groups alike to unlock their human potential and dream big.
If that’s not enough for him to be getting on with, de Rothschild, an heir to a centuries-old banking fortune, recently launched The Lost Explorer, a multi-category modern adventure lifestyle website that works in partnership with nature to outfit its, similarly intrepid, consumers for the adventure of everyday life.
Along with selling adventure-related paraphernalia, The Lost Explorer’s inaugural apparel collection, which seamlessly intermingles David’s affinity for travel, eco-entrepreneurship and nature, consists of a wool-based outerwear collection as well as a pair of trousers, cashmere cotton T-shirt and Henley, shirt and jacket.
Manufaktur catches up with David to discuss his latest venture and his preference for offering his range according to material, rather than following the well-trodden style fashion calendar.
iT MADE MORE SENSE TO BUILD MY OWN CONVERSATION, MY OWN BRAND THAT COMES FROM THE THINGS THAT I BELIEVE IN, THE THINGS I WANT TO DO, AND WORKING WITH PEOPLE BECAUSE IT MAKES SENSE
TELL US WHY YOU DECIDED TO LAUNCH THE LOST EXPLORER?
I have been an adventurer for over 15 years now. I have done loads of expeditions with loads of different partners. I’ve also worked with many brands, designing and creating products for them. Sometimes when I had finished working on these projects, it left me feeling a bit empty and not entirely satisfied from an execution perspective. You spend a lot of time investing in understanding a brand’s supply chain, understanding the complexities in making something different for them. Then what would happen is that the product development manager or marketing manager would change, so you would go back to square one. Or sometimes the company’s vision would change, so you would find yourself cutting corners on your own belief system. So it made more sense to build my own conversation, my own brand that comes from the things that I believe in, the things I want to do, and working with people because it makes sense. It was also born out of creating a platform about curiosity and construction, things you could make with friends and people who had a similar value set.
THE WEBSIT LOOKS A BIT LIKE AN OUTFITTERS FOR A MODERN LUXURY EXPLORER?
The word outfitter, in its truest sense, is a place where an explorer would go to get kitted when they went to lands afar. They would go to one location for maps, equipment, even to hire people for the journey ahead. Then they would go away and come back with all these cabinets of curiosities full of spices and smells, products, cloth, all this stuff that would come with its distinct signature of a place. Then they would share this knowledge with other people on their return. That magic and essence of where those things come from is essentially what I am trying to do with The Lost Explorer.
We feel that there’s a new luxury, and the new luxury isn’t about conspicuous consumption. It’s about less branding. It’s about stories and materials. We need another “craft” story like we need a hole in our heads, like “We just found this from polar bear’s teardrops,” or “This was made by a nun who’s been on a mountain and no one has ever contacted her,” you know. We just wanted to make really good products that work. And I think for men, especially, there’s an element of the geekiness where we love to know the technical bits.
HOW DOES THE LOST EXPLORER RELATE TO ALL OTHER INCREDIBLE PROJECTS YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING ON?
Lost Explorer comes back to the same mission and narrative as Plastiki, Sculpt The Future, Articulate, and Adventure Ecology. It’s about elevating and celebrating nature – giving it a voice. If you look at all of those activations, they are all ways to get people to engage with the natural world. Adventure Ecology was the platform for using adventures as the medium of creating conversations about ecosystems. Plastiki was about going on an adventure across the oceans while learning about plastics. The adventure was the cause. We find causes and build adventures around them. The trip to the North Pole was about highlighting climate change. Articulate was about highlighting environmental issues in the Amazon. Sculpt The Future does exactly that; it celebrates human potential. It elevates and celebrates people who are doing innovation for change with an environmental slant or doing innovation for change with an environmental slant, or creativity for change with an environmental slant. The thing I always focus on is the underlying ethos, and that never wavers.
IN A WORLD WHERE PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO TAKE RISKS, KTC LIKES TO SWIM UP STREAM; I REALLY ADMIRE THAT
SO HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH KTC?
I have this material partnership with Schoeller and they have been working with KTC too, recommending it as a possible manufacturing partner for The Lost Explorer. Then, I was invited to do an ocean talk at the UN with an incredible industrial designer, Alex Taylor, who was working with adidas –making a shoe developed out of ocean plastics. Out of the blue he said he’d been working on some products with a factory in Asia called KTC. I thought I had better look them up, finally meeting them at the OutDoor Show. I immediately liked their approach. When I started telling them what I was after, they might have been a little bit nervous about some of the things I was saying, but they were also prepared to give me a bit of a chance.
You see, it’s easy to make things badly; it’s easy to make things that are cheap and disposable, particularly if you don’t give a shit where the stuff comes from and who’s making it. You could go anywhere down town and get anyone to make it. It might cost $3 to make a T-shirt, but it will be badly made and it will fall apart in a week, but you’ll sell it for $60 and put a print on it, giving it a value perception that it’s a better product than it really is. It will have been made using shit loads of chemicals and water, infringing on people’s human rights in the workshop, all the things we know. We don’t want that.
But if you do it correctly, and you don’t want huge numbers, you don’t really need to work on seasons, you don’t just want to work with materials that are simple to use. You need to work with innovative materials that require some consideration, might require new tooling and new education. You want to work with materials that are hard to get hold of or from a particular place. So when you say that to a manufacturer, they already have an equation that works for them economically. That is: I like simple patterns I can pump out all day long, ones I can make great margin on. And when you come in with a really complex pattern that I want to make small numbers of, with new tooling and education, most factories will say: “Cool we’ll do it for you, but we’ll surcharge you a 1,000%.”
But with KTC they thought that a lot of what I was saying made sense and they were willing to take a risk on seeing how we could design this idea and this model, not designing for seasons but for systems. It seemed to perk their curiosity. How long that curiosity and generosity last with me, who knows? In a world where people don’t want to take risks, KTC likes to swim up stream; I really admire that.
SO WHAT ARE YOU MAKING WITH KTC?
We’re doing some outerwear; we’ve got some other development ideas including shoes, but at the moment we’ve just done two pieces of outerwear that are made from a pretty innovative material called corkshell, which is a Schoeller fabric. It incorporates cork from the wine industry and it creates a breathable, water resistant barrier. It’s faced on one side with a waterproof wool and on the inside it’s lined with a merino wool. So it’s a three-layer construction, which makes it a really great alternative to some of the other more industrial fabrics out there. It’s a sustainable Blue Sign approved material that creates a really warm, waterproof thermal jacket, that for most people performs way above their potential or their use. A lot of outdoor stuff is over engineered and a lot of fashion lacks function. For me it was how do we merge fashion and outdoor, style and function, to create something that performs? KTC was the perfect partner to help get the balance right.
THE PLAN IS TO GO OUT THERE TO DO MORE EXPERIMENTAL STUFF BOTH WITH KTC AND SCHOELLER, STUFF THAT’S FIVE YEARS AWAY FROM BEING MAINSTREAM
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH THEM?
To be honest, it’s a new relationship. The plan is to go out there to do more experimental stuff both with KTC and Schoeller, stuff that’s five years away from being mainstream. But what’s great with KTC is driving the conversation of what’s possible. That’s what I am interested in more than anything. Most of the clients Schoeller has are military or medical. For me, it’s about how do you take that knowledge and take it to a different market place and a different audience? It becomes really interesting.
For example, Schoeller has been working with the European Space agency on some fabrics. When you sweat in space and it wicks through your performance material, it doesn’t do what it does when you have gravity. It leaves your body and floats around your space suit. That can be hyper dangerous for the astronaut. So I am like what did you do to prevent it? Schoeller created a weave that traps the water in and keeps it away from the body. I am like, I want to use that.
It might be incorporated into space pants. People will love the idea that this fabric has been into space. All of a sudden you’ve got a really great way of talking about weave and material that you wouldn’t have before. It’s disarming people with material that’s important.
When a duck pearls water from its feathers, that to me is pretty magical. So, if we can apply that into the make up of a pair of chinos, it might sound frivolous, but it might help people to reconnect with nature again. Thee chinos will be stylish and perform and they’re based on a way that a duck repels water. Your sense of respect for nature will change. You will start to look at things differently and that’s what our mission is all about. It’s about balance.
But you’ve got to have the knowledge to apply it. That’s where KTC comes to the party.
I WANT TO MAKE MY PRODUCTS WHERE THE SKILLS AND THE LEVELS OF SUSTAINABILITY ARE THE BEST SUITED TO THE LOST EXPLORER’S ETHOS
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE LEVELS OF CRAFTSMANSHIP KTC APPLIES TO ITS GARMENTS?
It’s vital. It comes back to the notion of being honest about your notion of production. The whole idea of production is flawed from a sustainability perspective. It really matters to me that KTC really has its eyes on every level of production – workers, materials, output – I am sure they’ll say their not perfect, but KTC is a lot better than most out there. KTC has a considered approach to workers, manufacturing and output. Most factories tell you what you want to hear, not what their belief system is. That’s the difference. KTC is prepared to challenge the status quo. It makes it more expensive, but people are used to getting stuff made cheaply. It’s not the right way. Cheap is not the right way.
FOR MANY YEARS ‘MADE IN CHINA’ HAS HAD A NEGATIVE PERCEPTION IN THE WEST? WE BELIEVE THAT ACTIVITY SPECIFIC APPAREL MADE IN CHINA IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS IN RELATION TO KTC?
A lot of the factories I saw down town in the US were appalling. People say made in America is great, but no. So many people are working illegally. The factories will say to employees, if you don’t want to work we’ll find someone else who does, knowing they wont complain. There’s a lot of factories in China that do it wrong, but there are some that have a lot of great skills that can’t be found anywhere else. When people say Made in China is really polluting, it’s like saying I don’t want to go to the Middle East because everyone’s a terrorist. What’s the difference? People just read what they want to hear. I want to make my products where the skills and the levels of sustainability are the best suited to The Lost Explorer’s ethos. It just happens to be in China.