François Van Den Abeele, CEO of Sea2See eyewear, speaking to us about the origins of the Sea2See project.
How did the idea of Sea2See eyewear come about? What were the origins of the project and what motivated you to move forward and enter into the market?
François van den Abeele, with entreprenurship in his blood and traveling in his soul, is passionate about lessening the amount of plastic in the ocean. With his love of nature and daily activeness in the ocean (kitesurfing, swimming, etc) this comes as no surprise. He began his professional life in the aquatic world as a shipbroker.
In 2015, after months of investigating and attending conferences in Europe about the issues surrounding plastic in the ocean, he discovered that 8 million tons of plastic are added to the sea every single year. Furthermore, 800,000 tons of fishing nets are abandoned in the ocean each year. This quantity is similar to 6 times the surface area of Spain.
This growing issue, combined with the motivation to change his current profession and do something positive with a sustainable impact, led to the creation of the brand SEA2SEE glasses. François has the firm conviction that today the fashion that creates a lasting effect is not just about the actual products but about the stories behind them as well.
And why glasses?
François wanted a product that was visible, accessible and that any consumer could use to demonstrate their commitment to something positive; more than just a product, these glasses are a declaration.
The process of up-cycling is very expensive, slow and problematic, but he believes that it is worth it. He collects old fishing nets from 20 ports in Catalonia with an average of 10 tons a month. The process of separation, recycling and production is divided between Spain and Italy (where the glasses are actually produced).
The cases are made from cork that is 100% recycled and ecological cotton. Each pair of glasses sold is equivalent to 1 kilogram of plastic taken from the ocean. He is contemplating increasing the collection of fishing nets to Senegal in order to educate and incentivize the fisherman there. He would compensate them for each deposited kilogram of old fishing nets and lines.
When did you begin to commercialization of the glasses of SeatoSee and what channels (online store, other marketplaces, eyewear distributors…) did you use?
He is now advertising online and as of September, the objective is to develop the line of optical glasses and athletic glasses. This way he can open the retail channel in optical stores, cruises, etc. He has seen interest in Spain, Belgium, England, France, England and Italy.
How much investments have you received in order to launch the first collection of glasses and continue forward with the business?
He invested a minimum amount of his personal funds and then through a crowdfunding site called Kickstarter made almost 50,000 euros in 25 days.
Who are your ideal consumers?
He is looking for consumers who gravitate towards sustainable, high quality fashion. People who care about the products they buy, have a desire to be a part of a community of people who want to create change, improve the world and are willing to pay a little bit more for products that encompass this. Geographically Sea2See is very open, the crowdfunding sales and the first retail contacts were from: Belgium, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, USA, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Greece…
Where and how do you produce the glasses?
The process is very slow and costly, but is worth it. Plastic waste and fishing nets are collected from 22 different ports in Catalonia with their socio Txema. The average collection amount is 10 tons each month.
The first phase is the collection, separation, selection, and cutting and cleaning; all of which is done in Spain. The R&D necessary for the optimization of the recycled plastic and the production of the glasses is done 100% in Italy, close to Treviso. The product is 100% recycled.
Are there any future challenges that you can already foresee?
He is studying the possibility of diversifying into other product lines. This would allow for the potential of more external financing which would increase the growth of the company. The objective right now though is to continue promoting change through products that make sense and continue increasing awareness for this problem (plastic in the ocean) and decreasing the consumption of plastic.