In the interview series “Beyond labels,” Marloes Evers talks to innovators in textiles. What are they up to and is there a common thread in their work? This time speaking: Kimberley van der Wal, director of business development for Wolkat and Drop&Loop.

Textiles were introduced to me from an early age, through stories told by my father, director of our family business. Precisely because of this, I myself had absolutely no interest in a job in our family business. I always found recycling and sustainability interesting, though. For example, my mother was into organic vegetables and meat.

Why did you choose a job in textiles after all?

This decision came after a visit to the Far East, Jakarta to be exact. As a 25-year-old backpacker, I saw so much garbage on the streets there that it made me sick to my stomach. Just a few weeks before, my father told me about the next phase of the family business. A new phase was dawning in which he could use my help. After seeing all the trash on the street, it was clear to me: I have to do something with this, and in my case, the logical step was in the field of textiles.

What did your career look like so far?

10 years ago, I started developing commercial activities for one of our companies. I gained experience in purchasing, sales and account management and traveled a lot for my (fashion-related) work in the leather industry. Thus, in addition to experience, I also built an important network. At that time, I noticed that the textile world was becoming more and more about recycling. Fashion brands would become our future customers. Motherhood (my first child was born 7 years ago) made me choose to work in a more focused way. It was better to fully dedicate my time to the opportunities offered by recycling.

Can you talk a bit about the development of Wolkat and Drop&Loop?

The Wolkat logo had existed since 1948 when I joined the company. So time for rebranding, repositioning and to put more focus in marketing. Together with 1 designer we started product development. Quite a challenge for which I had to “peddle” a lot. A period with many setbacks, I very often heard no and “that will come one day”.

A breakthrough

Growth started in 2020. It was going well, but then came the Corona pandemic. I was afraid that sustainability ended up at the bottom of the priority list. Still, we managed to finish everything well and 2020 became an excellent year for us. In 2021, we participated in Drop&Loop. At that time, Wolkat did have retail collection and a number of (large) customers, but Drop&Loop had a machine as well as a lot of marketing expertise.

A different name and new energy from the outside seemed right for our company. Together we started planting lots of seeds and then things took off. Drop&Loop has turned out to be a mega addition for Wolkat. The concept still does need to develop and prove itself.

Currently, Wolkat has many collaborations with retailers (such as NIKE and Zeeman) and municipalities. Drop&Loop works exclusively through circular collaborations: clothing is collected and processed into a new product, which is then sold again in the same stores.

How do you see the future?

Saturday, July 1, the EPR (extended Producer Responsibility) went live. I’m very curious to see what that will do. The EPR puts sustainability even higher on the agenda. Policy and legislation will continue to shape our market. At least it forces people to look at it. Kimberley expects there are going to be a lot more collection points, both at stores and municipalities. And that everyone will start collecting more and better. This will put sustainability even higher on the agenda.

Finally, do you have any advice for (young) entrepreneurs in textiles?

After 10 years in the textile business I can say that I haven’t had a single easy day. I did have a lot of great days, but they weren’t easy either. So it really has to suit you. I dare say now (since 2 or 3 years) that I am made for this. So: start, keep going and you’ll find out if this is what suits you.

Curious about the sustainable options for your labels? Among other things, EE Labels also weaves labels from recycled denim yarn. All of our sustainable label options can be found here.