Apr 02, 2019 | By Joanne Thomas
While cruising Agenda Trade Show last summer, the Active Team stumbled upon a gem of a brand called The People’s Movement, aka MOVMT. We were totally taken with this line of environmentally-friendly footwear from the moment we entered the up-cycled cardboard booth. Now, we can’t lie…initially we weren’t really interested in talking footwear. It had been a LONG day walking the floor, talking shop and snapping pics. It was really more like…who are these megababes and how come we haven’t seen them before?! But, as the old saying goes, you cant judge a book by its cover, as soon as co-founders Mark Mark Wystrach and Kevin Flanagan started to share their vision of eco/ethical manufacturing and their love of the ocean we were basically head-over-heels in love with the brand. We even (tried) to help them name a new style and came up with a kitschy little phrase for our “Editor’s Choice” tweet, describing the sneakers as “naturally beautiful”. It was a match made in media heaven. – Jeanine Pesce
SS. How did you come up with the concept to start MOVMT? Have you always been a greenie?
MW. My partner, Kevin Flanagan (we’re brothers-in-law!) and I both wanted to create a label that would be smart, distinct, and actually stand for something positive all at the same time. We envisioned the company to manufacture in a manner that was environmentally responsible while having a social give back component that would really affectate change for the better. We wanted to help turn a struggling cause into a Movement. The issue we deemed most important was the fight against single use plastics.
I was awoken to the issue a few years back after a trip to Bali where I was shocked to find how bad the plastic pollution was. Upon my return I was invited to the charter meeting of the Plastic Pollution Coalition by some friends where I got to meet Capt. Charles Moore, the first man to physically discover the Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling heap of plastic garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean larger than the state of Texas. That night I truly was shocked to learn the truths about single use plastics and that Bali was really just a microcosm for what was happening all over the world.
More than 1 trillion plastic bags are produced every year using over 100 million barrels of oil to do so. Less than 5% are ever recycled and the ones that aren’t will be here for over 1000 years slowly breaking into smaller toxic pieces that are infiltrating every aspect of the soil, water and our food chain. And that’s just plastic bags…we consume enough single use plastics globally every day that if you lined them all up end to end, they would circle the globe 4 times…that’s every 24 hours and this planet is only so big.
So, the fight against single use plastics became the cause we are inspired to turn into a movement!
SS. Since the foundation of your brand is based on eco-friendly manufacturing, tell us a bit about its process?
MW. Our standard is using eco-conscious materials like organic cotton canvas, up-cycled plastic bags, hemp, water based glues, natural dyes, nickel free eyelets and organic cotton laces. To make the shoes, we use a cold-vulcanization process that actually uses less energy as well.
We package the shoes in two different types of re-usable tote bags. One is made from up-cycled plastic bags that we clean from the island of Bali and the other is made from bio-degradable, non-woven bamboo. The up-cycled bag is a symbol of the problem (single use plastics) and the bio-degradable bamboo bag is a symbol of solutions. They come with a 3-sided box made out of recyclable cardboard boxes which of course uses less cardboard than a 4-sided box.
We are a brand new brand and this is just the beginning for us. We know we can improve upon this, find new innovation and make our products with a lower negative impact on the earth in the future. I hope all brands think this way in the near future.
SS. Whats your history in the surf scene? Did you grow up surfing?
MW. Well, my history starts with Kevin as he taught me how to surf when I was 11 years old in Del Mar, Ca…he is still teaching me stuff 20 years later! I actually grew up on a cattle ranch in Southern Arizona, so Kevin was really my mentor and taught me to not just be a surfer, but a waterman and an adventurer. Kevin would bring my brother and I SURFER magazines and tell us tales from crazy trips like the time he drove from San Diego to El Salvador and just have us amazed! I remember being out on the ranch just dreaming about the day when I could surf all the time and have crazy adventures of my own…well, that dream came true and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have the experience of traveling and surfing all over the world with many of own nutsy stories to boot. Kevin and I just got back from back from a surf trip to mainland Mexico and it was one of the best weeks of my life. There’s nothing like it and it’s a huge part of our lives and the driving force for us wanting to give back and help protect the ocean.
SS. Since Movmt is young brand, tell us a bit about the “behind the scenes action”, a little about the team?
MW. Well, there are three founders, Kevin Flanagan, Chris Swortwood and myself, Mark Wystrach. Kevin goes by “Flanny” and he is CEO and our captain. Kevin was formerly the Vice President of Marketing at REEF before MOVMT…he is the guy that motivates us and keeps everybody focused and on track. He has endless energy and work ethic for this brand and definitely inspires me and the team to come with our best everyday. He is also the kind of guy that will shoot you straight and let you know when you’ve screwed up and help you learn from your mistakes. Chris goes by “Sworty” and is our CFO and pretty much the glue that holds our little company together. He is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and one of the smartest. Flanny and Sworty grew up together in Del Mar, Ca and I’ve known them both for 20 years now. They’re pretty much like my older brothers and are amazing at what they do. Myself, I’m the Creative Director, designer and the ambassador for the brand. I come from the performance world of acting, music and modeling, so this is definitely all pretty new and exciting for me. I’m literally learning on the run and really the challenges that come with the job.
SS. Do you have plans to expand the brand into other categories eventually?
MW. We are currently making and selling wallets made from up-cycled plastic cleaned from Bali. We are also going to start selling MOVMT t-shirts next month and will be expanding eventually into more clothing and broader accessories as well.
SS. Whats on deck for the summer, any big news we should stay tuned for?
MW. We are launching our 2nd ever collection for Fall/Winter at the end of July! We are really excited about this season with improved comfort features and more rugged materials like waxed organic cotton canvas! We are also doing a little mini tour of California this summer called “Hello Pacific”. Its all about bringing together artists and activists for some education and inspiration. We’ve got a couple of stellar bands lined up as well as amazing presentations from some of our partners at the Plastic Pollution Coalition, 5 Gyres and H20 Patrol. The idea is to trick people into learning about what they can do to make a difference when they think they’re just having a friggin’ great time 😉
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