For Pure Oceans

A lifelong surfer, spear fisherman and a freediver, Noel Huelsenbeck always wanted to do something to protect the oceans from the pollution, plastic debris and dying fisheries.

His passion for the sea, combined with his daughter Megan’s passion for style led to the starting of their sustainable clothing brand Purakai Clothing to create clothes that are friendly for earth.

Noel Huelsenbeck talks to Make Cotton Sustainable about his love for ea, his clothing brand and how it would benefit the oceans.

What does the word Purakai mean?

PuraKai means pure ocean, Pura is the Spanish word for Pure and Kai is the Hawaiian word for ocean. The name pays homage to the Costa Rican and Hawaiian cultures that for over a thousand years lived in balance with nature, never taking more from the land or sea than nature could reproduce.

Tell us about your kickstarter project.

We looked at several ways to fund the business. We felt building a Socially Responsible business would require a lot of grass roots support, crowd funding seemed like the best way to reach people since the idea of Kickstarter is to tell your story and get people to back you, and it’s our story is what differentiates us from nearly every other brand in the US. Plus I backed many Kickstarter projects myself. I loved the process of being connected to the dream of an entrepreneur. There’s something about helping people with the process of fulfilling their dreams that is exciting, and the fact you get something tangible in return for backing the project makes it a win-win.

How would Purakai clothing benefit the oceans?

The original goal for the business was to sell clothing and then use a portion of the profits to help ocean related non-profits. We coined the tag line “For the Love of Water” because as surfers and stand up paddlers we love being in, or on the water.  However once we started down the path of researching fabrics we were stunned at what we found. This may sound naïve coming from the founder of a clothing company, but up until my daughter and I researched the supply chain of cotton from the seed to the t-shirt I had no idea of how pervasive the synthetic herbicide, pesticide, and other chemical use was when growing cotton. When I learned that 90% of the cotton grown in the United States, and nearly all of the cotton grown in my state of California was genetically modified, and required tons of herbicides and pesticides, that after a rain flooded the rivers, lakes and streams and then flushed into ocean, I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and knew we had to be part of the change. What I found was we needed to go way beyond just being a socially responsible business. We needed to reinvent a supply chain from “Seed to Organic Shirt” For the Love of water, that meant healing and protecting the rivers, lakes, streams and ocean.

How has the reaction of consumers been so far?

We’ve been very pleased with the reaction so far. Educating consumers of the pollutions caused by a supply chain of GMO and conventionally grown cotton will take time. However we are in this for the long haul. The good news is if we can meet or exceed our Kickstarter goal we can start the process of moving the needle. We hope we can provide consumers with clothing that is made in the USA from organic cotton grown in the USA. We know can do it and when completed it will set the bar for eco-friendly clothing made in the USA. We’re also fortunate the people absolutely love our clothing, everyone that has tried our Amazingly Comfortable organic cotton shirts has come back to buy more, or said they will be buying more. We believe that’s a very positive sign.

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