“A late-night pie dash and Machu Picchu inspired me to save the planet” – Hannah Edwards, Insane in the Rain.
"I’ve been stripped back to the person I was always meant to be. Over the years things attach themselves to us - traits, fears, conditioning that we don’t actually believe in but never question. Insane in the Rain makes me question things everyday, it reminds me of what really matters, it reminds me to always come from love and to fuck it and have fun with life."
The creation of Insane in the Rain, an environmentally conscious brand producing eco-friendly rainwear, is a true story about how working from your heart and following your intuition can lead to inspirational results. We had a chat with founder Hannah Edwards to discuss the ethos behind the brand, adventuring and having fun with life.
So Hannah – straight in at the deep end. What was the inspiration behind Insane in the Rain?
Insane in the Rain was born in my heart, then travelled to my mind. I left my fashion job in Paris - I didn’t know for what, I just knew I was playing on the wrong side and somehow betraying my soul. I left everything I knew with a one-way ticket to South America & began a journey into nature that changed my world. I had a calling to get to Machu Picchu, one of the most scared and energetically powerful places in the world. It was there, as I looked out over a magnitude of natural beauty that I had clarity; I wanted to help save this planet. For the next few months I tried to figure out exactly how - I researched charities and volunteering but somehow, I felt that singlehandedly my contribution wasn’t going to make enough of an impact on the global situation. I needed to find a way using the gifts the universe had blessed me with to do the most I possibly could. Life had taken me to Bali, and it was there that I understood I needed to keep designing, to keep creating. I needed to use the art of print and design to communicate a message from the planet. My brother Tom and I were caught home one night because of some insane tropical rains, obsessing over this new vegan banoffee pie he has at his restaurant (Peloton Supershop). So, seriously desperate for pie, we headed out for a drenching on the scooter. We must have passed about fifty people on scooters wearing plastic bin bags in the three-minute drive to the restaurant. I thought – “Man, people just need some sick raincoats so they stop using so much plastic!” It was at that moment, breaking into the restaurant for banoffee pie, that the happy jacket was born.
Your jackets are made from recycled PET plastic from plastic bottles – the scale of plastic bottle waste has been highlighted recently in the media (shout out to The Guardian). Insane in the Rain got there first – how did you find your fabric?
Raincoats are made from virgin PET thread, so if I was going to spread awareness about saving the planet, I was going to have to find another way to make our jackets that didn’t contribute to the problem in the first place. I knew it was possible, I just didn’t know who would be making responsible manufacturing choices at that level for honest prices. So, I started the fabric quest - it wasn’t easy, but there was no way I could go forward with the project unless every part of it was aligned, so I persevered. Incredibly, I was already seeing so many companies trying to cash in on the social value bandwagon. Recycled fabrics were becoming popular, so manufacturers (especially in Europe, where they had already clued on to the rapidly growing social value market) had set prices high. So although these manufacturers were campaigning about the importance of using recycled fabrics in order to protect the planet, they were the same ones making it a luxury expense, focusing on making money from the environmental situation rather than making fabric at a reasonable cost that would have maximum impact on helping the planet.
I had been searching for months to find someone who was doing things for the right reasons, before I finally flew out to Taiwan (a country who constantly leads initiatives in plastic recycling) to meet a woman called Helen. I arrived at her tiny office in a province 5 hours from anywhere I knew how to correctly pronounce. All the workers were local women, sitting there drinking from re-usable water bottles and Helen, a gentle Chinese lady who had just shaved her head to detach the ego of long hair - incredible! She didn’t speak a word of English and I spoke no Chinese… we couldn’t say hello, but we both understood one word: environment. A few tears and a lot of hugging later, Insane in the Rain’s recycled plastic fabric was sourced. We worked on the fabric together after that for quite a few more months, to get the soft hand feel & quality to a level that I knew could compete with the best brands on the market back in Europe. I didn’t want to cut any corners with Insane in the Rain or give anyone a reason to doubt recycled plastic material, because I wanted to lead the way for other brands to follow and give confidence to consumers who were starting to make conscious purchases.
Design and production wise, a lot of work clearly goes into these jackets. Talk me through the process from the point of conception up until holding a tangible, finished product in your hands!
Our jackets are ‘living lines’ which basically means we don’t discount, stop making or completely change the range according to a fashion season or year number. We want to encourage people to consume less, so its not just making a product that is sustainable, it’s about contributing to a whole new way of thinking about fashion. In that way, Insane in the Rain’s prints are always relevant; they are little messages from the universe. I will usually see something in the most random place (recently underwater - a clown fish) and think, that’s insanely beautiful, lets create a print from it. Once a new artwork is finalised, Helen sends me a fabric strike off so I can approve the colours and re-check the fabric quality before we go ahead with bulk printing. The fabric rolls then arrive at our little factory and our production manager Unicorn (his self-proclaimed western name) will oversee the cutting and sewing of the jackets, with many a Skype call from me.
Rather than change the shape of the happy jacket, we are constantly working to improve it, to make it the most awesome universal unisex rain jacket we can. The next production run has a new sturdier, chunkier (eco-friendlier) flat tooth zip - our next challenge is to find recycled elastic! I have an awesome production team working with me, their dedication to the project and enthusiasm to learn has meant we could push boundaries together and become the change we wanted to see in the textile industry.
All our labels & tags are made from recycled fabric and cardboard and instead of protecting the jackets in individual plastic bags for shipping, we pack twenty pieces together in large self-fabric rPET sacks. We then place the jackets into small shipping boxes. We have to get these boxes custom made, so that the jackets are don’t move around too much in the bags, its an expense, but its worth every plastic bag saved!
Once the Insane in the Rain babes are safely in our warehouse in the UK we unpack the jackets and re-use the big printed rPET bags to collect plastic rubbish in on our beach cleans. We then send the jackets out to our tribe, rolled up in these cool recycled cardboard cylinders that we had designed - we stick a stamp directly onto the tube, that way, right until the moment your happy jacket is delivered on your doorstep no additional or virgin plastic has been used in the whole Insane in the Rain journey.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
CHINESE F***ING NEW YEAR. Every year.
Did you ever want to quit?
Never. Whenever things get tough, I just remind myself of the WHY. My why = THE PLANET NEEDS YOU!
Any tips for any women out there starting their own ventures?
Not everything has to be done today. Make mistakes, so you can learn. Remind yourself of your WHY, every single day. Be kind to everyone, everyone is someone. If it comes from love there will always be a way. Oh, and… SLEEP. Changes. Everything.
I fell in love recently with this quote from Anni Albers, she was a pioneer in textile art and she redefined the role of the artist as designer: “Every designer, every artist, every inventor or discoverer of something new is (in that sense) an amateur. And to explore the untried, he must be an adventurer. For he finds himself alone on new ground.” When we create our own venture, nobody has ever done it quite likes us before. We are ‘amateur adventurers’; there is something so forgiving and beautifully innocent about that:
When are you at your happiest?
When I’m working on Insane in the Rain. It’s an extension of me; it means I’m connected to my true energy source and on my mission. Insane in the Rain has become more than a brand, it’s a mission and our customers are our tribe. The only way to combat the global environmental situation is by joining together. This is what each and every customer is doing when they buy an Insane in the Rain jacket; they are standing up to be counted and saying: “I’m in!” Our customers are awesome humans; they make me believe even more in what we are doing and give the planet some seriously good vibrations.
Have you changed during the process of launching Insane in the Rain? How?
Rather than say I’ve changed, I’d say I’ve been stripped back to the person I was always meant to be. Over the years things attach themselves to us - traits, fears, conditioning that we don’t actually believe in but never question. Insane in the Rain makes me question things everyday, it reminds me of what really matters, it reminds me to always come from love and to fuck it and have fun with life.
Any tips and tricks to help us cut down on single use plastics?
1 - Say no to plastic bags. Find a space for it in your tote.
2- Use a re-usable drinking bottle. Invest in something cool – 24bottles.com is cool - let it become an extension of you; don’t leave home without it.
3 - Ditch the takeaway cup – take 2mins and drink it there. If it’s your regular, get a foldable cup (for example stojo.com), and worst-case scenario… don’t take a lid.
4 - Say no to straws. Next time you've had a few at your local, have a nice chat with them about stopping to serve straws. They can keep straws under the bar and only serve them if people ask… the thing is, people don’t ask and it will cut costs for the bar – which they can then thank you for in free drinks!
Is there anyone you want to give a shout-out to?
My brothers Jack and Tom for being part of Insane in the Rain’s soul, for inspiring me, believing in me & making life so much fun! Oh, and the universe, for having my back.
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