Meet Our Makers: Mehmet Ünsal
At Katla, we pride ourselves on partnering with suppliers and manufacturers who adhere to the same values and standards that we do. Mehmet Ünsal is our first feature in our "Meet Our Makers" series. Mehmet, of Ege Organics, is our supplier of GOTS certified 100% organic cotton, one of our key fabric materials. Here, he gives us a window into the importance of the GOTS certification, what it takes to achieve, and the importance of transparency in sourcing, manufacturing and production.
What is your background and how did it lead you to your career path?
I studied Industrial Engineering in Arizona State University, a field that focuses on optimizing processes.
The first step of my professional career was in 2011 at Terry Town LLC, a textile wholesaler in San Diego, CA where I started as a project manager to implement SAP to the company. Once the implementation was completed and a full-time position was no longer necessary, I switched into sales and marketing within the company.
Over time I’ve realized that I wanted to work with my own dynamics and moved to Bremen, Germany to establish our company Ege Organics GmbH with my business partner at the time. In late 2010s we have also started working together with my family company in Izmir, Turkey. As of 2021, in addition to working as the managing director of Ege Organics, I am also the VP of our family company Kadeks. There I’m in charge of all exports and international operations.
At Katla, we proudly use GOTS certified 100% organic cotton. What does it mean to be GOTS certified and what does it take to get there?
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a standard that tracks organic materials throughout the supply chain, sets social standards for the people take part and regulates the use of chemicals to minimize the environmental impact.
During the growth of our cotton we refrain from using prohibited chemicals that endanger the environment and the farmers’ health. The list of these materials is updated periodically by GOTS and partner organizations. After 3 years of not using such chemicals in a farm and its surroundings, the crop is considered “organic”.
What is the importance of the GOTS certification?
It ensuring transparency throughout the supply chain. What makes it trump the other certificates is the fact that is starts from the fiber, goes to ginning, spinning, knitting/weaving, dyeing, finishing and all the way to the end product. No other certificate comes even close.
What other clothing certifications or labels do you recommend customers get to know?
GOTS, as I’ve said, is by far the strongest and the most important one.
Global Recycled Standard (GRS) ensures that the fibers (mostly man made ones) are recycled from previously used materials.
If the customer is sensitive about animals V-Label could be a good one to follow for end products. Hence the name, it sets vegan standards.
OEKO-TEX is also one of the major certifications, but it’s more present on the semi-raw material dyeing side and not so much on the end product/consumer side.
Why is it so important for brands to be transparent about sourcing, manufacturing, and production?
I believe since the image of underage children working in sweatshops has been planted in our head within the last 15-20 years, people are more and more afraid of supporting such a scheme. They get curious about where the products actually come from.
In the age of information it is quite easy to link everything together, brands cannot hide their dirty deeds if even they wanted to.
As end customers get more conscious; the will to leave a smaller footprint on earth increases. They prefer buying from smaller brands that have a character instead of ones that promote bulk production and fast fashion.
As part of your work, you are involved in tree planting programs. Can you share the impetus as well as explain how the program works?
It’s can sound a bit cheesy and kitsch to say this, but I’m a huge nature lover. Concrete suffocates me. I can barely breathe when there are not enough trees around.
The tradition of planting 10.000 trees annually begun 12 years ago by Egedeniz Group, my family company, even before I took an active part there. We believe it’s good to have such company traditions and show where we’re standing with our environmental approach.
The process starts by the whole staff taking a day to go into nature to our designated tree planting area. We plant trees and make a nice picnic out of it.
We encourage current and future business partners to contribute increasing this amount if they would like.
3 top tips to dress in a more environmentally friendly way?
The most environmentally friendly way to dress is to wear whatever’s already in your closet.
Next best thing is buying second hand clothes.
After these two comes dressing in ethically and environmentally conscious products like ours. Where you can wear a sweatshirt, go jogging around the farm where its organic cotton is grown, and then have a beer with the local farmer that planted the seeds.
What innovative and environmentally friendly textiles are you most excited about for the future?
Many new plant based fibers are being developed. With new technology we have better strength in various recycled fibers including good old cotton. I only hope that this actually becomes an innovation towards circular economy, not a consumer trend.
What would you like to see more of from the retail industry to reduce its carbon footprint?
I am a big fan of local life. It makes me very happy when a community purchases from local brands because they feel that these brands represent them. They have seen the growth step by step from the first few products to launching experimental product lines to fulfill more people’s needs.
I personally have seen friends succeed slowly over the years in various fields, and we still keep on inspiring each other.
Eat local, buy local, wear local.