We introduce: LOVR

Founder Profile: Lucas Fuhrmann

Lucas has been researching alternative fiber sources for textile production for several years. He focuses primarily on agricultural residues. Together with Montgomery Wagner and Julian Mushövel he founded LOVR. Nils Jonas Hein (intern at the Entrepreneurship Foundation) met him for an interview.

What is the idea behind LOVR? What problem do you want to solve and how?

LOVR's ambition is to lead the necessary radical change in the textile industry. We have therefore developed an ecological and vegan alternative to leather and faux leather and focus on transparent, regional circular economy. Our material is made from hemp fibers, which are a residual material from the German CBD production. That's where our name comes from, which is derived from LEFTOVER.

Tell us more about your material. What inspired you to develop it? What is its unique selling point?

The leather and synthetic leather industries are responsible for huge environmental problems. Our material is the first leather alternative, which is made from 100% plant-based waste materials. The material is biodegradable and has a minimal environmental footprint. Compared to animal leather, our manufacturing process requires only 0.3% of CO2 emissions.

Where did you need help, what were your biggest challenges?

The development of physical products like our material is very capital-intensive, because the production requires appropriate equipment. In the early stages of the project, it was difficult to get the appropriate machinery and equipment. So we had to get very creative and set up our own laboratory in a garage with very few resources. In the meantime, however, we are excellently equipped through our laboratory at the TU Darmstadt.

How would you describe the experience of starting your own company?

It is incredibly exciting to develop something of my own and build a company on it. It's also a lot of fun to work with good friends every day. Of course, there are also setbacks, so you have to be able to improvise and have a high tolerance for uncertainty.

The fashion and textile industry is one of the most damaging in the world. What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges facing the industry?

In the last two years, greenwashing has become extreme. Companies everywhere are wooing customers with sustainability. Often there is little behind it. The industry is well aware of the ecological problems and its enormous contribution to climate change, but many are not honest enough with consumers.

How do you assess the role of technological innovations, such as the additive process, in mastering these challenges?

Technological innovations are important for saving resources in manufacturing and thus make an important contribution. Nevertheless, one should not lose sight of the entire product life cycle. What raw materials does a product consist of, how is it manufactured, how and for how long is it used, and what happens to the product at the end of its life? It doesn't do much good if a product is manufactured in a resource-conserving way, but is then only used for a short time and then often cannot be recycled at the end.

There are hardly any terms that are used so often and whose meaning is at the same time so unclear as that of 'sustainability'. What does it mean for you to act sustainably?

The supposedly easiest step is to consume less. To really value things and buy products that can ideally accompany me throughout my life.

What other obstacles do you see to a truly sustainable fashion and textile industry?

The value chain in the fashion industry is very non-transparent, complex and, above all, highly branched out internationally. Stronger government regulation is therefore difficult to implement. Overall, there needs to be a rethink in the industry so that products are designed with the idea of recycling in mind. The end of a product, i.e. biodegradation or efficient recycling, must always be considered in the design.

Do you have any advice for consumers who want to buy more responsibly in the future?

Just as you look at the ingredient list when you eat, you can look closely at what fashion and accessories are made of. In doing so, you could make sure to buy fewer products that are petroleum-based (acrylic, polyester, nylon, polyurethane, PVC, etc.). Of course, this is just a simple rule of thumb, because just because something isn't made from petroleum doesn't mean it's good for the environment.

What are your further ambitions for LOVR?

We are currently working on scaling up the manufacturing process to serve our pilot customers. In perspective, our material will find application in a wide variety of industries beyond footwear and apparel. We are therefore also working with furniture manufacturers, architects and the automotive industry.

As part of the Entrepreneurship Summit 2021 program, one of LOVR's founders, Montgomery Wagner, will also be speaking about his startup experience in a "Founders Report" group. Get your ticket here: Entrepreneurship Summit 2021.

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