Why Aizome? Letter from the Founder – Aizome Bedding

Why Aizome? Letter from the Founder


Dear Friends, 

Aizome Bedding makes truly organic fabrics. We believe in creating genuine value for our customers and the environment. Our goal is to make fabrics that are ideal for humans, rather than ideal to be mass produced.
 
We are not just another bedding company. And we are not just another 'organic' company. In fact, I believe I can convince you in the next three minutes, that what Aizome is doing is in a class of its own. This is partly because, as we all know, the word organic is the most abused word in the English language. Let's face it: the average person knows very little about how fabrics are made and what is used to make them. And it’s not your fault.

The reality of textile manufacturing is skillfully hidden by companies, that are selling you a dress they made for 20 cents or for 20 dollars and make you think you got a bargain. 

But why do we even need 'organic' fabrics? Let's look at the size of the problem. How much of the total global drinking water pollution comes from fabric dyeing? I hope you are shocked: 20%. Yes, I know. That’s all of waste of such a precious resource. Coloring our clothes wastes a 1/5 of the available drinking water in the world!

Moreover, the textile industry churns out millions of tons of products, 80% of which are petrochemical-based. Oil is used to make polyester, the preferred material for our textiles. Oil, coal-tar, and heavy metals mixed with a mind boggling toxic cocktail of chemicals make up 99% of commercially used colors. Most textiles stopped being used with the first year of being produced. Today, textile products make up a large part of non-biodegradable waste in landfills and the ocean.

 

Textiles are so short lived and prevalent that we might as well save on shipping and just pump that good old oil directly into the oceans. 

You probably think: "But wait, does it have to be this way? Weren’t clothes made of natural materials? Natural color, cotton, hemp, flax?" Yes! You are right. For thousands of years, they were. The proof is found in our language. Today 'linen refers to any daily textile, like a bed sheet or table cloth made of any material. The word, however, comes from Greek 'linum' which is the flax plant. 
 
So what happened? Collectively, about 120 years ago, we decided that dealing with farmers, weather, and the raising of crops were cumbersome and unpredictable and not as commercially reliable as ordering a side-product from petrochemical processing companies. It’s also much more lucrative for the producer. 
 
Let’s say you start caring about this from now on. What can you do? You have a few certifications like OEKO-TEX and GOTS that can help you distinguishing what materials your textiles are made of and how well they have been cleaned. But when it comes to dyes, it is much more difficult to find textiles that avoid toxic conventional dyes. Natural dyes are not used in any commercial product!
 

Even an 'organic' labeled shirt can still be colored using synthetic dyes and chemicals, as shocking as that sounds.

Well, how bad it can it be? At least you would be safe from the really bad dyes, like those that cause cancer, right? Sorry! A few years ago some countries have said that proof of Azo dyes causing cancer cannot be ignored, so exposure should be minimized. You may have heard of REACH, a European regulation that stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisations, and Restriction of Chemicals. It is a set of precautionary measures that restricts human exposure to highly toxic chemicals in consumer goods. You may be surprised (or not) to hear that U.S. chemical lobbyists prevented anything like it from being enacted there. The noble goal was implemented, but as it turns out, control was impossible, because nobody really knows what went into making textiles in each part of the production process. When the Swedish government did a study, banned dyes in textiles were found all over. There is no escape. Even if you care about your health and the environment, from cradle to death bed, your skin touches plastics and toxic chemicals. 
And this is, what the Aizome Team wants to change!

In 2019, there is room for free-range chicken and organic tomatoes. We believe there is room for organic dyes and fabrics as well.

We have proven this together with the over 1000 people that bought our first products already. Aizome is now ten people with a background in healthcare, traditional Japanese dyeing, dermatology, and textile engineering. And we are passionate about creating something that is inherently valuable to your health, the environment and made truly organic.
In my twenties, I wanted to make the world healthier, so I worked for an amazing company that makes brain surgery software to treat cancer. But i wondered:
 

"Can't we do something that keeps people healthy rather than earning money selling a treatment?"

At that time, I had a hobby that I believed to be unrelated: collecting and selling 100-300 year old Japanese indigo-dyed textiles that are beautiful, delicate, and awesome. Who knew this little hobby would inspire the genesis of Aizome? The idea of Aizome was born when a befriended dermatologist and I talked over a beer during an event at Stanford Medical School about the impact dyes have on skin. One third of children in the U.K. suffer from atopic dermatitis; 25% of Americans see a dermatologist; skin problems like psoriasis and eczema are common. While textile dyes are obviously strong irritants, in our commercial world, most would rather be sold medicine than try to reduce their chemical exposure. Back in Tokyo, standing in front of a beautiful Japanese tapestry, and indigo-dyed undergarments that samurai warriors would wear under the armory, I wondered “why were we able to make those?” What prevents us today from making the same textiles dyed from plants?

With this though Aizome Bedding was born.

I got obsessed and called factories and producers in Japan and all over the world and always got the same three answers: Natural dyes suck because they
  1. can’t produce bright neon colors,
  2. are not colorfast,
  3. are expensive. 
Let’s unpack this:
  1. Neon colors: the 90s are over. Who wears neon colors?
  2. Colorfastness: that seems like a technical problem that we, the people that flew to the moon, should be able to solve!
  3. Expensive: the whole retail market is bloated. If we produce something of real value and sell it direct-to-consumer, we can cut the price by a lot.
I started developing prototypes. At first I spent hundreds and then thousands of dollarsBefore I knew it, I ended up with a living room of indigo dyed bed sheets, worth $20,000, getting in trouble with my girlfriend.
Using a new patent-pending technology using sonic wave dyeing, we were able to perform a little miracle: plant pigment + fabric unified in a sound bath of love = Aizome. We got the textile tested in our lab in Tokyo and the results were stunning: we reached the highest levels of colorfastness only using plant pigments surpassing even most chemically dyes.

Michel, Thomas, Misa, and Jun at meeting in May, 2019

Our marketing consisted of telling our friends about our project and starting a crowdfunding campaign. After 2 months of crowdfunding, our idea for value and a truly organic textile materialized into a $124K investment. 

But we did not know how to run an online business, how to do ads, and how to set up a delivery system. Slowly we learned and we are still learning. I feel blessed that we found such a fantastic community of believers, who share what we do cause they care. In many ways, our earliest supporter are part of our founding team.
More amazing and exciting things are on the horizon and I am glad to be on this journey with all of you! And this is what Aizome means to me. Finding people who share the passion for creating something of value and foolishly trying to change the world just a little bit because it's worth it.
 
Much Love from Japan,
 
Michel, CEO & Founder