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Vision With Ambition Creates An Advanced Washable Leather– Exclusive Interview With Ilie Popa

Ilie Popa is an entrepreneur, forward and out of the ordinary visionary, with strong ethics about sustainability, eager to create positive movements for young generation and a better world... With 11 years experience in the event productions all over Europe, the COVID crisis was the switch direction into leather fashion and very soon after becomes owner of LAUNTHER, an authentic leather with advanced characteristics; above all, is machine washable with detergent, a sustainable solution with a positive impact on the environment, health, and fashion.

Ilie Popa, Founder of LAUNTHER

Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.

I am a 35 year old entrepreneur based in Amsterdam, but I was born and raised in Romania. My childhood was beautiful. I still consider it the best experience of my life so far. I grew up as a country boy, and have wonderful memories of the first 15 years of my life. But as much as I loved my peaceful life in the countryside, at a young age I already knew that I wanted a change of scenery and an upgrade in society later in life.

During the summer holidays, I would spend 5 to 6 hours a day with my cows in the fields. My backpack would be filled with books from school. That’s how I learned English - with the help of books. The school in my village was limited to only French and Russian classes. I decided to leave the countryside to advance my education at the age of 15. I moved to the big city of Craiova, where I was accepted by the College of Economics. I continued my studies by attending university in Bucharest, where I got my bachelor’s degree in International Business.

I began my entrepreneurial path with an event production company during my first year of university. In 2018 I founded a new company in Amsterdam, where I initially created hologram showcases for the European nightlife industry. The COVID crisis made me reevaluate my business goals, so I reorganized the company and began to work on my current project.

What is your business name, and how do you help your clients?

I have been working on my current startup, LAUNTHER, for about a year and a half now. After a lot of hard work and extensive research and development, it is finally ready to launch. My extraordinary team and I have created an advanced washable leather that envisions a sustainable solution for the fashion and textile industry. This leather positively impacts the environment, personal health, and the fashion industry as a whole. It significantly reduces waste by transforming animal skins that are byproducts from the meat industry into leather, using a secret tanning formula based on vegetable extracts.

What sets LAUNTHER apart from other leathers is its advanced features. One of its main characteristics is that it can be washed just like most fabrics in a standard washing machine with bleach-free detergent. In general, detergents designed for black or colored laundry are fine to use. Thanks to this, and a few other advanced characteristics, LAUNTHER has a positive impact on personal health and hygiene while remaining practical to wear.

Furthermore, this innovation upgrades the fashion industry by enabling designers to expand their diverse and comprehensive ranges using genuine leather. For example, classic business suits can now be created using our authentic leather. LAUNTHER has a high-end fabric appearance and can be customized with matte finishing, but provides the incomparable feeling of leather by touch. LAUNTHER brings also significant value with an exceptional selection of hides, which are up to 100-120cm in length. This means that two skins or more aren’t required to complete the length of a single garment.

This advanced washable leather allows designers to create any kind of apparel with leather: classic shirts, tops, t-shirts, tracksuits, long or short pants, sweaters, dresses, or skirts. It can even be used to create garments that haven’t typically been made with leather until now, and surprise is produced in any color and texture with a breaking world record for thinnest leather up to 0,3mm while keeping its high strength and it does not require lining or the leather specific maintenance. Items such as swimwear, lingerie, and leggings can be created when blended with spandex. This hybrid fabric stretches the leather up to 3 times its original size while maintaining its breathability and durability. Our leather also comes with a 3-year warranty to give customers peace of mind.

Leather is being used in more garments than ever. I’m noticing it in styles that were not previously possible to be designed with this fabric, due to the lack of more important characteristics which are a necessity. Now our leather makes this fabric even more versatile and very practical while remaining sustainable.

What is your work inspired by?

In general, I notice what gaps are in the market and I visualize what the future would look if they were filled. I adopt an ‘outside the box’ mentality so I can find the missing practical development. I know leather will continue to be used in unimaginable ways, so I created the capacity for it to be an upgrade for more industries.

My team and I can evolve leather into a futuristic fabric. We’re currently working on developing garments that look out of this world, and are researching leather for a futuristic upgrade which will soon prove that it can even save lives.

Considering my life evolution, ambition, and vision, I believe that my purpose in this life is to give my support for a better world. I am blessed to have the right people around me, and I am looking forward to meeting more people with similar goals and visions in life.

If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?

I would change many things, so I’ll limit my answer to the few that I consider the most important. What truly disturbs me is the continued use of faux leather in fashion. It’s promoted heavily even by the biggest media outlets. I find it hypocritical when big companies talk about sustainability in the industry, only to quickly direct us to an article with trendy collections made of cheap imitation leather fabrics which are actually made of plastic.

These faux leather fabrics are incredibly detrimental to the planet. Their developers often use aggressive marketing tools and communication schemes to downgrade genuine leather in the minds of consumers. Sometimes they even instill hate against the use of authentic leather in fashion. I’m often left speechless after reading major fashion media outlets that claim to support sustainability, yet promote content about plastic faux leather.

I want to encourage people to think for themselves, and not automatically believe everything the media says. It’s important to remember that most companies pay for content that favors them. They also keep control of important information, such as official data which reveals that on a global scale, 55% of animal skins are thrown away on the fields or burned because consumers have been conditioned to favor alternatives.

Tanning animal skin with vegetable extracts is environmentally-friendly. It also saves meat byproducts from becoming an extra factor in global pollution. However, it requires additional costs, skills, and a long tanning process that usually takes between 30 to 45 days. In contrast, the Chromium process only takes one day. I believe the legislation needs to take a stand against leather processed with Chrome, a highly toxic acid used for tanning over 90% of the leather in the world. If anyone wants to see hell on earth, simply visit a tannery that uses Chrome and imagine the consequences that result from continued use.

“Vegan” leather is incomparable to the characteristics of authentic leather, and designers have started to speak out about it. Recently, an excellent article on Forbes named “Fashion’s Leather Misinformation Problem And Why ‘Vegan’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Sustainable’” by Brooke Roberts-Islam explains the issue very well. I greatly appreciate and respect the author and Forbes for having the courage to publicize the truth about the consistency of plastic in “vegan” leather, and how unsustainable these fabrics are. The Dutch-based organization “Leather Naturally” is as well doing amazing work in spreading real information about leather, and I am very grateful for their initiative and efforts.

The upcoming point is actually what led me to this interview, for which I am honored and grateful. I wrote a comment in a post about animal cruelty in the leather industry on a social media group. I asked if anyone in the world knew a farmer that bred cows, sheep, or goats, and pulled off their skins to use for leather processing, only to dump the animals' bodies. My opinion is that humans, animals, and plants are a part of the circle of life. Each will need the other for survival; even a vegan must kill a plant to survive. As long as humans need and consume animal protein, there will be a huge byproduct amount of animal skin. I believe it should be processed to avoid waste and prolong its use, not be dumped on fields or burned. To me, this is what ethics in sustainability is all about.

Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!



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