Sustainability. It’s a hot word these days. And with all the justified panic around climate change and depletion of natural resources, it’s a concept that just about every industry would like to cash in on. Look around and you’ll find the word “sustainable” linked to every type of consumer good imaginable, from vehicles to housing to fashion.
For the majority of the marketplace, “sustainability” is just a highly marketable label — the new black, if you will. This is particularly true when it comes to fashion and grooming. Take the same product you made last year and tweak it with a recycled material and socially conscious tie-in, or so goes the formula.
But for a few renegade companies, starting with the concept of sustainability creates utterly unexplored possibilities, and an opportunity to completely reinvent the niche.
Just ask Hall Newbegin, the founder, chief ground-sniffer and — dare we say it? — mad poet behind Juniper Ridge, the fragrance company that has been quietly reinventing men’s grooming for the past ten years. We caught up with the lightning-tongued Mr. Newbegin this month for a quick and dirty interview about what sustainability really means in the context of fashion and grooming, where it’s going, and why it matters. (It’s not what you think.)
The Manual: What came first—your passion for nature or for fragrance?
Hall Newbegin: Nature and place. It all comes from that. I’ve spent my whole life loving the outdoors. It’s always about protecting the places and the plants for me. Sustainability is central to our whole core vision.
TM: The imagery on Juniper Ridge’s website shows you crawling around on the ground — is that really what your sourcing process looks like?
HN: It is like that. How do you find what smells good? You crawl around on the ground. That’s how we find new scents–looking around for things up and down the West Coast, going up into the forgotten corners. Our process looks a little inefficient, but that’s what it is.
TM: How do you scale a company based on wild-crafted products while keeping it sustainable?
HN: The plants part is pretty easy. Our plants are very abundant. We’re in the middle of the largest temperate rainforest in the world, extending from Big Sur up to Southeast Alaska. There are huge amounts of plants everywhere. For example, we’re working with tree limbs that come down after small-scale forestry projects. They burn them as trash, but those are like gold to us.
As far as company sustainability, it’s so hard. It takes twenty years to get to sustainability as a company.
TM: Juniper Ridge claims to be “building a new fragrance grammar of the American West.” That phrase sounds great — what does it mean?
HN: Back in the old days, perfumes were made from cat shit, and it’s still being done that way after thousands of years. But we’re the first company ever to take a library of western plant ingredients and think in terms of taking the quality of the place into the product. It’s a unique thing we’re doing.
TM: Which Juniper Ridge scent do you use most often?
TM: How do you see the future of sustainability in fashion and grooming?
HN: There’s a lot of pressure on companies to be more that way, so that’s a good thing. But a lot of people are full of it when they talk about marketing stuff as “sustainable.” For us, it’s not in our marketing; it’s in our soul.
TM: Is that what’s happening with your Field Lab line?
HN: It’s our art project. It’s where we put all of our love. It’s a seasonal expression of what we do. It’s catching the specifics of that place at the end of the trail, the beauty of that moment in a bottle. It’s where my heart is.
TM: What would you say to consumers about the importance of choosing a sustainable product amid the millions of options on the market?
HN: Look beyond the marketing of a company — look at their soul. Consumers are so smart. You can suss it out if you look for it — I think it’s there for everyone to see. I’m always looking at souls.
For more scents and solid colognes, check out The Manual’s top favorites of the season.
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