FM: And how did you find Mpingo? What’s the story?
S: I was working on a different project with the ambition to use this type of wood, but the project was discarded because it was too difficult to source the wood. You can purchase Mpingo on the black market, it is a tropical type of wood. The Mpingo, I use, is harvested in a forest in Tanzania, which is protected by WWF and an NGO from London called Sound & Fair. The forested wood is only used for one thing; classical instruments. You make oboes and clarinets from Mpingo. It has such a high density that it makes it perfect for this type of instrument. When I discovered this project I was so excited, because they let me buy the leftovers from the production of instruments, so it’s upcycled; a step further than recycling. And when I figured out a way to cut it like diamonds, my ideas of fabulations on classic jewellery started taking form; utilizing modern materials in classic structures and forms. To me, it was like finding a diamond mine above ground. Because wood turns into charcoal turns into stone, which eventually becomes a diamond when you discover it and cut it, over a timespan of millions of years.
FM: You’ve touched upon it quite a bit already, and as far as I’ve understood, the fundamental idea with Kinraden, is sustainability.
S: The idea was basically to be able to create designs, which were so beautiful, that people couldn’t help but want to buy it, which at the same time was created from a circular platform. Meaning that the materials are circular in the way that I utilize them and the way that I treat them. The production is circular in the way that every one in my supply chain is paid a fair wage. And the business model is circular. One of my biggest dreams is to create a return system, where people can return their jewellery, get a voucher and buy a new piece of jewellery. But that’s way in the future, when we have a much bigger production. It’s still very theoretical, in the future sometime. But I have built the case on the idea of circularity, through-and-through.
FM: It must have been a bit of a risk in the beginning, because you had no idea if it would work?
S: It was a huge risk, and it somewhat still is, but it’s become easier. In 2014, people found the wood to be weird and didn’t understand why I would use an unconventional material. No one asks me that now. People love the idea. Something happened in the last five years. People are more open to the sustainable model. There’s a greater focus on sustainability in general, which makes it easier to tell my story today.
FM: To drive that change, we need pioneers. In this way, you’ve been part of driving that change.
S: That is true. I’ve spent many nights wide awake questioning why I had to be so particular about it. And honestly, I feel very strongly about starting businesses today, we need to make a difference. We can build a strategy with ambitious goals for the future. Rather than having to change it later on, it is much easier to think sustainably from the beginning when you’re a young company. I have a hard time understanding new companies that seem to not care about it at all. It’s a bit shocking. And even if it’s tough, and it’s difficult, if we have to put more stuff into this world, we have to care.
FM: Everything you do in regard to sustainability is available online; this transparency is a huge part of it.
S: Indeed. At the same time, I believe that the more you give, the more you gain. That’s an important value to me, personally.
FM: We can apply that idea to the relationship between man and nature. If we have respect for nature, we receive so much more. You would never have found Mpingo had you not had these thoughts about circularity.
S: There’s so many materials that are currently being refined and utilized in industries, where they haven’t been used before (plastic from the ocean in Adidas-sneakers for example) and transformed to a new kind of product and sold again. We need these ways of thinking. According to scientists we will have no more gold or silver to extract from the earth in 2030 already. And we know there’s enough above ground already. So let’s keep some in the earth for posterity, and let’s figure out a way to use the resources we already have. We have to be smarter about it. We are running out of raw materials in construction, and it’s happening faster than we thought.