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Ocean Reflections: Our Founder On 13 Thrilling Years Of TWOTHIRDS

5 min read

Ocean Reflections: Our Founder On 13 Thrilling Years Of TWOTHIRDS

To mark World Oceans Day 2023 (June 8th), we sat down with founder, Lutz Schwenke, whose connection with the ocean forms the basis of our brand. TWOTHIRDS is propelled by a noble cause, coming from the belief that together, we can protect what we love. Waves, whales, and wondrous depths. 

But of course - we also make great clothing! So the question is, how did an enthusiastic surfer from Hamburg go onto kickstart a PRE-ORDER revolution? And where is the brand heading next? Learn the story behind TWOTHIRDS in this special interview.

Q&A With Our Founder, Lutz Schwenke

When and where did you get the idea for a brand that would strive to protect the ocean? 

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment, because in a way I was in training for this my whole life. Spending summers in the Baltic Sea, watching underwater exploration movies, sailing a catamaran and surfing for the first time as a teenager in Hawaii (Germany doesn’t get many waves…), were all instrumental experiences. I went onto study economics, and actually intended to get a PhD while working for the UN. Half way through that I realised that yes: I was getting a good grounding in fair trade and ethical business, but I was also tired of being limited to theory. It left me wanting something more. So I guess between those two things, my love of the ocean and my desire to take bolder action, TWOTHIRDS was born. 

I’d have to say as well that becoming a parent for the first time left a deep mark on me. I knew that I wanted to conserve and protect the oceans that I’d grown up admiring so that my kids would be able to enjoy them too. 

How closely related is this to your love of surfing?

Very. Surfing is my favourite sport - in fact it’s almost not a sport for me, but a way of life. And that lifestyle is what we try to reflect at TWOTHIRDS. 

My brother tells me that when I was 14 I turned to him and said how cool it would be if there was a clothing brand for surfers. So I guess the idea was there as soon as I took to the water! 

As I got older there seemed to be a misalignment between surfers who believed in looking after the ocean and surf brands who couldn’t have cared less, and would try to dazzle you with flashy colours and logos. Our clothing has gone in the opposite direction - towards keeping the ocean clean while making high quality garments that anyone can wear. 

Is that why people have responded so well to TWOTHIRDS? 

Yes, I think it comes down to our ocean philosophy and our style. We have lots of different influences but you know what you’re getting from TWOTHIRDS - high quality, minimalist designs that feel good to wear, precisely because they have a smaller impact on the planet than regular clothing. 

A lot has changed since we first launched in 2010. Very few people truly cared about, or looked for sustainability when they shopped for garments. And we were in the hands of major distributors who could sell our stock for us, at the same time as putting a lot of energy into physical stores (we are now fully online), which led to a need to really clarify who we were and what we were doing. This turning point came in 2015: after several years of trying to please everyone - and almost burning out in the process - I decided to step back and focus on the mission. That’s when we got involved with pre-order, shifted all production to Europe and really defined the brand. Out with distributors, in with a more personal, people-centred approach that focused on being as eco-friendly as possible. 

Now that sustainability is on everyone’s mind, that hard work has paid off. Thankfully, the amount of eco-friendly materials available to brands like us has blossomed in that time too which means we’ve been able to really double-down on the impact of our garments. 

What are your thoughts about Oceans Day? Does it still serve a purpose?

I think Oceans Day is relatively unknown compared to (for example) Earth Day, so you don’t have as many companies or influencers - who might not be at all sustainable - jumping on the bandwagon. Oceans Day is important because it shines a light on the multiple issues that face our oceans, from acidification to plastic use to sea level rise. Whether that gets translated into concrete action is another thing, but awareness is a start.

We tend to celebrate it because Oceans Day speaks to our mission and our audience, so it’s another opportunity to advocate and stand up for what we believe in. 

How worried are you about the future of the oceans?

I’d like to pretend that I’m not at all worried! But we all know the reality by this point: everybody (from politicians, to consumers, to companies) has to make radical changes to prevent oceanic breakdown. As Sylvia Earle has kinda said, we’re on the cusp of realising that when we damage the ocean, we’re really damaging ourselves. It plays a massive role in containing global warming, not to mention in giving us the oxygen we breathe. That fact has influenced our past actions like going Climate Neutral and on the whole I’d say that looking after the ocean has never been more important. 

On the other hand I’m super excited for what’s going to be discovered. We know very little about the ocean - so the future holds some hope in that respect. 

Where next for TWOTHIRDS? 

Right now we believe we can play a leading role in the paradigm shift that is happening across fashion. We were first movers 13 years ago, so we aren’t about to let fast fashion brands take all the credit - or completely greenwash the industry. Our plans include introducing more limited edition collections (which are basically the most sustainable you can get), refining our basics, and looking at more ways to incorporate the circular economy. 

Our vision is to be the number one brand for ocean protection and surf style, in Europe and beyond! 13 years ago that was just a dream, but now it’s getting steadily more achievable for us. 

And obviously, with summer coming up, we’re going to try to spend as much time at the beach as possible…

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