ETRE Organic Underwear is one of the newest additions to our community of Eco-Stylist certified brands. Which means it has gone through our rigorous testing process and meets or exceeds our expectations in transparency, fair labor practices, and environmental sustainability throughout their entire process.
ETRE was founded by Erzsébet Toth and produces organic and sustainable lingerie and underwear for men and women, but it’s their focus on using sustainable materials and paying their local workers fair wages that really sets them apart from the competition.
We had the fantastic opportunity to meet with the company’s founder, Erzsébet Toth, to get to know their brand and mission a little bit better.
Interview with the Founder of a Sustainable Underwear Brand in Hungary
What inspired you to create an organic underwear brand?
“The essence of our brand is a result of continuous development, based on years of research and my nearly 20 years of manufacturing experience, as well as feedback from people who live around me. According to the tendency I’ve observed, many people find it challenging to shop for sustainable, high-quality underwear that represents not just a specific trend but can be considered as a timeless piece. Customers are concerned about finding suitable underwear for sensitive skin that is comfortable, has first-rate air permeability, and is made from organic materials instead of synthetic fabrics that can be uncomfortable and sweat-inducing.
In addition to well-known cotton, I wanted to explore other materials for underwear. I collected samples from all around the world, studied their properties, and their processing conditions. It was important to me to find manufacturers who process materials without using harmful chemicals to the environment and health, and who have certifications to prove it.
During the development of the brand, I not only focused on the materials but also aimed to create a 100% allergen-free product line. Therefore, we use latex-free stretch ribbon and apply product information and care instructions on our pieces using water-based, environmentally friendly dyes instead of sewn-in labels.
My first material sample arrived from Australia in 2015, made from soy. What’s more, I also studied ramie and the current bamboo material, which proved to be an excellent choice for underwear due to its outstanding antibacterial properties and excellent moisture-wicking ability. Apart from draining away sweat quickly, we can also highlight the fact that bamboo is breathable, comfortable, doesn’t wrinkle, and doesn’t stick to the skin even when wet. It’s fascinating how bamboo plants play a major role in carbon dioxide neutralization. Compared to many other plants, they require less water, for example, cotton cultivation uses 3 times as much water.”
What is your style inspiration for the garments you create?
“The brand pieces represent a minimalistic, refined style, using black, white, gray, and pastel colors, with the primary goal of achieving maximum comfort while considering sustainability aspects.
Returning to our concept, it is essential to mention that the first collection was designed for men. Through thorough market research, we realized that sustainable brands often overlook men as their target group. However, men also have a strong desire for an environmentally and health-conscious lifestyle, just as women do. Moreover, comfort and skin protection are equally important priorities for them when it comes to clothing.
After the successful launch of the men’s collection, we quickly introduced the women’s line (Soft Comfort), which is undergoing continuous development in terms of both colors and designs.”
What are your sustainability goals for the future?
“Our goal is to be a sustainable underwear brand, offering customers a choice that allows them to make conscious decisions about their clothing. Our commitment to social and environmental sustainability includes various initiatives, and we focus both on educating and inspiring our customers toward positive change.
Our brand has joined the Fashion Revolution Hungary campaign and adheres to principles of transparency and social responsibility. Our target market consists of environmentally conscious and ethically-minded consumers who value sustainability, fair manufacturing processes, and respect for human rights. They strive to make informed choices about their clothing and place importance on sustainability, quality, reliability, precision, and durability.
In comparison to our competitors, we aim to stand out by integrating environmental and social sustainability practices, alongside excellent materials, minimalistic design, and maximum comfort.
Of course, we recognize that there is always room for improvement, which is why we continuously monitor opportunities for growth. For instance, one of our objectives is to install solar panels on our production facility to make our operations even greener with renewable energy. Additionally, we will strive to invest in local communities and measure our carbon footprint.”
What inspired you to start your own business?
“Before starting my entrepreneurial journey, I worked as an employee for 20 years in contract manufacturing facilities focused on producing Triumph underwear, where I climbed the career ladder. I began as a seamstress, learning to work with strict adherence to quality standards and meeting production deadlines. Over time, I continued to educate myself, progressing to roles such as production planner, technical translator, business liaison, and eventually, I became a plant manager.
Unfortunately, in 2013, after 30 years of collaboration, Triumph terminated the contract with the company where I worked, so I came to a crossroads. Either I give up 20 years and find a position in a completely different field or I continue my journey independently using the many years of manufacturing experience. I chose the latter, and in June 2013, I became an individual entrepreneur, investing in specialized machinery for underwear manufacturing. Later that year, I secured a subcontracting agreement with a Spanish company, and ever since then weve produced underwear for them. Over the past 10 years we developed step by step and increased our production capacity, establishing a strong and successful business relationship, and currently manufacturing 14,000 to 15,000 units per month for them. This continuous progress led my husband and me to establish ECO-VILL-TEXT Ltd. in 2016.
In addition to contract manufacturing, I started building my own brand, ÊTRE Organic Underwear, and successfully presented it during the 6th Global Sustainable Fashion Week as part of an independent fashion show in 2021.”
Materials for Sustainable Underwear
ÊTRE Organic Underwear is ethically made of only plant-based, eco-friendly materials. All of the components of every garment have a quality certificate which guarantees the user that during the whole process, no chemicals are used. The basic collection is made from fabrics consisting of 46% bamboo, 46% certified organic cotton, and 8% elastane. Creating a buttery soft, and eco-friendly fabric perfect for those foundational pieces.
Bamboo is a highly sustainable material, it grows quickly, does not require treatment with chemicals, is usually GMO-free, promotes soil quality during biodegradation, prevents soil degradation and reduces the greenhouse effect. What’s not to love?
Advantages of incorporating bamboo into your wardrobe:
– textiles made with bamboo have antibacterial properties, even after multiple washes
– bamboo fibers are very flexible, soft, and pleasant to wear
– thanks to its unique microstructure, the fabric is breathable, wicks away sweat, and feels cool even on hot summer days
ETRE uses simple cardboard boxes that are as environmentally friendly as possible because they are plastic-free, reducing landfill waste. Most people don’t think about the sustainability of the packaging of a product they receive, especially from online retailers but when the plastic bags most products are shipped in take up to 500 years to completely break down it’s important to note ETRE’s eco friendly packaging.
Ethical Labor and Wages
All ETRE products are made in Hungary by domestic workers, who are paid a living wage, on average 1.3 times the minimum wage in Hungary. They prioritize their workers’ health and safety by giving people time off and allowing them to work from home during the COVID 19 pandemic.
ETRE’s factory is located in Hungary, Kapuvár. The building was built in 2018, which ensures modern and safe working conditions for their employees. Their current goal is to increase the capacity of their factory for more workers and continue to contribute to the development of their region in the industry, as well as focus on using green energy to run their factory.
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Bella Tabor is a writer at Eco-Stylist. She currently studies fashion communication at Iowa State University. Bella will be traveling to Italy this fall to continue her studies across the globe!