Original article published 7 July, 2022
[5 minute read]
Based here in Australia, Project Blank is on a mission to serve surfers with a range of progressive wetsuits and surf equipment that boasts a reduced impact on the natural environment without compromising quality. A quick look at the Project Blank website states that they're "a community of green-minded ocean lovers, unified in our pursuit of a happier planet." It's hard to argue against this. Where they succeed is by merging sustainability and high-performance, which is often a difficult fusion of goals.
We chatted with Josh Small, Head of Marketing and based in Sydney, to find out more about the past, present and future of Project Blank.
Firstly, what's your role at Project Blank and please can you explain a little about how the brand started?
I’m the Head of Marketing here at Project Blank, looking after our marketing/brand strategy, creative direction, campaigns, content and communications. We’ve been around for about 18 months now. Since launching, our focus has been creating high quality surf products that perform at the highest level without sacrificing on sustainability. We’ve also recently expanded our range from just wetsuits to apparel and hardware too. Everything we create has to meet these high standards. We’re positioning Project Blank, not just as a brand, but a platform to hero the passions of like-minded individuals that share our pursuit of a happier planet.
What are the key differences between a Project Blank wetsuit and a traditional neoprene one?
We’ve got three main wetsuit constructions currently available: Eco Ultimate, Eco Performance & High Performance, all using slightly different sustainable materials. The main difference is in our Yulex (Eco Ultimate) suits – Yulex is an amazing plant-based rubber, made by harvesting the totally regenerative Guayule plant. The suits feel a bit different to your traditional neoprene wetsuit but they’re crazy durable, super warm and completely sustainable. Our high-performance wetsuits use limestone neoprene - it's an eco-friendlier version of the traditional neoprene found in a lot of wetsuits. None of the dirty old petroleum chemicals, but all of the flexibility, warmth and stretch that you’d expect with a high-quality wetsuit. Our Eco Performance wetsuits use carbon black rubber that's created from recycled car tyres – it’s another great alternative to traditional suits.
We notice you have a partnership with Seabin that ensures 1.2 kilos of trash is removed from the ocean for every wetsuit sold, that's awesome. In your opinion, how important is it for brands to go beyond being profit-driven, but also collaborate and ensure positive social and environmental impacts?
I think it’s essential for brands in today’s market. Consumers really care that brands have a strong environmental / ethical credos behind their products. It’s not just about slapping on an “eco-friendly” logo anymore. Brands need to ensure all sustainable statements are backed up with tangible proof and transparent processes. As a brand, we have a responsibility to lead with example on issues that are important to not just our consumers, but our planet as a whole. It’s part of the reason that Project Blank exists and a key part of our brand focus moving forward.
We like to ask interviewees their thoughts on the future of the surf industry. Can you look ahead 20 years and predict where the industry is headed?
Moving away from traditional petroleum neoprene wetsuits, like we’ve previously mentioned, is a massive part of it. Technology and plant-based / regenerative materials are advancing so quickly at the moment that there’s no excuse to be stuck using old fashioned, harmful fibres. Another huge issue that we’re tackling is Big Surf’s landfill problem. Every year over 380 tonnes of wetsuit waste is sent to landfill. That number is just growing every year and the majority of brands aren’t doing anything to fight it. We’re super excited to have recently launched a wetsuit recycling scheme that rewards consumers for sending us their old rubber. Every little effort to provide tangible solutions to these problems makes a massive difference.
The industry also still has a long way to go to ensure gender equality. It’s been male dominant for way too long. Whether we’re talking about competition prize money, parts in brand movies, opportunities for creatives / photographers or features in publications, there’s still some distance to go to set the balance straight. We’re working on a few campaigns to help here too – check back later in the year for updates.
Is there anything you've seen recently that excites you and gives you hope for the future of Planet Earth?
Oh wow, big question. There’s definitely been a lot of disheartening moments recently, from the dismantling of Roe v Wade in the US, to the invasion of Ukraine. The one thing that really stands out is how people manage to band together and mobilise in response to these threats to sanity, equality and common decency. Obviously, it would be better if we didn’t have to protest awful things happening, but the fact that kids today are so engaged with key issues offers a glimpse that the future is in good hands.
In terms of product design / manufacturing, I’m really excited by the possibilities of plant-based fibres replacing plastic / leather. Mushrooms, in particular, are massively exciting. There’s some amazing innovation going on in the fashion space and I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops.
Finally, what does the future hold for Project Blank and your sustainable journey forward?
We’ve got some awesome campaigns and projects coming up over the next 12 months. There’ll be a new construction of wetsuits landing at some point, a few very exciting film projects and a big step forward in our sustainability program. I’m staying tight-lipped with the details on these for now, but we’ll release some new information soon for sure.
Big thanks to Josh and the team at Project Blank for answering our call and sharing your story. To find out more and browse their range, check out their website.