Woman holding surfboard

How Rod Ximenes is creating change with sustainable and ethical surf gear

Aimee Littleboy
March 13, 2020

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Discover why Panamuna created clothing with a conscience.

Our aim is to make people conscious of the impact they have on the environment due to the choices they make.

ROd ximenes

Panamuna is an independent surf label created by husband and wife team Rod Ximenes and Alana Carlson.  They donate a percentage of every purchase to environmental groups working toward defending and improving the current state of the ocean.

Rod combined his passion for surfing and fashion to create the company and they’re known for their sustainable and ethical t-shirts, hats, board shorts and surfboard covers, but their core product is their range of t-shirts that they design and print themselves. 

MetaFuro spoke to Rod about Panamuna’s sustainable and ethical products and about their goal of making people conscious of the impact they have on the environment. 

Tell us about Panamuna, how was it created?

Panamuna is an independent surf label where protecting our oceans is at the heart of everything we do. Our project is to infuse style and simplicity with new sustainable methods to develop our gear. Through this our aim is to make people conscious of the impact they have on the environment due to the choices they make.

We originally established Panamuna in 2011 whilst living in Victoria but took a break from the business when we decided to relocate our family to Northern NSW. After ensuring everyone was settled, we relaunched Panamuna in May 2015 with a whole new vision – of raising awareness of our impact on the planet, particularly on our oceans, and creating change in the surf wear industry by producing sustainably and ethically produced gear.

How did you come up with the name Panamuna?

We were looking for a name that would suit our philosophy and we wanted something that had a connection to the ocean. Whilst scrolling through internet pages we stumbled upon the word ‘panamuna’. It is an Aboriginal word from Modern Murri that means ‘ocean’ and seemed a logical choice, as all of us here at Panamuna have had a deep and personal connection to the ocean and are active in the conservation of all things linked to it.

Tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Rodrigo Ximenes, co-founder of Panamuna. I was born and bred by the ocean and now I am the father of two young, energetic boys who also love the water. I am lucky enough to live with my wife and boys on the pristine Tweed Surf Coast in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia. After high school, I studied a Bachelor of Business. Heading into the workforce I searched relentlessly to find a job that would maintain my interests and keep me passionate and enthusiastic about going to work every day. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything that fulfilled this need, and so the idea for Panamuna was born.

What is the process of creating your products?

We have many processes that we go through to create our products:

  • Using 100% organic cotton in our tees and singlets – this cotton is grown without the use of harmful chemicals. This means that it is 100% pesticide and insecticide free, with only the use of natural fertilisers to enrich the soil. This helps to improve the quality of the land, prevent water contamination and to conserve biodiversity. It also is much better for your skin, our largest organ, which is constantly in contact with the fabric. Furthermore, the cotton sourced for our t-shirts is grown in monsoon regions, reducing the need for heavy-duty irrigation of the crop.
  • Our designs are printed locally using water-based inks – printing our own t-shirts using eco-friendly methods enables us to think globally but to also act locally, reducing stock wastage,supporting local industry in our region, making a difference to small business owners. The inks used do not contain any PVC or phthalates, and it only requires water for the cleaning of the silk screens after use and minimal cleaning, rather than heavy solvents. There are also no ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFC’s and HCFC’s contained in the ink, and they are free from lead, heavy metals or any toxic chemicals whatsoever.
  • All packaging is biodegradable – we have made a conscious decision to make any packaging we use plastic free. The habit of our society to resort to single use plastics is the main danger to the astonishing marine life that inhabits our oceans. It is believed that a staggering 46,000 pieces of plastic can be found in every square kilometre of ocean, which leads to the death of hundreds of thousands of marine creatures and sea birds every year! Our love of the ocean here at Panamuna is so deep that we in no way wanted to contribute further to this issue. We package our gear in parcels that are 100% compostable and we wrap each individual item by hand.
  • T-shirts are manufactured using renewable energy – the primary energy source that is used to produce our gear is wind, and when the wind turbines do not produce enough electricity it is supplemented with solar power. It goes without saying that these forms of renewable electricity would considerably cut down on the emission of fossil fuels, making the production of these t-shirts almost carbon neutral.
How do you find the process of creating your products and getting samples of your designs?

This is an incredibly slow process if it is for anything other than t-shirts, as we want to ensure that every product we manufacture is as sustainable and ethically produced as possible. That requires a rigorous and thorough sampling process. If it is t-shirt designs, this is a little less arduous, as we know who our t-shirt supplier is and the work that has gone in to sourcing environmentally friendly and ethically produced t-shirts has already been completed and we are happy with the result. We are confident that our products are of the highest quality, both physically and morally.

How Panamuna prints their t-shirts
Panamuna prints their t-shirts locally using sustainable and eco-friendly methods
How important was feedback and collaboration to you during your design process?

Panamuna is not run by a single person, but rather by a team of passionate and creative individuals who share a common desire for the ocean’s beauty, and all contained within it, to be preserved. Therefore, collaboration is a key feature of the business model of Panamuna. Without it, we would not be where we are today.

Where are your products made and manufactured?

The t-shirts we purchase are manufactured in Bangladesh under strict ethical and environmental standards and are actually the same t-shirt supplier as that used by Patagonia and Sea Shepherd for their gear. The board shorts are manufactured in China, also under strict guidelines. 

We believe we need to take care of all the people in our supply chain and ensure they are compensated adequately for the work that they engage in and the product that is produced. The printing of the light t-shirts is all done by us in our backyard studio and the printing of very dark shirts is done by a local eco-friendly screen printer.

Do you think there is a benefit to manufacturing your products locally?

The benefit to manufacturing locally means that we are able to ensure that the quality is of a high standard before we engage in production and that workers are paid properly and are working in suitable conditions. Other than that, the benefit to us as a business is minimal. What it does, however, is support other local small businesses to continue to do the work they are doing, feed their families and stimulate our economic growth as a nation.

How has Panamuna made their products sustainable and environmentally friendly?

At Panamuna, we have spent many long hours researching the most sustainable and ethical way to produce our gear. We use organic materials that are free from insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers, which helps to reduce water pollution. Our printing methods are also eco-friendly, using only water-based inks. All our packaging is also compostable, completely biodegradable and plastic free.

In addition to the way we produce our gear, we also help to improve the health of our local beaches and the ocean by running community events such as beach clean ups and awareness campaigns through our social media following. We hope to inspire individuals to lead an ocean friendly lifestyle by becoming more conscious consumers. We regularly post ideas to encourage people to think about the way they interact with the environment around them and we highlight the need for more action, action that can easily be achieved by a single individual.

Panamuna features sustainable and ethical products in store
Why is it important that your company focuses on being environmentally friendly and sustainable?

Here at Panamuna this is a no brainer… the textile industry and clothing manufacturing are one of the highest polluting industries in the world, superseded only by the petroleum industry. We wanted to change the tide and they way people purchased their clothes so that we had a positive, rather than negative, impact on our planet. We have made a commitment to produce high quality sustainable gear and we don’t settle for anything less. 

What have been the biggest benefits since creating Panamuna?

Getting to spend my days focusing on pursuing my passion and opening our eyes further on what is sustainable living and how we can achieve that for the sake of our family and our planet. I am very proud of how we have built our business and brand on very little capital and just a lot of determination and persistence. We have stayed true to our morals and ethics when it would have been easier and more profitable not to have. I am very grateful for that.

What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome them?

The greatest challenge was finding high quality sustainable and ethical products that would suit our purpose and match our vision. We had to research thoroughly and through trial and error (or sampling as it is called in the textile industry) we were able to find products that met our criteria. We also decided to print the t-shirt designs onto the t-shirts for ourselves to reduce stock wastage and ensure sustainable and ethical practices were being implemented at this stage.

Any tips or advice you have for someone looking to start their own business?

Follow your passion and don’t listen to those that say you can’t. Be patient but be persistent and prove the doubters wrong.

Who inspires you?

All the people and organisations that are fighting for a more sustainable future and who are activists in the preservation of our marine environments.

When did you know you were onto something special?

I’ve always known that the concept behind Panamuna was unique and something different in the surf wear realm. However, when people started approaching us to stock our shirts in their stores, and when the response at weekend markets was overwhelmingly positive, we knew that we had hit the mark with our products and messages.

Panamuna shirt
What are your vision and goals for the company?

Our next step for this year is to investigate and look for sustainable ways to expand our range of surf wear. We are also introducing the Young Guns project, an initiative that gives opportunities to young and up and coming graphic designers who are still at school to get their designs out into the market. Ultimately, in the long run, we would like to see Panamuna grow big enough to be a self-sustaining enterprise.

Have an idea for a Founder Story?

If you are a founder, or know a brand you would like to learn more about in our Founder Stories, send us a message with some details and we can add them to our growing list of like-minded entrepreneurs!

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