Mauro: Clothes with a great story are always a better fit!

In 2021, he founded the sustainable clothing brand Mausons: men’s underwear made of fibres from sustainably grown wood pulp. Years of research preceded this move. This is because Mauro Wilson Estevão wanted to make a serious impact with a high-quality clothing production that stands for good working conditions, making the least possible impact on the environment, and creating softer fabrics under the name of Friendly Fashion. “I believe you can have a positive influence on people and inspire them by showing them that there are better options.”

Text Rachel Sloven
Image Saskia Kropff

“The garment industry has a huge problem with pollution,” explains Mauro. “It starts with the production process. Pesticides are used for growing cotton and the process requires massive amounts of water. That dirty water then goes back into nature. On top of that, most textiles are grown and produced in poor countries where underpaid workers get sick from the chemicals found in the textiles as well as in the drinking water. And then you also have textiles made entirely of polyester, recycled polyester, nylon or other plastics, which leave microplastics behind. Not a very nice story behind those new trousers, is it? Consumers don’t know enough or close their eyes to it. I want to change that.”

Accidental media hype

This drive to improve the world certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. For more on that, we’ll have to go back to 2011, when Estevão inadvertently found himself at the centre of media hype, as the symbol for everything that was wrong with the Dutch asylum policy. At the age of nine, he was put on a plane alone to Europe by his Angolan parents and eventually ended up in the Netherlands, where he was lovingly cared for by a family in Limburg. When he was forced to leave the Netherlands at 18, his story received national attention. It eventually led to the introduction of children’s amnesty and a residence permit for Mauro.

“I don’t talk much about that now,” he says. “Now I’m working on the sequel and I hope people will get to know me through that. In fact, I think it’s more fun. Because the way I am now and the kind of person I’ve become seems more interesting to me than who I was. I realise, of course, that what happened has shaped who I am today. My history and I are intertwined.”

Eureka moment

When Mauro’s girlfriend became pregnant with their daughter seven years ago, he knew he had to flip a switch. “Until that point I was just a boy with a lot of fears, anger and sadness. I often saw life as a burden. Becoming a father made me want to improve my life and work on my personal development. I had to move on. The moment I decided that was my eureka moment. It was during this same period that I thought of the plan to start Mausons. I was working as a system administration employee at a school. After seven years, I no longer thought that suited me, so when the urge for personal growth presented itself, I quit.”

With Mausons, which produces breathable and silky men’s underwear, Mauro wants to show that it is possible to run every facet of the production process in a positive and fair way. “I work with the Austrian textile company Lenzing, which makes TENCE Modal fibres. These are extracted from the pulp of naturally grown beech and eucalyptus wood, in specially designated and managed forest areas in Austria and other regions. From there, the fabrics go to the Adalberto company in Portugal, which then turns them into clothes. After that, they come directly to me.”

Closed-loop system

Both companies work with a circular, closed-loop system. Water is reused and textiles are softened with a chlorine-free agent. Lenzing creates its own power for the production process and they make their own water-based paint in Portugal. I only want to work with companies and people who are part of the solution. That feels right and it’s the only way the whole story stays true,” says Mauro.

“Ultimately, every process costs energy. Nothing can ever be 100 percent sustainable. So the key is to choose the way that has the least negative impact. This is the best option at this point, and soon there will probably be something else. Sustainable business is constantly evolving and moving with the times.”

Like a gift

Mauson’s packaging material can go straight into the recycling container. “My clothes themselves are not yet compostable unfortunately, as they still contain five percent elastane. But the new collection will be.  A product that has all the details ironed out generates respect for itself, and makes you want to spend money on it and make it last longer. Like getting a gift from someone you like. You’re also careful with things like that.”

Being in control

“I only really got to know myself once I took control of my life,” he explains. “That doesn’t happen when others decide everything for you, because there are no choices left for you to make. The fact that I was sent away by my parents was the first rejection I felt. I had to leave the country I grew up in. You have to make sure that sadness doesn’t take over.”

“I had to try my best to trust people again, whereas distrust isn’t actually in my nature. I found out how much beauty there is when you let people in. I also discovered that I’m someone who has the guts to do things and who can easily approach people. When I have something in my head, I keep going until I succeed. There is no such thing as no.”

Expanding the collection

Mauro has also recently started his Mausons podcast to help inspire other entrepreneurs to market themselves in sustainable ways. The spotlight is on start-ups that, like his own, aim to improve the world. “I’m already kind of well-known and can get in the news more easily, but there are entrepreneurs with much cooler ideas than me who may not get the chance to showcase themselves. So I created a platform where people can tell their own stories for free for half an hour and come in contact with each other.”

The Mausons brand is growing. A crowdfunding campaign in May 2023 helped raise 65,000 euros. “I wanted to expand my collection and reach more people,” explains Mauro. “This summer there will be T-shirts, shirts, socks and jumpers in addition to boxer shorts, and I’ll be looking for good marketing people. That will help me focus on everything I just can’t get around to now. Less packing and more promotional work would already be a great first step.”

Giving something back

“One euro from every Mausons item sold goes to the Stichting Het Vergeten Kind (The Forgotten Child Foundation). “I wanted to give something back,” he says. “I’m still working through the process myself and know what it’s like not to be seen or heard. I actually wanted to become an ambassador for them, but apparently I needed a larger following and more exposure for that. Who knows, maybe one day.”

“It’s all a step-by-step process, but eventually the ultimate goal is running a physical shop with my products,” he says. I envision a community of ambassadors, influencers, entrepreneurs and consumers who believe in my vision. In the meantime, I’ll keep on developing. That challenge just makes it extra fun.”

Creating new standards

“If something fits nicely, then you’re already halfway there to your concept being a success, because consumers will come back. If on top of that it also offsets the shady, polluting garment industry and helps contribute to a better world, then it’s worth its weight in gold.”

“Everyone who buys Mausons can proudly identify with this brand and what it stands for. Clothes with a great story are always a better fit. I want to bring consumers the choice of better clothes with positivity and a smile. When you deprive people of the better, sustainable option, there is only the other, less than preferable option that remains. I would love to create the new standard. That takes time, but I believe it can be done.”

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