Upcycling fashion industry waste – like American Eagle and Atelier & Repairs are doing – can keep millions of tons of textiles out of landfills.
One brand’s trash has become your next treasure.
American Eagle is rolling out a capsule collection with apparel company Atelier & Repairs on Thursday that’s been crafted from cutting floor scraps and excess product that would otherwise have landed in landfills.
The upcycled denim mini skirts, jackets, sweatshirts, graphic tees and jeans running $48 to $128 will be available in 22 select stores beginning Thursday. Each piece is one-of-a-kind with hand-stitched, recycled embroidery, and floral, camo and poplin fabrics.
“The clothing industry is the second biggest polluter in the world, and it is responsible for about 10% of carbon emissions, and this made me think deeply about what I want to do to help,” Maurizio Donadi, co-founder of Atelier & Repairs, told Moneyish.
American Eagle is launching a clothing line made from garbage https://t.co/UEDHnSew5N
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“So I said, ‘OK – we’re not producing anything new anymore. We are using leftovers from defective items, pieces from old seasons or rejected by retailers, used and vintage clothing,” he added. “You find 2,000 pairs of chinos leftover in a garage somewhere, or a company’s defective items that didn’t get through quality control … and we rewash them, and patch them with materials that are also leftover, and it’s a work of love.”
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Mountains of castoff clothes and cutting room scraps are going to waste each year, and they contribute to global warming by releasing greenhouse gases as they decompose in landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency claims that recycling the 14 million tons (or 80 pounds per person) of textiles that get dumped each year would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars (and their carbon emissions) off the road.
So Donadi launched Atelier & Repairs Brand-2-Brand Excess Reduction Initiative two years ago to reconstruct and reintroduce apparel that already exists, and to transform these leftover materials from garment production into long-lasting goods. The American Eagle collaboration in honor of the retailer’s 40th anniversary is its first major commercial project. He also opened an A&R shop in the new Fred Segal L.A. store this week.
“We are learning that there are intelligent, sensitive companies like American Eagle that understand that in a mutual way, we can help each other and we can also leave the world a little bit better,” he said. The Atelier & Repairs x American Eagle collection rescued the distressed jeans and jackets and tees that came out a little too distressed during their initial production process to create the new line.
Going to such sustainable extremes is more in vogue than ever. H&M has also vowed to use only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 – 26% of its total materials were either recycled or sustainably sourced last year – and it invites customers to drop off any of their unwanted garments – no matter what brand or condition – in any H&M store in exchange for a 15% discount coupon for the next time you shop there. The retailer has collected more than 40,000 tons (or more than 100 million t-shirts worth) of garments since launching the program in 2013.
And in July, the Vetements fashion house raised awareness for garment waste with a Saks Fifth Avenue window installation displaying piles of old clothes from employees and the store’s last-season merch. The duds were later donated to the RewearABLE clothing recycling program that also employs adults with developmental disabilities.
The likely reason more companies aren’t making over their waste products for resale yet is because it’s a costly, time-intensive process to craft each piece. “In the world of fast-fashion, we are the slowest fashion you can have,” laughed Donadi, noting it can take up to 10 hours to refurbish a single garment. “But that’s also the beauty of it: the commitment that we have to making the objects different from each other. It’s very close to a work of art.”
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