The “Three R’s” of Responsible Manufacturing
Sustainability extends far beyond the use of certain materials, and involves thinking about everything from where materials are sourced to where products end up after you’re done wearing them. We call this holistic approach the Responsible Clothing Cycle.
Manufacturing is the first stage in our Responsible Clothing Cycle. Our approach to sustainability and responsible manufacturing goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to advanced materials and innovative construction. We believe that the most good derives from building quality products from quality materials, so that you don’t need to buy excess things. We strive to develop systems that limit waste and reliance on destructive practices.
The “make” stage is an exciting opportunity for innovative sustainability. We think about the “Three R’s,” Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse, throughout this stage.
When possible, we aim use high-quality recycled materials in our products. One of the materials that we’ve embraced in many of our products is S.Café™, a fiber made from recycled coffee. We love this fiber because in addition to taking an exciting approach to recycling, S.Café™ also has the technical benefit of odor-resistance thanks to coffee’s natural properties. Plus, it performs well in terms of look and feel.
The process for making garments from coffee begins by collecting used coffee grounds from two major coffee companies. The grounds are then processed into “master batch” by separating out the oils, and combining the remaining organic material with recycled plastic bottles. Next, fibers are extruded from the master batch and spun into yarns.
The oil that was extracted at the beginning of the process can be re-polymerized as Polyurethane, which we use for the waterproof-breathable membrane on our Mercury products. The 100% recycled S.Café™ yarns can then be woven or knit into fabrics, which we use in our Responsive shirts, Atlas Socks and more.
Clothing manufacturing can be a highly inefficient process, and we are constantly searching for new ways to streamline and reduce waste. With 3D Print-Knit™, we’re working to improve sustainability in three key ways:
1. Reducing our manufacturing footprint.
2. Reducing scrap material.
3. Manufacturing on demand.
3D Print-Knit™ helps reduce the manufacturing footprint by using robotic knitting machines instead of the traditional cut-and-sew garment-making process, which involves many workers, large facilities, and lots of wasted material. The 3D Print-Knit™ process uses a single machine to knit yarn into a complete complete garment in 1-2 hours, we are even able to maintain one of these machines on-site in our Boston flagship store.
This process also produces almost no scrap material. In the cut-and-sew process, about 35% of raw fabric would be wasted in the process of cutting patterns, but in 3D Print-Knit, we only produce the fabric needed for a garment, with no excess.
Looking to the future, we’re excited about the possibilities for using 3D Print-Knit™ on-demand. In other words, we can print garments to-order instead of ordering large batches from a manufacturer that may eventually result in unused garments going to clearance or even being thrown away. We’re already making our 3D Print-Knit™ dresses on-demand, and we plan to expand this capability to more garments.
We aim to manufacture clothing that will have a long lifespan, but that sometimes means that the garment will outlast its appeal to you. You may be ready to retire it before it's ready to retire. To solve this problem, we started 1 In, 1 Out, a donation program to repurpose dress clothes. Simply bring the used items to the store, or return them using the same packaging that your new items arrived in. We’ll find a new home - and an extended life - for those garments.
When clothes do reach the end of their lives, the materials we use are often still useable for other applications. To this end, we’ve partnered with companies such as Refleece to turn used–but still useful–fabrics into new products. When a garment no longer works well for its original purpose, it can be given a new life as a bag or computer case.