Project name

Zero waste bags

Status

launched in S/S 2017

location

New York City

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Objective

To create zero waste fashion products by using low environmental impact materials and manual sorting process.

For the launch, a total of 5 styles were created:  dopp kits for men and women, 2 unisex totes and mini gym bags. In order to reach the zero waste goal, each bag was designed using angular geometric shapes, squares and rectangles ensure the pattern pieces fit tightly into a grid. This helped yield little waste during sample making and production. The only outlier is the mini gym bag, a circular shape was used on the sides. In hindsight, replacing it with a square would have been more efficient with similar results. 

During the sample making process, scraps  were manually collected and separated into bins for scraps, and recycled paper.  Some companies take scrap fabrics to reuse as building materials while others are used in schools and retirement homes for crafting purposes. Fabscrap is a fantastic startup that collects fabric scraps in the NYC area for this purpose. The image below contains samples made during the past 5 years of making bags. ( Yes I kept a lot of the scraps inside containers not sure what to do with. ) Under the "resource" section from the top navigation has a few links for how to donate fabric scraps. 

 Fab Scrap pick up.

Fab Scrap pick up.

Sourcing  Eco friendly materials was extremely time consuming and challenging, sure there were a lot of organic cotton and hemp available, but in order to create sturdy bags, had to be more resourceful in finding the materials with more structure.  Another challenge was, finding locally made materials. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, it took a lot of research and in the end, had to rethink my sustainable goals to be less rigid.  Lastly the lack of transparency from vendors was more common among non Eco friendly suppliers.   

To fully understand the fashion production cycle for "cotton based products" or any naturally grown materials.  Crops are harvested and then transported to mills for processing into raw materials. Non organic crops use pesticides, which contaminates the water supply.  The fibers go through the treatment process, either dyed or chemicals to be a wrinkle or stain resistant. Both these processes takes up and pollute a lot of water.  Next the fabrics are transported to factories where roughly about 20% of the raw materials (cotton) end up on the factory floors.  Most factories use CAD systems like Gerber  and Lectra to optimize to reduce fabric waste. 

In May, was the launch date of our first sustainable line of bags, where I produced 30+ bags including multiple samples. Utilizing all low impact materials ranging from environmentally managed fibers to fibers made from 100% recycled water bottles, while applying a highly manual process to ensure no waste is produced during production. 

 
 Tote bag pattern uses angular geometric shape little waste is generated from this type of shape.

Tote bag pattern uses angular geometric shape little waste is generated from this type of shape.

 

Summary:


 

1.

Mass manufacturing is over production, robbing earth resources and continually to increase pollution. Raw materials that are not sold sits on warehouse and factories some for up to 2 years. They are either sold off to fabric stores or in landfills. Companies can adopt new ways to manage overages by reducing mass manufacturing to bespoke or on demand type production. By adapting to new tech like to sew bots, perhaps a new way of manufacturing isn't far away. In the meantime, consumers need to use their wallets to help force companies to make environmental changes fast. The fact that the fashion industry pollutes at every stage in the process and the lack of transparency is very alarming.

 

 

2.

Local and sustainable raw materials were the original goal for my bags, but with the lack of options and availability, I shifted my sustainable goal to utilize materials there were had lower environmental impact.  While some stabilizers were not sustainable made, they were made in the USA. Sourcing local materials reduces carbon emission that would otherwise pollute the air because of long transports. Besides organic cotton, hemp, paper, bamboo, plant cellulose fibers and recycled fibers, there are a lot of other alternatives in finding materials with low environmental impact.

Recycled Water Bottles

High-quality canvas  made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles collected in Haiti and manufactured in the United States. This is one step we’ve found to make a positive impact in the world, without losing anything in the design or comfort of our products. Blending an innovative, urban style with a touchable feel, our heavyweight canvas bags bring a designer look to environmental and ethical responsibility.

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Wool felt

We get our wool from Filzfabrik-wurzen, a Germany-based company. In 2009, they implemented an environmental management system according to ISO14001 – 2004, which is a set of standards relating to environmental management. This management system exists to help organizations minimize the negative effects of their operations on the environment and comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally-oriented requirements. Filzfabrik-wurzen has been producing high-quality wool felt since 1884.

Martexin Original Cotton

The heavy Martexin water-repellent finish that is completely integrated within our cotton twill provides a strong and supple material. And, don’t worry, there’s no environmentally damaging fluoropolymers or formaldehyde!

Vintage and Dead Stock

Did you know that 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution is caused by the fashion industry? Over 8000 toxic chemicals are used worldwide to turn raw materials into the clothing on the fashion market today. And, because traditional fashion cycles have four seasons – and fast fashion companies produce a new cycle even more frequently – there is an artificial demand for consumption, creating a surplus of unused raw materials. America alone sends over 11 million tons of textiles to landfills each year!

We want to change that.

While we are working on a long-term solution for our company, one of our temporary solutions is to use dead stock – the unused fabrics that lay abandoned in factory storages. We look for fabrics that are completely unused in bag fabrication, to ensure an original look in all our designs. Quantities of the dead stock we use vary, making some of our unique bags limited edition.

 

When we first set out in establishing our sustainable goal, we were told that there were very few options and styles available for Eco friendly designers, they were often way more and very basic, as if the manufacturer didn't care. Once we were told to compromise our goals to make it work, since consumers won't be able to tell. Sure, life is sometimes about compromises, but at what point do we say no to this? Especially for the future of the planet and its inhabitants. Even though we were able to achieve zero waste from design to production, we were not able to source 100% zero waste materials. Given there were left over materials, we will be sure to make good use of the dead stock within our studio.

Final thoughts.