But, why upcycle?

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Upcycling is a lot of work. Many times people in the clothing industry have suggested we use organic cotton or bamboo, so why use old shirt material to create new garments?

It’s a great question that we can tackle one bit at a time.

First—it’s amazing material. Men’s dress shirts are made from long length cotton fiber, the top 3% of the world’s cotton output. This is the kind of cotton that just feels great to wear. It is luxuriously soft and still looks great after years of washing. Melina and I love working with it and dressing our kids in it.

Second—it’s already made. When we found out that so many amazing garments, particularly high quality cotton dress shirts, end up as rags or in the landfill, we became passionate about saving this material. Why grow a new fiber when we have a beautiful resource hanging in our own closets?

Last—the alternatives are not very desirable. Although cotton is a great fiber, growing it for new material takes a lot of water, about 400 gallons of water to make one adult t-shirt. You can use fast-growing bamboo, but this has environmental costs as well: The bamboo goes through a chemical process, which requires multiple bleaching steps to be turned into a pulp, which can then be turned into fabric. Hemp, Tencel and other natural fabrics also have their own environmental concerns.

What we have learned is that there is no sustainable fabric. Everything has it’s list of pros and cons.Reusing existing material made the most sense to us. Lets use what we have in new, creative ways.

Repurposing an existing garment creates more obstacles in creating a new garment than simply cutting off the amount you need from a bolt of fabric and putting a garment together factory-line style. The reason the garment was discarded needs to be considered. Perhaps there is a tear, blemish or other unfavorable feature that can’t be used. Creative pattern making, skilled garment cutters and work arounds need to be done to make upcycling scalable. We hope that with the resurgence of this way of thinking that it will become more efficient and cost effective.

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Next week: Sourcing shirts

Our Journey

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When we set out to start a company, we didn’t know what we were getting into. Like most projects, we were filled with lots of ideas and a healthy dose of optimism. We had no idea the difficult road ahead of us. However, despite challenges, it’s been a wonderful journey that, not to be too cheesy, has ultimately changed us as people, and blown away so many of the things we took for granted, or never really thought about at all.

I’m ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.

Melina and I both sew. A little. She had run a bonnet company with her mother, making cute hand-sewn bonnets that she sold in a few local stores. I had been sewing a few rompers for my new son out of my husband’s dress shirts. Putting our two concepts together, we started a children’s clothing line made from upcycled designer men’s dress shirts.

When we began, we envisioned a company like TOMS Shoes- with a great social mission that also turned a profit.  We wanted to design well-made children’s clothing, with an upcycling twist, and have Nordstroms call and say “Congratulations, we love you, here’s a million dollars, and we’ll help you get launched.”

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

We worked on patterns, logos, taglines, pricing, social media marketing and sourcing dress shirts. We worked on figuring out manufacturing. We looked at business models, wrote business plans, and started to learn the difference between sewing pieces for a craft fair, and scaling up to manufacturing.

We also learned about the dark side of textile waste and manufacturing, as well as human nature and the fickle shopping experience.

The process has been daunting and overwhelming, but way too inspiring to quit.

Follow us as we share our journey, telling where we’ve been, what we’ve learned and what we plan to do next.

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