It’s no secret that the fashion industry generates a lot of waste, and not just on the cutting-room floor. From customer returns to overstock, the world’s apparel brands and retailers amass millions of garments every year. But not everything that’s relegated to the “toss” pile is damaged beyond recognition. Many of the items deemed unsellable possess only minor flaws: a broken zipper, perhaps, or a small rip in the fabric. Since most companies lack the infrastructure to repair these defects, anything that’s less-than-perfect is either donated overseas or condemned to the landfill. But Nicole Bassett and Jeff Denby, a pair of apparel-industry vets, knew there had to be a better way. To mitigate some of the 26 billion tons of textiles that Americans throw out annually, the duo founded The Renewal Workshop, a social enterprise that will sort, clean, and repair blemished merchandise to give it new life.
A FEW SMALL REPAIRS
After the brands offload their clothing rejects, the Renewal Workshop cleans them at its Oregon-based facility using Tersus Solutions’s waterless processing platform.
“Our partners are the first in the industry to become closed-loop brands leading the circular economy,” Bassett said.
Any damage, like missing buttons, is dealt with, and the resulting “Renewed Apparel” is either sent back to the original brand for resale or gets sold directly to the consumer via the Renewal Workshop’s online storefront, which will debut this fall.
Products that cannot be renewed are responsibly upcycled, downcycled, or donated. Nothing gets sent to the landfill, Bassett and Denby said.
“By building a factory here in America, we are able to provide the infrastructure that allows apparel brands to rethink what was once a waste problem,” Bassett, who spent years working on supply-chain sustainability, said in a statement. “Our partners are the first in the industry to become closed-loop brands leading the circular economy.”
Zach Ware, managing partner of VTF Capital, a venture-capital fund that supports the Renewal Workshop, said that the company’s process could eventually set a “new sustainability standard for retail.”
“The Renewal Workshop represents a paradigm shift in retail responsibility, injecting new value into previously unusable items,” Ware said. “It’s inspiring to see a company challenge a stagnant, decades-old industry practice.”
Looks like refreshing is the new recycling.