Next month, Sears will begin selling men’s suits made of fabric that is derived, in part, from plastic soda bottles. An Isreali contract clothing manufacturer, Bagir Group Ltd., is making the garments for Sears’ private label Covington Perfect brand. The fabric, dubbed Ecopet, contains recycled PET plastic blended with wool, viscose and cotton or with other synthetics, according to Reuters, and is produced by Teijin, a Japanese chemical company.
To weave enough of the fabric to produce one suit, Teijin says it uses 25 plastic soda bottles (2-liter size) but no additional oil. But what is most likely to really attract shoppers is the fabric’s feel, its price and its care label. According to the producer, the suits, which are styled in a classic look, don’t have the heavy, plasticy hand of the polyester suits of yore (read: leisure suits). And at $250 for a full suit, the line is competitively priced. But because it’s machine washable, there are additional savings over the life of the suit, compared to suits that must be dry-cleaned (a process without a great environmental profile).
Sears is rolling out the product at 500 of its stores, based on positive customer reaction to sample-testing the suits it Boston, Chicago, and New York-area stores.
Repurposing PET into a fabric is nothing new (bottles are used in everything from laptop cases to high-end shell jackets from Patagonia). The hotel chain Wyndham Hotels and Resorts even issues uniforms to its employees that contain recycled plastic material.
But what makes this line of suits unique is its attractive price-point and the fact that Sears is will be introducing this environmentally-friendly clothing option to a mainstream consumers, rather than those who frequent high-end specialty shops that have been the biggest purveyors of these types of products in the past.
If Sears embraces this Ecopet and its ilk of fabrics, its biggest competitors (JCPenny and Kmart spring to mind) are likely to as well.