Crazy Shirts is one of the first companies in the Hawaiian Islands to design, manufacture, and sell t-shirts. For many Americans, it is emblematic of the Hawaiian Aloha lifestyle, selling the mystique of surf, sand, and sun in shirt form at shopping malls, airport gift shops, and coastside boardwalks from California to Florida. Recently, however, the Honolulu-based apparel maker made news for something slightly different. It’s making board shorts from recycled plastic bottles.
This is a growing trend in fashion design. Earlier this year, companies from Anvil to Sears and H&M announced the production of lines made from recycled polyethylene teraphthalate (PET). To produce each pair of Crazy Shirts board shorts, roughly seven 16-ounce recycled plastic bottles are used, converting the synthetic material into polyester PET microfiber. In a recent interview, President & CEO Mark Hollander spoke about how and why Crazy Shirts makes its eco board shorts.
Triple Pundit: Are there characteristic differences between the eco-board short and a conventional one? Is it softer, heavier, etc.?
Mark Hollander: You can’t skimp or put out an inferior product. We wouldn’t accept that and neither would our fans. These eco-board shorts are a little bit heavier fabric weight with a slightly heavier hand than the ones that we have presented over the years. However, they still are incredibly durable and comfortable, not to mention the environmental benefits.
3p: Are the production costs different than making a conventional board short?
MH: The actual manufacturing costs for Crazy Shirts eco-board shorts aren’t any different than our regular board shorts. However, the material costs are actually about 20 to 25 percent higher for the PET fabric.
3p: The eco-board short is a great example of sustainable design and fashion, yet the “green” messaging around isn’t very prominent on the website. As “green” is so popular these days, it would be easy to broadcast this as loudly as possible. What is the reasoning behind this?
MH: Being based in Hawaii, we are keenly aware of the fragile state of our environment. Should we do a better job of shouting this from the rooftops? Yes, we really should. But the reason we do these things isn’t for the publicity (although that is great), we do it because it is the right thing to do. We are far from perfect. We could always do more and are consciously balancing business concerns with our commitment to our communities and to the world around us.
3p: How is the material sourced?
MH: Crazy Shirts is not recycling this material per se, although we do have a very productive recycling program here at the factory. Our vendor provides fabric woven from registered PET (polyethylene teraphthalate) yarn, which mostly comes from suppliers in Taiwan, Japan and Korea. The plastic bottles that are ultimately recycled into the yarn are from “recycle pick up plants” located in those countries.
The Impact of Growing Trends
As PET polyester grows in popularity, some have voiced concern about the sourcing of recycled PET. Just as Crazy Shirts sources its material from several Asian nations, many environmental and plastics industry advocates argue that lenient policy standards in places like China create new problems in the solution of a singular one.
What is ultimately better for the environment in the long run—preventing plastic bottles from entering landfills or processing and transporting a recycled good halfway across the world? Plus, you have the economic issue. Plainly, it’s cheaper to perform these processes in Taiwan or Korea. In many ways, recycled PET runs analogously to arguments for and against domestic cap-and-trade policies. As the use of recycled PET becomes more and more mainstream similar to organic cotton, it will be interesting to see its environmental, economical, and political ramifications.