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Looptworks – A New Way to Think About Sustainable Clothing

| Friday December 25th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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Take a look at the tag of the clothes you just got for Christmas. Where were they made? Most likely, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China or Peru. And? And with clothing manufacturing comes the scraps. The overage of a particular color fabric or button. The average factory produces 60,000 pounds of excess material each month–much of it thrown away.

But you’re not responsible for that, right? There’s not much you can really do, yes? If Looptworks has its way, that will begin to change. The startup makes clothing that upcycles this material into new clothing. In some cases, particularly the men’s clothing, you would never know the clothing wasn’t made from first run material. So much so that I had my doubts as to whether the clothing was indeed made from waste material, until I delved further into the source – the excess from manufacturers in the countries mentioned above.

I think this is a smart way to go, at least for the men’s line, so it will be more easily accepted, more broadly appealing, and wearable in a greater number of settings, making for a quicker mainstreaming of the idea that wearing clothes made from “waste” can be an everyday activity.

The women’s line lets the upcycled roots show through more clearly, having a more deconstructed, handcrafted look, which here again seems a wise move, given the current trends towards such things, even in big box stores.

It’s clear the people at Looptworks have thought this through, as its Ask Us Anything page covers thorny issues like where and why the clothes are made (Looptworks goes where the biggest excess is these days) does it take used clothing for sourcing (no, but here’s 5 things you can do, and if you donate your old Looptworks clothing, they’ll give you a discount on a future order) how it  packages its orders (bags made from upcycled material), etc.

The most interesting answer is what criteria they use to define the products as sustainable. It’s not whether it’s organic, fair trade, water based inks, and the other usual suspects. It’s how well it’s built, or as Looptworks puts it, “A product is truly sustainable when it’s made so well that it doesn’t need to be replaced frequently.”  The company goes on to explain how many clothing manufacturers intentionally have low quality standards so that the clothing wears faster and therefore needs replacing faster, as well.

When I wrote about Looptworks right before its launch in September, I had questions as to whether the pricing would include the “green tax,” and therefore cost more then a comparable non-renewably sourced garment. Now, more than three months into it, I can see the prices are in line with something you’d get at, say, Urban Outfitters. Not bargain priced, but within the norm of similar fashionable garments. And considering that these are by nature all limited editions, not cost benefitting from large volume manufacturing and guaranteed to be fairly unique, they’re quite reasonably priced.

Readers: What other examples of innovative, boundary stretching executions of sustainable clothing do you see out there? Would you wear/buy Looptworks clothing? Why or why not? Let’s talk, below in the comments.

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media.


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  • http://www.pacebutler.com/ John at Cellphone Recycling

    When it comes to clothing, what I have learned is the difference of organic cotton and 100% cotton. I realized that the latter one is not as safe as it sounds or as we know…

  • mcoc

    think you forget to add a link to the words “but here’s 5 things you can do”

  • http://www.pacebutler.com/ John at Cellphone Recycling

    When it comes to clothing, what I have learned is the difference of organic cotton and 100% cotton. I realized that the latter one is not as safe as it sounds or as we know…

  • mcoc

    think you forget to add a link to the words “but here’s 5 things you can do”