If you were to go into a clothing factory and have a look around, you’d see the huge amount of wastage that occurs during the manufacture of clothing for all those brands out there.
There’s tonnes of the stuff – cotton off-cuts and scraps all over the factory floor. And you can probably hazard a guess as to what most of them do with it too... that’s right, they bin it and send it all to a landfill site. Good cotton going to waste for no reason.
We wondered what could be done with that old junk material. We figured we should try to make something new with it. So we worked with the factory to fix this.
Now we are able to take all the cotton waste from those other brands and we recycle it. Those scraps are mulched into something that resembles cotton wool, ready for re-spinning into a new recycled cotton yarn, which can be made into new garments.
And interestingly, because it’s a mix of all different grades of cotton, it gives our recycled cotton pieces an irregular and washed out look and a really cosy soft hand feel.
The irony is that most of the companies who are throwing their old cotton away actually have to use harsh chemicals and processes to achieve that look. All we do is sweep up and use what they throw away.
You could bang on about the history of the T-shirt until you’re blue. You know the story. Post war military service created a ground-up fashion phenomenon. Hot rodders schooled in mechanics in the Marines started wearing their old service T-shirts on the drag strip and around the same time surfboard builders working beneath California piers began giving T-shirts to the hottest local surfers. The first branded T-shirts predated the rock n’ roll revolution and Brando and Jimmy Dean on the silver screen.
Pretty soon an accidental fashion phenomenon was converted to agitprop – sloganeering slipped into the role that advertising copywriters would soon take over. Now crowd sourcing is the buzzword and easy screen printing melds the analogue process with digitally created design. The point of a great T-shirt is to fuse a way of looking at the world with your every day life, and there are as many ways of looking at the world represented on the front of a T-shirt as there are everyday lives.
But a T-shirt’s not a T-shirt unless it’s made from the right cotton, the right weight of weave. It can have the coolest design you’ve ever seen, but unless the neck of the T-shirt sits well on you, it might as well be a wall hanging or a tea towel.
howies make nice t-shirts.
Back in 2000, I fell in love with Merino. I loved its function, its quality and most of all that nature provided it. And because it came from the land, one day after it had come to the end of its day, it could return to the land too.
I was sold. I still am.
It was my answer to all those petro-chemical base layers out there, which I know from using them, just don’t do what the packaging says they do. (Nice packaging though.)
Around a year ago, we started a project to find out what the footprint of each of our products were.
David Hicks sat in front of a computer collating the data, and also working out what it meant. To find out the truths and not just what we had assumed.
And the truth of it is we didn’t like some of the results.
Moving the production of Merino from New Zealand to Fiji a couple of years ago to save a few pennies had increased our carbon footprint many fold. And we didn’t even know.
What we had not been aware of was that the fibre had gone from New Zealand to China to be made into yarn, then had gone back to New Zealand to be made into fabric. That’s before it even arrived in Fiji. After Fiji had made it into our garments, it was flown back to New Zealand. Then onto LA. Then to London. Then finally to Cardigan.
It was ugly everywhere you looked. It was a bit like finding out your dad swore as a kid. That said, Merino is a truly great product. The best there is. And because we use the highest grade that we can find, ours has a great reputation. And regularly wins the awards against all the big boys.
But how we are making it right now is dumb. It doesn’t fit with our aim to produce the lowest impact clothing that we can. That hurts. But the truth isn’t always what you want it to be. So we have to change. Stop making it in Fiji is the first thing we have to do.
Then we have to work out if it is best to make it New Zealand or actually if the Merino is being turned into yarn in China, whether it is best to make it there. The lesson has been learnt.
We have to look at our footprint as much as the unit price.
The worst CO2 figure in our range is Merino. A long sleeve NBL generates 2.60 kg of CO2 from fibre to delivery in Cardigan, and the product travels 45,809 km in total.
The supply chain is:
Fibre from Southern Alps, NZ.
Goes to China to be made into yarn.
Back to NZ to be made into fabric.
On to Fiji to be cut & sewn.
To the UK via Auckland and LA.
Then London to Cardigan.
- Posted by howies
- 1 December 2008
They have at times been the subject of makeovers and suffered the whimsy of fashionistas that try to re-invent them. They always come back stronger and more focused after such trifling. I can do every thing in my life with them that seems worth doing and what can’t be done with them I couldn’t care less about. We have been on some incredible journeys together and they have been to some of the best gigs of all time with me.
They have never been perfect in any way at any time but they have been more understanding and forgiving of my ability to go from one reality to another in the flick of an eye, one minute we could be skating a ditch, later in the day we’d be hill climbing and at the end of the day we could be either dancing like dervishes at a party, riding BMX bikes or riding fixies to a gig 25 miles into god knows where, they never back down from a challenge and have never let me down.
I don’t want to climb Everest in them but if I wanted to they’d come with me, but like me we’d all be out of our depth, no matter though as they’d still do their job and with a few extra mates to fill in the gaps, I’m sure we’d be able to conquer those extremities too, but I’m not interested in being that extreme. I just want to keep it simple and that’s why they are always there for me.
Whether I’m slashing a kerb in a car park, jumping off cliffs into the sea or out on my bike they are ready to take it. They also like a walk to the shops too.
I used to ride 50 miles with them when I was in my mid-teens and that was when we were wearing nylon pants and bell bottoms, always laughing our asses off and having a great time. So I’d just like to use this space to say thanks to my two friends with whom I have spent so many good times with that they too should take some credit for what we’ve all done.
Mr Jeans and Mr T-shirt your simplicity and adaptability has made my life better. Cheers for helping make a six feet five lanky fella with a love for bikes, boards and mischief find a uniform that lasted longer than any fashion or trend, classics they are not, icons they are.