According to the Environmental Protection Agency there is an estimated 12.4 million tons of textiles that were generated in 2008 and it is estimated that the average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing each year. Basically, there are a lot of textiles that are used each year. Recycled fashion means that in a small way we reduce the amount of waste associated with this culture of fast fashion.
Most of the clothing that is disposed of each year is still very wearable, but it is thrown out simply because it is out of style, old, or we are just tired of it; however, recycled fashion uses the perfectly good textiles and re-works them into up to date styles - or upcycling.
A large portion of our clothing is made from recycled or upcycled materials. This means that each piece was previously anything from t-shirts to a button down shirt. They are then washed thoroughly, de-constructed, and re-constructed into a completely new garment. When we are designing an upcycled piece, we will choose to use garments that we know can be sourced easily in the second hand market...grey t-shirts a very easy to come by; in this way we can mass produce garments that are recycled. Our recycling process looks something like this...
#1...Choosing Textiles to be Recycled
We have learned to be creative in our use of textiles. It can be a challenge to produce the quantity needed with sometimes limited resources, so we choose raw materials that we know we can get enough of to produce a collection. Here are some of our favorites:
Button Down Shirts
#2...Gathering Fabrics to be Recycled
Sourcing our textiles looks something like going to a thrift store and finding 200 grey t-shirts - although it rarely looks like that. Some of our fabrics are bought right here in the US from Goodwill Outlets were textiles can be bought by the pound. This way we can hand select fine quality silks and wools.
This makes up only a small percentage of our raw materials the rest are sourced from the developing countries were we work. Most second hand clothing is shipped to developing countries after we are done with it in the West. It is estimated that about 70% of clothing bought in sub-Saharan Africa is second hand. This works out well with our supply chain as most of our groups work in these areas. Although their second hand stores look nothing like ours - we source second hand clothes from open air markets in Ghana, Haiti, and Honduras.
Other materials that we recycle like factory cut-offs, flour sacks, and recycled ikat can be found in local markets as these are a cultural resource.
#3...Washing the Fabrics
Yep, we make sure that everything is washed before we give it a second life!
To cut down on additional time and labor, garments are not completely de-constructed before we start renovating them. We remove buttons, cuffs, zippers and items we can re-use in other Liz Alig garments. Next we take out the least number of seams necessary to make the garment usable as a piece of fabric again.
#5...A New Garment is Made
Finally the new garment is sewn by seamstresses from one of our fair trade partner groups.
The US Enviromental Protection Agency estimates that 97% of textiles are able to be recycled, SO donate them to second hand stores or charity shops. Even if they are 'unwearable' it is estimated that only 6% of the textiles donated to charity shops go into trash. They can sell your wholly, painted, greasy garments to textile collection centers to be recycled for rags. Also, almost 70% of the world wears second hand clothes so if it is not sold here it will be shipped to a developing country and sold there.