As a consumer, you should be aware that 12.7 million tons of textiles end up in the landfill every year. And now there’s a startup that is aiming to greatly reduce that number. The Renewal Workshop partners with the world’s best-loved apparel brands and retailers to refurbish their “unsellable” returns and excess inventory.
Every year, apparel brands and retailers collect millions of unsellable garments via returns, warranty, damages, defects, over-production and stale inventory. Currently there is no infrastructure to support the refurbishment of these products and brands are left with suboptimal solutions, such as overseas donation or landfill.
Founded by two apparel industry veterans, Nicole Bassett and Jeff Denby, The Renewal Workshop provides a new business model to turn this unsellable product back into high quality apparel.
In its own factory, The Renewal Workshop gives each garment new life as Renewed Apparel through their proprietary process. Renewed Apparel is then either sold back to the brand partner, to be sold through existing sales channels, or is sold direct-to-consumer through The Renewal Workshop’s own e-commerce marketplace online, launching in Fall 2016. Garments that are unsellable may be upcycled into an entirely new product.
The Renewal Workshop announced its founding partners as: prAna, Ibex, Mountain Khakis, Toad&Co, and Indigenous. Additional pioneering brands will be added in the coming months. These brands are the first in the apparel industry to become closed-loop leaders in the so-called Renewable Movement.
“The Renewal Workshop opens a door for the apparel industry that never existed before and redefines how the whole industry deals with its waste,” said Jen Taylor, VP of marketing for Mountain Khakis.
In its factory in Cascade Locks, Oregon, The Renewal Workshop cleans the apparel to a hospital-grade clean using a state-of-the-art, waterless cleaning technology from Tersus Solutions. Any damage to the clothing — from broken zippers to missing buttons to tears — are repaired, creating Renewed Apparel that meets the highest standard of quality certified by the brands.
For any product that can’t be renewed, The Renewal Workshop responsibly manages the upcycling, downcycling, recycling or donation of it in order to optimize the resources already invested. Nothing ever goes to landfill as part of their Zero Landfill Guarantee. Items are recycled as a last resort; and all trims, labels and zippers are Bluesign approved.
Co-Founder Nicole Bassett spent years working on product supply chain sustainability only to wonder where all that apparel goes when we’re done with it. “By building a factory here in America, we are able to provide the infrastructure that allows apparel brands to rethink what was once a waste problem. Our partners are the first in the industry to become closed-loop brands leading the circular economy,” said Bassett. In the U.S. alone we send 68 pounds of textile per person to landfill, according to Bassett. Only 20 percent of the clothes we donate actually get sold through charity stores — the rest is turned into rags, donated overseas or placed in landfill.
Backed by leading venture capital funds VTF Capital and Closed Loop Ventures, The Renewal Workshop is poised to introduce a new consumer product category that not only is inherently sustainable but also manufactured in America.
“The Renewal Workshop represents a paradigm shift in retail responsibility, injecting new value into previously unusable items,” said Zach Ware, managing partner of VTF Capital. “It’s inspiring to see a company challenge a stagnant, decades-old industry practice and we see The Renewal Workshop system becoming the new sustainability standard for retail.”
The Renewal Workshop develops industry-wide solutions that optimize the value of resources already invested in apparel. They will partner with the world’s best-loved brands and retailers to renew their “unsellable” returns and excess inventory.
For continued updates and more detail on this visionary startup, visit The Renewal Workshop website.