By  on January 10, 2005

NEW YORK — Think twice before throwing that plastic water bottle into the trash — it could become a new pair of socks.

Ecopet, a trademarked recycled polyester fiber, is the primary material in a new legwear line introduced by Teko, an outdoor apparel company based in Boulder, Colo. Everything from the manufacturing to the packaging is eco-friendly.

“If we can somehow get people to think, ‘Wow, if I recycle this, it’ll turn into a pair of socks,’ that’s a good thing,” said Teko founder Jim Heiden, sounding a bit like the industry’s version of Martha Stewart.

Heiden has more than 30 years of experience in the activewear and outdoor industry. Before founding Teko, he was marketing manager for running and cycling apparel at Nike and director of product development for Performance Bicycles.

Manufactured at wind-powered plants in Mount Airy, N.C., Teko’s 20-style unisex sock collection is made entirely of Ecopet, or an organic cotton- or merino wool-and-Ecopet blend. Teko is the only legwear firm to use the recycled fiber, which is produced by Japanese firm Teijin Ltd.,  Heiden said. It is regularly used by apparel companies such as Patagonia, which incorporates post-consumer-recycled polyester in its fleece.

Entering the legwear market may seem like a challenge because of bare-legged trends and a lackluster economy, but Heiden finds hope in the success of more outdoor-oriented brands such as SmartWool, whose hiking sock has a cult following.

Teko’s thick performance socks come in muted shades such as blue and green (the dyes have proved to be nonabrasive to sensitive skin) and are packaged in recycled cardboard. Lycra spandex is woven in for arch support and also at the ankle to secure the sock from slipping. The socks hit shelves of footwear retailers later this month and wholesale from $5 to $11. Teko also will sell merchandise on its Web site,

Heiden, who declined to give sales projections, will purchase all Teko’s wool from one sustainable farm in Tasmania. He plans to expand the brand into apparel and knitwear and to expand distribution to alternative retail outlets such as Whole Foods Market.

“We only have so many resources, so I think sustainability is going to be a bigger part of the future….Ten years ago, we used to buy organic fruit and it had worms in it,’’ Heiden said. “Now you can buy it and it’s perfect. I think that’s the point: You shouldn’t have to sacrifice if you want to buy something that’s good for the environment.”

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