It’s not easy being green — but it is getting easier. And as brands and retailers consider the potential for long-term profitable growth by investing in sustainable practices and a cleaner supply chain, existing and emerging companies are reevaluating what it really takes to capture shoppers’ attention and drive revenue.
The rise of sustainability, while led by consumer demand, is also purely practical. According to a recent report from financial services firm HSBC, its data suggests that the sustainability market will continue to see expedient and continuous growth. Its survey of more than 8,500 companies in 34 markets found that 31 percent of businesses globally are making sustainability-related changes across their supply chains; and of those businesses, 84 percent cited cost efficiencies and improved revenues, as well as financial performance, as the primary motivations for change, all according to the report. Bryan Pascoe, global head of Client Coverage, HSBC Global Commercial Banking, said, “As businesses explore and invest in ways to stay competitive for the future, the most forward-thinking are already taking action. Transitioning to become more sustainable is not only beneficial for the environment and for society, but for the bottom line, too.”
And some brands are sustainable from the get go, such as basic apparel brand Arvin Goods, which creates all of its products entirely from donated and upcycled materials. For Arvin Goods, sustainability was the lifeblood of the brand from Day One — and the company is proof that being green can be fruitful and cost-effective. Here, Dustin Winegardner, cofounder and managing director of Arvin Goods, talks to WWD about the company’s wholly unique production model and the current climate of the sustainable apparel market.
WWD: How did Arvin Goods conceive of the idea to create new products entirely from donated and upcycled materials?
Dustin Winegardner: I have 15-plus years of experience in providing sourcing and supply chain solutions for the apparel market. As I gained more and more experience and knowledge with sustainability and low impact materials, I saw an opportunity. I had access to the recycling systems, yarn and great factories. My partner, Harry Fricker, had a shared passion for sustainability, and a creative skill set that was the perfect complement to my background. So we put it all together and created Arvin Goods, “The Cleanest Basics on the Planet.”
WWD: Why did Arvin Goods carve its niche in the sustainable basics market? Are there plans for expansion?
D.W.: I already knew what was possible from a business perspective, and “basics” are a very large and growing branded category. I saw that no brand was making basics in a truly low-impact way. I believe the consumer is becoming more and more informed every day, and socks and underwear — i.e. daily basics — are a gateway to educate people about impact choices. These are the first things you put on and the last things you take off. We want to give you a clean product that makes you think about what else you use. For expansion, we see the opportunity to add basics like T-shirts, sweatshirts, and daily accessories, like headwear or simple bags. We just introduced a new beanie made from Polylana fiber, which is a low-impact alternative to 100 percent acrylic. And all of these items [are available] at a sharp price.
WWD: Would you elaborate on the sourcing and manufacturing process of materials?
D.W.: We use three primary materials: The first is regenerated cotton, which we use in our core collection of socks and underwear. This is a blend of recycled cotton from post-industrial cutting scraps [factory waste] and rPET, post-consumer plastic bottles. The cotton waste comes from cut-and-sew factories, so it already has color in it. When we break it back down to fiber and re-spin a new yarn, we end up with a yarn colored on the spool that requires little to no water and zero new dyes. This regenerated cotton is commercial quality yarn at a good price that we can use to make new products.
We use Econyl-regenerated nylon in our newest line of men’s underwear. The Econyl regeneration system starts with rescuing waste, like fishing nets, fabric scraps and carpet flooring from landfills and oceans all over the world. That waste is then sorted and cleaned to recover as much nylon as possible. The nylon waste is recycled right back to its original purity, so that means that Econyl-regenerated nylon is exactly the same as virgin nylon. This is then processed into a textile yarn that we can use to make our products.
The last material is Polylana, which we use in our beanies that just launched. Polylana fiber is the only low-impact alternative to 100 percent acrylic and wool on the market. Polylana is a patent-pending staple fiber composed of a proprietary blend of innovative polyester pellets and rPET flakes. This proprietary blend allows Polylana fiber to be dyed at a low temperature and gives Polylana yarn, when knitted, a unique loft and feel. Polylana unlocks new potential in fiber creation with reduced environmental impact and enhanced performance capabilities. These materials are all GRS certified, and Arvin Goods as a brand is also GRS certified. We utilize sources and factories all over the world to develop high-quality products in a responsible way, leaving the lowest impact we can on the environment.
WWD: How would you describe the current climate of the sustainable apparel market? Where is there room for change and/or growth?
D.W.: I feel that sustainability is still in its very early infancy — there is still huge room for growth. The biggest companies are trying to create change, but this doesn’t happen fast at large enterprises. The big companies can create very real change, but it takes time. I believe that smaller companies with purpose, like Arvin Goods, can set the example and show what’s possible. We hope that other companies see what we’re doing and follow our lead. It’s in all of our best interest for others to adopt our sustainable practices. The struggle now is that the market thinks that “sustainability” has to cost more, and I don’t agree. If you design the product and the brand around low-impact manufacturing you can build consumer goods in a truly clean way without a huge cost swing. For us to achieve real change, we need to provide real change with good, quality pieces at stable, accessible prices.
WWD: What can we expect next from Arvin Goods?
D.W.: [As I mentioned previously,] we just launched a new beanie for the holidays using Polylana. We’re the first brand to deliver this to the market, and we are proud of that. We’re still young and small, and we launched two new materials and categories this year. Next year, we want to add more. We’re working on a women’s collection in regenerated nylon and rPET. We’re developing a very cool sock collection with a traditional Japanese sock factory, and we’re building new seasonal colors for our core collections. We’re always looking for new materials, or categories that we can step into with a low impact story. Arvin Goods is here to stay, and we’re excited to deliver the cleanest basics on the planet.
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