Thread International, which helps brands build better supply chains, including by sourcing plastic bottles from developing countries — it counts Converse and Ralph Lauren among its clients – is launching a direct-to-consumer business, Day Owl, whose first product is a backpack made from sustainable materials.
The launch of Day Owl marks the evolution of Thread International’s business and web site. Thread’s landing page now offers two options, visiting B2B company First Mile to source responsible materials, or clicking on Day Owl to shop responsible backpacks.
“Ralph Lauren will commit to removing at least 170 million bottles from landfills and oceans and will convert the use of all-virgin poly-fiber to recycled poly-fiber by 2025,” said David Lauren, chief innovation officer at Ralph Lauren, a client of Mile International. “Plastic waste is a major issue threatening the environment, and we want to be part of the solution and utilize an innovative approach to create something valuable.”
“I’ve been on the front lines of retail for the past eight or nine years,” said Ian Rosenberger, founder of First Mile Thread International. “Big chains were moving really slowly. I’m not talking about slow and boring from a product perspective. It was frustrating because it felt like if it was recycled, it had to be expensive. We should be seeing brands making inroads.
“Making things with recycled matter is now table stakes,” Rosenberger added. “It’s not enough to simply make something out of recycled plastic. We have to be thinking about circularity and how these materials work in the long run for the people who buy our products, as well as the millions of people on the front lines who make a living collecting plastic every days. We put a network of direct-to-consumer brands together in 2018. The supply chain gives 2,000 people the ability to make a living.”
Rosenberger saw a void for backpacks that were functional and attractive. “I was sitting in Grand Central Terminal,” he said. “I noticed that some women were carrying really nice $400-to-$500 handbags and tote bags that held their shoes, and another bag that held their lunch. We call it the two-tote problem.”
Taking a page from Apple’s design playbook, Rosenberger put all the features on the inside of the product. “How do we get the gaudiness off the front,” he said. One day, Rosenberger asked his staff to “empty everything out of your back pockets.” The backpack, which is lined in repurposed neoprene, holds a bottle of wine, yoga clothes, and bottle of breast milk — Rosenberger recently had a baby.
Rosenberger said the $140 backpack is “designed to last forever and can carry 70 pounds.” The 100 percent recycled polyester backpack is made from First Mile canvas, and comes with free repairs for life. Consumers can send their Day Owl backpack to the company when they’re finished using it, and it will be refurbished and sold again.
The Day Owl backpack was born on the street. Rosenberger asked anyone and everyone he met to reach for their keys to learn what essentials consumers carried with them on a regular basis. Because he didn’t have money for software, he made prototypes out of clay and paper.
Day Owl is using First Mile supply chains, which in addition to diverting 96 million plastic bottles from oceans and landfills, and has directed $3 million into communities in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia.
Rosenberger, who started his career as a television producer, telling stories, said, “We’re taking a little bit of a margin hit so everyone can have a backpack at this price point, and releasing a broad range of colors so that consumers can make a statement.”